THE last surviving Class 306 EMU has had a fascinating career. Originally designed by the LNER in the late 1930s for planned electrification of the Liverpool Street to Shenfield line, the fleet of 92 units was delayed by the Second World War and so did not enter service until 1949 in the nationalised British Railways era.
They were first powered at 1500V DC, but converted to dual 6.25kV/25kV AC in 1960, reclassified as AM6 stock then Class 306, and survived in service until 1981.
No. 306017 was then dumped at Ilford depot, east London – but adopted by staff for apprentices to work on, eventually being returned to main line condition. Preservation followed, mostly in store at various locations, until ownership passed to the National Railway Museum as part of the National Collection.
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For the past five years, it has been on loan to the East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel & Wakes Colne station in Essex. There were plans to return it to the main line again, but these came to nothing and the unit was restricted to static display.
Five years open to the elements have taken their toll on the three vehicles, with water leaking in through the roof and windows causing damage. It is due to return to the NRM as soon as space becomes available – but it is vital this unit is not just left to rot.
The ‘306’ represents the last complete EMU of LNER heritage, as only a few individual cars and parts survive of the company’s other Manchester (Class 505/506) and Tyneside electric units. Even now it is still capable of being returned to the main line – but there is a small window of opportunity that will soon close, as those with working knowledge of the fleet in service become fewer and fewer.
For the full story on this unit, see pages 16-19. It has its place in railway history, it must not be allowed to fade away.