Why did the South Eastern Division do away with buffet cars long before the Central Division did so?

AY1975

Member
Joined
14 Dec 2016
Messages
834
Does anyone know why the South Eastern Division did away with buffet cars long before the Central Division did so?

I believe that the BEPs disappeared from the South Eastern in about 1980/81 when they were refurbished and converted to CEPs by replacing the buffet car with a former loco-hauled Mark 1 TSO. The Hastings DEMU buffet cars were also withdrawn at about the same time.

AFAIK for the first half of the 1980s the SE had no on-train catering at all, then from about 1986/87 onwards they started having refreshment trolleys.

On the other hand, 4-BIGs remained on the Central Division until shortly after privatisation: I think Connex South Central did away with buffet cars in favour of trolleys in about 1997.

It seems odd that in the 1980s BR still deemed that there was enough demand for buffet cars on the CD but no longer on the SED even though the latter had longer journey times: 1h40 to 2 hours for London to Dover or Ramsgate compared to 1 hour to 1h30 for London to Brighton, Eastbourne, Littlehampton or Bognor Regis, for example.

The SED also had two ports served by boat trains: Dover and Folkestone, whereas the CD only had one: Newhaven. You might think that passengers would expect a buffet car, or at least a trolley service, on boat trains.

Then there was the South Western Division, which retained buffet cars on Waterloo to Portsmouth and Weymouth well into the privatised era although I think South West Trains increasingly replaced them with trolleys.

I also seem to recall that the SED only had buffet facilities on Mondays to Fridays whereas the CD also had them on Saturdays. Does anyone know why this was? Again it seems odd that BR thought that daytrippers and holidaymakers travelling to the Sussex Coast resorts on Saturdays would want buffet facilities but those headed for the likes of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate would not.

There's a now closed thread on Kent buffet and restaurant cars at https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/buffet-and-restaurant-cars-in-kent.143802
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
4,447
I think commercial decisions were probably behind most of it, and for some reason the SED never managed to run buffets as profitably as the other divisions. The Hastings buffets were downgraded from "buffet" to "miniature buffet" as early as 1964, which meant only one staff member and all cooked items removed from the menu. I suspect the BEPs were similar. Also, the Hastings buffet cars were withdrawn because they ended up in poor condition, and presumably money wasn't available to improve them. BEP buffets were a similar age, of course. On the Central and Western divisions, the BIGs and REPs were newer, so perhaps the conditions of the vehicles weren't a factor, and they could carry on operating safely and reliably.

The Central Division's catering provision always seemed somewhat over-generous - Pullmans with full meal services surviving into the seventies, on a route with a journey time of an hour, seems incredible now. Possibly just a historical accident, given that the LBSCR was a keen user of Pullman cars.
 

bramling

Established Member
Joined
5 Mar 2012
Messages
11,009
Location
Hertfordshire / Teesdale
I think commercial decisions were probably behind most of it, and for some reason the SED never managed to run buffets as profitably as the other divisions. The Hastings buffets were downgraded from "buffet" to "miniature buffet" as early as 1964, which meant only one staff member and all cooked items removed from the menu. I suspect the BEPs were similar. Also, the Hastings buffet cars were withdrawn because they ended up in poor condition, and presumably money wasn't available to improve them. BEP buffets were a similar age, of course. On the Central and Western divisions, the BIGs and REPs were newer, so perhaps the conditions of the vehicles weren't a factor, and they could carry on operating safely and reliably.

The Central Division's catering provision always seemed somewhat over-generous - Pullmans with full meal services surviving into the seventies, on a route with a journey time of an hour, seems incredible now. Possibly just a historical accident, given that the LBSCR was a keen user of Pullman cars.

Could it simply be that loadings on the SE services were that bit lower? Granted there will have been days when large volumes of people headed to places like Margate and Hastings, but I’d place a wager that all-year-round traffic was less than to places like Brighton or Bournemouth.

Certainly my experiences from the 1980s onwards was that generally the SE side was the quietest or the three southern regions off-peak. Obviously the boat trains might be a special case.
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
4,447
Could it simply be that loadings on the SE services were that bit lower? Granted there will have been days when large volumes of people headed to places like Margate and Hastings, but I’d place a wager that all-year-round traffic was less than to places like Brighton or Bournemouth.

Certainly my experiences from the 1980s onwards was that generally the SE side was the quietest or the three southern regions off-peak. Obviously the boat trains might be a special case.

That could well have something to do with it, and possibly that's why the Southern prioritised Central and Western services for the 1930s longer-distance electrification schemes. The Eastern Section's long routes seemed to be filed under the "too difficult" category.
 

bramling

Established Member
Joined
5 Mar 2012
Messages
11,009
Location
Hertfordshire / Teesdale
That could well have something to do with it, and possibly that's why the Southern prioritised Central and Western services for the 1930s longer-distance electrification schemes. The Eastern Section's long routes seemed to be filed under the "too difficult" category.

No doubt this is partly the result of duplication of routes. The Southern Railway did do some amount of sorting this out at places like Ramsgate and Ashford, but to this day we are still left with two routes to a number of major towns, some journeys that aren’t catered for that well.

It’s all this which makes the South Eastern quite lovable from an enthusiast point of view, but less so from an operational one!
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
4,447
No doubt this is partly the result of duplication of routes. The Southern Railway did do some amount of sorting this out at places like Ramsgate and Ashford, but to this day we are still left with two routes to a number of major towns, some journeys that aren’t catered for that well.

It’s all this which makes the South Eastern quite lovable from an enthusiast point of view, but less so from an operational one!

Haha, I know what you mean! There were certainly a lot of questions being asked during the time of the Kent Coast electrification about the wisdom of all the expenditure, when in some parts of the country, duplicate routes were already being downgraded or closed. It's surprising how rural much of Kent is, and plenty of larger towns in other places lost all their rail services, yet plenty of sleepy hamlets in Kent have kept really good rail links.

The SE is the Southern division I'm least familiar with, but yes, it certainly hangs on to quite a lot of variety, and some really nice scenery.
 

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
26,195
Location
Yorks
No doubt this is partly the result of duplication of routes. The Southern Railway did do some amount of sorting this out at places like Ramsgate and Ashford, but to this day we are still left with two routes to a number of major towns, some journeys that aren’t catered for that well.

It’s all this which makes the South Eastern quite lovable from an enthusiast point of view, but less so from an operational one!

I suppose the South Eastern might be the most awkward to operate, but it seems to have by far the better coverage of surviving passenger lines. Probably due in part to the comprehensiveness of the Kent electrification scheme.

Haha, I know what you mean! There were certainly a lot of questions being asked during the time of the Kent Coast electrification about the wisdom of all the expenditure, when in some parts of the country, duplicate routes were already being downgraded or closed. It's surprising how rural much of Kent is, and plenty of larger towns in other places lost all their rail services, yet plenty of sleepy hamlets in Kent have kept really good rail links.

The SE is the Southern division I'm least familiar with, but yes, it certainly hangs on to quite a lot of variety, and some really nice scenery.

It's very robust as well. If there's a misshap somewhere on the South Eastern, you can still usually get where you want to be.
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
4,447
I suppose the South Eastern might be the most awkward to operate, but it seems to have by far the better coverage of surviving passenger lines. Probably due in part to the comprehensiveness of the Kent electrification scheme.

It was certainly the first ever electrification scheme in Southern territory with the aim of 100% elimination of steam on all trains. Everywhere else, the Southern seemed happy to keep hold of steam locos for freight and anything not operated by EMUs.
 

big all

On Moderation
Joined
23 Sep 2018
Messages
847
Location
redhill
Hastings and BEP units were built to the standards of the early to mid 50s. BIGs were built to newer standards so as units went for a full overhaul and refurb would they have to meet the more stringent health and hygiene standards?
 

WesternLancer

Established Member
Joined
12 Apr 2019
Messages
2,794
Does anyone know why the South Eastern Division did away with buffet cars long before the Central Division did so?

I believe that the BEPs disappeared from the South Eastern in about 1980/81 when they were refurbished and converted to CEPs by replacing the buffet car with a former loco-hauled Mark 1 TSO. The Hastings DEMU buffet cars were also withdrawn at about the same time.

AFAIK for the first half of the 1980s the SE had no on-train catering at all, then from about 1986/87 onwards they started having refreshment trolleys.

On the other hand, 4-BIGs remained on the Central Division until shortly after privatisation: I think Connex South Central did away with buffet cars in favour of trolleys in about 1997.

It seems odd that in the 1980s BR still deemed that there was enough demand for buffet cars on the CD but no longer on the SED even though the latter had longer journey times: 1h40 to 2 hours for London to Dover or Ramsgate compared to 1 hour to 1h30 for London to Brighton, Eastbourne, Littlehampton or Bognor Regis, for example.

The SED also had two ports served by boat trains: Dover and Folkestone, whereas the CD only had one: Newhaven. You might think that passengers would expect a buffet car, or at least a trolley service, on boat trains.

Then there was the South Western Division, which retained buffet cars on Waterloo to Portsmouth and Weymouth well into the privatised era although I think South West Trains increasingly replaced them with trolleys.

I also seem to recall that the SED only had buffet facilities on Mondays to Fridays whereas the CD also had them on Saturdays. Does anyone know why this was? Again it seems odd that BR thought that daytrippers and holidaymakers travelling to the Sussex Coast resorts on Saturdays would want buffet facilities but those headed for the likes of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate would not.

There's a now closed thread on Kent buffet and restaurant cars at https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/buffet-and-restaurant-cars-in-kent.143802
Did the Golden Arrow retain some pullman cars with catering up to the same date the Brighton Belle survived (c1972 ish)? Or did the Arrow loose them/cease running before the Belle ceased.

Seems remarkable now that Buffet cars on south central survived into the Connex era. Can't have been for long as connex seemed to find every way possible to cut costs - esp cleaning costs, so hard to imagine them wanting to staff (or clean!) a buffet car.
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
4,447
Did the Golden Arrow retain some pullman cars with catering up to the same date the Brighton Belle survived (c1972 ish)? Or did the Arrow loose them/cease running before the Belle ceased.

Yeah, it last ran in September 1972, so fractionally outlived the Belle. By then, only the First Class Pullmans survived, with much of the train being made up of normal rolling stock.

Seems remarkable now that Buffet cars on south central survived into the Connex era. Can't have been for long as connex seemed to find every way possible to cut costs - esp cleaning costs, so hard to imagine them wanting to staff (or clean!) a buffet car.

Remember that the BIGs were replaced on Brighton services by the Class 319/2s, which had a lounge area under the pan, with limited catering on board. Didn't they contract it out to someone like Costa?
 

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
26,195
Location
Yorks
It was certainly the first ever electrification scheme in Southern territory with the aim of 100% elimination of steam on all trains. Everywhere else, the Southern seemed happy to keep hold of steam locos for freight and anything not operated by EMUs.

Also Maidstone and Canterbury are quite awkwardly situated for the main lines.
 

WesternLancer

Established Member
Joined
12 Apr 2019
Messages
2,794
Yeah, it last ran in September 1972, so fractionally outlived the Belle. By then, only the First Class Pullmans survived, with much of the train being made up of normal rolling stock.



Remember that the BIGs were replaced on Brighton services by the Class 319/2s, which had a lounge area under the pan, with limited catering on board. Didn't they contract it out to someone like Costa?
Thanks.
I don't recall the 319/2s with catering. Must never have used them. Did the BIGs just remain in Eastbourne and certain services west of Brighton (eg Littlehampton) at that late stage then?
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
4,447
Thanks.
I don't recall the 319/2s with catering. Must never have used them. Did the BIGs just remain in Eastbourne and certain services west of Brighton (eg Littlehampton) at that late stage then?

I think so. It looks like the BIGs finally went around 2000 - I just had a quick look at my Platform 5 books. I've got the 1999 and 2001 editions - they're in the former, but not the latter.
 

WesternLancer

Established Member
Joined
12 Apr 2019
Messages
2,794
I think so. It looks like the BIGs finally went around 2000 - I just had a quick look at my Platform 5 books. I've got the 1999 and 2001 editions - they're in the former, but not the latter.
That's a helpful reference.
I can't recall if they ran with closed buffet cars in the trains for a while. (but service from a trolley) or kept the counters open until the end. I had a feeling that they reduced the use of them to fewer and fewer trains, perhaps in peak hours only towards the end - but that's not much more than a hunch. I was no longer living in the area then so would not have noticed so much.

If I recall correctly before then, the BIG and a CIG would go to Eastbourne southbound, then be uncoupled and the CIG go on to Hastings, with London bound CIG coming in and coupling up to the BIG for the northbound departure. But that would assume 8 coach trains and some were 12 coach. So maybe a CIG and a BIG were left in Eastbourne with 1 CIG going on to Hastings as a 4 coach train. Logic would suggest you would ideally want the BIG in the center of the 12 coach train so people can get to the buffet counter form either end of the train with the minimum possible number of carriages to walk through.
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
4,447
I lived in Bognor from 1992 to 1993, and a couple of BIGs always showed up in the evenings, and stabled overnight. Presumably they went up on peak services in the mornings.
 

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
26,195
Location
Yorks
That's a helpful reference.
I can't recall if they ran with closed buffet cars in the trains for a while. (but service from a trolley) or kept the counters open until the end. I had a feeling that they reduced the use of them to fewer and fewer trains, perhaps in peak hours only towards the end - but that's not much more than a hunch. I was no longer living in the area then so would not have noticed so much.
If I recall correctly before the, the BIG and a CIG would go to Eastbourne southbound, then be uncoupled and the CIG go on to Hastings, with London bound CIG coming in and coupling up to the BIG. But that would assume 8 coach trains and some were 12 coach. So maybe a CIG and a BIG were left in Eastbourne with 1 CIG going on to Hastings as a 4 coach train.

Yes, I remember this happenning (and the crush when everyone crammed onto the 4CIG at Eastbourne !
 

Dr Hoo

Established Member
Joined
10 Nov 2015
Messages
2,132
Location
Hope Valley
As a BR manager in what I will loosely describe as 'North Kent' in parts of the 1980s I gave this question quite a bit of thought. I was peripherally involved when an attempt was made by Travellers Fare to introduce 'trolley' catering in the re-furbished CEPs in 1985. This never seemed to take off because of patchy coverage, lack of promotion and some pretty apathetic staff who seemed to love staying in a brake van with the guard.

Although the Kent Coast electrification seemed to be done for longer distance flows - most obviously Dover and Thanet <-> London - this certainly didn't seem to be where most of the passengers were travelling by the 1980s. A significant cohort of long-distance super-commuters from places like Herne Bay who had moved out there around 1960 with a view to later seaside retirement had indeed retired. The days of trains being able to run full non-stop from Whitstable to Cannon Street had long gone.

In contrast a vast number of houses had been built around the Medway towns, largely driven by the construction of the M2. Journeys to the Medway were under an hour and the demand for refreshments was far less. Rising demand dictated 12-VEP formations on the busiest trains with no scope for a buffet.

The attractions of Margate and Ramsgate had faded since the 1960s and we were well into the wretched 'Dole-on-Sea' era.

Kent always had a higher proportion of 'City' traffic, with its fast access to Cannon Street beating either London Bridge from the Central Division or Waterloo and The Drain from the South Western. Dare I suggest that true City people were probably more likely to obtain refreshment in some Square Mile dining room or hospitality suite than a shabby BR buffet car?

Obviously there was still some potential with tourists to Canterbury and classic ferry travellers via Dover and Folkstone but not enough to justify comprehensive coverage. In some ways the typical half-hourly frequency was its own worst enemy compared to only hourly fast Bournemouths for example.
 
Last edited:

WesternLancer

Established Member
Joined
12 Apr 2019
Messages
2,794
As a BR manager in what I will loosely describe as 'North Kent' in parts of the 1980s I gave this question quite a bit of thought. I was peripherally involved when an attempt was made by Travellers Fare to introduce 'trolley' catering in the re-furbished CEPs in 1985. This never seemed to take off because of patchy coverage, lack of promotion and some pretty apathetic staff who seemed to love staying in a brake van with the guard.

Although the Kent Coast electrification seemed to be done for longer distance flows - most obviously Dover and Thanet <-> London this certainly didn't seem to where most of the passengers were travelling by the 1980s. A significant cohort of long-distance super-commuters from places like Herne Bay who had moved out there around 1960 with a view to later seaside retirement had indeed retired. The days of trains being able to run full non-stop from Whitstable to Cannon Street had long gone.

In contrast a vast number of houses had been built around the Medway towns, largely driven by the construction of the M2. Journeys to the Medway were under an hour and the demand for refreshments was far less. Rising demand dictated 12-VEP formations on the busiest trains with no scope for a buffet.

The attractions of Margate and Ramsgate had faded since the 1960s and we were well into the wretched 'Dole-on-Sea' era.

Kent always had a higher proportion of 'City' traffic, with its fast access to Cannon Street beating either London Bridge from the Central Division or Waterloo and The Drain from the South Western. Dare I suggest that true City people were probably more likely to obtain refreshment in some Square Mile dining room or hospitality suite than a shabby BR buffet car?

Obviously there was still some potential with tourists to Canterbury and classic ferry travellers via Dover and Folkstone but not enough to justify comprehensive coverage. In some ways the typical half-hourly frequency was its own worst enemy compared to only hourly fast Bournmouths for example.
Very interesting to read that from your perspective.

In addition.
I also would have thought taking trolleys along CEP / CIG type stock would never be an easy task - a fair number of heavy sliding doors between vestibules and into vestibules, swing doors at certain points, corners where you had to go to the side where compartments were. I guess that would result in Travellers Fare staff being keener to stay in the Guard's area after a few struggles down the train! A lot more hassle than being behind a counter waiting for the customers to walk to you!

I recall seeing trolleys on CIGs (I expect in the connex era) and thinking how tricky a task it was to 'drive' them, and the commensurate damage they seemed to do to the wood, formica and aluminium trim on seat edges / doors etc, at that latter period, when connex were letting the stock get filthy too it just added to the sense of neglect. No doubt those trolleys were outsourced with a sales incentive attached to pay of the sort that would not have existed with the TF run version in c1985.
 

30907

Established Member
Joined
30 Sep 2012
Messages
10,067
Location
Airedale
The Central Division's catering provision always seemed somewhat over-generous - Pullmans with full meal services surviving into the seventies, on a route with a journey time of an hour, seems incredible now. Possibly just a historical accident, given that the LBSCR was a keen user of Pullman cars.
Brighton in particular had an upmarket (or vocal/well-connected?) element which justified keeping the Belle until it was life expired, and the slightly shorter journeys meant the workings were more economical too.

Kent always had a higher proportion of 'City' traffic, with its fast access to Cannon Street beating either London Bridge from the Central Division or Waterloo and The Drain from the South Western. Dare I suggest that true City people were probably more likely to obtain refreshment in some Square Mile dining room or hospitality suite than a shabby BR buffet car?

Obviously there was still some potential with tourists to Canterbury and classic ferry travellers via Dover and Folkstone but not enough to justify comprehensive coverage. In some ways the typical half-hourly frequency was its own worst enemy compared to only hourly fast Bournemouths for example.
Not sure Cannon Street commuters were different from London Bridge (C) ones though.
The boat train sets weren't well utilised, and the economy-minded traveller would wait till they were on the ferry I imagine.
Doubling the service frequency can't have helped, I agree.
 

Dr Hoo

Established Member
Joined
10 Nov 2015
Messages
2,132
Location
Hope Valley
Very interesting to read that from your perspective.

In addition.
I also would have thought taking trolleys along CEP / CIG type stock would never be an easy task - a fair number of heavy sliding doors between vestibules and into vestibules, swing doors at certain points, corners where you had to go to the side where compartments were. I guess that would result in Travellers Fare staff being keener to stay in the Guard's area after a few struggles down the train! A lot more hassle than being behind a counter waiting for the customers to walk to you!
A very good additional point! I never tried to pull a trolley myself. Mind you, a quick flash of the 'gold braid' cap always got one a free cuppa in the snuggery of the brake van. All mates in those days.
 

WesternLancer

Established Member
Joined
12 Apr 2019
Messages
2,794
Interesting interior BEP pic here from latter years - 2003 it says. Couldn't find an image pre-refurb with a more original interior on my cursory look
and exterior

and here is a nice set of 3 interior BIG pics from an interesting post


where the pic owner says: " here are some pictures I took on a 4BIG on the last day of buffets on the Brighton line. I was managing the catering contract at the time so we had a last morning out making toasties in the buffet car. I quite fancied getting my hands on one of those 'Buffet' murals but the cars were sold on intact as most of them seem to have ended up preservation or storage somewhere. "

Further on in the thread a graphic designer has reproduced the 'Buffet' formica pattern text! - worth a look if link works. Brings back a few memories.

 
Last edited:

delt1c

On Moderation
Joined
4 Apr 2008
Messages
1,687
Did the Golden Arrow retain some pullman cars with catering up to the same date the Brighton Belle survived (c1972 ish)? Or did the Arrow loose them/cease running before the Belle ceased.

Seems remarkable now that Buffet cars on south central survived into the Connex era. Can't have been for long as connex seemed to find every way possible to cut costs - esp cleaning costs, so hard to imagine them wanting to staff (or clean!) a buffet car.
Wern't some 319's refurbished with a small buffet and snug area in the MBSO
 

AY1975

Member
Joined
14 Dec 2016
Messages
834
I think commercial decisions were probably behind most of it, and for some reason the SED never managed to run buffets as profitably as the other divisions. The Hastings buffets were downgraded from "buffet" to "miniature buffet" as early as 1964, which meant only one staff member and all cooked items removed from the menu. I suspect the BEPs were similar. Also, the Hastings buffet cars were withdrawn because they ended up in poor condition, and presumably money wasn't available to improve them. BEP buffets were a similar age, of course. On the Central and Western divisions, the BIGs and REPs were newer, so perhaps the conditions of the vehicles weren't a factor, and they could carry on operating safely and reliably.
I believe that the Hastings DEMU and unrefurbished BEP buffet cars suffered from poor riding quality, often causing drinks to get spilled, so I would guess that that might have deterred many regular passengers from visiting them, which could well have contributed to their unprofitability. I think I read somewhere that on the BEPs, the buffet stewards would refuse to serve soup for this reason even though it was on the menu. Maybe the BIGs and REPs didn't have the same problem.

When Swindon started to refurbish the CEPs, the refurbishment of the BEPs was delayed pending a decision on future catering policy. In the event, the SED decided to do away with buffets, so only seven BEP buffets were refurbished and these went to the South Western division and were used on the Portsmouth line. There were also four 4-TEPs that were refurbished but with the buffets remaining unrefurbished, and these went to the Central Division.

There was one prototype refurbished CEP (unit 7153, later renumbered 1500) that was outshopped in about 1975 at Eastleigh Works. I suppose if the entire CEP and BEP fleet had been refurbished at the same time, in say the mid to late 1970s, instead of doing one unit first and the rest later, and if all the buffet cars had been done, then there might have been a better chance of buffets remaining on the SED for longer if Travellers Fare had marketed them better.
The Central Division's catering provision always seemed somewhat over-generous - Pullmans with full meal services surviving into the seventies, on a route with a journey time of an hour, seems incredible now.
Yes, and even by 1980s and 1990s standards buffets offering toasties would seem pretty generous on routes such as London-Brighton. I remember having to wait for ages behind someone buying one when all I wanted was a can of drink!
As a BR manager in what I will loosely describe as 'North Kent' in parts of the 1980s I gave this question quite a bit of thought. I was peripherally involved when an attempt was made by Travellers Fare to introduce 'trolley' catering in the re-furbished CEPs in 1985. This never seemed to take off because of patchy coverage, lack of promotion and some pretty apathetic staff who seemed to love staying in a brake van with the guard.
Obviously there was still some potential with tourists to Canterbury and classic ferry travellers via Dover and Folkstone but not enough to justify comprehensive coverage.
I seem to recall that a limited number of Kent Coast trains had trolleys by about the late 1980s, and by the early 1990s most fast services seemed to have them. I think that by that time the trolleys were run by Rightline Catering, as on many other Network SouthEast and Provincial/Regional Railways routes. In fact, for a time in the early to mid '90s some Kent Coast services were branded "Kent Clipper". To think that both Southern and Southeastern have now once again withdrawn all on-train catering because most people nowadays prefer to buy before boarding, as there is now a much greater choice of food and drink outlets at stations (at least when there isn't a pandemic on!).

Interesting interior BEP pic here from latter years - 2003 it says. Couldn't find an image pre-refurb with a more original interior on my cursory look

Here's a newsreel clip from the inauguration of the Kent Coast electrification, showing a CEP/BEP interior including the buffet car (and with the steward serving tea and coffee in the adjacent DMBS): www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y7l9oZTWJE
 

WesternLancer

Established Member
Joined
12 Apr 2019
Messages
2,794
I believe that the Hastings DEMU and unrefurbished BEP buffet cars suffered from poor riding quality, often causing drinks to get spilled, so I would guess that that might have deterred many regular passengers from visiting them, which could well have contributed to their unprofitability. I think I read somewhere that on the BEPs, the buffet stewards would refuse to serve soup for this reason even though it was on the menu. Maybe the BIGs and REPs didn't have the same problem.

When Swindon started to refurbish the CEPs, the refurbishment of the BEPs was delayed pending a decision on future catering policy. In the event, the SED decided to do away with buffets, so only seven BEP buffets were refurbished and these went to the South Western division and were used on the Portsmouth line. There were also four 4-TEPs that were refurbished but with the buffets remaining unrefurbished, and these went to the Central Division.

There was one prototype refurbished CEP (unit 7153, later renumbered 1500) that was outshopped in about 1975 at Eastleigh Works. I suppose if the entire CEP and BEP fleet had been refurbished at the same time, in say the mid to late 1970s, instead of doing one unit first and the rest later, and if all the buffet cars had been done, then there might have been a better chance of buffets remaining on the SED for longer if Travellers Fare had marketed them better.

Yes, and even by 1980s and 1990s standards buffets offering toasties would seem pretty generous on routes such as London-Brighton. I remember having to wait for ages behind someone buying one when all I wanted was a can of drink!

I seem to recall that a limited number of Kent Coast trains had trolleys by about the late 1980s, and by the early 1990s most fast services seemed to have them. I think that by that time the trolleys were run by Rightline Catering, as on many other Network SouthEast and Provincial/Regional Railways routes. In fact, for a time in the early to mid '90s some Kent Coast services were branded "Kent Clipper". To think that both Southern and Southeastern have now once again withdrawn all on-train catering because most people nowadays prefer to buy before boarding, as there is now a much greater choice of food and drink outlets at stations (at least when there isn't a pandemic on!).



Here's a newsreel clip from the inauguration of the Kent Coast electrification, showing a CEP/BEP interior including the buffet car (and with the steward serving tea and coffee in the adjacent DMBS): www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y7l9oZTWJE
Very good clip - gives a good sense of the original interior etc. Thanks.
 

Helvellyn

Established Member
Joined
28 Aug 2009
Messages
1,582
When Swindon started to refurbish the CEPs, the refurbishment of the BEPs was delayed pending a decision on future catering policy. In the event, the SED decided to do away with buffets, so only seven BEP buffets were refurbished and these went to the South Western division and were used on the Portsmouth line. There were also four 4-TEPs that were refurbished but with the buffets remaining unrefurbished, and these went to the Central Division.

There was one prototype refurbished CEP (unit 7153, later renumbered 1500) that was outshopped in about 1975 at Eastleigh Works. I suppose if the entire CEP and BEP fleet had been refurbished at the same time, in say the mid to late 1970s, instead of doing one unit first and the rest later, and if all the buffet cars had been done, then there might have been a better chance of buffets remaining on the SED for longer if Travellers Fare had marketed them better.
It's interesting because the original intention looks like the two prototypes (7001/7002) and ten Phase 1 BEPs (7003-7012) were to be converted to CEPs because numbers were allocated for twelve TSOLs (71625-71636) around 1981-82 (they sit between the Class 317/1 TCOLs and 455/8 TSOs). It looks like a further three BEPs (from Phase 2 units 7013-7022) were planned to be converted to CEPs later because 71711-71713 were allocated for a further three TSOLs, although only two were converted (accident and fire damage saw a few less units converted).

But you're right that decision overall was taken quite late because as documented at Blood and Custard the original intention was that the conversions would be:
  • 411501-411505 - Prototype units, including converted BEPs
  • 411506-411553 - Phase 1 units (Numbered upwards from 411506 at conversion)
  • 411554-411608 - Phase 2 units (Numbered downwards from 411608 at conversion)
The decision to convert BEPs to CEPs saw 411554-411562 become Phase 1 conversions, with 411609-411621 added for Phase 2 units.
 

big all

On Moderation
Joined
23 Sep 2018
Messages
847
Location
redhill
As an aside the prototype CEPs and BEPs where based at Brighton for all or most of their lives, they used to be formed into permanent 12-car formations with reformation of trains on a very infrequent level. More like weekly or monthly basis rater than daily. They were easy to recognise as they had trunking on the roof. We had two or three duties on them at weekends at Coulsdon North and they always went faster than VEPs or CIGs. But I suspect that was more the whining motors under your bum giving a feeling of speed and progress rather than actual speed :D :D
 

RichJF

Member
Joined
2 Nov 2012
Messages
619
Location
East Grinstead
It was certainly the first ever electrification scheme in Southern territory with the aim of 100% elimination of steam on all trains. Everywhere else, the Southern seemed happy to keep hold of steam locos for freight and anything not operated by EMUs.

Interestingly enough the Southern proposed electrification of South Croydon - Haywards Heath via East Grinstead & Tunbridge Wells West in the 1930s. Had these happened I reckon the preserved/dismantled lines would still be extant. Anyhow.

I think some buffet services ran down the Oxted Lines in peak hours when there was loco hauled stock. Hastings DEMUs also operated on the Oxted Lines with the buffets open a number of times I've been told.

I remember as a kid having buffet services in the early 90s from Redhill to Brighton. So even semi-important Central region stations got trains with buffets/food on them for a while.
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
5,400
My first early childhood experience was on a steam-hauled Ostend boat service from Victoria (I recall it was Battle of Britain hauled, it stuck on the climb to Grosvenor Bridge, and the ecs tank had to come and give a push ...). Shortly thereafter, hot chicken and chips in baskets appeared in our compartment. I don't know if they had been loaded at Victoria or done in the train kitchen. Next Ostend holiday was just after the electrification, when we had to go to the buffet and I had my first ever Pepsi-Cola. It was not cooled and I didn't care for it, then or ever since, preferring it's competitor that some say is the same, but isn't. I did notice the buffet car had an internal plate stating it was air-conditioned, a prototype and the first such ever I believe. Someone here will be able to identify which 4-BEP it was. My mother was not impressed at "having to swing round a pole", and thereafter used that expression pejoratively to describe non-restaurant car buffet catering for a generation afterwards.

I wonder if the notable schedule inefficiency of the boat trains, with unbalanced workings and wildly fluctuating demand, was part of the commercial assessment of SED catering - I presume the Stewarts Lane etc costings and staff were not rigidly separated between regular and boat services - and led to the earlier withdrawal of refreshment services.
 
Last edited:

AY1975

Member
Joined
14 Dec 2016
Messages
834
The boat train sets weren't well utilised, and the economy-minded traveller would wait till they were on the ferry I imagine.
Doubling the service frequency can't have helped, I agree.
I seem to remember seeing a copy of the Thomas Cook European Timetable from the early 1980s where it said in the table covering rail/sea/rail services via Dover and Folkestone that on-board catering on boat trains had been withdrawn but instead a trolley service would operate on the platform at Victoria, Dover Western Docks and Folkestone Harbour to enable passengers to buy refreshments before boarding the boat train.
 

Top