British Rail Class 309

British Rail Class 309

Infobox EMU
name = British Rail Class 309

imagesize = 240px
caption = Two Class 309 electric multiple units coupled together at London Liverpool Street. One of these is in Network SouthEast livery and the other is in "Jaffa Cake" livery with "Essex Express" branding.
background = #015CAB
Manufacturer = BR York
Formation = 2/3/4 cars per trainset
Built = 1962-1963
InService =1962-2000
Refurbished 1985-1987
Weight = Total - 99 tons (309/1) OnlyTotal - 168 tons (309/2) Only Total - 167 tons (309/3) Only
Capacity =
MaxSpeed = 100 mph (160 km/h)
Gauge = Standard gauge (1,435 mm)
Brakes = Air (EP/Auto)
Engine =
Operator = British Rail

The British Rail Class 309 "Clacton Express" electric multiple units (EMUs) were built by British Rail (BR) York Works from 1962-1963. They were initially classified as Class AM9 before the introduction of TOPS. These units were the first express 25 kV alternating current (AC) units to be built by British Rail, and British Rail's first EMUs to be capable of 100 mph.


Twenty-three units were built in three different batches.
*601-608 - Two-car units
*611-618 - Four-car units containing a griddle car
*621-627 - Four-car unitsEach unit had identical electrical equipment. The original concept called for increasing the power-to-weight ratio when strengthening trains from eight to ten cars in peak periods using the 2-car units, in order to make the peak timetable more resilient.


When built, units were used exclusively on Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) express services from London Liverpool Street to Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze. Trains would be formed of three units in a ten-car formation (i.e. one two car unit, and two four car units). The train would divide at Thorpe-le-Soken, with one of the 4-cars units used on the Walton section, and the remaining six cars continuing to Clacton. The Walton portion usually comprised the griddle car unit.

This continued until the late 1970s, when many of the units were reformed. The two-car units were augmented to four-car units between 1977 and 1980, with the addition of converted former locomotive-hauled coaching stock. In 1980, the griddle cars were taken out of use, reducing units 611-618 to 3-car units. They were later augmented to 4-car units during the refurbishment work.

The entire fleet was refurbished in the period 1985-1987. The first units outshopped were painted in the bold new London and SouthEastern "Jaffa Cake" livery. However, this was soon superseded by the equally bold Network SouthEast livery, which was introduced in 1986. Coinciding with the refurbishment work, in 1985 electrification spread north from Colchester to Ipswich, and later to Harwich and Norwich. This meant the Class 309 units were soon introduced on fast trains to Ipswich and Harwich.

In 1989, new Class 321/3 units were introduced onto GEML services. This caused the demise of the "Clacton Express" units in the South East, despite their recent and expensive refurbishment. The last units were withdrawn in 1994 after working a final railtour. However, not all units were immediately scrapped, and seven were retained for possible reuse around Manchester on suburban trains. These units were stored at Blackpool.

In 1994, Regional Railways North West (RRNW) acquired the seven redundant units stored at Blackpool. The units, nos. 309613/616/617/624/626/627, were quickly put to use on suburban passenger services from Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe and Stoke-on-Trent. Six of the units were repainted in RRNW blue livery with a green stripe. The seventh, no. 309624, was repainted in a special blue livery to commemorate the opening a new railway line to Manchester International Airport in 1996. Upon privatisation, the units passed to the North Western Trains (NWT) franchise. This was later renamed First North Western (FNW) following First Group's take-over of the franchise.

By the late 1990s, the seven units saw continued use around Manchester. They also saw some use on longer distance services, with one booked daily Manchester Piccadilly-Birmingham New Street service and return. On occasion, units were used on NWT's Manchester-London Euston service, deputising for a non-available Class 322 unit. At one point, it was planned to use the units on a new Crewe-Carlisle stopping service, but this did not happen. However, the end was in sight, because as part of their franchise commitment, FNW had to replace their slam-door rolling stock, including the Class 309 units. New Class 175 diesel multiple units were introduced in 1999-2000, and FNW discontinued its Manchester-Euston service. This meant that the "Clacton Express" units were surplus to requirements. As a farewell gesture, three units were used on a final railtour from Manchester to their old haunt of Clacton-on-Sea via London Liverpool Street. Following this tour, all seven units were withdrawn in late 2000, and sent for storage at MoD Pig's Bay near Shoeburyness. Two of the units later saw further use in departmental service, whilst the remaining five were scrapped in 2004.

Further Use

Following withdrawal from normal service, two units were convered to Class 960 departmental units in 2001 for further use as cab-signalling test units. The two units concerned were reduced in length to 3-car units, and were based at the test track at Old Dalby in Leicestershire. Both units were painted in a blue and white livery.
*960101 (ex-309616) - named "West Coast Flyer"
*960102 (ex-309624) - named "New Dalby"They were withdrawn in 2004 following completion of the tests. Both are now stored at MoD Pig's Bay, near Shoeburyness, Essex, pending further use or disposal.


The [ AC EMU Group] is currently trying to save one of the three-car departmental units for preservation. The main stumbling block is not having a home for the unit to be based at.

External links

* [ AC EMU Group - currently trying to preserve a 3-car unit.]
* [ Class 309 potted history]

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