Category:Brighton Belle

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This page is about the electric Pullman train. For information on the Friendly Museum Dog, see Belle the Museum Dog

The Brighton Belle was a luxury electric Pullman train which ran on the Southern Railway from Victoria Station in London to Brighton Station on the Sussex coast.

The first electric all-Pullman service in the world, it started life in January 1933 as the "new" Southern Belle, and then ran as the Brighton Belle from 29 June 1934 until its withdrawal on 30 April 1972 ... technically, the Brighton Belle ran from 1934-1972, but effectively, the service started the year before, in 1933, under the older name.

The train is currently undergoing restoration (and some modernisation with regard to its underfloor engineering) by the 5BEL Trust with the intention of returning it to service.

IT WAS luxurious but racy, the people who travelled in it were unusual, and Brighton in the Thirties and Forties was a place to live in a style not accepted in London.

To me it has always been synonymous with Brighton itself – the train is gorgeous and it is very exciting to bring it back.

Seeing it come together is very satisfying and you have to realise when we launched this project we had only limited expectations and thought we would not be abe to find enough carriages.

It is very important to electrification and heritage railways.

— , 5BEL Trustee Neil Marshall, , The Argus, , 2015


With the electrification of the London to Brighton line completing in time for January 1933, Pullman could have chosen to run existing Pullman rolling-stock with new electric "header and footer" motor units. Instead (in keeping with their longstanding special relationship with Brighton and particularly the Victoria to Brighton service), they decided to commission three entirely new five-car sets to replace the outgoing Southern Belle cars.

Built by Metropolitan Cammell, and with all-steel construction, each EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) set comprised three different types of car: (1) Third Class Motor / Brake Parlour, (2) First Class Kitchen, and (3) Third Class Parlour, and were made up in the following configuration:

3rd M/B Parlour — 3rd Parlour — 1st Kitchen — 1st Kitchen — 3rd M/B Parlour

The cars within each set were vestibuled to allow movement between them, however the Brighton Belle train was often made up of a pair of these five-car sets (ten cars in total), with no access between each set. The sets were used in rotation with the spare third set either having maintenance done, or in the summer months between 1948 and 1957 being used for the Sunday-only Eastbourne Pullman service.


The three sets were made up as follows and each set was given a unit number by the Southern Group.

Unit 2051: (Car 88Car 86"Hazel""Doris"Car 89 )
Unit 2052: (Car 90Car 87"Audrey""Vera"Car 91 )
Unit 2053: (Car 92Car 85"Gwen""Mona"Car 93 )

As with all Pullman cars, the first class vehicles were given popular girls names of the time and the third class cars were simply designated numbers. On the 1st of January 1937 all existing Southern unit numbers were increased by 1000 so the Brighton Belle Units became 3051, 3052 and 3053 respectively and kept these numbers until they were retired in 1972.

Motive power for the train was provided by British Thompson Houston Company (BTH) 225 HP traction motors. Eight of these were fitted to each Motor 3rd car and these gave the train a top speed of 75 Mph (120 Kph).


As opposed to its predecessor the Southern Belle, the Brighton Belle had a ready made customer-base and was extremely popular from the outset with business travellers as well as theatre patrons and actors alike, due to its regular scheduled 60-minute non-stop runs, eight a day, Monday to Saturday, for most of its working life.

The train was withdrawn from service by British Rail in April 1972 due to the cost of maintaining the ageing cars. The decision to cancel the service provoked a campaign to save the train, which had become one of the most famous luxury trains in the world, but to no avail.

It is commemorated on a mural running the length of the Museum, on Trafalgar Street.

The 5BEL Trust (Registered Charity No. 1133545) aims to restore a set of five carriages and bring the Brighton Belle back into mainline service by 2016.

1930s descriptions of the Brighton Belle (referred to as the "new" Southern Belle):

Note: The Brighton Belle trains entered service in January 1933, but at the time of this review the service hadn't yet been given its new name, and was still being referred to as the "Southern Belle", the name of the previous steam-hauled all-Pullman London-Brighton service ...

The Electric "Southern Belle"

Whilst the electrification of the Southern Railway route to Brighton and Worthing is being energetically pushed forward, active preparations are also being made in order to have ready all the new rolling stock ihat will be required for the new services. Special stock is being built for the new electric "Southern Belle", consisting of twelve coaches made up of two six-coach units. London to Worthing trains will also consist of two six-coach units, dividing at Hove.

It is intended that trains shall leave Victoria for Brighton at each hour, and also at 26 and 46 minutes past the hour. From London Bridge also there will be services at each hour, and at - 16 minutes past, for Brighton. Between Brighton and Worthing there will be four trains an hour. These will consist of four-coach units.

The signalling sections on the London-Brighton line will be controlled by the three-aspect colour light system, each section not exceeding 1,500 yards in length. It is evident that good as the present steam services on these routes may be, the new will be far better.

— , "Railway News", , Meccano Magazine, , May 1931

... A little later I walked through the superb coaches of the "Southern Belle" all-Pullman train, and then I was convinced that here was the last word in comfortable travel, and that this was in truth the world's most luxurious train. These spacious cars are just drawing-rooms on wheels. Their walls are decorated with choice inlaid woods. In some cases pictures are made of the inlaid work, while in others framed pictures hang on the walls. The floors are covered with rubber and and rich carpets. Electric heaters automatically maintain an even temperature, and a wonderful system of ventilation ensures constant fresh air without any draughts. The kitchens have the very latest electric equipment. Three new train sets have been specially built for the "Southern Belle", at a cost of £35,000 each; so they ought to be good, and they are good.


Having seen the new trains I went away possessed by a keen desire to travel in them at the earliest opportunity. Accordingly on the morning of Monday 2nd January, I made my way to Victoria in time to catch the 11 a.m. "Southern Belle". What a beauty she looked as she stood in the platform! And yet how substantial, too, for her 10 coaches (two sets), including passengers, totalled to almost 500 tons. Each motor coach weighs 62 tons and the others average over 40 tons each. I chose to travel in the first-class car "Audrey". Going on board I sank into a sumptuous armchair and surveyed the delightful productions of artistic design and deft craftsmanship that surrounded me. The only disquieting reflection was that my journey would last for but one brief hour! ...

— , "Observer", , London-Brighton Electric Expresses: New Era in Railway Travel, , Meccano Magazine, , February 1933

1934 news:

"The Brighton Belle"

The name of the Southern Railway's luxurious all-Pullman electric express which, like its predecessor, has hitherto been "The Southern Belle", has been changed to "The Brighton Belle". As the train travels only between London and Brighton, making three return trips each day, the new title will certainly give to passengers a more definite indication of the route and destination of the train than was afforded by the original title.

— , -, , "Railway News", , Meccano Magazine, , February 1934

1935 description:

Re: Southern Railway electrification ...

... For the extension to Brighton and Worthing alone 285 new cars were built, including 38 Pullman cars. The most remarkable units, of course, are those used in the all-Pullman "Brighton Belle".

Never previously in railway history have "motor Pullmans" been constructed. Three units have been built for this service, each comprising five cars measuring 68 ft. 9 in. over the buffers, and all equipped in the most up-to-date Pullman fashion. The motor Pullmans are the heaviest vehicles yet put on British metals, for they weigh 62 tons apiece.

Biggest in the World

A complete unit consists of third-class motor Pullman brakes at each end, furnished with driving compartments, a third-class Pullman, and two first-class Pullmans with kitchens, together weighing 249 tons, and accommodating 152 third-class and 40 first-class passengers. At busy times two units are run in conjunction, making 10 cars and weighing 498 tons, and the third unit is kept in reserve. ...

— , -, , ELECTRIC POWER ON THE GRAND SCALE: The Greatest Suburban Electrification Scheme in the World, , Railway Wonders of the World, , 1935

1969 livery change:

... we heard recently that the Southern Region of British Rail have decided to run their crack express, the "Brighton Belle" in a new livery. Gone is the familiar Pullman chocolate and cream colours, and in their place is a new blue and grey livery, in keeping with the expresses running on the London, Midland main line. On each coach of this famous express however will bear the legend "Brighton Belle" in white letters, and this will also appear at the front and rear of the unit on the yellow driving cabs.

Inside, the train has been completely renovated and the upholstery in the second class coaches is now in an attractive blue and green check with navy blue arm and head rests. First class compartments have been upholstered in charcoal and grey check and all coaches will now be fitted with mustard coloured carpets.

The other "Brighton Belle" units will still be seen in chocolate and cream and it is planned to deal with them similarly during the coming months. Two units are used to form each train so, for a short while, the unit in the new livery will be running with another unit still in the old livery.

Work on another improvement on the Brighton line is already taking place, and all the old station names and directional signs at twenty-one stations on the line are being replaced by new and bigger "read at a glance" modern signs with black lettering on a white background.

— , Mike Rickett, , Transport Topics, , Meccano Magazine, , March 1969

In the museum

Brighton Toy and Model Museum have strong links with the 5BEL Trust, which is restoring the train, and our Pullman-related exhibits include a display dedicated to Brighton Belle models and artefacts, as well as a lifesize Brighton Belle mural on the side of the building.

External links



This category has the following 6 subcategories, out of 6 total.

Media in category ‘Brighton Belle’

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