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4-Sub (Class 405)

photograph: Glen Woods collection

Southern Railway publicity photograph

The 4-Sub designation first appeared in 1941 for the prototype of a new class of suburban unit first put into service on the Victoria to Orpington line. Two motor brake second compartments sandwiched two trailer second compartment coaches, one of which had been designed as a composite. They were built with steel underframes and body panels, timber frames supporting the body panels and with canvass roofs. This generation of 4-Subs had domed cab fronts and in that respect were similar to the 2 Hals.

These units were nicknamed "Shebas". The nickname comes from the Bible "And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon.....she came to Jerusalem with a very great train" - 1 Kings 10 verses 1 & 2

When the Shebas were put in production between 1944 and 1945 there was a degree of criticism regarding the width of the compartments - not because this restricted the leg room but because there was insufficient width for passengers to stand without tramping on the feet of those occupying the seats.

photograph: Glen Woods collection

Southern Railway publicity photograph

A further generation of 4-Subs was introduced in 1946. Built with flat cab fronts and curving bodywork along the lines of the contemporary Bulleid mainline coach stock, they were of all steel construction. These 4-Subs were however mechanically and electrically similar to the earlier batch.

Again the coaches were all compartment and one trailer was also designed as a composite. As a result of the over-crowding issue in this series the number of third (later second) class compartments in the motor coaches was reduced from nine to eight and in the trailers from eleven to ten. This layout continued until 1947 when No 4377 was given an open saloon trailer instead of the compartment configuration

This arrangement appears to have won approval because the following series 4378 - 4387 of 1948 was built with open brake third motor coaches as well as the open saloon trailer. This was the final development of the 4-Subs and although a few (4601 - 4608) reverted to the original formation Nos 4621 - 4754 of 1949 - 1951 had open motor coaches and one open trailer.

4-Sub units were reformed over their lives, composite trailers being withdrawn and later saloon coaches replacing withdrawn earlier compartment stock. Withdrawal of undamaged units commenced in 1972 and all were out of service by the end of 1983. The 4-Subs were classified as Class 405 under TOPS, but their unit numbers always remained under their original SR designation in the 4xxx series and were never renumbered into the 5xxx series to conform to TOPS.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • BR(S)
    British Railways Southern Region publicity photograph of unit Nºs4284's driving cars, one of the second series of Subs .
    Photograph: Glen Woods collection.
  • 4101
    Thornton Heath
    "Sheba" Nº4101, the very first 4-Sub, departing from Thornton Heath during April 1968.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • 4102
    Unit Nº4102 in green, seen at Wimbledon.
    Photograph by Chris Ralls, courtesy of Mike Morant.
  • 4106
    Raynes Park
    "Sheba" Nº4106 in the down platform at Raynes Park>.
    Photograph by Chris Ralls, courtesy of Mike Morant.
  • 4107
    Nº4107, another of the "Sheba" first series of 4-Sub, photographed at Barnes as it was departing for Waterloo. Barnes Goods Yard, on the left, used to be the sole haunt of the 3:95 a.m. daily goods from Feltham and was where they put the smashed up 2 Nols that were involved in the accident just outside Barnes Station.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 4364
    Raynes Park
    Smart ex-works 4-Sub Nºs4364 photographed in the early 1960s on the up slow line at Raynes Park.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • 4298
    Queens Road
    Unit Nº4298 calls at Queens Road, Battersea. In later days the stencil-type route indicator was replaced by roller blinds on some of these units. These had red blanks which made the separate tail lamp redundant.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 4700
    Queens Road
    On the other side of the platform is unit Nº4700.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 4124 & 4648
    A scene that was once very familiar to commuters is no more. Unit Nº4648 - 1952 stock - (left) and Nº4124 - 1946 stock - (right) seen in platforms three and two respectively at Waterloo during June 1970. Headcode 24 is the Waterloo to Shepperton service.
    Photograph by Michael Taylor.
  • 4117
    Nº4117, seen at Sutton during 1971 whilst engineering diversions were taking place, has just reversed in order to return to Epsom.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection
  • 4650
    Nr Raynes Park
    Unit Nº4650 between Motspur Park and Raynes Park, heading towards Waterloo on a service from Epsom on 8th May 1962.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 4113
    New Cross Gate
    Unit Nº4113, photographed at a sunny New Cross Gate.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • 4714
    Clapham Jn
    Unit Nº4714 at Clapham Junction in blue livery. Standing on a non-electrified siding it would appear that the unit had been withdrawn by the time of this photograph which dates the picture to be about August 1983. Experimental 4-PEP unit Nº4002 is lurking in the background.
    Photograph by John Lewis.
  • 4732
    Cannon St
    One 4-Sub unit - Nº4732 - remained preserved thanks to BR. Seen here in a non authentic Southern Railway livery running a shuttle service into Cannon Street during the Greenwich 150 celebrations on 23rd August 1986 it was subsequently taken out of service to the now-closed Coventry Railway Centre and is now in the care of the Heritage Electric Trains Trust.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 4732
    Preserved unit Nº4732 seen at Seaford during 1991.
    Photograph by Ashley Barton.
  • Powered
    A powered bogie with pickup beam on Nº4732. In this picture the normal shoe lead arrangement is shown with the lead coming from the left hand side of the shoe fuse box and connected to the PNS4 shoe. In this picture the shoe lead has been entered into the right hand side of the shoe fuse box. This was the normal procedure, to prevent the shoe lead "flapping around", when shoegear was removed for despatch over non-electrified lines.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • De-icing
    This is the trailer bogie on a de-icing unit converted from a 4-Sub, here the pickup beam has been converted to support the ice scraper and the oil laying shoe with no collector shoe on the beam.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • Rail
    The entrance to a Sub cab was directly via a door which also served as the cab side window. Operating in difficult weather makes dangerous demands on the operating staff, including here at Clapham Junction climbing from the cab and walking between the tracks in proximity to the third rail.
    Photograph by David Smith.

This page was last updated 6 September 2018

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