TS19: The “GX”
Gatwick Express celebrates its 35th Birthday, and you can enjoy 3 flavours of non-stop action in Train Simulator!
The station at Gatwick Airport, as we know it today, opened in 1958 and was initially served by existing London to Brighton stopping services. It was quickly realised that the connection to the capital had garnered interest in business and holiday travellers, and that a more frequent and timely service would be required.
One of the first solutions was extending other services on the network all the way to London, one half of the train would wait at Gatwick Airport to take on passengers, while the other half continued on its journey to Bognor Regis – when another train from Bognor arrived at Gatwick, the two coupled up and departed for London Victoria.
Despite the appeal of an extra direct link to London, it was actually often slower than taking the normal semi-fast trains that were introduced in the 1970s, and so discussions were soon had to come up with a new solution.
It would be May 14th 1984 when the “Gatwick Express” was launched, running non-stop between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport with an advertised 30-minute journey time, and this service has been running ever since, additionally now calling at Brighton to give holiday goers a non-stop link to Britain’s south coast.
Over the past 35 years, train operators have changed, even the rolling stock itself has seen several shake-ups, and you can experience a few tastes of what Gatwick Express has to offer in Train Simulator!
In 1958, the Bognor Regis to Three Bridges trains were extended to London Victoria, allowing them to call additionally at Gatwick Airport. A fleet of seven BR Class 402 ‘2-HAL’ EMUs were drafted in to perform this service before being replaced by modified BR Class 423s in the 1970s. This service was the first set-up specifically to enhance the connectivity between Gatwick and London.
All aboard the Gatwick Express! Services started on 14th May 1984 and were formed of BR Class 73 locomotives, a string of re-purposed Mk2 coaches (BR Class 488), with a “Gatwick Luggage Van” on the rear (BR Class 489). On a brilliant summer’s day, 73212 leads a Gatwick-bound service out of London Victoria (above), while on a typically rainy afternoon, 489108 gets up to speed outside Salfords (below).
Changing times; the Class 73s were soon put out of work by the purpose-built BR Class 460 fleet, these brand new EMUs were capable of 100mph operation and had an interior suited to premium express services. Despite not being wholly reliable, they were highly regarded by both drivers and passengers alike, and Master Key Simulations captured their time on the rails exquisitely. 460001 coasts through Clapham Junction (above), meanwhile, luck does not fall on the side of 460003, which is seen being dragged back to Stewarts Lane depot by 73202 (below).
The next iteration of Gatwick Express was something of a stock swap. The Class 460s were rebuilt with South West Trains’ Class 458 to form a larger fleet of longer trains for their network, and in return, new Gatwick Express stock was the classic BR Class 442 “Wessex Electric”, built to serve the South West in the 1980s but refurbished for use across the whole Brighton Main Line (above and below). The 442s themselves have too been replaced in recent years, but the Gatwick Express lives on, and you can celebrate its 35th birthday with Train Simulator!
TS19: The “GX”