John Speller's Web Pages British Railways LBSCR Electrification

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Brighton (LBSCR) Electrification Untitled Untitled
In 1903 the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway obtained powers from Parliament to electrify several of its suburban lines. Most suburban electrification projects at this time were using the third rail DC electric system, most notably the LB&SCR'S chief competitor the L&SWR. The LB&SCR correctly perceived, however, that while the third rail DC system was fine for suburban lines and perhaps for intermediate passenger work, high speed running required a high voltage AC system, which both supplied higher horsepower for a lower current and minimized the size and expense of the copper conductor wire. The company already had thoughts of electrifying their main lines to Brighton and Portsmouth, and for these purposes the third rail system would be totally inadequate -- as is particularly apparent with the Waterloo to Southampton line today, and this is probably going to have to be re-electrified at great expense on the high voltage AC overhead system. The LB&SCR consequently adopted what they called the "Elevated Electric" system with overhead electric wires supplying power at 6,600V AC. This system was German and the contractor for the electrical equipment was Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft of Berlin. The British contractor was Robert W. Blackwell & Co Ltd., with Philip Dawson as the LB&SCR’s consulting electrical engineer and R. H. Houghton as their resident electrical engineer. They entered into an agreement with the London Electric Supply Corporation, Deptford, who agreed to provide an additional power plant capable of generating 20,000 hp of electricity for the railway.

The first section to be electrified was the South London Line between London Bridge and Victoria, and this opened on 1 December 1909. This was followed by the Victoria – Crystal Palace (Low Level) via Streatham Hill service which opened on 12 May 1911. Next came the London Bridge – Streatham Hill – Victoria and Victoria – Norwood Junction service, opened on 1 June 1912. This electrification program proved immensely successful and led to a breathtakingly large increase in revenue on the electrified lines. At this point, however, the First World War halted further progress, and it was not until 1920 that the LB&SCR announced an expansion of the electrification program to include the London to Brighton main line. At this point the Railways Act of 1921 unfortunately led to the incorporation of the LB&SCR into the Southern Railway on 1 January 1923. At first the Southern Railway seemed friendly toward the 6,600V AC system, and it was extended on 1 April 1925 from Balham to Coulston North and to Sutton via Selhurst. However, without paying much attention to the scientific issues involved, the Southern Railway subsequently decided that the AC system was "non-standard" and should be discontinued. The "Elevated Electric" trains on the South London line were replaced by DC trains on 17 June 1928, and those on the Crystal Palace (Low Level) line on 3 March 1929. The last overhead-wire AC electric train left Victoria for Coulsdon North on 22 September 1929.

Map showing the lines electrified by the LB&SCR between 1909 and 1912
Postcard view of one of the Brighton Railway's "Elevated Electric" set
Working on the overhead lines at Peckham Rye in 1909 using a petrol-electric railcar. Note the "Elevated Electric" set in the background, set No. 8 and "E" for electric. In all the LB&SCR had 90 AC electric motor and trailer cars. The disc with cross on the right side hand denotes a train from Victoria to London Bridge via Crystal Palace
The first AC electric train at East Brixton, 1909
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