Category:Southern Belle

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The Southern Belle was an "all-Pullman" train that ran on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (and later the Southern Railway after grouping in 1923) from Victoria Station in London to Brighton Station on the Sussex coast.

It ran from 1908 to the early 1930s and was the immediate predecessor to the electric Pullman Brighton Belle.

The 1908 launch

Launched on the 1st of November 1908 it was advertised as "The most luxurious train in the world" by the Pullman company and was made up of seven brand new coaches built especially for the train by the Metropolitan Amalgamated Carriage & Wagon Company at their works in Lancaster.

The original Southern Belle carriages were the first Pullman cars to be built from scratch in England as previous vehicles had all been built by Pullman in the U.S and shipped over in pieces to be reconstructed for use on British networks. They were also some of the very first Pullman cars to run on six-wheeled bogies as opposed to four (with twelve wheels per carriage as opposed to eight).

The original First Class carriages

The seven original cars were:

  • Alberta and Verona. These were First Class Parlour / Brake cars each seating 31 persons.
  • Bessborough, Belgravia, Cleopatra and Princess Helen. These were First Class Parlour cars each seating 33 persons.
  • Grosvenor. A First Class buffet car seating 25 persons. Grosvenor was the first Pullman vehicle in the UK to have cooking capabilities on board instead of simply storing and food for distribution to passengers.

At launch, the train had a capacity of 188 passengers all in 1st class accommodation.

Paintwork and fittings

Each carriage interior was elaborately and luxuriously decorated with wood panelling and intricate marquetry each in its own unique style. The free floating armchair style seats were covered with various top quality moquettes of finest leather and table tops were adorned with brass lamps which have become a Pullman trademark.

The exterior of these new cars were finished in the "Umber and Cream" colours that would become known as the "Old Standard" livery. This colour scheme had been chosen to match the LBSCR colours adopted in 1905.


The Southern Belle originally made one trip each way every day of the week including Sundays. However due to the popularity of the service, after six months this had been doubled to two trips each way. The train achieved each journey in 60 minutes, which made it the fastest train on the LBSCR network at the time, and this 60-minute schedule was retained long after the service had been taken over by the Brighton Belle.

in September 1915 during a reduced (but not cancelled) service during WW1 Pullman added 3rd Class accommodation to the Southern Belle in response to huge demand for the service by the public. The first 3rd Class carriages were converted from older 1st Class cars. The surcharge for travelling in these 3rd Class Pullmans was reduced and the service proved extremely popular.

3rd Class carriages were not given names but assigned numbers, these first efforts for the Southern Belle being Cars No.1, No.2 and No.3.

In 1923 the LBSCR was amalgamated with three other railways into the Southern Railway who in 1929 decided on a scheme of electrification for their network which spelt the end for the steam hauled Southern Belle and its last run was on December 31st 1932.

An all new electric Pullman train replaced the old carriages and ran from January 1933 to June 1934 using the Southern Belle name before being renamed the Brighton Belle in 1934.

1935 description:

The "Southern Belle", which carried first-class passengers only until 1915, has run almost every day of the year since its inception. Before the completion of the main line electrification between London and Brighton it made four journeys a day, the two additional runs being unaugurated in 1910.

The first trip was made with a train composed of seven new Pullmans, hauled by an "Atlantic". It "steamed out of Victoria Station with a company of distinguished passengers on board, and arrived at Brighton exactly one hour later". On the coming-of-age run in 1929, which was also attended by festivities at Brighton, , the locomotive was "Sir Ortzlake", one of the "King Arthurs", and its driver, Mr. W. Coughtrey, had been the fireman on the inaugural trip in 1908. During the intervening twenty-one years the train had carried over four million passengers.

— , -, , The Story of the Southern: London's Link with the South Coast, , Railway Wonders of the World, , 1935


A model of the Southern Belle along with other Brighton Belle and Pullman memorabilia is on display in the Museum lobby, however only 5 of the 7 original cars are present. Can you spot which ones are missing?

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