‘Thumpers’ The Southern Railways DEMU

(C) Julie Hogben
The end of steam was supposed to herald a new era for train travel, bringing faster and more efficjent trains. The transition from steam to Diesel and Electric had its pros and cons. One advantage came in the form of the southern region Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit.
The Class 201, Class 205 and Class 207’s are a Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU) type of train. They were in passenger service from the late 1950s, a temporary replacement until the arrival of electric trains but some of the trains were still carrying passengers into the early 2000s. The three different types of trains come under one umbrella, known to many as ‘Thumpers’, they were given the nickname because of their distinctive sounding engine.
East Kent Railway. | © Daniel Dowling.


All three types of Thumpers were built with a single 4SKRT, MkII, 4 Cylinder Engine apart from the Class 201s which had two engines, one at each end of the train. The Class 201s were the first to be built and were introduced into service during 1957, followed by the class 205 and later on the class 207 which didn’t arrive until 1962.
The Class 201 were of a slightly different design because they were built for one specific route, the Hastings line which runs from Hastings on the south coast via the historic spa town of Tunbridge Wells, to London. The Class 201 were built to a slightly narrower width, giving the coaches a thinner look, compared to regular sized trains, because the line between Tonbridge and Hastings had a more limited clearance than other railway lines. During the 1980‘s the Hastings line had major upgrade work done allowing regular trains to use the line.
1121/1133 At the Lavender Line. © Daniel Dowling.


A handful have been preserved at steam railways across the country from the Epping & Ongar Railway in Essex to the Dartmoor Railway in the west of England. No.1317 a class 207 is unique as it was the only one of three coach versions of a class 207 train to be preserved and is part of the Spa Valley Railway’s great collection of old trains.
Birchden Junction, the tracks to the right head towards Tunbridge Wells West and now what is the Spa Valley Railway. | © Julie Hogben


I would like to thank Julie Hogben for the use of her late fathers photographs. Ken Oxlade, Julie’s father was a railwayman who joined British Railways as a cleaner at Salisbury and worked his way up to driver. Once becoming a driver he was based at Norwood and finally ended up at Redhill. Once retiring he volunteered his time at the Spa Valley Railway until he was unable to continue due to poor health.

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