National Railway Museum launches appeal to restore humble electric commuter train unit

By Richard Moss | 10 November 2014

The National Railway Museum has joined forces with volunteers to raise money to bring a humble commuter vehicle back to display condition

A photo of a group of men standing next to a railway carriage
Members of the Network South East Railway Society with 2 car 2HAP No. 4308. L-R David Godfrey, Ian Shepherd, Mark Battle, David Adams, Robert Curtis, Paul Colbeck, James Chittock, Mark Davies, Chris Osman, Anthony Coulls, Chris Green© Credit - Paul Colbeck
Think of railway heritage and preservation and what springs to mind? The sleek lines of the Mallard? A classic GWR steam tanker? Or perhaps a historic station building?

These are certainly classic visions of railway heritage, but how about a South East Trains slam door commuter unit withdrawn as recently 1995?

This is the latest project the National Railway Museum in York is turning its attention to as it begins the restoration of a ‘classic’ from the modern face of railway history.

'Project Commuter’ aims to return electric 2 car 2HAP No. 4308 back to display condition in time for the 30th anniversary of Network South East in June 2016, and has launched an appeal to restore it.

Withdrawn in 1995 the vehicle joined the National Collection housed at the National Railway Museum in York in 2006. Now, after being stored outside at Strawberry Hill and other locations, a dedicated team of volunteers from the Network South East Railway Society has stepped forward to join forces with the museum to raise the money to bring the vehicle back to display condition.

Volunteers lending their considerable expertise to the project include Jim Chittock from York Carriage Works who worked on the units as a young man.

Chris Green, former director of Network South East and Honorary President of the Network South East Railway Society (NEARS), which is a 19 strong band volunteers, explained the unit’s importance.

“The 2HAP is fondly remembered by many who travelled in the South East in the 80s and 90s,” he said. “Love it or hate it, if you were in and around the capital at that time you couldn’t fail to notice its colourful appearance and improved facilities for travellers.

Formed in August 2002 as a Society of enthusiasts whose interests were in the pre-privatisation days of British Rail’s services in London and the South East, the NEARS has been collecting and restoring all manner of ephemera - from railway timetables and posters to station lamp posts and departure board Solari units.

Its latest project may seem like an equally unglamorous undertaking, but the service record of the 2HAP tells another story.

The distinctive unit with its numerous doors travelled over 2.7 million miles – the equivalent distance of the moon and back five times - during its thirty plus years on Britain’s tracks.

After its production at Eastleigh Works in 1959 it carried over 5.3 million commuters in and around the capital, making it the most used passenger vehicle in the museum’s vast halls of railway greats.

“It was a whirlwind six months between January and June 1986 while we created one railway for London and the South East unifying the operation of BR’s commuter services for the first time,” added Green.  

“Our aim is to cosmetically restore the vehicle back to its colourful 1986 livery in time to mark the 30th anniversary of the launch of Network South East that year."

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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The 4DDs were not Maunsell designed, they were Bulleid designed.
It certainly would be nice to see at least one of the surviving vehicles on display as the only venture into double deck design. in Britain.
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