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4-TC (Class 438)

photograph by Ray Soper

4-TC unit number 409 at Clapham Junction on 15th November 1966. The light engine alongside is standard 4MT N° 80140

With the withdrawal of steam services and the electrification of the line to Bournemouth in 1967 there was insufficient financial justification to electrify between Bournemouth and Weymouth. This resulted in a quandary of how to maintain through services and the solution devised was novel. Tests in the mid 1960s had proved that high speed main line push pull operation was both feasible and safe. The result was to have a high powered EMU at the London end pushing trailer units to Bournemouth where the trailers would be detached and then pulled to Weymouth by a push-pull equipped diesel electric locomotive. The operation in the up direction was would be the reverse.

The high powered EMU tractor units were classified 4-Rep (Restaurant EPB), the trailer units 3/4-TC (Trailer Control) and the push pull equipped diesel locomotives were converted from 19 of the Southern's native BRCW type 3 fleet (eventually to become designated class 33/1).

All TC cars were rebuilt from loco hauled Mk1 coaches, TSOs being the donor vehicles for the DTSOs (with the former toilet compartments being rebuilt as the driving cab), the TBSs being rebuilt from BSKs and the TFKs from FKs. Initially 28 4-TCs were converted and formed DTSO-TFK-TBSK-DTSO. Acknowledging that the TCs would not only be used with Reps on Bournemouth services three 3-TCs were also formed with there being no TFK in the unit. The idea behind this was that a loco plus 3-TC plus two 4-TC would fill the same platform space as a 12 car EMU formation. However when used on Bournemouth services in summer overcrowding regularly resulted so in 1974 the 3-TCs were augmented with newly converted TFKs to 4-TC and at the same time a further three 4-TCs were converted.

Driving control was via the SR 27 core multiple control cables and power for heating, motor generator and compressor sets was obtained from a 4-Rep or locomotive on standard heating jumper cables at underframe level. The TCs could not only work in multiple with 4-Reps and class 33s but also with class 73s, class 74s and compatible 1951/57/63 EMUs. It is known that some services were run with class 33 or 73 locos sandwiched between TCs. It is remembered from the late 1970s a regular up peak working of a class 33, TC and Vep formation. Although ageing memory can play tricks it is recalled that this formation was put together at Basingstoke combining an up Salisbury and an up Southampton line service to save a path into Waterloo.

Such was the versatility of the TC units that they were not only used on the Weymouth line, and they were also associated with Waterloo-Salisbury, Clapham Junction-Kensington Olympia and Reading-Portsmouth services.

When first introduced the TCs appeared in overall rail blue livery with small yellow warning panels and small aluminium BR arrows affixed below their side cab windows. The yellow warning panels were subsequently enlarged to cover the whole cab front. They were repainted during the early 1970s into Blue and Grey, losing their aluminium arrows in the process, the 1974 conversions emerging in blue and grey livery from new. The TCs survived in service long enough to receive Network SouthEast livery.

During the final days of Rep/TC service on the Weymouth line temporary formations such as 5-TCB (4-TC + Rep restaurant car) and 4-TCT (buffet compartment in middle of TFK) were put together to keep the service running during the withdrawal of Reps and until the introduction of sufficient class 442 units. The versatility of TCs ensured their survival longer than their sister Rep units. Two units were "restored" to overall rail blue, albeit a glossy version compared to the original semi-matt, as units N°410 and N°417 for NSE premier charter services. Eight vehicles culled from six sets to make up two complete units were sold to London Underground Limited early in 1992. These were fitted with bars over their drop-lights and repainted into Metropolitan line red/brown livery with blue/mauve/blue lining and gold numbering and were used for surface line excursions. Today one 4-TC unit, N°417, in overall rail blue livery survives and is owned by Rolltrack Ltd (along with their Crompton 33103) for spot hire. During August 1999 this combination (running without its TFK) was used briefly on Silverlink's Barking to Gospel Oak services until the arrival of lesser class 150 units.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • 408
    Classic 4-TC operation in 1985. A fast Weymouth service has just departed Wool station. The unit here is still numbered in the original 400 series.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • Class 33
    The class 33/1 propelling the above train above can be seen at the end of this 4 car unit.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 401 ECS
    Unit N°401 pictured here on 28th March 1975 is being hauled ECS from Clapham Yard to Waterloo.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • 8016
    Nnow numbered into the 80xx series, unit N°8016 is pictured at Waterloo on 22nd November 1986.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 409
    Clapham Jn
    Unit N°415 at Clapham Junction. Note on both this and the previous photo that the buffers are extended and the buck-eye is in the dropped position, ready for coupling to a BRCW type 3.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • Passenger
    The first passenger entrance door behind the driving cab of a TC (as with a Rep) is into a seating bay as on a suburban unit but other doors led onto vestibules.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 410
    Weymouth Qy
    Unit N°410 rolls down the rather wet road on its way to Weymouth Quay on a special working.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • 410
    Weymouth Qy
    Unit N°410 waits at Weymouth Quay before returning to Weymouth Central.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • Unusual
    Number posn
    Bearing the later number series, unit N°8017 sits in the sidings at Bournemouth depot prior to re-painting. Note the unusual position of the number on the cab front.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • 417
    TC unit N°417 now on the Dartmoor Railway. It was looking very much in need of a new coat of paint when seen standing at Meldon on 16th August 2003.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • Driver's
    A look inside the cab at the driving controls.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • Interior
    The interior of one of the open coaches.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • Filler
    TC units often ran in pairs with a Rep making up a 12 car train between London and Bournemouth. Only one TC went on to Weymouth in the winter but in the busy summer months the pair would make the round trip to the end of the line. The filler cap under the cab window is for the windscreen washer fluid - it looks as if it had come off a contemporary Mini car!.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • Jumper
    A detail shot for modellers. The jumper cables between cars on the TC units were connected between small equipment cabinets on the cars' lower ends.  Notice how the brake dust accumulates on surfaces - particularly those not reached by the carriage washing machines.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.

This page was last updated 26 October 2004

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