There are certain moments in life that stick with you, sometimes even though at the time they do not to be that extraordinary. It must have been in 2002 (note, none of these pictures are from this experience) when I saw my first and last mainline “Thumper”, though at the time I did not recognise it as such (through ignorance, to be honest!) It was a cold and dark evening and I was waiting at Ashford (Kent) station, awaiting for my train to take me home. Either I had arrived a little early or (most likely) the train I was waiting for (an elderly third-rail EMU) was running late.
I remember it being cold, but having been cooped inside a stuffy office all day I was in no mood to wait indoors. So I wondered along the platforms to keep warm. At one platform was a filthy Connex South East train sitting at the platform – I remember a desperate announcement apologising profusely for this particular train’s large delay. At first I assumed it was a standard slam door unit until I noticed it was a shorter train and there was an unusual rhythm coming from a diesel engine (so it couldn’t by powered by the third rail). I was soon deafened by the roar of it’s engine and began coughing as I choked on it’s thick exhaust (or clag as it’s more affectionately known) and it powered away, seemingly creating a hole in the ozone in the night sky above it! The funny thing is, I remember looking inside the full train and remembering how nice and warm it looked!
It was only comparatively recently that after seeing the Watercress Line’s class 205 DEMU and hearing it’s engine note that I remembered that cold winter evening in 2002. I later discovered that it is that very engine note that gave the class it’s nickname, the “Thumper”. Regular followers of this blog will know that I know comparatively little about diesel or electric trains when compared to the steam variety, something probably not helped by growing up with Rev W Awdry’s Thomas the Tank Engine series that did not portray diesels in the best of lights. I have to say that in recent years I’ve come to appreciate them a lot more. The memory of seeing a Thumper that was probably some 45 years old (they were designed to last for 15 years!) and still in revenue earning service does mean that I have soft spot for them, more so than other DEMU’s. Closely related to the class 205 “Hampshire” Thumper units were the class 203 Hastings units. A Hastings unit was in service on the Kent and East Sussex Railway in the 1990’s when I was growing up and I think this also contributes to my fondness to the type.
So I was very happy to discover a website dedicated to the surviving Thumper’s! It is no other than www.preservedthumpers.co.uk and is a fantastic resource. 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of the last Thumper withdrawal. A special called ‘The Last Thump” ran in 2004, so to mark the anniversary the group are working with the owners of preserved Thumpers to run specials called “Not the Last Thump!” Rather fitting, is it not? I highly recommend looking at the series of celebrations at various locations by clicking here. These will include UK Heritage Hub partner the East Kent Railway who hope to have their unit 1101 in service in 2014. So keep an eye out for this!
To find out more about the Watercress Line’s Thumper Unit, click here. Thanks for reading folks 🙂