July 12th, 2017

Editors Note:

Good morning, Followers of the VEP.
Apologies for the period of radio silence. As you're all well aware by now, Real Life is a cruel mistress which conspires to keep us railway herberts away from 3417 and dealing with annoyingly grown up things. However, Adulting has once again been put on hold to allow us to continue gainful tinkering with the worlds only working 4VEP. And on that note, I had you over to Chris Buckland, SETG CM&EE, to inform you all of progress and bring all that's newest in news, gossip and abuse aimed at myself.
Regards, Potter

"It's been a while since the Minions have been at Strawberry Hill; things like holidays, drinking, eating and the like have got in the way (and the Big Railway, as usual) but the Old Girl won't get roadworthy without Spanner Monkeys and some Non-Spanner monkeys throwing well... Errrrr... Spanners at her.

As usual  Section 4 Sub Section 6 amendment (a) of depot operating instructions carried out.

Potter had already arrived when I got in, as there were some friends from the Bluebell Railway arriving early.  They are filming a documentary about the end of Steam on the Southern Region and wanted to include the VEP. And why wouldn't they? After all, it was the VEP and her sisters who replaced the steamers.

Potter (again) wanted to be Tom Cruise - which he ain't. I generously pointed this out, so he opted for the Dame Edna Everage look instead. He pulled it off rather well, in fact some may say to well; it was, after all,  the weekend after all and odd things happen at the weekend!

(Editors Note: Sod off, Buckland. Only one of us owns a latex High Visibility Orange cat suit with strategic holes cut in it, and it isn't me...)

So, while Potter but his best blue dress on, I gave the Bluebell film crew an induction and risk assessment briefing. All this paperwork... It's the boring side of railway preservation but it's got to be done. Once that had been dealt with I left them in the clutches of Potter while Darren and I got on with some proper work.  The first priority was fitting the new air pipes to let the Old Girl to breathe again. We progressed down the train with an LB&SCR spanner (yes; it's an original and it's the only one that fits the pipe nuts) and a large scaffold pole in hand. They are no easy fit; a few grunts were needed to get the couplings in line, I can tell you. An hour or so later and all the train line and main res pipes were refitted and coupling seals greased. Time for testing and check for leaks.

A brief pause while we checked on the Bluebell boys to make sure they were alright; Potter had them in a compartment talking VEP stuff, or possibly just generally talking. They hadn't gnawed their own arms off at that point so they were OK for at least another hour. Best to leave them to it.

Back to work.

Compressor MCBs reset and that familiar compressor "thunka-thunka-thunka from below the motor coach started. Darren put a key on and the handbrake buzzer sounded ("That's not right", we thought. We'll come to that) and charged the brake pipe. Time to check for leaks! First Driving Trailer was great - not a hiss in sight. Trailer coach - Ah-ha! There's a leak. We found to be the seal on the back of the coupling on the main res pipe leaking; a bit of fettling later and the leak is like Monty Python (This hiss is an ex hiss.)
The rest of the unit was checked and everything else was in order. The next thing to do was a full brake test to check the Body to bogie air pipes which we had fitted a few weeks ago.
Darren placed the brake handle into Full Service (50 psi in the brake cylinders) and down the train we went checking each pipe. Everything good apart from one pipe on the motor coach.

Now this is where the Senior Spanner Monkey became a proper numpty. "Ahh", thought Buckland, "That just needs a little nip up  to stop the air leaking."  Yes, just a little nip later and I had twisted the copper pipe. "Bugger."

A few expletives later (I won't repeat them as there are young eyes reading) and I was looking at a very bent bit of pipe. I'm supposed to be fixing this bloody train, not breaking it. But you can't make a cake without breaking a few eggs so that's become a job to put on the list.

Another job is the London-end AWS which has joined it's Country-end brother by going on strike. So now both cabs have non working AWS; another thing to add to the list of things to do. Oh joy!

Meanwhile, back to fixing things - namely the offending handbrake buzzer.

First a little background to how things should work. When the handbrake is applied at either end there is a microswitch on the mechanism which closes. If someone tries to take power with the handbrake applied, No. 1 wire (a control equipment trainline wire) is connected to 20 wire, the Loudaphone call wire, so the buzzer sounds. So the driver knows that a handbrake is applied and won't try to move the train.

The fault on the VEP  was that the Loudaphone buzzer would sound when either driving desk was opened up and and it didn't matter if the handbrake was on or off. Myself and Darren carried out fault finding by dropping control jumpers to work out which coach was generating the fault. We soon narrowed it down to the motor coach being the offending vehicle. After lots of pouring over drawings and some more fault finding we found that the fault disappeared when the 10-Point was cut out; the 10-Point, as old Southern hands will know, being the isolation switch for the traction equipment.

Reinstated the 10-Point and tripped the Loudaphone MCB; fault still there. Runback MCB manually tripped fault disappeared again. Cue more drawing-gazing and multimeter-using and it was found that finger contact L1/3 on the line breaker was permanently closed when it should be open. First off I thought it was a broken contact but it was deeper than that. The operating cam in the PZ block (This is the contact block on the front of the linebreaker) had a broken cam so the contact stayed shut when the linebreaker was de energized. Not having the correct block in stock we had to strip and rebuild the block using second hand ones to make the contact operate correctly.

For you geeks out there (not Potter; the only electrical stuff he knows is clicking the switch on the kettle) this fault allowed 9 Wire (the equipment runback wire) to feed 1 Wire when the equipment is in off as L1/2 contact is closed so sounding the Loudaphone buzzer when a key is put on. There! You have all passed your 4VEP Schematic Drawing Course. Your certificates will be sent out in the post very soon.

(Editors Note: I hope you lot understood that, because I haven't a clue. If you're still reading; well done!)

Back to the Bluebell Lads who had, with due diligence, survived 3 hours with Potter. I'm impressed; that's about two hours and fifty-five minutes longer than I can! Those boys have some serious stamina. They seemed to be pleased with the film they had got and were escorted back to the station by Potter. (For 'escorted' read 'Ran to the station muttering "Never Again" and "Does the man breathe through his ears?"')

There we go. Another fun day in VEP Land another report to follow very shortly.


April 7th, 2017

This is just a small note to thank you all for your astonishing support in response to our crowd funding appeal for 3417. All of 3417's minions are absolutely blown away by your reaction and your generosity. We saw donations from £3 to £2,000, we saw interest from across the rail enthusiast spectrum, we saw interest from the UK to as far away as Japan and we are deeply deeply humbled by the faith you've shown in us and delighted by your support for our ambitions.

You raised (yes - you) £12,595.76.

We are now waiting for the final deposit to be sent to our account so that we can begin to allocate funds to the most pressing areas. We are already having a few conversations regarding locations that might be achievable next year, but more of that when we have achieved a full year of work on the Old Girl. Our senior spanner monkey is currently on holiday in Spain, but on his return in a fortnight we will be updating you on how we are going to allocate your donations.

So, until the next update, once again, thank you all very very much.
Us Minions aren't normally lost for words. This, though, has pretty much knocked us off our feet.

Thanks, everyone.

The Minions

Version 2

March 28th, 2017

And now, the Senior Spanner Monkey Speaks...


Turned up at Strawberry in a blaze of sunshine. It’s nice to see the Sun (I'm a frustrated Michael Fish), and proceeded to adhere to Section 4 Sub Section 6 but unfortunately found myself unable to carry out the instruction fully as there was NO MILK. That’s not strictly true, there was milk but it had turned into a rather strange looking cheese that I'm sure anyone would eat. I have an idea; lets cultivate it, sell it to the French, make lots of money and add the profits to the JustGiving site (details below):


Any opportunity to plug the fund!!

Back to the job in hand! Emergency text sent to Potter "GET MILK" as the job will fall to pieces without tea. "RIGHTO GUV" came the reply. Phew. I’ve just got to stare at the kettle until he arrives. Finally the door bangs open and he trips over my parched tongue as he walks into the kitchen. It was like the relief of MAFIKIN. He had also bought choccy biscuits and managed to get out of the shop and all the way to the depot without eating one. You’ve got to admire his willpower.

Tea was consumed and the pack of biscuits were eaten (including the wrapper) by Potter (he was hungry) and into the shed we wander. Tonight we were going live on Twitter and Facebook and actually showing the people who have supported us, and the people who might want to, where their money is going. Tim Dunn from BBC Trainspotting Live was coming and all the available support crew were on site tonight to show the world the delights of 3rd rail traction restoration in real time.

Tim Arrived and started to go through the order of play with Potter (already famous for playing the new Teletubby “Driver-Wiver”). We decided he should get the speaking part as interviewing fitters is not a good idea. The public don't understand Fitter Speak (“ugg", “err” or “5/16 spanner”) and they don’t appreciate the sound of knuckles being scraped as the 5/16 spanner slips and a stream of expletives from said Fitter. It’s best that we are confined to The Pit, out of the way.

So while Potter put on his make up (it was handy he brought his personal make up bag) the support crew went about their business doing the real work.

Daz started on refitting the damaged Country-end speedo cable which he had kindly repaired at home. What a fantastic job he has done - nice one Daz. I started on the sheared bolts on the external door handles. It’s not my favourite job but, well, its got to be done. Oz and Trousers carried on with the country-end driving cab refurbishment.

Daz reported back that the cable was fitted, but the securing cleat bolts don't fit (we’ll need to get some new ones) and that the seal for the wheelwear compensator is not in a good state and will need some work to keep the water out. So the Saga of the Dodgy Speedo continues. It’s longer than War and Peace but as with everything we’re doing its got to be right.

Trousers was busy ripping out pieces of rotten wood from the cab. I think he wishes he hadn't started it, but his efforts are paying off because its starting to look like a cab that large drivers can drink tea in again.

I on the other hand had finished replacing 5 sheared bolts on the door handles. It’s a hateful job, drilling and retapping the threads but it does mean that 5 open defect sheets can be closed.

While this real work was happening, Potter was still busy with Tim talking about dead moths to strangers on the Internet. Potter is a strange lad and he needs to get out more, I think. Mostly at night, though, so he doesn't frighten small children and dogs. Now I think about it, that’s probably why we did this at after dark…

Next on the list was for Daz and I to fit new body to bogie brake pipes. These are brand new 3200 psi ones; a much higher spec than the pipes originally fitted to the unit when they are in service. They should last a while! So that’s another tick in the box and, apart from a brake test to check for leaks, another work sheet closed down.

By this time Potter had a sore throat. The boy can talk for England and the three viewers we did have had got fed up and decided that there must be something else to watch on a Monday night, like the Test Card or drying paint.

So we all decided we had had a successful night. Potter had talked to the world. The world had been nice enough not to immediately yell “Sod Off, Potter” and I was impressed how much we had completed for such a short visit. So we shut up shop, said goodnight to Tim and headed for home for a nice cold beer and a sit down.


March 28th, 2017

Good Afternoon, dear reader.

As you may or may not be aware, last night we - the humble scrotes of Strawberry Hill - entertained a celebrity for an evening. Mr Tim Dunn, noted railway historian, railway geek and host of the BBC's Transporting Live, joined us for the evening. The idea was to raise awareness of the work we're doing at Strawberry Hill and of course to add some final impetus to the SETG's fund-raising endeavours on behalf of the Bluebell Railway.

I could bore you with the ins-and-outs of the evening, but to be honest you're best off watching either the Periscope Feed or Facebook feed and judge our efforts for yourselves. All I can say with any certainty is that we reached 3,000 viewers live; not too shabby for a bunch of anoraks with iPhones in a railway shed in South West London... Most encouragingly we managed to put £400 extra into our restoration appeal - we are now standing at over £7,100 in the kitty with 6 days left to run. Can we make £7,500 before the clock runs out? I hope so.

If you missed Two Anoraks and a 4VEP (someone needs to suggest that title to Richard Curtis...) then please find the links to the two video feeds below:

Tim Dunn's Periscope Feed.

Steve Upton's SETG Facebook Feed.

While I'm here, can I just say a huge thank you to Tim for suggesting this idea in the first place, and to everyone at the SETG and all of you on Twitter and Facebook for watching. It raised our profile enormously, and it raised £400 towards restoring No.3417. We're very very grateful to you all.

I should say that as well as the tarting around infront of an iPhone, we didn't rest on our laurels - work happened as well! In Part Two I'll hand you over to Bucky for his thoughts on the evening. Brace yourself for the wibblings of a fitter...



March 22nd, 2017

And now, as promised - it's a report from Trousers!


A small update this time as we were unable to do a full days work. I had a date in the evening with a train, on which beer is sold and is hauled by a steam loco to celebrate my advancing years! (Happy Birthday, mate! - Potter)
I carried on with the cab restoration in the country end cab. This involved removing some stubborn screws which had probably been in place since the unit was built! They were (eventually) removed and a new panel cut for fitting under the cab window on the second man's side. After much measuring, getting up and down from the unit, trimming bits, swearing and trying not to break the fragile bits, the panel was fitted! This included replacing framing at the very base of the cab side due to a completely rotten piece of wood.
Although it doesn't sound much it was a good mornings work and a step in the right direction. It's unlikely I'll be able to attend the weekend work parties for the next few weeks due to Holidays and other train related commitments If I get over mid week I'll update further!
Lots of Love

So amongst the meetings, work progressed. Top job - we're getting there!

(I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before...)

March 22nd, 2017

Good Morning, Friends of the VEP.
For those of you that haven't been shamelessly and obsessively following us on Twitter and Facebook (For shame! Naughty you! Hold your head in sorrow & embarrassment and stand in the Naughty Corner), the Bluebell Railway came a'calling on Saturday. To say that we have been nervous about this impending meeting would be an understatement. For myself and Oscar it meant meeting some VIPs, for Bucky it meant meeting the men who were the BR Top Brass when he started as a spotty apprentice in the early 1980s. So where two of us were nervous, one of us was transformed from a confident depot manager in charge of a multi-million pound fleet of machinery into an overawed teenager, but more of that later in Bucky's own words. Our visitors were Roy Watts, the former Chairman and a very old friend of the VEP, Dick Fearn and Graham Aitken - Chairmen of the Bluebell Railway Plc and the Bluebell Railway Trust - and Gordon Pettitt himself; President of the Bluebell Railway and, oddly, a man named after a 4VEP (or possibly the VEP was named after him - chose you own joke here). So that sets the scene; some of the most influential men in UK railway preservation and three spotty herberts who are doing up a 4-car Slammer. Oh boy...

Bucky is the Man in Charge, and Saturday was hugely important to him: let him set the scene and tell the tale.

"Today was about Bacon, Tea, Good Company and, Well,  Bacon. Oh, and some cab repairs. Did I mention Bacon?

We had some visitors from the Bluebell today to see what we have been up to behind closed doors and a very, very special guest Mr Gordon Pettitt or as I like to call him "Sir." I'm afraid he will always be Sir in my eyes. When I was a spotty little erk of an apprentice (Told you - Potter) Mr Pettitt was the General Manager of the Southern Region. Not just South West Trains, Southern or South Eastern but the whole kit and caboodle, so he stood one rung one above God. In fact God reported into Mr Pettitt regularly about matters like progress on this 'Adam and Eve' stuff and whether he should part the Red Sea or not. So to actually have Mr Pettitt call me by my first name instead of "Oi you", and shake my hand; I'm thinking "It doesn't get any better than this." I've made it on the Railway after 37 years!

Graham Aitken, Roy Watts and Dick Fern are the senior men from The Bluebell. The glittering elite from the Bluebell board at our little depot to see what we have been beavering away on like the Seven Dwarfs playing with Gordon's namesake. (Calm down, Buckie. Take a breath - Potter)

Well, after we had buttered them up with Bacon butties and tea (Section 4 Sub Section 6 in full operation) we showed them what we had been doing. I think they were pleased with our efforts as they didn't shout, wave fists or start to collect my spanners up into a bag. They didn't even take Potter's sweet and cake stash from its secret hiding place (under the sink) .

After a comprehensive tour some serious discussions were had over cake and tea (if nothing else we feed our guests), and very constructive it was from both sides. Some misunderstandings were cleared up, both groups now know where we are going and for me thats half the battle. Knowing what each party wants is desperately important so we can move forward. The crux of our discussion was that we all care about the Old Girl and want the best for her.


A special thank you to Gordon (or SIR) for coming down. Lets do it again soon; if you can put up with my driving!


Top Brass and Scrotes

"Three Top Men and Three Wimbledon Scrotes. Strawberry Hill, 2017"

So there you go.

The Bluebell Railway support our efforts, and we've received the blessing of the men in charge.

We all agree that the mainline is the ultimate destination of the unit, and that all the work carried out will be to a mainline running standard. The unit will be maintained to the highest standards. As components wear they will either be replaced with identical equipment or the more modern equivalent - the fabric of the unit will be preserved but it will be maintained to confirm to mainline standards as they evolve. Measures will be put in place to independently monitor the quality of mechanical & aesthetic work for the benefit of the Bluebell Railway and the SETG, for the protection of both parties. We are proud to be working on behalf of the Bluebell Railway and it's membership to bring No.3417 back to life; the future looks bright indeed.

We have a report incoming from Trousers regarding the excellent work he has been doing on the driving cab of 76262 but as with all things, the Big Railway comes first. Keep your eyes peeled for more news soon!

Before we go, one last plug for the Just Giving appeal - we have hit 25% of our target. Pay Day approaches, and we have 12 days before the appeal closes on 3/4/17. Can you spare the price of one last pint? If you can, the VEP could use it.


As always, thanks for your reading and for your support.
I'm off to help Oscar administer sedatives to Bucky, since he still hasn't stopped shaking.

He keeps muttering something about having spoke to God....

Additional Potter's Note:

I neglected to credit two other people without whom we could not have made Saturday's meeting the success it was. Julia, who cooked the greatest concentration of bacon sandwiches seen on any depot since privatisation - thank you. That simple detail made a stressful day into a triumph. And Lynn, for helping Julia and for doing so much more besides to silence nerves and give encouragement to a jittery idiot of a driver - thank you.

"You were both brilliant. We couldn't have done it without you both."

March 13th, 2017

Good morning everyone. This should bring us up-to-date on the work reports. Thank you for your patience, but as you can tell from the live Twitter and Facebook videos, us drivers have to steel ourselves before dipping our toes in the murky waters of Being a Fitter for the day. It's not easy, folks!

Before we get to "Wot I Did With My Spannerz" by Chris Buckland (written in crayon, available in all good dustbins), an update on the fundraising effort. As of today we have 180 backers on JustGiving who have pledged a total of £5,580. We still have 22 days before the appeal finishes on 3/4/17 (see what I did there?!) - the price of a pint will help us immeasurably. The price of a round will help even more.

Please, if you can, pledge us a few pounds so we can bring the VEP back into the limelight.

And with that, back to the studio. Buckie has provided another episode on Tales from The Dark Side of the Shed for you all to read. Enjoy!


"IT'S THAT MAN AGAIN! Well, it's Saturday again and it's VEP time! It's becoming a very nice habit.

Today is about Shoegear, Lights and Tidying Up.

A nice warm day at Strawberry today so arrived in a t-shirt. Summer is coming. Slowly, but its coming. (Enough with the meteorological fluff, get on with the spanners - Potter)

Section 4 sub section 6 carried out as per the rules and regs but with Amendment (b) - amendment (b) being a double Marathon Bar (I mean a Snickers. I'm showing my age). I think I'm going to need the energy with today's work load. Potter arrived just after me and I was half way through Section 4 sub section 6, so as he's a driver he finished making the tea. He has, after all, been fully trained. Overalls on - EVEN POTTER! Yes! Shock-horror-rage! A large driver in blue overalls! He could be the fifth Tellytubby! (Smeg off - Potter)

And so, in the words of Jimmy Young, "Off we jolly well go."


Potter decided that he wanted to be a movie star and tell the Interweb World what we were up to today. Unfortunately Tom Cruise he ain't. I had to drag him back to reality and persuade him that being under the unit to replace the shoegear pivot beam was a better place to be than trying to earn his next Oscar. (Smeg off, again - Potter)

As you may recall Trousers has welded the broken shoelead support bracket back on again, and a proper job he has done repairing said item. Well done, Trousers! All that was needed was to refit it. And it's not a one man job as it's a big bit of metal. This is where the Driving Tellytubby comes in, as I needed his flab, err, muscle to help lift it up. (I've said smeg off already, haven't I? - Potter)


By this time Daz had turned up and he was pointed in the direction of the worn out speedo cable that needed unsoldering to effect a permanent repair. Shoebeam refitting was easier than I expected; just lots of hitting of pig iron with a hammer to effect the required adjustment. All I need to do now is adjust the final height setting of the slipper and BIG TICK for the old girls feet. Boots on every corner!

Daz was busy with the speedo cable so I decided to show Potter how to change lighting inverters in the open saloons and compartments. I have to say that this was better than any Eric Sykes and Tommy Cooper sketch; I think Potter is getting the hang of this fitting lark. Well, apart form his inability to reach the roof to change the defective inverters as he is a little bit height challenged. He did manage to change all bar one so hats off to the lad. It might take a week for the blood to get back to his finger tips and for me to stop sniggering but the job was completed. (Smeg off, Dog Food Face - Potter)

At this point Potter had to depart the Church of the VEP to go and do what he loosely calls work.

Daz reported back. It seems that the speedo cable is further gone than we first thought. He's going to take it home and rewire it. The speedo will work again one day. Honest!

As we were chatting Gwil Jones arrived. Good to see the old boy but no time for pleasantries. A set of overalls were found and he was press ganged into work. The last remaining light not working on the unit was given to him as a job, which he fixed in no time. (Drivers and lighting inverter replacement is apparently a happy combination - Potter) The old girl now has a complete set of working lights first time in over 8 years.

Gwil was then asked to label and number the removed Main Res and Train Pipe air pipes so they can be taken away next week to be repaired while Daz and I decided to do a bit of tidying up and putting away of stores. What looked like a boring job turned into an interesting look at what we do have. And we have a fair bit of good stuff. I was like a kid in a sweet shop!

A lot of it went onto shelves and all we need to do now is do a spreadsheet and catalogue all the bits and pieces we have, It's not the sexy side of train restoration but it's another vital thing that needs to be done. We aren't playing at this, and we have to be professional at everything we do. Preservation isn't just about shiny paintwork, it's about everything required to run a rail vehicle including the paperwork.


So there we go another day in the holy grail of preserved 3rd rail electric traction. One day we will run out of jobs but not yet. There's a long way to go and a fair few pennies to be spent yet!


March 13th, 2017

All of you will be aware by now that the SETG has launched a fundraising drive to put some money behind us in our efforts to restore No.3417.

If you DON'T know then here is the link to which you may wish to divert your attention...

And  - hopefully - your hard-earned sovereigns....

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 10.48.02

We need your help - the price of a pint brings the unit closer to full working order.

March 13th, 2017

Good morning, Reader!
Herein lies the tale of work carried out on 04/03/17, submitted by Trousers himself. Enjoy!


"Thin on the ground number wise due to holidays, running errands for fellow preservationists and most importantly running errands for us but I was still able to get a fair amount done. We have received a kind (and large) donation of lighting inverters but were not told if they were any good or not so the first job this morning was to set about testing them to ensure they were suitable for our use. Success! One was tried in the B compartment of 76262 and it worked perfectly. We now have full lighting in this end.

Full Lighting in the B comp of 76262

As tempted as I was to carry on through the unit and get more lights working I wanted to focus on what I’d really come down to do. That was to get started on the cabs; after all we have to keep the driver contingent of the group happy.

(Note: If you want to keep drivers happy, Steve, the best methods are unlimited tea, good biscuits, bacon sandwiches, a sympathetic ear for any whinging and working days of less than 4 hours. And a pay rise every other week - Potter)

Buckie has asked me to start in 76262 due to there being some outstanding jobs in the other end of the unit. Nothing hampers work in a confined space like having to six-foot fitters having to climb over each other! A quick internal inspection showed that the years of outside storage hasn’t been kind to the old girl. Panels requiring replacement were under the cab side windows (both sides), the panel above the window on the driver’s side and the bottom of the windscreen on the driver’s side. The rest of the panels are OK, but they require rubbing down and a lick of paint.

I started by removing the panel below the window on the secondman’s side of the cab. As expected the screws didn’t want to move so some brute force and ignorance was employed (Sophisticated stuff - Potter) and the panel removed. The screws will be dealt with later! The frame at the floor level was found to be rotten so what little was left was removed.

Panel removed from Secondman's Side

Next I took the panel above the drivers side cab window out. This would be the most complex panel to replace due to it having the fresh air vent in the middle of it. Once the screws were removed from the trim the panel was removed in two pieces due to one end being stuck fast. Time to put some fresh wood in. I set to cutting and trimming a new panel to fit nicely in the gap.

Panel removed from above drivers side window

After some more trimming, cutting and filing the fresh air vent was refitted in exactly the same place; thanks to using the old panel as a template. While the fresh air vent was out I gave it a good clean up; it was full of years of dust and dirt.

Clean Fresh air vent

The panel was refitted and some small bits of trim cut to replace the rotten ones in the corner. These will need to be fitted on my next visit. It will require some undercoat and then a coat of Opaline Green paint when the rest of the cab is painted but so far so good. The long road of restoring the cabs has been started.

New Panel fitted

Until next time, Trousers signing out!"

And so the work goes on!

March 12th, 2017

Editor's Note:

Owing to holidays (mine - very nice, thank you) we have a few reports to catch up on. Apologies for the break in service!



Arrived at Strawberry at 09:00. Shed heaters turned on and Section 4 Sub section 6 amendment (a) of depot operating instructions carried out.

As some of you may be aware rules and regulations have to be reviewed from time to time to ensure that the rule is still fit for purpose. Section 4 sub section 6 is still fit for purpose, including the optional Bacon Butty but to ensure that the rule remains relevant for the railway in the 21st century, Amendment (a) has been added.

This gives the option of Bacon Butties to be omitted and Porridge to be used in its place.

Section 4 Sub section 6 amendment (a) now reads (amendment in bold text)

'Before any work is carried out on rail vehicles, staff must ensure that they have consumed at least two cups of steaming hot tea. It is optional to have a bacon butty or (a) Porridge, with the consumption of tea but this is not a mandatory requirement for rail vehicle maintenance to be carried out.’ 

The new amendment was used for the first time at Strawberry Hill on Saturday, was deemed a success and will be permanently added to the local instruction. Right - enough Due Process; on with the story.

Today was about Quarterpads, Shoegear, Pipes and other important stuff.

As you all know the interior of the VEP has seen better days (And indeed months & years - Potter) and needs a lot of retrimming. Today we started on the mammoth task. The plan is to carry out the work systematically and restore one coach at a time instead of a using a 'scatter gun' approach; the first target is the second class accommodation on Driving trailer 76262.


Another willing volunteer (Thanks Julia) was drafted in (kicking and screaming) to start the task of removing the rotten Quarter pads. These are the plywood-backed fabric pieces fitted next to the doors, under the windows. Thanks to the 4VEPs being single glazed, quarter pads tend to suffer from damp caused by condensation pooling at the bottom of the windows and so slowly rot out.

16998743_10154420122646194_2654012563361443924_nOn inspection we found that most of the plywood backing was rotten and will need to be replaced. They aren't hard to make up; basically they are squares of wood with foam attached and material stretched over and stapled to the back of the board but it looks like we will need at least a hundred off them so more expense. We have a very small supply of material enough to do maybe 20 so we will need to buy a roll or two of this material along with First and Standard class seat material. A company has been contacted regarding supplying the material to us and swatches of the material we need have been sent to ensure that we get the correct items. We are just waiting for the reply and the cost (GULP). I suspect we will probably need a sit down and a stiff drink when the quote arrives...


Next was the Batteries. We carried out a final check of the water and top up. The cover latches were greased, oiled and then boxed up; one more job that can be ticked off.

The MG (motor generator) covers were then removed and a seal placed on all four. The seal is similar to the draft proofing you use on your household doors but bigger and ensures that water and (God forbid) snow does not get into the internals of the machine. Another tick!

Darren was busy repairing the speedometer cable on 76263. The cable itself is a bit tatty and has been repaired several times  so a permanent repair was needed with some new flexible plastic conduit which looks fantastic. Unfortunately the speedo lead was soldered to the wheel wear adjustment resistor in the box on the sole bar (No, I don't know either - Potter) so the cable could not be removed as we didnt have a soldering iron at hand. It looks like this is the original 1967-fitted cable as they are normally crimped on if and when they are replaced. The wheel wear box had signs of water ingress so that has been left open to dry it out and will then need to be resealed.  The speedo cable will have to wait till the next work day when we have a soldering iron

Shoegear next!

Trousers (Steve Trower) has kindly volunteered to weld the shoelead bracket back onto the  shoearm pivot bolster so myself and Darren removed the newly fitted shoearm on 1+2  side of 76262. Well at least the bolts came off easily. The bracket decided to put up a fight. It was firmly glued with rust (best glue in the world) and needed a gentle talking to by means of a hammer before it decided that it was a good idea to comply with our requests. Trousers will now take it away and weld the broken piece on. Hopefully this will be the final saga of the shoegear and I can finally sign it off.

Julia was busy with the Trimming and found some graffiti on the back of one of the wooden Q /pad pieces in big black letters "95 DAYS TO GO TO XMAS 1995" written by DJW who seems to have done a lot of trimming on the VEP; probably an Eastleigh works lad. Does anyone know who DJW is...?


Hmmmm.... What's next? Pipes and little bits.

Darren was tasked with fixing the non-working toilet light in 76262 while I started to remove the life-expired Main Reservoir and Train Pipe air pipes. Darren's job was a quick fix as it was only a faulty lighting inverter to replace - another tick in the box little victories. While we were searching for a new inverter we came across a box of assorted electrical brushes, Hidden in the box were 20 MG brushes!! Overjoyed isn't the word as I had just had a quote for 12 new brushes that came to £386! Hooray! Those brushes don't last long; these will keep us going for a bit but not forever.

The Air Pipes were... How can I put it? 'Being a bit of a nuisance...?' Paint is nearly as good a glue as rust and the fact that the pipes had been in-situ for years contributed to the fact that the bloody things didn't want to come off. Brute force, ignorance and the correct spanner  (a 1 inch spanner from the LSWR - I kid you not) helped to remove the offending items.  They will now be labelled up and sent to Arlingtons for repair.

Lastly, some attention for the Master controller on 76263. Covers off and a good look around; nothing untoward found so a liberal amount of grease and WD 40 was applied. The handle isn't silky smooth yet but its getting there. Hopefully a few more days allowing the WD40 to work it's magic will improve matters further.

So that was the day it was. Another day of good bits, bad bits, a few ticks (Parasitic insects? Weirdo.... - Potter) and a few more jobs to be attended to in the future.

God this is fun :-)

But we're getting there by hook or by crook.






February 14th, 2017

Good afternoon, everyone.
Today's report has been submitted by our Chief Engineer.


Another cold and grey day at Strawberry Hill but another day getting the unit ship shape and Bristol fashion.
First job of the day: sign in & get the heaters on then brew up the tea. Railway work cannot start till tea is consumed; the local induction procedure Section 4, Sub section 6 states :-
‘Before any work is carried out on rail vehicles, staff must ensure that they have consumed at least two cups of steaming hot tea. It is optional to have a bacon buttty with the consumption of tea but this is not a mandatory requirement for rail vehicle maintenance to be carried out.’
So tea was consumed and off we jolly well went.
Today was all about Batteries, Toilets and Pipes.
As you probably read in the last news update we managed to get the Motor Generator to run and coax some volts out of the generator end to put the lights on. Unfortunately we only had a short time of running as the batteries were in a very poor state.
An inspection reveal that the batteries needed topping up with distilled water (to the tune of 10 litres - she was a bit thirsty). The cells were cleaned and regreased with petroleum jelly. The unit was set and the MG  ran up but still no output; the batteries were still flat and wouldn’t allow the Voltage Regulator to fire up the generator fields. A fiddle start on the VR encouraged the MG to start kicking out some amps. Time to leave her running for  a few hours and see what happens.


While the MG was charging I carried out a lighting check was carried out, replaced all the failed bulbs and tubes (including the ones vandalised by some wonderful soul in the 1st Class comportments.) There are still some lights out in the coaches and compartments but these are inverters that need to be replaced; another issue for the list.

Next a heating check (Mmmm… The delicious smell of dust!, he typed, coughing and hacking)
What’s this? I can breathe in 70797?  "No Heat!”  I’ve found that something in the coach is blowing fuses; yet more problems to solve. Still, no one said this would be easy!

Potter was busy removing the remaining body to bogie air pipes and not in the hamfisted way he usually handles spanners. I was impressed; he is after all only a driver and really worries about getting his hands dirty and scratching his nail varnish. Luckily there were no major incidents of nail varnish damage so no entries into the accident book were needed.

(Buckland, you’re not funny - Potter.)

Pipes removed and ready for replacement.

Trousers was busy with the toilet on 76262. The taps were refusing to be removed from the sink but, being a professional, he resisted the urge to swear a lot and attack them with the Irish 2lb spanner. He finally excised the offending innards of the taps (not an easy job) and proceeded to refurbish them on the bench to great success. The VEP now has two working toilets and, to top it all, the water heaters work so we have hot water as well and cold - all the modern conveniences are available on 3417 (including two conveniences).
One small detail to attend to is new soap. I feel we should finally get rid of the Dove soap that has languished in the sink for the last 6 years or so (I shall miss that soap).*

Hopefully we won't be needing this again for a while...

Back to the batteries; how were they doing after two hours charge? Had they sprung back into life? The unit was cut out and readings taken across the battery fuses unloaded...... Wow! 65 volts! That will do for me. The next test was to get a reading with a load across them.  Aux switch put to the middle position so the MG wouldn't run up and the unit tripped back in on the AIS. The lights were set and lo and behold the emergency lights sprang to life. Reading retaken and, under load, 55 volts;  not bad at all.
The batteries were never brilliant at the best of times but these readings are about the best we are going to get. I'm pleased and relieved. We just need to re-check the battery water levels on the next work day (once the air bubbles have settled out) and I can shut the box up and that job is done.
So that was our Saturday; another day of chipping away.


(Well we did a bit of fixing)
Arrived as usual and carried out Section 4 Sub Section 6 of the induction procedure. (No bacon butties today)
Today was supposed to be a paperwork day but curiosity got the better of me; would the old girl run up without me fiddling the Voltage Regulator? Off we trotted and with my hand on the AIS i tripped her in. The MG ran up as usual. So far, so good. Right; now the moment of truth set the lights. Would they come on? Would they stay dark….?
(Drum rolls can be heard in the distance)
Switch pressed and........................................
You will have to find out in the next thrilling episode!!!!!!!!!
(Bloody get on with it, you tart - Potter)

I’ll put you out of your misery. The lights sprang to life! Brilliant! That shows that the batteries are now holding their charge.

Enough drama - Back to the job in hand: Folders and Paperwork.

The SETG are running this as a professional undertaking so there are items of paperwork, inductions,  briefing, competency, risk assessments and so on that have to be filled in, along with defect sheets and exams that have to be filed. It’s not sexy but a needed part of a responsible group - for everything that is done, no matter how small, there is a paper trail.
So that was the Sunday!

Dangerously Organised...

Stay tuned for the next update! Remember, don't change channels!

Note: A lot of this update was punctuated but to be honest most of it wasn't. I thank Potter for  making it read proper-like, as he's the only one of the group who has progressed to Janet & John, Book 6.

So there you have it. A productive weekend, as documented by our illustrious leader.

There is, as Chris says, an awful lot still to do - the interior has barely been touched but the greasy bits are in improving health.

As of today we have already raised nearly £4,000 towards restoration - we hope to raise a great deal more. In the next few months we hope to see articles in several leading railway publications concerning the ongoing restoration. when we know when and where, we will be letting you all know.

In the meantime, as Chris says, Stay tuned and Don't Change Channels!
- Editor’s Note: never, ever, ever ask us about that Dove Soap. Never. The story is long, boring and involves tales of the cleansing on intimate engineers areas. It is not a story for either children, impressionable adults or anyone else who doesn’t have a robust sense of humour and a strong stomach. One day it will be told, but only after we have all left the railway and no one can get fired for it.

February 7th, 2017

As some of you will be aware, we have launched a crowdfunding effort via the JustGiving website to raise funds to further the restoration of the unit.

These funds will be controlled by the SETG and spent exclusively on No. 3417; as of today we have already raised nearly £3,000.

With the private sponsorship mentioned in our latest Work Report, that total climbs to nearer £4,500.

You can also donate funds for No. 3417 directly to the Bluebell Railway, the details of which can be found here.

Your support is vital to allowing the unit to run again; all we are asking is a cost of a pint of beer.

Can you spare £3.50 for the VEP?

£3.50 isn't much, but a few of them soon adds up to something much bigger - a couple of pints will go a long way!


February 7th, 2017

After the hectic weekend we have had time to regroup, calm down and take a deep breath.

First of all, we are absolutely delighted with the reaction to the video we posted of No. 3417 on Saturday. To hear the shed filled with the noise of a running MG and Compressor, a noise that hasn't been heard on the Southern Region since 2013, was a wonderful thing and we are very very pleased to have seen the positive reaction from so many of you. All credit has to go to our Chief Mechanical & Electrical Engineer Chris Buckland and his team of fitters (Darren Franklin from Southern Railways and Steve Trower of SWT) for the magnificent job they've done to this point. What this proves that the mechanical fabric of the unit is sound; we have a good base from which to work from.

Below details the work carried out last Saturday alone. Chris has passed me these details of the work carried out that day, including his thoughts of exactly how good it felt to see No. 3417 energised again. I've done my best to add punctuation and, in a few cases, real words; Chris is, after all, a fitter and not used to communicating to the masses!


The MG (Motor Generator) electrical boxes were cleaned and repainted along with all broken cover bolts drilled and retapped.
The MG was run up with lots of smiles, but no power output from the MG. Faces turned to a grimace! Fault finding and lots of schematic reading traced the fault to the batteries at 1.8 volts so no feed to the voltage regulator. This supply's the generator side field coil which controls the output from the MG keeping it at a constant 70 volts. The voltage regulator had to have a false battery feed put to it from a 6v torch battery (and old fitter's trick) to get the field generating again. Once this was done a full output was obtained and of course lights, heat and compressor all kicked in. Grimaces turned back into bigger smiles!

The batteries need a service. This will involve filling them with distilled water, cleaning and recharging. Hopefully the internal cells have not deteriorated over time ( the battery fuses were removed in storage to save the cells) as the batteries are needed to get the mg supplying 70 volts. We shall see after the service what voltage they are showing.

Further Work:

76263: The remaining shoearm was refitted (it still needs to be gauged) and the ripped out shoelead is now reattached. We found one of the shoelead cleats had been broken off and needs rewelding to the shoearm pivot bracket. Trousers (Steve Trower - sorry Steve) has volunteered for this but the VEP now, finally, has all four boots ready to take power. Thanks are due to Peter Spokes who kindly loaned the VEP two shoe arms from his stock of spares - Pete, you're a life-saver!

76263: The rotten internal cab boarding was removed to provide a pattern for replacement. Green paint has been donated by Trousers (again). Top man!

One of each of the body to bogie Motor Coach and Trailer air pipes and the slack adjuster to brake cylinder air pipes have been removed. They have been passed to Pirtek Ltd for examination and to get a quite for full replacement - 16 pipes in total. They were a common source of faults when VEPs were in service. (IMPORTANT FITTER MINION SECRET: Fitters used to use a 5p-piece to block the broken pipe and get a unit moving.) The pipes from Pirtek will be of a higher quality than the old ones (good for 250psi) so the SETG can keep the 5p's in the piggy bank.

We have sourced a private sponsor for the total cost of the replacement of these pipes; we are deeply grateful to Keith Usher for his generosity. Thank you!

Some of the Main Reservoir and Train Brake air pipes have been removed; not an easy task as they have been fitted for a good few years and are covered in toilet excrement & brake block dust. (The pipes have the date of 1997 written on them so are 20 years old so a bit past there best to say the least!) they have all been removed (20 in all).

They will be sent to Arlington Fleet Services who have kindly offered to donate replacements for them. 

76263: Cab master controller was freed off as it was seized. It still needs work but at least it moves - cunning use of lots of "Fitters Fat" ( WD40) was put onto it to help the freeing process!

All the internal curtains were replaced; the broken springs they hang on were changed for new ones so there is now a nice clean surface to rub against when walking through the vestibule. No more dirty trousers! (It's small jobs like this that make the unit complete so are not to be underestimated.)

The warning horn on 76262 was tested... A lot.

A Little Bit of Horn Action

(Buckland, you're a child! - Potter)

As the lighting and heating were now on, we took the opportunity to check the state of the bulbs throughout the unit. Apart from a few "D" lights and a couple of long tubes which had blown, all was fine. Heating checks revealed some defects that will require repair; a few elements are 'open circuit' and a couple of compartments not working due to defective 'unipolar.' We have sufficient units in stock to rectify this. Oh - the shed still smells of burning dust of off the heaters. It's a lovely smell..... I think!!

A control equipment sequence test was carried out and apart from being a bit slow (she hasn't had a sequence test for at least 5 years) she ran through beautifully in both test mode and simulated "on the juice mode."

All defect sheets of completed work were filed and new defects raised against the new faults found while under taking repairs. We are now upto 58 open defects which we are working on one by one as time allows. The paperwork side of preservation and the traceability is just as important as blowing hooters and opening power handles! As the Vep is being kept to a strict mainline maintenance regime the paperwork is all encompasing to ensure compliance.

For example, one new defect that has been opened is on 76262; the AWS worked once when the cab was opened up then decided that was enough. After 4 years of inactivity it would retire back into a deep slumper for another 4 years. It's got a shock coming!!!

In other news, lots of tea was drunk & biscuits consumed! Thanks to Darren for all his work and to an MPV Driver who stopped at the signal outside the depot and was suitably abused as a result. Just another normal day in the life of the SETG Minions!



So that was Saturday - there's a lot more to come!

Stay tuned for further news!

February 4th, 2017

This was taken at Strawberry Hill a few hours ago by our Chief Mechanical & Electrical Engineer Chris Buckland. As you can probably tell, he's rather excited. We all are.

Today has been an astonishing day.

Today is the day No.3417 was energised for the first time since 2013.

We are very, very proud of what you're about to see.

[video width="800" height="450" mp4="http://setg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/IMG_3741.mp4"][/video]

January 29th, 2017

At Last! AT LAST!!

We're into Strawberry Hill depot! Last Saturday marked the first work day we've been able to arrange for nearly 12 months. I won't bore you with the drawn-out story of Why and Where, but suffice it to say that we have been impatiently waiting to finally regain access to 3417 for a very long time, and working very hard behind the scenes to make it happen.

3417 stands safe, sound and dry inside Strawberry Hill depot.

To illustrate where we are at this moment, and where our restoration project starts from, we should explain the current state of the unit:

The unit is stabled inside Strawberry Hill Depot - for the benefit of clarity, the doors of the shed are classed as the London-end, whilst the buffer stops are the Country-end.

From the London end, the unit is marshalled:

Driving Trailer Composite No. 76263

Motor Brake Standard Open: No: 62236

Trailer Standard Open: No. 70797

Driving Trailer Composite: No. 76262

As of the start of work on Saturday, the unit was missing shoe arms on the Country end driving trailer No. 76263, and required pick-up slippers fitted to the London end driving trailer No. 76262. The unit requires work to the Motor Generator, the power train line, brake chests, brake cylinders, brake shoes and rigging, doors require examination, both driving cabs require overhaul and repainting, GSM-R and OTMR are to be fitted, and research is underway on some form of Central Door Locking to allow the unit to eventually carry passengers on the mainline if required. Internally the trim is in variable condition; thanks to the prolonged period of open storage at Clapham Yard the unit has suffered water (specifically condensation) damage which has rotted internal wooden surfaces at various points and damaged fabric seat covers and carpets. We have a considerable amount of work ahead of us before the unit is ready to move again. Still, it's something to do eh?
Work was split between four teams. The first team concentrated on refitting the missing shoe gear. Team Two worked on beginning work to restore the toilets to working condition. Team Three aimed to revive the Motor Generator and power train line to a serviceable state. Team Four concentrated to evaluating the state of the passenger accommodation, assessing each coach in turn and recording what work will be required within each vehicle.

Refitting the shoe arms and shoe gear has been a relatively straight-forward task - thanks to having a stock of spares and an experienced team who have worked on 400-series rolling stock in the past. Unfortunately several of the original shoe arms were damaged on a visit to a private railway and our spares float wasn't large enough to provide a full set of replacements. Thanks to the generosity of Peter Spokes we have sourced replacements; by the end of our next work day, No. 3417 will have shoe gear on all four corners for the first time in 3 years.

The toilets in DTC No. 76262 work for the first time in 3 years! After working magic with a soldering iron and a degree of creative thinking on how to make a 10 metre hosepipe stretch 12 meters, we now have toilets that work properly. DTC No. 76263 has been slightly more troublesome; the toilet now works but the sink taps have seized. These will be removed, refurbished and refitted during the next work day. Regarding the toilets, we have some slightly less pleasant work to address. Thanks to various unnamed persons who used the toilets despite having no water in them (delightful) we have the unappealing prospect of clearing the toilet pans of what can best be described as "detritus." We will be deploying industrial bleach and other substances to allow this work to happen as safely and as odour-free as possible.

Working Taps!

The motor generator (MG) has been refurbished, with the copper commutator segments cut back and perished & frayed start resistance wiring replaced to allow the MG to run and provide power to the auxiliary systems aboard. Additionally the power train line, which had suffered from water ingress, has been dried out and tested. It is now sound and, when the unit is powered up, will be able to transfer 750 volts through the unit.


Internally we've had to remove more than half the seat cushions from the unit. Some of these will be salvageable, some not. Unfortunately the unit was in cold storage, and exposed to the elements, for some time. Coupled to this was the lack of a functioning 750dc supply to the unit; the combination of cold, damp and exposure to the elements resulted in a build-up of condensation and damp within the coaches damaging the seat trim and internal window frames. More than half the trim will need repair, and Saturday's work involved removing all the damaged trim for assessment and repair. Fortunately we have managed to source an amount of replacement trim which we hope to collect in the near future. That, along with some repairs to other parts of the internal fittings, will mean that the VEP is once again able to carry passengers in a degree of comfort!

A healthy stack of Unhealthy Cushions

By the close of the day we had a unit all but ready to be powered up for the first time since May 2013; not bad for just under 9 hours work!

From here we move forwards.

The next work day is currently expected to be on February 4th. Although it won't be a full day (owing to Real Life, Work and the start of the 6 Nations Rugby Tournament getting in the way) we hope to complete assessing the interior of the unit. The replacement shoe arms will be fitted, the remaining toilet in DTC No.76262 will be reactivated and then attention will turn to the brakes.

Lots of work to do!

Stay tuned, and keep an eye No.3417's Twitter feed for the latest news.


May 30th, 2015

On Friday 29th May representatives from the Southern Electric Traction Group visited Bombardier's Ilford Carriage Works to assess progress on the restoration of the Bluebell Railway's unique 4VEP EMU No. 3417. As those of you who are following the unit's progress on Facebook and Twitter will be aware, the first vehicle - Driving Trailer No. 76262 - has already been processed through Ilford's state-of-the-art paint facility. Bombardier have informed us with a wry smile that this first coach required "more prep" than they were expecting. It also acted as the test bed for the vehicles yet to be processed so that the rubbing down, prepping and undercoating can be carried out as efficiently as possible on the remaining three coaches. To say that we are impressed with the results would be a gross understatement; the body work looks better than new. All the rust and blemishes on the bodysides have been removed, the nose ends are similarly devoid of blemishes. It would be no exaggeration to say that Ilford have achieved as near to a mirror finish that we have ever seen on a Mark One vehicle. The before and after head-on shots below speak for themselves:


[caption id="attachment_136" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Before: Driving Trailer No. 76262 stands at a gloomy Clapham Junction prior to dispatch to Ilford Before: Driving Trailer No. 76262 stands at a gloomy Clapham Junction prior to dispatch to Ilford[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_135" align="aligncenter" width="300"]After: Driving Trailer No. 76262 stands at Ilford in pristine undercoat. After: Driving Trailer No. 76262 stands at Ilford in pristine undercoat. © Mark Broomfield, 2015[/caption]


The body sides have been finished to the same standard. During the tour we were told that the depot management had insisted that the Driving Trailer took two trips to the paint shop because "the first finish we got just wasn't good enough." This kind of dedication is not only impressive but a testament to the professionalism that Bombardier has brought to this project.

[caption id="attachment_137" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Before: detail on the coach side. Not the obvious gap around the window frame and paint build-up. Before: detail on the coach side. Not the obvious gap around the window frame and paint build-up.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_138" align="aligncenter" width="300"]After: Cleaned nuts and bolts, window frame now snug and fully sealed in the bodyside. © Mark Broomfield, 2015 After: Cleaned nuts and bolts, window frame now snug and fully sealed in the bodyside.
© Mark Broomfield, 2015[/caption]

We were then shown the current state of Motor Luggage Brake Second No. 62236 which is undergoing prep work and the first stages of painting in undercoat. As you will see from the images below, the coach is mid-way through being painted.

[caption id="attachment_139" align="aligncenter" width="300"]MLBS No. 62236 "half-in, half-out" of undercoat in Ilford's paint shop. © Mark Broomfield, 2015 MLBS No. 62236 "half-in, half-out" of undercoat in Ilford's paint shop.
© Mark Broomfield, 2015[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_140" align="aligncenter" width="225"]MLBS No. 62236 shows evidence of many coats of paint - from red oxide and Rail Blue applied when new at York works, through BR blue & grey right up to the blue applied by Wimbledon in 2003. MLBS No. 62236 shows evidence of many coats of paint - from red oxide and Rail Blue applied when new at York works, through BR blue & grey right up to the blue applied by Wimbledon in 2003.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_141" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Well Rubbed Down: MLBS No. 62236 shows the quality of the metal underlying all the paint. Well Rubbed Down: MLBS No. 62236 shows the quality of the metal underlying all the paint.[/caption]

We noted one unexpected problem with the roof of No.62236, where the roofing paint is starting to flake and peel back to expose the underlying steel. Bombardier weren't previously aware of this but have agreed to scrape and repaint the effected areas in order to maintain the integrity of the roof. They will also examine the roof of all the other coaches in the unit and apply remedial work where required.

[caption id="attachment_143" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Exposed and peeling patches on the roof of MLBS No. 62236. Bombardier will rectify this as coaches are cycled through the paint shops. © Mark Broomfield, 2015 Exposed and peeling patches on the roof of MLBS No. 62236. Bombardier will rectify this as coaches are cycled through the paint shops.
© Mark Broomfield, 2015[/caption]

Once the painting of the MLBS is complete, the task becomes somewhat more complicated. The condition of the Trailer Standard Open coach No. 70797 and the country-end driving trailer No. 76263 are markedly poorer than the first two coaches and thus will require a greater degree of work. During open storage at Clapham Junction, these two coaches stood facing west, and so received the brunt of wind and rain that crossed the site. Regardless, Bombardier inform us that they are entirely confident that their skills and equipment are a match for the task. Having seen the kind of work they have delivered thus far, we wholeheartedly agree with them.

Other News:

Away from Ilford, Gordon's Minions have been continuing in their efforts to address other areas that will need to be dealt with before a 400-series EMU can once again grace the metals of the Southern Region. At the time of writing we have sourced almost all the required components to replace the existing Cab Secure Radio (CSR) cab-to-shore radio system with the required Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway (GSM-R) system; GSM-R having gradually replaced CSR over the past few years. In addition we are working towards sourcing the components needed to fit the unit with it's own "black box" On Train Monitoring and Recording (OTMR) system. Again, this is mandatory before Network Rail would allow the unit to move under it's own power on the National network. As soon as we have firm details regarding either of the above, we will of course make announcements both on our website and via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

We have updated our donations page to allow you to contribute towards the 4VEP's restoration fund without having to move away from your keyboard! No more cheques, no standing orders and all the money you donate will go towards the upkeep of the last remaining 4VEP. Click Here Now!!

Finally we are continuing to meet with potential sponsors who are keen to speed the return of this icon of the Southern Electric to the mainline where it belongs.

We hope to unveil the next leg of the 4VEP's restoration in the next few months.

We may be going far further off-region than Ilford. We may well have some unusual help to get the VEP to it's next location.

It might be someone else in the heritage movement who owes the 4VEP a favour; after all, one good turn deserves another.

We will be keeping you informed.


Gordon's Minions

January 25th, 2015

"Bombardier's Ilford Depot - No.3417's current home."
 On Friday 23rd January representatives from the SETG and Bluebell Railway visited Bombardier's Ilford Carriage Works to discuss the timetable for commencing work on the Bluebell Railway's celebrity 4VEP multiple unit, No. 423 417 'Gordon Pettitt.' As has been mentioned in previous reports, Bombardier have offered both bodywork repairs and a complete repaint for the unit. This work will be carried out by trainees as part of Bombardier's apprenticeship scheme. Paul Oldacre (project manager) talked through the specifics of the refurbishment, involving re-skinning the coaches before giving the unit a high-quality repaint in two-pack paint. Bombardier will process one coach at a time, with the first vehicle due to move into the sheds by mid-March at the latest. Bombardier have additionally agreed to fit new step boards to every coach. As ultimate owners of the unit, the Bluebell Railway will be consulted on the use and supply of the required materials, however it falls to the SETG to specify the materials in line with the SWT 400-series specifications that applied when the unit was retired from front-line service. We have also raised the possibility of having SETG technicians visit the site to allow GSM-R equipment to be retrofitted to both driving trailers. Since the unit will be in a partially stripped state and under covered accommodation all parties agreed that it is logical to do as much work concurrently as possible. More of the work to be conducted on the GSM-R system will be revealed in due course. We also hope to have news on the fitting of OTMR "Black Box" equipment within the next few months.


"The Bluebell Railway's Chairman, Roy Watts, is caught taking his own picture of the 4VEP."

The timetable for completion of the external restoration depends entirely on Bombardier's workload at Ilford in the next six months. We hope, though, to have two vehicles completed by summer - naturally we will be conducting further site visits as the restoration continues. As the restoration is to be carried out in support of Bombardier's apprenticeship program, the Bluebell hopes to invite staff to visit their locomotive & carriage & wagon works to see how the heritage sector tackle restoration of vehicles.

"A cold, damp 4VEP stands on Ilford Carriage Sidings."

After the meeting was concluded we adjourned to examine the unit. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, despite storage without power and in the open for nearly a year, the unit has remained in relatively good condition. The paintworkhas faded further - what was once Rail Blue can now best be described as "Sky Blue with Streaky Bits" - but the corrosion around the nose ends of the Driving Trailers has not significantly worsened. The interior is unsurprisingly damp and cold,but thanks to the relatively dry weather of the past few months no further notable water ingress has occurred. During the inspection we mentioned that it would be good to see the unit made as water tight "as possible" - Mark One stock and4VEPs in particular are notorious for leaks and drafts so the ambition is to make sure that the unit is as impervious to the weather as practical. One of the areas the Bombardier will address for us is the re-seating of the windows on the unit which will improve matters greatly.

"A Cold, Somewhat Damp First Class Corridor."

The big result for the 4VEP is that Bombardier now have a window in between their regular work to allow restoration to start. We look forward to seeing the first vehicle under cover within the next month or so. Regular visits will be conducted by the SETG while the overhaul is carried out so that we can continue to update the Bluebell Railway's membership and the wider public on the unit's progress.

As always, the updates will also be posted on the SETG Facebook page and the Bluebell Railway's website.

If you use Twitter, please follow No. 3417's progress on @Gordon_3417.

As always we need funds to expedite our work to bring No. 3417 back to the mainline - the more money we have available, the faster that can happen. Please visit our donations page - all the money you give will go exclusively to No. 3417.

October 8th, 2014

Press Release:

Issued jointly by the SETG, Bluebell Railway and Bombardier Transportation (UK).

Bombardier Sponsors Refurbishment of Unique Southern EMU

October 8, 2014 Berlin

Bombardier apprentice program helps renovate historic electric multiple unit (EMU) rail vehicle

Bombardier Transportation, in partnership with the Southern Electric Traction Group (SETG) and the Bluebell Railway, are delighted to announce their sponsorship of the refurbishment of the Bluebell Railway's unique 4VEP unit, No. 3417 Gordon Pettitt. Undertaken as part of Bombardier's extensive apprenticeship programme, the four-month refurbishment will include corrosion repair and a high-quality repaint.

A living piece of British Rail heritage, the No. 3417 Gordon Pettitt, was part of the British Rail Class 423 series of trains that served Southern London, Kent and Sussex starting in 1967. After being taken out of service in 2005, No. 3417 was handed over to Bluebell Railway Society in 2009 for preservation and then stored at Clapham Yard, London under the care of the Southern Electric Traction Group. On Saturday October 4, No. 3417 was transferred to a Bombardier rail depot in Ilford for renovation.

Roy Watts, Chairman of the Bluebell Railway, said, “Moving No. 3417 from Clapham Yard to Bombardier’s Ilford depot marks the beginning of a new life for this unique unit and we are thrilled that Bombardier’s apprenticeship programme ensures that traditional railway skills will be passed on to the next generation of railway technical staff. Now, after a year of storage, it is time to restore No. 3417 to its former glory so that, in time, her English Electric motors will be heard roaring once again!”

Steve Upton, SETG Spokesman, said, “This is fantastic news for No. 3417. The SETG, who are now legal guardians of the unit on behalf of the Bluebell Railway, have put in months of hard work to bring this sponsorship deal to fruition. No. 3417 is unique, being the last operational unit of its class and the only mainline registered 400-series slamdoor unit in the country. We look forward to working closely with the Bluebell Railway and Bombardier to ensure a long and productive preservation career for the unit.”

About Bluebell Railway

The Bluebell Railway, based at Sheffield Park in East Sussex, is the oldest standard-gauge, passenger carrying steam railway in the UK. The Bluebell Railway took ownership of 4VEP unit No. 3417 Gordon Pettitt from South West Trains in January 2009. Built in 1967, No. 3417 is the only 400-series unit able to move on the national network and the only preserved EMU of any type capable of moving under its own power. The unit was named by Gordon Pettitt, former BR Southern Region General Manager, at a ceremony in June 2004.

About SETG

The Southern Electric Traction Group was founded in 2009 by staff members of South West Trains, based at Wimbledon Park depot. In mid-2014, they agreed a long-term loan agreement with the Bluebell Railway to provide specialist operational and technical knowledge to ensure the long-term future of 4VEP No. 3417. The SETG's stated aim is to "Return 4VEP No. 3417 to Mainline Operation."

About Bombardier Transportation

Bombardier Transportation, a global leader in rail technology, offers the broadest portfolio in the rail industry and delivers innovative products and services that set new standards in sustainable mobility. BOMBARDIER* ECO4* technologies – built on the four cornerstones of energy, efficiency, economy and ecology – conserve energy, protect the environment and help to improve total train performance for operators and passengers. Bombardier Transportation is headquartered in Berlin, Germany, and has a very diverse customer base with products or services in more than 60 countries. It has an installed base of over 100,000 vehicles worldwide."


The Bluebell Railway's Historic 4VEP Unit No. 3417 "Gordon Pettitt"

October 4th, 2014

Unit 3417 Moves from Clapham Junction to Ilford

On Saturday 4th October, the SETG are moving the Bluebell Railway’s 4VEP unit No. 3417 from long-term storage to Bombardier’s Ilford Carriage Works in Essex.

The train will run as 5L23, 07:50 Clapham Sidings to Ilford EMU Depot.

The preliminary work to enable this move has been carried out over the last fortnight. On Saturday 20th September SETG volunteers removed 3rd-rail collector shoe gear from the 4VEP to enable the unit to be hauled ‘off-region’ without coming into unintended contact with ballast or line side equipment. The equipment removed was stored on the unit and will be serviced and refitted at a later date.

Seven days later, SETG volunteers returned to Clapham Yard to carry out further work on the unit. A full brake test was carried out, lubrication on each axle was checked and replenished and the unit was shunted a trains length in either direction to check that the unit rolled freely. Having successfully carried out the required work, the unit was pronounced “fit to run.”

GBRf are providing two Class 73 Electro-Diesel locomotives to haul the unit from Clapham to Ilford, making a typically Southern consist and providing a rare electro-diesel movement via the North London Line. The SETG and Bluebell Railway are deeply grateful to GBRf for their efforts to accommodate the transfer move amongst their other duties.

The SETG expect the 4VEP to remain at Ilford for some time.

A joint statement regarding the work to be carried out on the unit whilst at Ilford will be issued by the Bluebell Railway and SETG early next week.

Bluebell Railway members will be able to read about the transfer in more detail, as well as the background work and future plans for the unit, in the upcoming ‘Bluebell News’, which will be published on the 10th October.

September 23rd, 2014

Tuesday 23rd September

Over the weekend a group of SETG technical staff visited Clapham Junction to carry out work on 4VEP No. 3417. During the morning the unit's shoe gear was removed and safely stowed for refitting at a later date.

Whilst this work was carried out, the opportunity was taken to inspect the bogies for signs of damage after the unfortunate incident last year when a collector shoe was lost during a shunt move in Clapham Yard. Apart from damage to the secondman's side shoe arm on Driving Trailer Composite No. 76263 and the associated cabling, we found no further signs of damage.

Removal of the shoe gear to allow repair of damaged components and also to facilitate ease of movement should the need arise has been a priority for some months. Our thanks go to those who kindly volunteered their time and expertise to allow the work to take place.

Whilst spares for 400-series units are becoming increasingly hard to find, thanks to the support of the Bluebell Railway and the Brighton Belle preservation group a full set of shoe gear has been made available; some of this will be used to replace the damaged parts on coach No. 76263. The rest will be stored. The replacement parts and undamaged parts will be refitted in the the next few months.
We expect to make an important announcement regarding the future of No. 3417 within the next three weeks. Those of you who have been awaiting developments are about to have your patience rewarded.

June 15th, 2014

We have had a busy few weeks, both on and away from the unit. Last week saw several meetings regarding the future of the unit; we hope to have news on the outcome of those conversations within the month.

One of Gordon’s Minions has written an article for inclusion the July edition of the ‘Bluebell News’, published by the Bluebell Railway for it’s membership – this includes an exclusive piece of news regarding the unit. Once the membership of the Bluebell Railway has been informed of our progress we will be releasing the news to the wider public. Keep your eyes peeled!

The unit has benefitted from the recent warm weather, and minions have been dispatched to open windows and doors to allow fresh air to ventilate through the coaches. Making sure the unit is aired as considerably improved the previously damp interiors of the the country-end two coaches.

For those of you who use social media sites, please feel free to add yourself to the Southern Electric Traction Group’s Facebook page and to follow No. 3417 on Twitter (search for @Gordon_3417); both pages are updated regularly.

Lastly we wanted to share this, seen in the June Edition of ‘Railways Illustrated’; could it be that they know something Gordon’s Minions don’t? Or has someone been overheard discussing plans . . . ?

May 18th, 2014

Good afternoon!

This is the latest minion communication, designed to keep you all posted on the current goings-on regarding No. 3417.

After the work carried out some weeks ago, all has been quiet regarding attention to the unit. We will be carrying out an inspection on the unit within the next two weeks to confirm that nothing has deteriorated since the last viewing.

Behind the scenes, however, things have been extremely busy. As you will all be aware, there are many significant obstacles standing in the way of returning the unit to revenue-earning condition. The SETG have been hard at work trying to find ways around those obstacles.

In the past few weeks we have had productive meetings with various individuals within the railway industry who are keen to see the unit back in front-line use. Those discussions are ongoing, but we would like everyone to know that there aren’t just a few enthusiastic amateurs committed to this project. We are fortunate to have access to some senior industry figures and are making full use of them in order to bring the potential uses of the 4VEP to as wider an audience as possible. Our hope is to have something concrete to report to you all within the next month.

As an aside, and to round off this small “holding pattern” blog entry, have a look at the videos below. They feature a privately owned Class 33/0 ‘Crompton’ locomotive and a 4TC slamdoor set owned by London Underground Limited. The train worked from London to Swanage & return in support of this year’s Swanage Railway Beer & Diesel Festival – elegant proof that where there is sufficient imagination and will to succeed these venerable Mark One workhorses still have a place on the modern railway!

March 21st, 2014

Today two minions spent another productive few hours aboard No. 3417, this time completing the internal clean. The fruits of the previous work was immediately obvious – the unit no longer smells stale inside!

The first job involved walking through the unit, opening windows and getting more fresh air into the carriages. It’s rewarding to see how much better the unit looks after simply removing accumulated dust and detritus.

After this the internal clean continued, taking in Motor Brake Luggage Standard No 62236 and the country-end Driving Trailer Composite N 76263. The comparison between the rebuilt and un-rebuilt ends of the motor brake is striking. The re-built end, converted at Eastleigh when 4VEPs lost their full-length luggage space in the late 1980′s, is completely water tight. There is almost no sign that the unit has been out of service for a considerable length of time. However, the un-rebuilt end has not faired so well. As the picture below illustrates, there has been a significant amount of water ingress via leaking doors and windows. Coupled to the lack of light and heat this has lead to extensive damage to seats, cushions, quarter pads and the internal window fittings. The fabric used to cover the seat cushions, and the quarter pads, has perished badly and will require replacement.

The same is true of other seating bays in the motor coach and country-end driving trailer. The upside is that this problem is well known in Mark One pattern coaching stock and units, and can be solved by re-seating and sealing the windows properly. This is on the (long) list of jobs to do once we can get the unit under cover.

Despite the loss of a considerable amount of material from quarter pads and seat covers, overall the feeling is positive that at last the restoration of the unit towards full working condition has begun. The internal condition of the unit matches the exterior condition and can best be summed up as “faded but sound.” There are considerable technical obstacles to overcome, but the SETG and the Bluebell Railway are committed to ensuring the long term future of this now unique piece of Southern Region heritage.

We hope to have an announcement from the Bluebell Railway soon regarding the care and operation of the unit. in the meantime, thank you for your continued interest and support!

March 17th, 2014


In the beginning there was a 4VEP called Gordon. It was much loved, but there were many people who were too busy to look after it properly. It sat at Clapham Yard and slowly became faded. People thought it had been forgotten, but they were wrong. Minions arrived and were told “fix this VEP, because it’s the last one left.” They agreed, and the Southern Electric Traction Group was born. Now, read on.

This is the new Southern Electric Traction Group workshop page. This is where SETG technical staff (known as Gordon’s Minions) will keep you updated on the work being carried out to bring 4VEP No. 3417 back to serviceable condition.

• Cleaning.
• Coach No. 76262 (Driving Trailer Composite)
• Cab swept.
• Coach swept, ventilated. Cushions placed in luggage racks to prevent water damage from leaking passenger windows.
• Coach No. 70797 (Trailer Standard)
• Coach swept, ventilated. Cushions placed in luggage racks to prevent water damage from leaking passenger windows.

This comprised about 4 hours work for two minions, revealing £1.67 in coins found under seat cushions, discarded beer bottles and a pair of discarded ladies knickers (we’re not making this up).

In the near future the SETG are arranging with SWT staff to bring No. 3417 back under cover, pending completion of drainage work within the carriage cleaning shed. Once under cover we have more work to carry out, including:

• Restoration of the toilets to working use.
• Assessment of trim and interior fittings for restoration or replacement, including both driving cabs, doors and the guards compartment.
• Examination of the train power line, brakes, hoses and jumper cables.
• Re-fitting 3rd rail pickup equipment to the unit to allow traction & auxiliary power to be restored to the unit.

Because of the current location of the unit only persons with DC Line Personal Track Safety qualifications can access the unit. Offers of help are always appreciated, but at the moment we can only allow qualified staff access to the unit.

Donations towards the work to be carried out are a massive help, and will speed the day when No. 3417 can once again do what it was designed to do – run under it’s own power on the mainline.

From here on we hope to update regularly – and we hope to have an announcement soon regarding the future of the unit. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading.

The Minions