On Friday 29th May representatives from the Southern Electric Traction Group visited Bombardier’s Ilford Carriage Works to assess progress on the restoration of the Bluebell Railway’s unique 4VEP EMU No. 3417. As those of you who are following the unit’s progress on Facebook and Twitter will be aware, the first vehicle – Driving Trailer No. 76262 – has already been processed through Ilford’s state-of-the-art paint facility. Bombardier have informed us with a wry smile that this first coach required “more prep” than they were expecting. It also acted as the test bed for the vehicles yet to be processed so that the rubbing down, prepping and undercoating can be carried out as efficiently as possible on the remaining three coaches. To say that we are impressed with the results would be a gross understatement; the body work looks better than new. All the rust and blemishes on the bodysides have been removed, the nose ends are similarly devoid of blemishes. It would be no exaggeration to say that Ilford have achieved as near to a mirror finish that we have ever seen on a Mark One vehicle. The before and after head-on shots below speak for themselves:
The body sides have been finished to the same standard. During the tour we were told that the depot management had insisted that the Driving Trailer took two trips to the paint shop because “the first finish we got just wasn’t good enough.” This kind of dedication is not only impressive but a testament to the professionalism that Bombardier has brought to this project.
We were then shown the current state of Motor Luggage Brake Second No. 62236 which is undergoing prep work and the first stages of painting in undercoat. As you will see from the images in the gallery, the coach is mid-way through being painted.
We noted one unexpected problem with the roof of No.62236, where the roofing paint is starting to flake and peel back to expose the underlying steel. Bombardier weren’t previously aware of this but have agreed to scrape and repaint the effected areas in order to maintain the integrity of the roof. They will also examine the roof of all the other coaches in the unit and apply remedial work where required.
Away from Ilford, Gordon’s Minions have been continuing in their efforts to address other areas that will need to be dealt with before a 400-series EMU can once again grace the metals of the Southern Region. At the time of writing we have sourced almost all the required components to replace the existing Cab Secure Radio (CSR) cab-to-shore radio system with the required Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway (GSM-R) system; GSM-R having gradually replaced CSR over the past few years. In addition we are working towards sourcing the components needed to fit the unit with it’s own “black box” On Train Monitoring and Recording (OTMR) system. Again, this is mandatory before Network Rail would allow the unit to move under it’s own power on the National network. As soon as we have firm details regarding either of the above, we will of course make announcements both on our website and via our Facebook and Twitter pages.
We have updated our donations page to allow you to contribute towards the 4VEP’s restoration fund without having to move away from your keyboard! No more cheques, no standing orders and all the money you donate will go towards the upkeep of the last remaining 4VEP. Click Here Now!!
Finally we are continuing to meet with potential sponsors who are keen to speed the return of this icon of the Southern Electric to the mainline where it belongs.
We hope to unveil the next leg of the 4VEP’s restoration in the next few months.
We may be going far further off-region than Ilford. We may well have some unusual help to get the VEP to it’s next location.
It might be someone else in the heritage movement who owes the 4VEP a favour; after all, one good turn deserves another.
We will be keeping you informed.