Sunday 16 May 2021

End Of The Happy Trains

 Let's go back a quarter of a century to 1996. Dolly the sheep is born, Take That split up, Gazza scores that goal against Scotland, and I saw a train. I know exactly where I was too - on the road bridge outside Gillingham Station in Kent, and it was then I saw my first Class 365 Networker Express. Oh I was used to Networkers alright - the Kent Metro lines were flooded by class 465/6s in 1992 and I still had a grudge against them for replacing my beloved EPB slamdoor trains. But this was different - it was in that superb Connex livery which I don't think has ever been bettered on the 365's, and it was operating a Chatham mainline service, something which at that time was the monopoly of the VEPS, CEPS and rarely CIGS. 

365502 in Connex livery at Whitstable

At this time there were only a couple of journeys a day due to issues obtaining a safety certificate but I soon found out what they were and got on one. I still maintain the original 365 interiors were the best interior I've ever seen on a train, and with the sterile interiors currently being churned on modern trains I doubt they'll ever be matched. I fell in love with the decor, comfort, ride, and those traction motors that sounded like a grand prix car! 

The original Std class 365 interior

Of course it wasn't just Connex that got 365's - indeed the 16 units Connex received were on lease from West Anglia Great Northern (WAGN) who had the remaining 25 sets for the Kings Cross - Peterborough/Cambridge/Kings Lynn services. These units, however retained NSE livery.

365535 at Peterborough                         photo markkirk85

I was lucky enough to guard the Connex 365's on the Chatham lines, and have some very happy memories. They were a joy to work - easy to stand in at high speed and the passengers loved them too. I was really sorry to see them return to WAGN in early 2004 by which time Connex had been replaced by Southeastern. By then, however, the WAGN units had taken on a different look. Due to the drivers cabs being fitted with air conditioning a new front had been fitted to the 365's, the look that would gain the trains the nickname of the 'happy trains'.
365530 at a rather weedy Cambridge

It cannot go unmentioned that it was a 365 involved in the 2002 Potters Bar derailment, which tragically led to 7 deaths and 76 injuries. The unit, 365526 never returned to service. I was waiting to work a 365 out of Cannon St when the news of the derailment came through. A very sobering moment. 

In 2006 WAGN was succeeded by First Capital Connect, who also ran Thameslink and Moorgate services under the same franchise
Unidentified 365 in FCC livery

In 2014 FCC was succeeded by Govia Thameslink Railway, who still operate the Great Northern franchise today. Unfortunately the refurbishment programme had already began, a process that saw the 365's lose their original interior, to be replaced with a much more sterile look. Gone were the dark greens and purples, and the carpets, and a clinical blue and white interior emerged. 

The refurbished interior.

In 2017 the 365's demise began when they were relegated to peak time services only following the introduction of the class 387 Electrostars and the Thameslink 700's, which took over some of Great Northern's work. The units with odd fleet numbers were withdrawn, but a few units found their way to Scotland in 2019 to cover for the late delivery of Scotrail's 385s. They proved popular in Scotland despite their short stay. May 15th 2021 saw the last 365's withdrawn from passenger service with Great Northern. It remains to be seen if they have a future carrying passengers. 

Over the last couple of weeks I have been saying my goodbyes to the 365's, and thanks to assistance from Great Northern, have managed to take a number of photos and videos in various locations, as well as a last ride from London to Peterborough. They made me happy, and the railways will be a less smiley place without them. Here are a few of the photos I took, and it's fitting that the final pic is of 365502, in service to the very end, so we finish where we started.

Here is the video, taken at Alexandra Palace, Peterborough, Kings Cross and Huntingdon. Once again my thanks to Great Northern for their invaluable assistance. If the video doesn't appear below click here

1 comment:

  1. Great British Railways

    It is all change with the railways with a radical reform of them being proposed

    Going forward the railways will be operated by an arms length public company called Great British Railways. Franchising goes and will be replaced by Contracts. Probably all the rail services at least in England will carry the Great British Railways branding. Fares and ticketing will become the responsibility of Great British Railways

    THe white paper is due out later today(20/05) so we will have to wait for that for the details of it