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Slam Door Sunset: Introduction

Slam Door Sunset is our look back at the final sixteen months of slam door multiple unit operation on the former Southern Region.

We would like to express our grateful thanks to the many contributors to these pages. Without such contributions coverage would not have been so comprehensive, so perceptive, nor so enjoyable.

SWT Slam Door Gala
Although Mk1 EMU and DEMU stock was being slowly withdrawn over previous years, the first event to mark the departure of and celebrate the service of Mk1 EMUs was held over the weekend of 14th and 15th August 2004 with South West Trains' Slam Door Gala.

This event was co-sponsored by The Railway Magazine and the Southern Electric Group.

Although South West Trains were to continue to run slam door units on the mainline for a further ten months this was deemed to be the last opportunity to run the majority of services with such stock and when all three remaining types were available. South West Trains withdrew its final 4 Cep units within a few weeks, although three units fortuitously were reprieved by being transferred to SouthEastern Trains.

Last Thump Railtour
The next event, and the only one to celebrate DEMU stock, marked the final withdrawal after some 47 years of service of Southern Region DEMUs. The Last Thump Railtour was run by Southern and the Hampshire & Sussex Units Preservation Society on the 27th November.

Cep Era Railtour
The final event of 2004 was SouthEastern Trains' Cep Era Railtours, one on December 29th for staff and one on December 30th for the public. These tours were originally intended to set a new speed record between Dover and London and also to mark the final withdrawal of Cep stock. Unfortunately, the previous speed record was not exceeded and the Cep stock eventually soldiered on for a further nine months, much to the delight of enthusiasts.

The early months of 2005 were noteable in that whilst the deadline for withdrawal at the end of November was looming slam door units were still sufficiently plentiful to make one wonder, briefly, if they would last forever. However, pundits and enthusiasts were speculating about which train operating company would be the first to complete the withdrawal process. This honour befell South West Trains, but only on the main line because on May 12th the company launched its "heritage" operation with two refurbished 3 Cig units on the Lymington Branch. So whilst South West Trains was the first to complete withdrawal of Mk1 units it is also the only company still to be running them!

SWT Last Runs
On May 20th South West Trains had its Last Diagrammed Run, followed eight days later by the Last Run in public service.

Seaside Slammer Railtours
South West Trains' final celebrations were two Seaside Slammer Railtours between Waterloo and Weymouth, on June 11th for staff and June 18th for the public.

Flush D'or Railtour
On July 23rd SouthEastern Trains ran the only railtour using only Vep stock with its play on words Flush D'Or railtour. The tour was poorly loaded for reasons mentioned in our coverage.

Southern Final Run
By mid-summer the pundits and enthusiasts had moved on to speculating whether Southern or SouthEastern Trains would be the next to complete the withdrawal process. Given the remaining number of services still being run with Mk1 stock opinion was initially in favour of Southern being the next and this was re-inforced on August 19th with their Final Diagrammed Run.

Southern Belle Railtour
On September 17th Southern and SouthEastern Trains, with the support of South West Trains and the Southern Electric Group, ran the spectacular Southern Belle railtour from Ramsgate to Weymouth and return - taking in all three divisions of the former Southern Region all by third rail.

Southeastern Last Run
Those mid-summer indications about which company would be next to complete withdrawal had been misleading because the end on SouthEastern Trains, having been the second former Southern Region TOC to introduce new generation units into service but then moved very slowly, came rapidly. October 7th saw their Last Run with a peak service between Cannon Street and Ashford International.

Sussex Slammer Railtour
So it befell Southern to be the last to run slam door units on the mainline with ad-hoc substitutions for Electrostar stock until four days before the deadline. It also befell Southern to run the last slam door unit railtours with a staff tour on November 12th and the Sussex Slammer tour, co-sponsored by the Southern Electric Group, on November 19th. Even this was not the final opportunity to travel on such units because a week later Southern laid on its Very Last Run in public service.

Last Mainline Run
The last chance to see slam door units running under their own power on the Brighton line came on the 15th December when the remaining stock in store at Lovers Walk was moved to Stewarts Lane for decommissioning. Thereafter, moves on the mainline, save for those associated with the Lymington Branch "heritage" operation, have been locomotive hauled for decommissioning and scrapping.