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photograph by David Smith
|Ten motor luggage vans (MLV) were built between 1959 and
1961 to provide sufficient luggage space on boat trains to and from the Kent
ports. Unlike their contemporaries the 4 Ceps/Beps, with whom they mostly
worked, they had a non gangwayed suburban cab. These unique vehicles had quite
a fascinating history. The first two, delivered in April/May 1959 had the
capability when marshalled intermediately within a train to convert air braking
on one side into vacuum braking on the other. A few trial runs were made in the
early 1960s with an EMU + MLV + Bulleid loco-hauled 3-set formation. All ten
units did however have vacuum exhausters and were able to haul vacuum braked
vans in the conventional way.
The second batch of eight were delivered between December 1960 and March 1961, all being in all-over multiple unit green and with no unit number (they did not have any for many years) shown on the end. The coach numbers 68001 - 68010 were in the usual location on the body sides.
All were built at Eastleigh on frames from Ashford to
the standard length of 63' 6", overall length was 64' 6" over
bodywork with length over buffers (extended) was 67' 1".
Phase 2 units were built with conduits and wiring for AWS
equipment though this was not fitted until about 1985 (the first two were also
equipped at this time). The SR electrical codes were AF for 68001/2 and AF-1A
for remainder, all to Diagram No 498.
The special feature of the MLVs was that they could work
over non electrified lines using battery power, mainly to allow them to proceed
onto the extremities of the pier lines at Folkestone and Dover. The MLVs could
work singly, hauling a limited load and in multiple with EP type stock.
By 1985, with a further decline in boat train traffic,
surplus MLVs were working more on mail trains and about this time all were
fitted with Speed Sensors, a device to prevent the driver selecting neutral on
the master controller above 6MPH without a full brake application being made,
thereby circumventing the 'deadmans handle'. The units were then able
to be used for 'Driver Only Operation' (Non-passenger) or DOO NP. An
agreement with the trade unions allowed lines to be cleared for such operation
only after a regular train had operated over them for a period of six months,
and therefore MLVs increased their sphere of activity quite considerably, with
regular diagrams from London Bridge to East Grinstead/Horsham and from Brighton
to Seaford/Littlehampton/Bognor whilst these routes were DOO cleared for ECS
trains. They ran singly and empty on these workings.
On first overhauls in 1964, units gained small yellow
warning panels on the cab fronts, a few also had their vehicle numbers added in
the usual 'unit number' position, though some never carried these
whilst still in green. In March 1967 68004 was painted all-blue with full
yellow ends, whilst all others went direct from green to blue/grey with full
yellow ends, the last being done about July 1970, with blue 68004 following in
August. In early 1986 vehicles began being repainted into the LSE sector
'Jaffa Cake' two tone brown livery, 68001/3/5/6/7/8/9/10 being done.
Early in 1987 the vehicles were allocated unit numbers for the first time given
a class number of 419, becoming 419001 - 419010. The new numbers were applied
on cab ends each side just above the windows rather than high up in the centre
as previously, and only the last four digits were shown. This renumbering order
caused some confusion as 9001/2/3/6/8 had their body side numbers altered in
error though these were quickly changed back to 68xxx. The increasing use of
these vans on mail and postal trains led to the repainting of 9001/9 in Post
Office red livery in late 1988/early 1989. However unit 9004 was held-up and
robbed on the Quarry Line near Merstham on 8 March 1989 whilst working a
Brighton to London Bridge mail service and both were quickly repainted again,
into the new NSE livery.
From May 1990, carriage of mails by internal SR services
ceased, and by this time most boat train duties had also finished and most of
the MLVs became surplus with units 9003/7/8/9/10 going into store at Ramsgate.
From May 1991 9001/3/5/7-9 were officially withdrawn followed by the remaining
four from 30 September. All were then allocated numbers in the departmental
series as 931091-99 and 931090, though many were not physically renumbered as
they were out of use. A few were used at Ramsgate & Slade Green as depot
'shunting horses' for a while and 9006 was damaged in a shunting mishap
at Ramsgate 6 December 1991 and later scrapped at Gwent Demolition,
This page was last updated 3 March 2004