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Our Story

Commuting by Electricity

Class 405 4-SUB EMU


The 4-SUB units were a familiar site on the suburban lines from south and south-west London, Surrey and Middlesex into the terminal station of Waterloo, Victoria and London Bridge.


For 35 years they ferried millions of passengers to and from work during the week, then at weekends they would take thousands more shopping, to and from football matches or simply on days out.

The term ‘workhorse’ is wholly accurate when describing these trains. They were built in 4 coach sets that could be coupled together to form longer trains at busier times under the control of a single driver.

The first examples were built in 1941 and followed a traditional approach by the Southern Railway to its commuter stock.


A door to every seating bay and either full width compartments or saloons of 2+3 seating.


The idea being to offer as many seats as possible but, in reality, so busy were these lines that anyone boarding the train at the last few stations before the final destination during the rush hour would have been forced to stand up.

Where the SUB units had innovation was in the use of steel, instead of wood for the bodysides allowing for a more rounded profile to the bodywork.


Mass production was held off until after the end of World War II – then production began in earnest until 1951, when a new design of train started to be built that was simply a refinement of the SUB design.


SUB units continued in service until retired in 1983. One set was retained by BR until 1996 on special traffic runs but the advent of rail privatisation made this no longer practical and it was purchased for preservation by a private preservation group and moved to the site of the Electric Railway Museum in Coventry.

Sadly, that museum closed in 2017 when the local authority sold the land for redevelopment and the unit is now to be passed to the Heritage Electric Trains Trust who intend to carry out a full restoration back to operational condition.

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