Written by: TrainSim-James
In the 1970s, BREL (British Rail Engineering Limited) were developing a prototype electric multiple unit for both the Southern and Scottish Regions. Classified as the Class 445 & 446, the prototype electro-pneumatic ‘PEP’ units were meant for high density commuter operations. A trio of PEPs were built for testing and preliminary passenger service, 2 Class 445s (4-Car) & 1 Class 446 (2-Car). These units spent their life in the Southern Region, mainly serving South Western destinations in a 10-car long configuration. By the end of the 1970s, the PEPs had been withdrawn from passenger service, but a new design had been finalised for full production.
Capacity concerns in North London, plus the recent electrification of commuter lines out of Glasgow and the East Coast Main Line, necessitated new traction. It would be BR’s Second Generation of EMUs that would fulfil the role, starting with the Class 313. The oldest and most versatile of the family, the Class 313, was built between 1976 and 1977 to form a 64-strong fleet for the North London Line & suburban services on the East Coast Main Line.
On the ECML, the Class 313 would not only call at King’s Cross, but also take over the branch to Moorgate. Built as a ‘Tube’ line, the Moorgate branch was completely underground and was not capable of taking standard-sized rolling stock; as a result, the Class 313 was designed with a smaller loading gauge, making it short enough to safely fit within the tunnel boundaries. Some changes were also taken into account following the PEPs, mainly to comply with underground regulations, one in particular was the inclusion of a door at either end, compulsory for evacuations.
The Class 313s definitely spoke “revolution”, they were the first units to be fitted with multi-function Tightlock couplers, which allowed for complete coupling and supply line operations from the cab; and they were the first dual-voltage units with both a 25 kV AC pantograph and 750 V DC shoegear.
In the 1980s, Willesden-based Class 313s mainly served the North London Line, however it was decided that they would take over from the older Class 501s on the Watford DC Line. As there were long gaps in the third rail on this line, the several Class 313s were retrofitted with extra shoegears to maintain contact. All Class 313s that received this change were reclassified as the Class 313/1, and these units could be seen operating in North London/Watford right up until 2010.
Privatisation saw the Class 313 fleet divided between 2 operators, Silverlink & West Anglia Great Northern (WAGN). The former continued to operate the 313/1s on their respective routes until 2007, after which London Overground took over operations. Some minor modifications were made to the North London fleet after the TfL transfer, mainly the removal of the Silverlink brand and reduction in the number of seats to make more standing room.
In 2009-2010, the Class 378 ‘Captialstar’ gradually replaced the Class 313 on North London and Watford DC services. Subsequently, the displaced 313s were sent to work for First Capital Connect for the ECML, and Southern for Coastway services; those that were sent to the latter received major refurbishment. The Southern fleet was reclassified as 313/2 following the refresh. The Class 313/2s featured a modernised cab, refitted interior with high-backed seating, a unique take on the Southern livery, depicting various destinations on the East & West Coastways, and the pantograph was removed.
Not all the ex-North London Class 313s were taken by Southern and FCC, 313121 was acquired by Network Rail for European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) testing purposes on a short section of the Hertford Loop. 313121 was the last unit to wear the Silverlink livery, however this was quickly changed to an all-over bright yellow, standard for departmental stock.
WAGN & FCC retained the Class 313s for their duties on the ECML, however with Govia’s recent Thameslink & Great Northern takeover, it was decided for a lot of older BR rolling stock to be replaced. Thameslink saw the introduction of Class 700s in 2016, marking the gradual end of the Class 319s through the centre of London; and Great Northern will withdraw their Class 313 fleet in 2018, being replaced by the in-production Class 717, an underground-compliant derivative of Thameslink’s 700s.
The fate of the Great Northern Class 313s post-withdrawal is uncertain, given that most of the units will be in excess of 40 years old by 2018 (currently the oldest EMUs in service on mainland Britain), it is unlikely that any operator will want them and they’ll soon be sold for scrap.
With no doubt, the Class 313s have done their duty exceptionally well, connecting North London together and paving the way for future units that have also served throughout the country right up to today. Re-live the classic operations & nostalgic sounds of 313s in the Capital, as Armstrong Powerhouse’s authentic representation will soon be arriving at Steam for Train Simulator service! ■