|The Southern Railway|
The Southern Railway (SR) was established in the 1923 Grouping, linking London with the Channel ports, South West England and Kent. It was formed by the amalgamation of several smaller railway companies, the largest of which were the the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSC), the London & South Western Railway (LSWR) and the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR). You can download a map of England's rail network, pre-Grouping, from here.
At 3,518 km (2,186 miles) the Southern Railway was the smallest of the "Big Four" railway companies but – uniquely - the majority of its revenue came from passenger working rather than freight. It not only created the then world's largest electrified railway system, but also the first electrified inter-city route, from London to Brighton; the Brighton Belle represented a milestone in mass passenger transport and the mobility of labour.
Here we have a short newsreel commemorating the inaugural electric service from London to Brighton in 1933. Click on the four arrows icon to see the video in full screen mode.
And here we have a collection of images of very early Southern Region two, three and four car motor units, including former L & SWR units, similar units built by the SR, and 2-Nol units.
The Southern Railway played a vital role in the Second World War, embarking the British Expeditionary Force, during the Dunkirk operations, and supplying Operation Overlord in 1944. Because the railway was primarily a passenger network its success was an even more remarkable achievement. A series of videos illustrating 'The Southern's' remarkable contribution to the war effort can be seen here.
The Southern Railway's innovative approach to maximising the efficiency of suburban commuter lines can be seen in Bulleid's prototype '4DD' double-decked electric multiple units, two of which were built for services from London's Southern Region terminii to Dartford in 1949.
The Southern Railway operated a number of famous named trains – not only the Brighton Belle, but also the Bournemouth Belle, the Golden Arrow, and the Night Ferry (London - Paris and Brussels). Links to continental Europe were well developed by the beginning of the 20th Century - you can download a map of London and Continental rail connections in 1900 from here. The West Country services were dominated by lucrative summer holiday traffic and included named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle. The company's best-known livery was highly distinctive, with locomotives and carriages were painted in a bright Malachite green above plain black frames, with bold, bright yellow lettering. The Southern Railway was nationalised in 1948, becoming the Southern Region of British Railways.
A detailed factsheet on the Southern Railway is available here.
Now, we enjoy the glorious experience of boarding the Golden Arrow in 1950, heading off to Dover to board the cross-channel ferry 'Invicta' en-route to France. Click on the four arrows icon to see the video in full screen mode.
Finally, here we have a reminder of the most common experience on 'The Southern' - rush hour at Waterloo in 1970