Brighton Belle on course for main line

Gordon Rushton, 5BEL trustee, tells the story of the project to re-create the famous Brighton Belle luxury dining train, from its inception to how it is bringing back 1930s Art Deco finery to the main line – and how the challenges of complying with current and future regulations have been overcome. Additional reporting by Gareth Evans.

IT’S been several years in the making, but the return of the acclaimed Brighton Belle Pullman dining trains to the third rail electrified main line network in the south of England is now within sight. The 5BEL Trust, the organisation behind the project, is appealing for £70,000 to pay for the unbudgeted air cooling system, which it has decided to fit in the wake of last summer’s long, hot spell, ensuring the interior ambience is maintained.

The 5BEL Trust’s five-car EMU is seen together for the first time at Barrow Hill in 2009. ROBIN JONES

Together with a host of other modifications, keeping the on board temperature at a healthy level has been one of the challenges the group has had to overcome to future-proof the train and also to ensure another cornerstone of the Pullman experience is met – premium quality.

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5BEL trustee Doug Lindsay gives the table layout in Car 85 Gravetye Manor, a final polish before photography. The superb restored Art Deco interior is seen to good effect, together with the widened 2+1 seat configuration, new ‘original’ seat covering, superbly remade parquetry, newly designed crockery and cutlery, new table lamps and shades, and freshly replated hat and umbrella racks to the original specification.  The effect is wonderful! 5BEL TRUST

After withdrawal, all Brighton Belle vehicles found other employment. This was from the heights of the VSOE British Pullman (all first class cars), to rolling along heritage railways behind a steam locomotive. No complete unit was saved to run in its own right, and over time, the unsuitability for dining of a 9ft wide Pullman car seating four across slowly expelled the third class cars to the sidings.

However, by the turn of the new century, on-train dining had undergone something of a revolution, becoming a popular occupation. Only one Brighton Belle vehicle had been lost – a third saloon. All six first class cars were highly valued, so survived.

Read more in Issue 252 of HR – on sale now!

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Sam Hewitt