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 I was really sorry to see them return to WAGN in early 2004 by which time Connex had been replaced by Southeastern.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
|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.