SCM 29 - Pullman
Home Up

horizontal rule

BY PULLMAN TO BRIGHTON
By H. C. P. SMAIL

 

PART I
THE news of the recent transfer of the Pullman Car Company to British Railways has been received with mixed feelings, particularly in Brighton, which has long been the home of the Pullman Car Co. and the destination of so many of the famous Pullman Car expresses of the past. This was largely due to the initiative of the former London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in making extensive use of Pullman cars at a time when they were not so popular as they are now.

We may also claim the Pullman Car Co. as a Sussex industry. The Pullman Car Works at Preston Park, for the construction and repair of Pullman bodywork, were opened on November 5th, 1928, in premises previously occupied by the L.B. & S.C.R., and are now the only Pullman works in the country. These premises were originally built about fifty years ago as engine running sheds for the Brighton line, but owing to opposition from the neighbouring property owners they were used as paint shops and stores. Other Pullman work on the bogies, mechanical repairs and running maintenance, is carried out at the Lancing Carriage Works.

Pullman cars were first introduced into England from the United States by the Midland Railway, who put on two experimental sleeping cars in 1874. These cars were quite unlike anything seen up to then on the railways of this country. They had long flat boarded sides, with clerestory roofs and open vestibules at each end. There was no frame, as in an ordinary railway carriage, and the body rested directly on two four-wheeled bogies. At first the new cars were not at all popular. To the Victorian mind, accustomed to the snug little four- and six-wheelers of the 1870's and the cosy privacy of a first-class compartment, there was something definitely foreign and therefore not altogether respectable about the long corridors and open vestibules, and some companies refused to operate them. The L.B. & S.C.R., however, realised their possibilities as luxury parlour cars to the south coast holiday resorts, and on November 1st, 1875, the first Pullman car ran to Brighton. It was attached to the 10.45 a.m. 70-minute non-stop express from Victoria , which consisted on this occasion of six first-class coaches and one Pullman parlour car. From this modest beginning the L.B. & S.C.R. grew to be the foremost Pullman operating line in the country.

The first Pullman car to run on , the Brighton line is said to have been the Jupiter, an eight-wheeled parlour car of twenty-eight tons transferred from the Midland Railway in 1875. It was followed in 1877 by two other ex-Midland cars of similar dimensions, named Alexandra (Fig. 1) and Albert Edward. They did not run as a complete train but were attached singly to the main London and Brighton expresses. These three cars were later rebuilt as third-class cars Nos. 1, 3 and 4 respectively. The Jupiter is also said to have been transferred to the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in 1882 and back again to the Brighton Railway in 1884. The history of these early cars is complicated by the fact that they were frequently rebuilt and switched from one railway to another. Much useful information on the subject is to be found in a booklet entitled Pullman and Perfection, by F. Burtt and W. Beckerlegge, published by Messrs. Ian Allan Ltd., whose courtesy in allowing us to refer to the same we would like to acknowledge.

Considering the importance of the Pullman trains, it is rather surprising to learn that they were originally worked by old Craven engines of 1860 vintage. The fastest express time between London and Brighton in those days was sixty-five minutes, but this was a supreme effort, and most first-class expresses took from seventy to eighty minutes. This is hardly to be wondered at in view of their weight, which was sometimes up to twenty-two coaches, and the limited engine power available. In this connection we cannot resist quoting that great railway writer, the late Mr. E. L. Ahrons, who himself quotes a letter written many years ago from a correspondent pointing out that whereas the London and North Western fish train from Carlisle to London covered the 53 miles between Tebay and Preston at an average speed of 47.4 miles an hour, the fastest Brighton express did the 502 mile journey from London to Brighton at an average speed of 46.6 miles an hour, the moral being that it was better to be a dead mackerel on the North Western than a live first-class passenger on the Brighton line.

However, this was not quite fair to the L.B. & S.C.R., whose running of the famous Sunny South Express in later years gave even the lordly North Western something to think about. Meanwhile, on December 5th, 1881, the first all-Pullman train to run on the Brighton line, the Pullman Limited, was put on. It consisted of four new cars, Beatrice, a parlour car, Louise, a buffet car, Maud and Victoria, parlour cars, built at the Pullman works at Derby between 1876 and 1877. The history of these cars is rather remarkable. Maud was originally built in 1877 as a drawing-room car for the Midland Railway under the name of Ceres. In 1884, after working on the Brighton line, it was rebuilt as a dining car and put to run on the Newhaven Boat Train, until it came to an untimely end in the Wivelsfield accident on December 23rd, 1899. Beatrice was the first railway carriage to be successfully lit by electricity. In October, 1881, William Stroudley, the Brighton Locomotive Superintendent, experimented with electric lighting for railway coaches by means of batteries, using Beatrice for his experiments. The results were so successful that the new train was lit through-out by electricity and also provided with the Stroudley and Rusbridge electric communication system. The original oil lamps were still retained in the clerestory roof for the not infrequent occasions when the electric bulbs failed. Of the other two cars, Victoria was later rebuilt as a third-class car No. 2, and has long since been withdrawn from service, while Louise, after a wandering life, was sold in 1930 and settled down as a bungalow at Selsey, in company with a later car, Albert Victor. In their original condition the cars were fifty-eight feet long, weighed about twenty-eight tons, and ran on two four-wheeled bogies. They had clerestory roofs, and were connected by open vestibules at each end to make up a rather primitive form of corridor train.
 

The Pullman Limited made two journeys each way on week days, at 10 a.m. and 3.50 p.m. down, and 1.20 p.m. and 5.45 p.m. up, and one trip each way on Sunday, between Victoria and Brighton. The fastest time was made by the 3.50 p.m. down non-stop in seventy-five minutes. For the in-augural journey the train was hauled by the new Stroudley single-driver express No. 334, Petworth.

In actual fact the new train was not as popular as might have been expected. Possibly the fact that it was put on in the middle of winter may have had something to do with it. Sunday travelling, even on the Brighton line, was still considered to be not quite the thing, and after a few weeks the Sunday Pullman was withdrawn. There was also the truly Victorian dislike of the open Pullman cars still to be overcome, and from December 1st, 1882, ordinary first-class coaches were added to the week-day Pullman Limited (Fig. 2) for the benefit of those who preferred the seclusion of an enclosed compartment, so that the train was no longer an all-Pullman.
 

However, the superior comfort of the Pullman cars could not be denied, and it was not long before public opinion turned in their favour. During the latter years of the nineteenth century and the Edwardian era Brighton enjoyed what might well be described as a second Regency. This manifested itself in various directions; in the coaching revival of the 1890's, in an outbreak of fantastic architecture of domes and clock towers, and in the social life and entertainments of the times. It may interest a social historian to explain why these periods in English history should so often be marked by a corresponding outbreak of activity on wheels. I n the days of the Regency the gentle-men drivers took the ribbons on their elegant four-in-hand coaches, the Age or the Quick-silver, or trundled themselves along with rather less dignity on the dandy-horse, while a hundred years later the sportsmen of Edwardian days, in furs and goggles, drove down the Brighton road in strange machines bearing the names of Panhard and Daimler, while growing companies of humbler folk pedalled along on the unstable equilibrium of the new Safety bicycle.

In all this the L.B. & S.C.R. both profited and took part, with faster train services and improved rolling stock. On December 11th, 1888, an entirely new London-Brighton Pullman train was put on (Fig. 3), consisting of three new cars and two luggage and lighting vans. The cars were the Albert Victor, a smoking car, Prince (Fig. 4), a buffet car, and Princess, a ladies' or parlour car. They were a great improvement on the old cars, having enclosed corridor connections instead of the former open vestibules, so that the train was truly for the first time a corridor train. They were erected at the Brighton Carriage Works from sections sent over from the United States by the Pullman Palace Car Company. In order to preserve the uniform appearance of the train the luggage vans were built and painted similar to the Pull-mans, except that they ran on six wheels instead of the usual two four-wheeled bogies, and were known on the line as "Pullman Pups." The train itself was lit throughout by electricity, and with commendable self-confidence the emergency oil lamps were dispensed with entirely.

The interior furnishings were in the best Victorian tradition. The ladies' car was fitted with nineteen swivel arm chairs and eight sofas trimmed in blue velvet, while in Albert Victor the upholstery was in more manly Morocco leather. The buffet, tucked away behind a sort of stained glass reredos, could provide breakfasts, lunches, teas and suppers, while in the centre gangway an ornamental showcase surmounted by the inevitable potted palm, contained books, chocolates, scent, cigars, in fact anything a traveller might reasonably be supposed to find himself suddenly in urgent need of. A contemporary reporter wrote: "It is the nearest possible approach to finding yourself transported bodily in a miniature Aladdin's Palace to the desired destination" (Fig. 5).
This time, unlike its predecessors, the new train proved so popular that it was not long before additional cars were added on Sundays. These were The Queen and Empress, both buffet cars built in 1890, Princess Mary, Pavilion, and Prince Regent, built in 1893, the first two as buffet cars and the last as a parlour car. Their fittings were similar to those of the previous cars. It will be noted that the company still clung loyally to the Royal Family for its nomenclature, though with a slight Brighton flavour. These cars were built at the Brighton Carriage Works, and the quality of their workmanship is indicated by the fact that thirty years later they were considered worth rebuilding as third-class and composite cars.
 

By this time the Pullman car was firmly established in popular favour on the Brighton line, though, rather curiously, it was a complete failure on a number of other lines. On October 2nd, 1898, a new Sunday edition of the Pullman Limited was put on. It consisted of five cars, Victoria and Beatrice, already described, and three new cars, Princess of Wales, Duchess of York, and Her Majesty, all eight-wheeled buffet cars of thirty to thirty-two tons built at the Brighton Carriage Works in 1895. The train did not run during the holiday months of July to September.

Hitherto speed had not been a strong point on the Brighton line, but now, apparently shamed into action by a positive flood of indignant correspondence in The Times and other newspapers, the company realised that there was some room for improvement in this direction, and the new Sunday Pullman Limited was timed to do the journey in sixty minutes. On the opening run, hauled by the new B2 class 4-4-0 express No. 206, Smeaton, the down journey was made in 59 minutes 9 seconds, and the return trip in 58 minutes 32 seconds. The following week the up journey was made by No. 213, Bessemer, in 57 minutes 57 seconds. These locomotives had been built by Mr. R. J. Billinton, successor to William Stroudley, to cope with the increasing weight of traffic, and the old Stroudley drivers, who were a race apart, took it very hard when they were taken off the fastest main line trains. In actual fact the new engines proved, if anything, to be rather less efficient than their predecessors, and in the not uncommon event of a B2 failing under the load there was inevitably a good deal of vigorous back-chat flying about when a Stroudley had to come to the rescue. Subsequently all the B2 class were rebuilt, but they never quite came up to the best Brighton standards and were scrapped in the 1930's, while the grand old Stroudley expresses, in Southern livery, could still be found working main line excursions and other odd jobs nearly forty years after they had officially been displaced (Fig. 6).
 

With his next design Mr. Billinton amply retrieved his reputation, and produced in the B4 class of 1899 a really fine engine. At this period the L.B. & S.C.R. was anxious to clear itself of its long-standing reputation for dilatoriness, caused partly by traffic congestion on the main line north of Redhill, and some very fast runs were made with the lightly loaded Pullman Limited on Sundays, when the track was relatively clear. On December 21st, 1901, a Billinton B4 class No. 70, Holyrood (a famous flier in her day) (Fig. 7) ran from Victoria to Brighton in 532 minutes. Four days later, on Christmas Day, this time was beaten by No. 68, Marlborough, of the same class, with a fine run of 51 minutes. This, however, was but a foretaste of what these engines could really do when given their head. About this time there were proposals in the air for a rival electrified line to Brighton, coupled with the specious promise of fifty miles in fifty minutes, and the L.B. & S.C.R. decided to show that whatever electricity could do, steam could do better. Accordingly, on July 26th, 1903, a specially light version of the Pullman Limited was prepared, consisting of three eight-wheeled cars and a brake van, making up a total weight of about 130 tons, the track was cleared, and Driver Tompsett, in charge of No. 70, Holyrood, was given the freedom of the road with instructions to get to Brighton as quickly as he could. The run down was made in the amazing time of 48 minutes 41 seconds, at an average speed of 63.4 miles an hour and a maximum speed of 90 miles an hour near Horley. The return trip was made in 50 minutes 21 seconds, an average of 60.8 miles an hour and a maxi-mum of 85 miles an hour. This great run still remains the steam record for the Brighton main line, though it was at last beaten in 1932 by an experimental electric run of 46 minutes 43 seconds.

Having shown their paces with these specially prepared runs, the L.B. & S.C.R. felt that such times were not beyond the scope of ordinary traffic conditions. On Sunday, June 30th, 1907, the new Marsh Atlantic No. 37 ran the Pullman Limited from Victoria to Brighton in 51 minutes 48 seconds. The train consisted of five eight-wheeled cars, two twelve-wheelers, and two six-wheeled vans, a total weight of 2272 tons empty and about 245 tons laden. This was in comparison an even better performance than Holyrood's record run, since it was made under ordinary traffic conditions, with several checks near Earlswood owing to road widening, and a train of nearly double the weight. By this time, however, the rival electric schemes had faded away and the L.B. & S.C.R. settled down to its normal sixty minute schedule.
 

By 1906 there were twenty-four Pullman cars in service on the Brighton line, ranging from the veteran Jupiter to the new thirty-five ton twelve-wheelers Princess Ena, Princess Patricia, and Duchess of Norfolk (Fig. 8). These last three cars were the first Pullmans to be painted in the now familiar umber and cream livery. Hitherto the Brighton Pullmans had been painted dark mahogany brown with gold lining and scrollwork. Some of the older cars had the name in an oval panel on the side. In 1903 Mr. Billinton changed the colour of the ordinary L.B. & S.C.R. coaches to umber brown with white or cream upper panels, and in 1906 this colour scheme was also adopted by the Pullman Car Co., with the name of the car in large gilt letters on the lower panel flanked on each side by a coloured transfer of the Pullman Company's very handsome crest. For harmony of line and colour there has probably never been a finer looking complete train than a Brighton Pullman of pre-1914 vintage hauled by a newly painted Marsh Atlantic in umber and gold.
 

The success of the L.B. & S.C.R. Pullman trains at last prompted other companies to try something on similar lines, and in 1892 the South Eastern Railway put on a train called the Hastings Car Train. It consisted of six American designed cars built by the Gilbert Car Manufacturing Co., of Troy, N.Y., and a standard South Eastern brake van. They were not strictly Pullman cars, since they were owned and operated by the S.E.R. They were luxuriously fitted up inside but were not so long as the ordinary Pullmans and still had open vestibules, although the Pullman Car Co. had introduced closed corridor connections in 1888. The cars, together with the brake van, were painted green with gold lettering and scroll-work. On the upper panel the words South Eastern Railway appeared in place of the name Pullman. The train was not a financial success, partly owing to the limited seating accommodation of the cars, and before long it was broken up and the cars were dispersed singly among various other trains to the South Coast. In 1898 the S.E.R. tried another Pullman type train on the Hastings route.
It consisted of two third-class brake cars, one third-class car, one second-class, and two first-class, one being a pantry car and the other a parlour car. They were built by the Metropolitan Carriage and Waggon Co. at Lancaster, and were a great improvement on the earlier Gilbert cars. They had enclosed vestibule connections and electric lighting throughout. Externally they were painted dark crimson lake with gold lettering and ornamental panels. The train ran successfully until 1914, when it was withdrawn and put into store. In 1919 the South Eastern Gilbert and Metropolitan cars were taken over by the Pullman Car Co, and rebuilt in accordance with contemporary Pullman standards. Under their new ownership they became the Pullman cars Carmen, Constance, Diana, Falcon, Dolphin, Figaro, Thistle, Venus, Hilda, Dora, Mabel, and Albatross.

To be concluded
 

horizontal rule

PART II*
* The first part was published in our August number.

IN 1908 a new era in luxury railway travel was inaugurated when the L.B. & S.C.R. started what was to become the most famous and popular of all Pullman trains, the magnificent Southern Belle. It consisted of seven new twelve-wheeled cars of a much improved design. They were 63 feet 10 inches long overall, weighed 40 tons, and ran on two six-wheeled bogies. They were the first Pullman cars to have elliptical roofs instead of the old clerestory type, and were finished in the new cream and umber colour scheme. The new cars, which were built by the Metropolitan Amalgamated Railway Carriage and Waggon Co., were Verona, a combined brake and parlour car, Helen and Belgravia, both parlour cars, Grosvenor, a buffet car, Cleopatra and Bessborough, parlour cars, and Alberta, a combined brake and parlour car. It seems that the company had at last run out of Royalty for its names, and were vacillating between the Classics, the West End, and the company's Directorate.

The 1908 Southern Belle was indeed the last word in railway luxury. Nothing approaching the elegance of its interior fittings had ever before been seen on any railway. It was enthusiastically described as "the most luxurious train in the world," and the commemorative brochure published at the time of its advent called it "a chain of vestibuled luxury" (Fig. 8A). The official L.B. & S.C.R. guide of those days strikes a nostalgic note of Edwardian opulence in speaking of the new train, and recalls a long vanished state of society. "So well have the higher and monied classes appreciated these special arrangements for their comfort that probably one of the best-filled trains that leaves the West End is the splendid Pullman Limited Express, known as the Southern Belle—consisting of well-lighted, heated, and ventilated parlour, buffet and smoking cars —which, departing from Victoria Station at 11 a.m., reaches Brighton in sixty minutes." The up train left Brighton at 5.45 p.m. and arrived at Victoria at 6.45 p.m.

The inaugural run of the Southern Belle was made on November 1st, 1908, the train being hauled by the new Marsh Atlantic No. 39. It ran throughout the year on week-days and Sundays, making two trips daily, one down and one up. Before long, however, this was increased to two journeys each way on week-days and three on Sundays.
 

During the L.B. & S.C.R. regime all the latest express locomotives took their turn on the Belle, from the Marsh Atlantics to the fine Baltic tanks of the Remembrance class. In an emergency, however, and especially in later years when there was often a shortage of locomotive power, any other available engine of sufficient power might be pressed into service, and there was always a sporting chance for railway enthusiasts in those days of seeing something really unusual at the head of the long Pullman train. During the summer of 1912 the old Gladstone class No. 177 (formerly Southsea) took a regular turn with the later and more powerful engines then in use. By a strange coincidence the same engine was employed to work the train on one of two occasions in 1919 and again in 1921, when the regular engine was not available. These engines had of course worked the much lighter Pullman Limited in their youth, but the fact that in their latter days they were still capable of hauling the Southern Belle, with its heavy twelve-wheelers, is proof of their amazing stamina and Stroudley workmanship.

Although the Southern Belle was definitely the star turn of the Brighton line, the L.B. & S.C.R. main line services had by this time reached a high standard of excellence. In 1909 there were between thirteen and fifteen trains a day into and out of Brighton with Pullman cars attached. Perhaps the most notable train after the Belle was the famous City Limited, which is considered to have been in the direct line of descent from the original first-class only Express Train of September 21st, 1841, which left Brighton at 8.30 a.m., and with only one stop at Croydon, reached London Bridge in one hour and three-quarters.
 

In 1862, after the opening of Victoria Station in 1860, it consisted of two portions, for London Bridge and Victoria, and in 1875 a Pullman car was added. It was one of the heaviest trains on the Brighton line. In 1901 the formation consisted of one six-wheeled brake van, three bogie first-class coaches, three eight-wheeled Pullmans, three more bogie firsts, and a six-wheeled brake, all for London Bridge, and a six-wheeled brake, a bogie first-class, a twelve-wheeled Pullman and another bogie first for Victoria, the latter portion being slipped at East Croydon, making a total unladen weight of over 300 tons. From 1883 to 1912 the timing was sixty-five minutes for the down train and seventy minutes for the heavier up train. In 1912 the down time was reduced to sixty minutes, though the up train still took ten minutes longer. In 1919 the London Bridge portion had only two Pullmans, and in 1923 this was cut down to one.

By this time the Pullman services had been extended to other parts of Sussex, to keep pace with the growing travelling population of the seaside towns. In 1909 there were three Pullman trains to and from Eastbourne, two each way to Worthing, one of which started and finished at Bognor, one each way between London, Arundel and Chichester, and one between London and Crowborough. There was also an Eastbourne edition of the Sunday Pullman Limited. Between the years 1911 and 1913 this train was frequently worked by that famous little Stroudley single-driver engine No. 329, Stephenson, the last survivor of its class and still going strong after thirty years of service. The train consisted of four old type eight-wheeled cars and two vans, totalling about 160 tons laden, and was timed to do the journey in ninety minutes. In 1914 four new Pullmans were built for the Eastbourne and Newhaven service: Glencoe, a parlour car, and Hibernia, Orpheus, and Scotia, kitchen cars. They were big 40 ton twelve-wheelers, and Stephenson, now on the duplicate list and renumbered A329, was regretfully relegated to the scrap heap. Altogether the L.B. & S.C.R. had forty-four Pullman car trains running in July, 1914.

The outbreak of war in August, 1914, marked the end of the old style luxury train era. The first significant change came in September, 1915, when for the first time third-class cars were attached to the Southern Belle. They soon proved popular and were increased in number, though some of the old stagers of the Brighton line—the afore-mentioned "higher and monied classes"—were indignant at this violation of their preserves. Before long, however, there were more important things to think about. The course of the war made heavy demands on the railways, and on January 1st, 1917, as part of a general reduction of passenger traffic, the Southern Belle was withdrawn entirely.
 

At the close of the war the withdrawn Pullman services were gradually restored, but somehow the post-war Southern Belle never seemed quite the same thing as the old Belle of pre-1914 days. The old air of distinction had departed. For one thing the make-up was no longer the same. The old twelve-wheeled cars of 1908 had originally formed one complete first-class unit. Now they were scattered abroad and found themselves rubbing buffers with cornmon third-class cars, while the Southern Belle itself, when it came back into circulation, was composed of a mixed stock of cars of various origins and vintage. Nor had four years of war improved the locomotive stock. The Southern Belle of the 1920's was a heavy train of anything up to nine cars (on one occasion eleven cars were recorded) making a total weight of about 330 tons unladen or 350 tons loaded. The new third-class cars were not so heavy as the old first-class twelve-wheelers, but even so it was not an easy train to handle, in view of the traffic congestion in the suburbs, and the big Brighton engines had to work hard to keep within the sixty-minute schedule. It is interesting to note that in the summer of 1922, the last year of its existence as an independent company, the L.B. & S.C.R. were running no less than fifty-four Pullman car trains, being ten more than in the summer of 1914.

Great changes were brought about by the amalgamation of 1923, when the familiar initials L.B. & S.C.R. disappeared from the railway world and the Southern Railway came into being. On December 31st, 1924, the surviving twelve-wheeled Pullman cars made their last run as part of the Southern Belle. The following day they were replaced by an entirely new train of modern eight-wheeled cars. The displaced twelve-wheelers migrated to various parts of the system, and in the 1930's a number of them were made up into special race trains running from Victoria to Epsom Downs for the Derby. Among them were the ex-Brighton cars Cleopatra, Myrtle, Princess Helen, Vivienne, and Bessborough.
 

In February, 1926, a first-class Pullman was reinstated on the City Limited, after being a non-Pullman train since 1924. Various cars saw service on this train during the next six years, the first being Princess Patricia, a twelve-wheeled buffet car of 1906. It was followed by Grosvenor, Duchess of Connaught, an ancient eight-wheeler dating from 1890, Jolanthe, Regina, Anaconda, and Coral. Incidentally, the veteran Grosvenor is still going strong to-day after forty-six years of service, being the last survivor of the original 1908 Southern Belle set and the oldest first-class car still in service. It was reconditioned at Preston Park in 1931 and rebuilt in 1936 as a bar car.

Under the new Southern regime there were even more sweeping changes in the loco-motive department. The Brighton Atlantics and Baltic tanks were gradually taken off the Southern Belle and replaced by the South Western King Arthurs and occasionally even by the South Eastern River class tanks, though after the accident to No. A 800, River Cray, at Sevenoaks on August 24th, .1927, these latter engines were hurriedly withdrawn from passenger work. It was in this accident that the old Gilbert car, Carmen, a survivor of the 1891 S.E.R. Hastings train, was destroyed. Brighton enthusiasts were justly indignant at seeing their beloved engines ousted from their own territory to make way for other types, some of which were actually less satisfactory.

Within ten years, however, the King Arthurs themselves were superseded, for in 1932 the electrification of the main line from London to Brighton and West Worthing was completed, and the dream of 1903 fulfilled (Fig. 9). The official opening of the line by the Lord Mayor of London took place on December 30th, 1932, but the actual change-over was timed for midnight December 31st-January 1st, so that the first day of electric working would be a Sunday, with its reduced traffic. Someone conceived the happy idea of arranging that the last steam-hauled Southern Belle from Victoria should be worked by the ex-L.B. & S.C.R. tank No. 2333, Remembrance, while the last steam train to Brighton, the 12.5 a.m., was hauled by the sister engine No. 2329, Stephenson. The last through steam train to Worthing, the 9.5 p.m. from Victoria, was drawn by the King Arthur class No. 802, Sir Durnore, and soon after it left the first electric Southern Belle drew in to the same platform ready for the next morning's work.
 

Fig. 12. The Brighton Locomotive Works centenary celebrations. The special Pullman train from Victoria hauled
by No. 32424, Beachy Head, entering Brighton Station on October 5th 1952

For the new electric services thirty-eight new Pullman cars were constructed. Three complete new Southern Belle trains were built, each consisting of two third-class motor brake cars, one third-class parlour car, and two first-class kitchen cars. The third-class motor brakes were not only the heaviest coaches yet built for any British railway, 62 tons, but were also the first motor Pullman cars in the world. The complete Southern Belle was made up of two units, making a ten car train, with one unit in reserve. The new first-class cars in each unit were Doris and Hazel, Audrey and Vera, and Gwen and Mona. Having by now exhausted all other sources of nomenclature it seems that the staff of the christening department had turned to their girl friends for inspiration.

The remaining Pullman trains in the new service consisted of the three City Limited expresses, made up of two third-class motor brakes, three first-class corridor coaches, and one composite Pullman car; and twenty corridor expresses, each including one composite Pullman. These composite cars consisted
of a kitchen, twelve first-class seats, sixteen third-class, and two pantries, and were quite a new idea in Pullman car design.
 

Fig. 13. The Brighton Locomotive Works centenary celebrations. No. 32424 pulling out of Brighton Station
with the special train on the return journey. The trip was organised by the Railway Correspondence and Travel
Society, whose initials appear on the front of the engine. Photograph by Mr. H. M. Madgwick
 

The new electric service provided for a sixty minute schedule of express trains between London and Brighton. This was actually the same timing as that of the Sunday Pullman Limited of 1898, and only five minutes faster than the sixty-five minute schedule achieved in 1858. Much faster times were of course possible by the electric trains, and on trial runs times in the region of three-quarters of an hour were several times recorded, but the main advantage of the electric service was to provide a more frequent and punctual service rather than excessive speed, which traffic conditions might not always allow.

In June 1934 the Southern Railway did further violence to Brighton sentiment by renaming the Southern Belle the Brighton Belle, ostensibly to prevent confusion with the newly introduced Bournemouth Belle. The new name savours rather of trippers and paddle steamers, and it seems a pity that after twenty-six years "the most luxurious train in the world" should not have been allowed to carry on under its old title, while, to add insult to injury, the description has now been usurped by the Golden Arrow. The fact was that the Southern Belle was no longer the one and only all-Pullman of the line, and it was probably considered that the word Southern now had a wider connotation, and ought not to be monopolised by only one of the former constituent companies. Even so, Brighton enthusiasts were not pleased to see this further eclipse of L.B. & S.C.R. traditions.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 the ordinary passenger services were at first drastically curtailed, but many were soon restored and within a few months services were more or less back to normal. In 1940 a curious hybrid Brighton Belle appeared for a short time, consisting of the usual five-car Pullman set coupled with a Southern four-coach corridor set. This was soon afterwards replaced by a five-car Pullman set running with a six-car corridor pantry set. Some remarkable emergency liveries also began to appear about this time. As the Pullman cars came in for over-haul they were painted umber brown all over, without the distinctive cream upper panels. Before long, however, services were once again cut, and after Whitsun 1942 the Brighton Belle and all other Southern Pull-man services were withdrawn. Those cars that were not required for special service were painted grey and put into store. The Brighton Belle unit No. 3052, which included the first-class cars Audrey and Vera, was badly damaged in an air raid, but was repaired and went back into service when the Brighton Belle was finally restored in the Autumn of 1946 (Fig. 11).

In recent years there has been a remarkable increase of public interest in railway matters, and this has been catered for by the railways themselves by trips and excursions with a historical background. On October 5th, 1952, to commemorate the centenary of the Brighton Locomotive Works, a special train of eight Pullman cars left Victoria for Brighton, headed by the forty-one year old Atlantic No. 32424, Beachy Head (Fig. 12). The black livery and British Railways performing lion struck a slightly jarring note, but otherwise everything was as nearly as possible in authentic Southern Belle style, and the old engine showed that the original one-hour schedule was still within its powers by coming down in 582 minutes and returning in 60 minutes, in spite of signal checks on both journeys.
 

To conclude this history of Pullman travel in Sussex, it is interesting to record that many of these old cars, like their passengers, have come to retire to Sussex when their travelling days were over and settled down as seaside bungalows. In addition to Albert Victor and Louise already mentioned at Selsey, two others, Princess, from the Brighton train of 1888, and Duchess of Albany, an ex-South Western buffet car of 1890, went to Partridge Green in 1930 to form a single L-shaped bungalow. Some of these old Pullmans have had a truly remarkable history. Balmoral and Dunrobin, for example, started life as sleeping cars on the Highland Railway in 1885, running between Inverness and Perth. About 1907 they arrived at the Brighton carriage works. Finally the bodies went to Seaford to form a bungalow. These cars differed from the usual Pullman design in having a central entrance and no end platforms, so that when they were converted to residential purposes they were placed side by side with the entrances connected by a short covered way to form a single H-shaped building.

A number of other Pullman cars have remained in the railway service after retirement, though they no longer carry passengers. Devonshire, an ex-Brighton buffet car dating from 1900, was converted to a store and works mess at Preston Park in 1931, while Verona, one of the original Southern Belle cars of 1908, became a timber store in the same year. Two old South Eastern cars from the Hastings train of 1898, Thistle and Albatross, after several conversions, ended up at Lancing Carriage Works as the premises of the lady Welfare Officer. The oldest inhabitant, however, is our old friend Albert Edward of 1877, one of the first three Pullmans to run on the Brighton line. This famous old car is now used as a canteen at Preston Park Pullman Works, and carries a plate giving details of its history (Fig. 14).
 

SCM 29 1955 Page 362-369 & 416-422

horizontal rule

© 2002-2005 Martin B Snow all rights reserved. Web provision is for private study only.
Updated October 28, 2005