It’s been confirmed that one of the Isle of Wight tube trains could make a return to London in the near future.

The Isle of Wight railway famously uses converted 1938 tube trains originally built for the London Underground, but refurbished between 1989 and 1992 and recategorised as British Rail Class 483 trains. Having been in use far beyond their expected lifespan, the trains are to be replaced, probably later this year, by newer also ex-London Underground trains, converted by Vivarail.

The unanswered question has been what will happen to the old tube trains.

In stepped the London Transport Traction Group, which has set up a campaign to keep one of the trains in operational use, and they say that they are now in advanced discussions to see the train put into regular use on the Epping Ongar heritage railway.

That would see one of the old London Underground trains return to its spiritual home.

The island railway has six trains, but just one is now in regular use with one recently taken out of service and the remaining trains used to scavenge for spare parts. The aim is to save one of the two working trains, subject to the cost of shipping it to London and commercial agreements being signed.

If they are able to acquire the train and the Epping Ongar Railway takes it – subject to their own fundraising campaign –  then they aim to run the train under its own power (battery or internal), rather than hauling it with a spare locomotive, which would give a true London Underground feel to the service.

A spokesman from the Epping Ongar Railway issued the following statement: “Given our strong links with the Underground we’re very excited about the possibility of seeing a unit like this run under its own power. We’ve had informal discussions with The London Transport Traction Group and look forward to seeing more details soon. Though we’re some way away the concept of bringing tubes back to our line is something that we support – after all we did just that in 2014!”

If they are able to acquire it, expect cheering crowds of tube geeks to line the streets to Epping as the old tube train is brought back home at long last.


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  1. Matt says:

    Would be nice if they preserved it, currently the oldest passenger unit in regular service

  2. Maureen says:

    What a shame the EOR couldn’t home the CHT 1962 stock that is in Hainault Depot.

  3. Thomas Lister says:

    It would have been great if Island Line could have retained a unit to run on special occations.I’m sure that would be appreciated. I believe Isle of Wight Steam Railway are to take one unit for static display.

  4. Jenny says:

    As I lived in Ongar for many years before moving to the Isle of Wight, and travelled on that actual old rolling stock of trains once on the Ongar line as a child . It would make me so happy if I knew they did return to their home in Ongar.

    • Charlie. says:

      Where they will love to most. But these things are alive. They have spirits. And now I’m going all spiritual. The not just LT stock from 1938.
      They are loved. THey are loved by those on the Isle of Wight.

  5. Charlie says:

    OMG! If the IOWSR would take one and operate it…

  6. David Winter says:

    One wonders how close to the LUL Epping station the EOR will be able to get?

    • JP says:

      Steam and diesel trains run right from the Network Rail platforms at Paignton, as just one example. I suppose it depends upon how sniffy TfL might get at the thought of non-sparkly new trains being in sight of their grandparents, let alone the latter being accessed from the same platform infrastructure.
      Maybe I’m doing it a disservice. Hope so. Just bemused why it hasn’t happened before. Imagine the massive increase in footfall the Eppin’ n Ongar would enjoy if sense prevailed.

    • callum says:

      The Epping Ongar Railway are not allowed any closer than 100 yards to Epping station, otherwise it is classed as trespassing and it can be very dangerous with the conductor rails.

  7. JP says:

    The tracks are still there after all.
    At Paignton, the preserved line is the Dartmouth steam railway, by the way.

  8. Ron browning says:

    Seems a shame that only one train runs on the IOW railway system. Would have thought it would have been a good tourist attraction if more frequent trains ran. I get the feeling the whole system is being run down.

    • Bob says:

      They are currently running two, providing a half hourly service – the only units currently available and reliability is patchy at best.

      They are utterly knackered, and shipping them to the mainland to spend 99% of the time sat in a siding won’t do them an ounce of good. This is a mad idea.

  9. JP says:

    Joined LUL in 1987, was a guard and drove the 1938 stock on the Northern Line.My Depot was Edgware and then Golders Green.
    Retired after thirty years service in 2017.
    Everyone loved the 38’s very comfortable ride !

  10. Mo says:

    I used travel on the tube all time especially the 38s from Morden and it would great to see the old 38 run again in London even though I now live in Derby.These trains have character and were a joy to travel on them not the aluminium things on wheels we have today.

  11. Colin Clarke says:

    Have many fond memories of the 1938 tube stock i travelled on them on the northern and bakerloo lines as a kid and have also travelled on them whilst on holiday in the isle of wight . Always my favourite tube train, i drove their younger brothers the 1959 stock, nice to drive but they always lacked something the 38s had . Definitely worth preserving one from the iow if possible .

  12. Chris says:

    I live on the IOW and these trains are properly knackered, regularly only one running and at best 2 trains. They run a weird timetable at intervals of 20 mins then 40 mins then 20 and so on (passing point is not half way along the line.

    The state of the disused trains in Ryde depot is a sad sight as is the state of the line – no proper maintenance for years.

    Also remember using these to go to school when I lived in north London in the eighties.

    Maybe getting new trains (1970’s trains) later this year or next, yet the north complains that the south gets all the money and the tube in London has got some of the oldest trains in the country as well!!

  13. Dom Daly says:

    Third and fourth rail traction current does not exist on the EOR as it was removed. It would cost too much to reinstate. There is also no room to stable a two car unit.

    • Dan Nash says:

      If you were to look at the group’s website you would see that they intend the unit to be self-powered. As for space on the EOR, I would suggest that the group has discussed this with the EOR…

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