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2-car units for main line semi-fast and stopping services (2 Bil)

2 Bil 2008 at Liss
2 Bil 2008 at Liss
Foxley Slide 68 available to purchase from SEG Sales


Intended for longer-distance intermediate-stations services on main lines, 2 Bil (indicating two-coach bi-lavatory) electric multiple units first appeared in 1935.  The fleet was of wholly-new construction and to a high specification.

The units were formed Driving Motor Brake Third (DMBT) + Driving Trailer Composite (DTC).  The bodywork was to main line standards with full-length side-corridors and a lavatory in each coach.  Technically, the units were to the Southern's standard specification for suburban EMUs, close-coupled with no gangway connections between coaches.  The units had the Southern's standard suburban-type front-end but, unlike the 4 Lav.s, the 9ft wide bodysides were maintained over the entire length of each car, with no recessed sections at the outer ends.

Units - 1890-99 (2001-09)

Unit 1890, renumbered 1900 in January 1936 and 2010 in February 1937, was effectively the prototype and 1891-99, renumbered 2001-09, were the first production batch.

Equipment, motors and underframes of the first batch were of the then-standard suburban design with Metropolitan-Vickers motors and control gear.  The DMBTs had one powered bogie with two 275hp type 339 traction motors.

The DMBTs had seven compartments and a van area that included equipment boxes for the Metrovick control gear (one of the guard's seats was higher than the other as it was mounted on an equipment box).  The internal layout was driving cab, guard's compartment, 7 Third-class compartments and lavatory, with the corridor on the left.  The DTCs had the internal layout: cab, 4 Third-class compartments, 4 First-class compartments, lavatory, with the corridor on the right.

Maunsell 'middle period' bodywork features - such as door ventilators, cream-painted corridor panelling and wooden-fillet window-fixings - distinguished the first batch of units from the rest of the fleet.

Units 2011-2152

Units 2011-2152 were built in three batches:

  • 2011-2048 in 1936 for the Portsmouth Direct line electrification.  (As delivered from Eastleigh works they were numbered 1901-20 and 1954-71 but were renumbered in February 1937 before they went into regular service.)
  • 2049-2116 in 1937 for the mid-Sussex line electrification
  • 2117-2152 in 1938 (after Maunsell's retirement), for the extension of electrification from Virginia Water to Reading, together with the line from Ascot to Guildford

In practice, all of these units, together with 2001-2010, became common-user across the South Western and Central divisions.

2011-2152 were generally similar to the first ten units but had the later SR standard English-Electric traction equipment.  As with the 2 Nol. and 3-car suburban motor units, the English Electric equipment was backwards-compatible with the earlier Metrovick type and all of the fleet could work in multiple with each other and with other suburban-type units.

Surprisingly, since the change from Metrovick to underfloor-mounted English-Electric traction equipment saved space that was normally reflected in a small increase in passenger accommodation, the DMBTs of this and subsequent batches of 2 Bil units had only 6 Third-class compartments and a coupé (half-compartment) instead of the seven compartments of the first ten DMBTs.  Experience may have shown that a larger van area was needed for mails and parcels on main-line routes.

The bodywork of these and subsequent 2 Bil units were representative of Maunsell's later period.  Door ventilator louvres and cab-front ventilators were not provided and the cream-painted corridor panels were replaced by varnished teak.  Cable conduits on the front of the DMBT were repositioned in line with the changed location of the traction equipment and the windows were mounted in flanged aluminium window-pans instead of being secured by wooden fillets.

In service

Four units were written off as a result of war damage: 2102 and 2131 at Portsmouth in August 1940, 2014 at Brighton in May 1943 and 2119, probably in the London area, in December 1944.

The DTC of unit 2056 was written off following an accident at Brighton in 1946 and replaced in 1948 by the DTC from disbanded 2 Hal. unit 2646.  Unit 2088 lost its DTC in a fire at Littlehampton in 1950, replaced by a trailer from 2 Hal. unit 2653.  In 1951 2008 and 2029 permanently exchanged driving trailers.

Units 2069 and 2100 both lost DTCs in a collision at Barnham in 1951.

DTC 12166 of unit 2133 was destroyed in a runaway and collision at Guildford in 1952.  The accident was caused by brake failure and as a result all Bil. and Nol. units were fitted with a control governor that cut off power to the main traction circuit until pressure in the train brake pipe had risen above a predetermined safe level.  2 Hal. units already had this safety feature.

Units 2069, 2100 and 2133 were returned to traffic at the beginning of 1955 with all-steel trailers similar to the DTCs of 2 Hal. units 2693-2700 but with the Formica and veneer interior finish of contemporary EPB stock.  Internally the new cars comprised 4 Third-class compartments, 4 First-class compartments and lavatory: with the corridor on the right and a communicating door between the corridor and the cab.

2088 was involved in a second accident on 1st August 1962, when it was leading the 10.17 a.m. train from Brighton to Portsmouth.  As the train was approaching Barnham station it was derailed by facing points that were partially open as a result of a loose washer wrongly energising the point motor.  The left-hand wheels of the front bogie of DMBT 10654 travelled up the platform ramp and the coach overturned to the right, followed by the unit's Hal.-type DTC 12121.  Fortunately nobody in the well-filled 6-car train was seriously injured - the driver, in particular, had a lucky escape as a platform coping stone pierced the cab and fell across it as it overturned - but

Both coaches of unit 2088 were written off following a derailment at Barnham in 1962.

2 Bil unit 2006 was re-formed in September 1963 with five suburban trailer coaches to become trailer set 900.

The DTC of unit 2105 was destroyed by fire following a collision with a bus at Roundstone level crossing in 1965 .  The unit was disbanded, with its MBS transferring to 4 Lav. unit 2943.

Final years

In the final years of the fleet several units were withdrawn, rather than repaired following relatively minor accidents.  The main withdrawal of 2 Bil units began in February 1969, with units sent to scrap dealers in Gloucester, Norfolk, South Wales, Stockton-on-Tees, Rotherham, Sheepbridge (Chesterfield) and Shattleston (Glasgow).  2037, withdrawn in March 1970, was sent to Derby London Road for experimental use before being finally scrapped circa 1975.

The last 2 Bil units in general traffic, withdrawn in July 1971, were 2016, 2034, 2090, 2098, 2111, 2123, 2135 and 2140.

2090 was retained for preservation and now forms part of the National Railway Museum collection.