Locomotive Storage Ltd in Margate welcomes the only surviving 4732 4-SUB unit

The 4732 arrives in Margate Photo David Stillman

Another train has arrived at the  Locomotive Storage Ltd site in Margate.

The only surviving 4732 designated 4-SUB ( Sub standing for Suburban) arrived at the former Hornby factory site today (June 7) and joins the classic Gresley Class A4 Pacific locomotive, Bittern, the Mersey Rail Class 503 Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) and  one coach from a preserved 4 EPB unit 5176 in BR blue, which also arrived today.

The SUB vehicles spent their entire careers working on all three of the Southern Region, Eastern, Central and Western divisions exclusively on suburban duties, being based at Slade Green, Oprington, Selhurst, WImbledon and Strawberry Hill.

Photo David Stillman

Originally constructed as three car units, many soon were given an additional coach and classified as 4 Car SUBS. The Southern Region appointed Oliver Bulleid as their chief mechanical engineer, who is famous for the design of the Merchant Navy, Battle of Britain and West Country Locomotives of the SR. Whilst steam traction was still going strong, SR announced the introduction of a new electric multiple unit made using welded steel, with curved sides, which would be unique to the SR,

Photo David Stillman

Bulleid’s design was used exclusively in their construction. In 1951 the design was encompassed to the then-new 2 and 4 car EPBs (Electro Pnuematic Brake system). Bulleid’s designed units were easily recognisable by the lack of a rain strip from the roof to the coach sides, rendering a downpour through open windows in a storm. The door handles incorporated cast brass, with a tube-like look, the later SR design was steel and rounded.

4732 spent its life working out of London Waterloo on the LSWR – London and South Western Railway Division, repainted into SR Green with sunshine yellow lettering, it was a celebrity and yet used on a daily basis on peak and off peak services.

Upon its withdrawal it was sent to the old Hither Green Continental Sidings with other class members in around 1981 – they were eagerly disposed of at a private contractor’s scrap yard at Snailwell.

4732 in Margate in 1987 Photo John Horton

4732 was fortunate, she was reprieved and kept in operational condition for specials. One of her last visits to Thanet was in September 1987 where she was used as a shuttle service between Ramsgate and Margate.

She was based at Lovers Walk Depot, Brighton, along with a preserved 2- BIL Unit. With the demolition of the old Pullman Car sheds at Brighton, 4732 was moved to Long Marston in 1995, She was privately purchased for preservation in April 1999, costing £5785, by the Suburban Electric Railway Association (SERA).

Photo David Stillman

Another move to the Coventry Electric Museum took place where she has languished exposed to the elements for some time.

4732 has been exposed to the elements for some time, and last October the Coventry Electric Museum was closed – hence new homes have been sourced for many vehicles, including in Margate.

4732 at Hither Green Continental sidings 1981 after withdrawal from service with other class members awaiting scrapping Photo John Horton

The SUBS were withdrawn from service in 1983:

The SR and BR (S) continued to build and rebuild 4-car units to slightly different designs which became part of the 4-Sub Class. Many of these later examples survived in passenger use until late 1983.

By this time they were allocated class number 405……..therefore Class 405 unit 4732 is made of the following vehicles: 4732 = 12795 12354 10239 12796 and was constructed in 1951 at Eastleigh.

De-icer at Ramsgate
Upon withdrawal, several of the 4 SUBS were converted into 2-car De-Icer Units for use in snow conditions to apply de-icing fluid to the third rails to stop them freezing over. Two of these were at Ramsgate until they too were withdrawn by 2000.

Locomotive Storage

Locomotive Storage operates a storage and maintenance business for classic railway locomotives and heritage rolling stock.

Its main depot facility is in Crewe but the company also bought the former Hornby site at Westwood in February 2017.

The main warehouse has been converted with seven railway tracks laid in the warehouse and access loading docks to facilitate the unloading and loading of locomotives and carriages. It is expected that up to 30 items of rolling stock will  be housed there for eventual public display.

Report with thanks to John Horton


  1. O.V.S.(Oliver)Bullied was a remarkable engineer and his ‘thinking outside the box’ led to an outpouring of ideas.Before he came to the Southern he was principal assistant to Sir Nigel Gresley at the Great Northern Railway and later at the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER), so there is a link between the 4 SUB and Bittern, which is also located at Margate.
    Bullied is notable for the Merchant Navy, West Country and Battle of Britain Pacifics and probably the ugliest engines ever built, the Q1 class frieght locomotive.
    He introduced the ‘Tavern cars’ which were coaches made to look like half timbered inns,Double Deck electric multiple units and the Leader class locomotives, which were designed to update the steam locomotive and make it competitive with the emerging diesel and electric traction designs.
    Sadly not many of his ideas were fully thought through and he was in many ways a controversial figure.
    He left the Southern after nationalisation and joined the CIE (Irish Transport Company) and saw through a modernisation process with diesel replacing steam. Even in Ireland his fertile brain could not resist in coming up with a ‘leftie’ in the remarkable turf burner locomotive based on his previous leader design.

  2. Some interesting history there, Richard.
    We must forgive him the ugliness of the Q1, for surely the unrebuilt Pacifics qualify as among the most beautiful locomotives ever seen.

  3. There was a war on when the Q1 was built, had there not been maybe the Q1 wouldn’t be the “Ugly Duckling” they were known as. Great to see the 4-SUB under cover, tho Coventry is nearer for me. shame Coventry City Council were greedy about wanting the land, but at least the 4SUB is shelterd from the elements in her newhome.

  4. To be fair the Q1 wasn’t the best looking of locomotives as there was a war on. Good that one “Ugly Ducklinng” was preserved. Great to see the 4SUB undercover, though Coventry is a more convinent location for me. At least the 4Sub won’t take more of a battering from the weather, as poor old girl looks rather scruffy!!

    • Oh posted twice as I thought first comment dissapeared . Oh and fair not fare, noticed my typo!!

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