Double Deck Train


Above: Rare Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) survivor – the Bulleid 4DD double deck carriage being stored on a farm at Sellindge, in Kent.

Trying to accommodate more passengers on trains travelling in and out of London is a problem that seems to be an on-going problem. Year on year more passengers use the trains and so the need for more carriage space becomes more acute as times passes. In 2014 Network Rail started talking once more about running double deck trains out of Waterloo Station.

Because all carriage have to pass under a fixed height limit, there is no possibility of making the carriage any taller. An ingenious solution was found in the 1950s by providing for passengers to sit at different heights inside specially adapted carriages, with short stairways to allow them to reach the higher seats.

A few survivors of the double deck carriages are lying around in fields, rusting away with no hope of ever being used again. The picture at the top is one of just two surviving carriages from the two experimental Bullied 4DD double deck trains that were introduced in 1949. They continued running until 1971. Unfortunately 40 years of open storage has taken its toll on the carriage which is in very poor condition.


Above: A double-deck carriage at Charing Cross Station in 1949.

There were a few double deck carriages in the 1950s but eventually the project was scrapped. I can remember boarding a double deck carriage one day at London Bridge Station, while I was still at my secondary school. Why it was there and where it was going (or where I was going) I cannot remember.

If you have travelled at the peak of the rush-hour on a normal train or an underground train you will be aware that any attempt to try to solve the problem of overcrowding is welcome. Whether double deck trains are the answer remains to be seen.


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7 Responses to Double Deck Train

  1. clavdivs26 says:

    found this terrific video of the 1949 double decker you write about. VERY COOOL.


  2. clavdivs26 says:

    Here’s Part 2 of the above video.


  3. Thanks very much. I was not aware there was any video on the Internet. I should have looked on Youtube. The video helps understand how the people were arranged on the seating inside the carriage. Well done!


    • clavdivs26 says:

      Thank YOU for your blog on the subject. My husband does N-Scale model trains so he’s always interested in anything to do with trains and when I read about the double deck trains, I was fascinated. You are masterful, Adrian. Thank you for existing and providing us all with your knowledge.


  4. Thanks for your appreciation. These carriages seem to have aroused interest in several readers.


  5. Pat Dennison says:

    For some time complaints had been made of overcrowding on rush-hour services from Charing Cross. One daily paper described the 5.45 pm to the Bexley heath line as the “Sardine Special” and published an illustration purporting to show 26 people standing in a guard’s compartment and the matter was raised in the House of Commons.. Speaking at Lewisham in April, 1948, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport said that the solution of travelling difficulties in South East London seemed to be the introduction of double-deck trains and the Southern Region were making investigations in that direction.
    Two four-coach double-deck sets were designed by Mr. O. V. S. Bulleid and built at Lancing and Eastleigh works. The design was not double-deck in the road transport sense, but an ingenious arrangement of alternate high and low level compartments in a coach mounted on a standard 62 ft. underframe. each set contained 22 high level and 24 low-level compartments seating 508 persons, plus 48 tip-up seats, giving a total of 1,104 seats in the eight-coach train. Owing to the restricted clearances the windows on the upper level were fixed and a pressure ventilation system was installed. The sets were limited to the routes between Charing cross, Cannon street and Gravesend Central. the new train was inaugurated on November 1st, 1949, by the Lord President of the Council and the Minister of Transport making a special trip from Charing Cross to Dartford and back, and it went into public service on the following day. It was found necessary to carry out various modifications and it did not resume service until January 6th, 1950.
    In December, 1950 it was decided that no more double-deck trains would be built. In practice it was found that the passengers has less room and less comfortable seats, and the ventilation was inadequate . The train had only a restricted use, and working was slower as there was only one door to 22 seats, instead of one door to 10 or 12 seats on other suburban stock. the best solution of the overcrowding problem appeared to be the running of ten-coach trains, but this would need extensive platform lengthening and other works.

    Southern Electric. G T Moody. 1958.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for that excerpt. It is most helpful.


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