About us


A brief Introduction and Details of Membership for all who are interested
in the Third Rail DC Southern Electric system

Today, in respect of its size and track mileage, the Southern Electric system remains a disproportionately large player in the field of railway business, particularly on the passenger side, within the United Kingdom’s railway network. Four train operating companies continue to operate electric trains over the south-east of England’s third rail dc network: South West Trains, Southeastern, Govia Thameslink,  and London Overground. Also  high speed Channel Tunnel passenger trains pass through the south of England although no longer using the third rail dc network. A number of Freight Operating Companies run freight services over the Southern.

In April 1969 the letters page of Railway Magazine contained a letter suggesting that the historic rolling stock steadily disappearing on the Southern should be preserved for posterity. An initial meeting was organised. On 20th May 1970 the Southern Electric Group was officially founded. At that time most members preferred the idea of saving a 2BIL, with the second largest group wanting to see preservation of a 4COR. Initial steps concentrated on potential fund raising and contacting British Rail to ascertain the availability of rolling stock for sale. By 17th August 1970, there were 31 members. The Group currently has over 800 members.

Unlike many other preservation societies, the Group committee recognised immediately that it had a dual aim in life. Not only was preservation a clear aim but it was also considered important to reflect the current railway scene, initially through recording the workings of the stock which might be of preservation interest but also of other Southern Region activities. To report these events the Group started a magazine Live Rail  which initially appeared quarterly but is now published bi-monthly. Live Rail provides updates on rolling stock changes, and gives a commentary on the Southern’s operations, past, present and future. It contains articles and features and aims to be an interesting and comprehensive publication.

The Southern Electric Group is recognised as the leading organisation for devotees of the UK “Southern Electric” system and is an authoritative source of information on the “Southern Electric” dc network.

The Group is well known for preservation of the only complete, privately owned, express electric multiple unit train in the UK. This is 4COR unit, number 3142. Built for the 1938 Mid-Sussex line electrification to Portsmouth and Bognor Regis, 3142 is under restoration to operational condition and some of the coaches can be seen and occasionally used in service at the East Kent Railway. The other coaches  are kept at  another site, but are not on public display as this is a working site. Volunteers are always welcomed by the preservation team – as also are donations towards the high cost of the work involved!

The Group has two branches which meet monthly offering illustrated talks, slide shows as well as other attractions. The Sussex branch meets at Southwick (between Brighton and Worthing) and the South Hampshire branch meets at Eastleigh. Other activities include the operation of charter trains and railtours over Network Rail and London Underground routes often featuring unusual rolling stock and sections of line rarely traversed by passenger trains. To assist modellers, a good number of whom figure amongst the membership, there is a Modelling Secretary who is able to provide assistance.

The Group occasionally publishes books on the Southern Electric which are available by post to non-members from Southern Electric Group Sales. The Group periodically attends railway events throughout the Southern Electric area, often with a Southern Electric Group Sales stand.

If you are interested in joining the Southern Electric Group, please print the membership application form and send by letter mail with your remittance to the Membership Secretary at the address shown. SEG are presently unable to accept either membership applications by email or subscription payments by credit or debit card of any kind. If you would like further information, or a free sample of Live Rail magazine beforehand, again please forward your name and address to the Membership Secretary with details of your request. Instant Membership is also available at events, railtours etc. where the Group is represented.