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photograph: Mike Morant collection
Such is the scope of this subject it is not possible to provide definitive coverage so we only aim to give a flavour of this stock. The Pullman Cars pictured on this page did not necessarily all operate over Southern metals.
George Mortimer Pullman had been building and operating passenger cars in USA since the 1860s. He also had his eye on expansion into the UK and Europe. On the continent Pullman formed a complex, some would describe as suspiciously muddy, association with the Wagons-Lits organisation. The first Pullman cars in Britain were constructed and operated on the Midland Railway from 1874. Pullman found the market in the UK for sleeping cars - his main trade in the USA - to be limited due to short distances and regular service on long haul routes compared to the USA, though the competition from Pullman did force the railway companies to take on train dining seriously. So Pullman concentrated on luxury daytime travel.
The British Pullman Car Company was founded in 1882 and was under British management for most of its 20th century existence. Pullman cars were initially constructed in the Midland Railway's Derby works, then by the LBSCR at Brighton until a Pullman works was established at the former LCDR Longhedge works. By 1908 most new construction was being carried out by British carriage building companies and from 1928 rebuilding was moved to their new Preston Park works at Brighton. The British Pullman operation was characterised by the rebuilding of cars and re-assigning cars between services as necessary. In 1954 the British Transport Commission, the "owners" of British Railways, started buying up British Pullman Company shares and by 1963 it was a wholly owned subsidiary of British Railways. The operation was eventually subsumed into BR until the concept of luxury rail travel was allowed to lapse, albeit occasionally the Pullman name would be re-invoked for certain first class services, whilst travel by rail generally declined.
The railway companies of the south of England through to the Southern Region of British Railways were major users of Pullman cars either in complete Pullman trains or in portions of other services. Indeed on the Southern this did not stop at locomotive hauled cars for the SR operated the legendary Brighton Belle Pullman electrical multiple units (5-Bel) and also Pullman cars within EMU formations (6-Pul and 6-Cit). Perhaps the Southern's strong association with Pullman luxury operation was to emphasise the premium end of an otherwise largely commuter and short haul operation with the Pullman services being mostly associated with continental ferry travel, ocean liner travel and up market holiday resorts. However it has to be noted that the Brighton line Pullman services were more to do with well-heeled commuters to and from that resort than holiday traffic! In 1958 seven Pullman cars were sold to the Southern Region, repainted green and used as buffets, mainly in Southampton boat trains, until withdrawn in 1963.
All-Pullman trains operating on Southern metals were:
Bournemouth Belle 1931-1967,
Brighton Pullman Limited 1881-1908,
Southern Belle 1908-1931 becoming the Brighton Belle 1931-1973,
Continental Express 1924-1929 becoming the Golden Arrow 1929-1972,
Devon Belle 1947-1954,
Eastbourne Pullman 1948 irregularly to 1957,
and Thanet Belle 1948-1951 becoming the Kentish Belle 1951-1958.
The Night Ferry was a Wagons-Lits train, although at various times Pullman cars were included in its formation.
Today the Pullman luxury concept has been revitalised on the mainline by the Venice Simplon Orient Express operation and on special dining services on preserved railways.
Following withdrawal, and placed even out of reach of the Southern's "Withered Arm", the Pullman camping coaches at Marazion, Cornwall, became a well known place to see Pullman cars in the 1960s. Between 1960 and 1963 56 Pullman cars were converted to camping coaches. The Southern Region was the largest user with 25. The Western Region took six, originally equally split between Marazion and Fowey, but after withdrawal of the camping coach service all six were kept at Marazion for staff holidays. All six had a Southern Railway eastern section heritage, with at least four of them originally having run in SECR crimson lake livery. Alicante was a 1912 kitchen car, Aurora a 1923 brake car, Calais a 1921 twelve wheel parlour car, Flora a 1923 brake parlour car, Juno also a 1923 brake parlour car and Mimosa a 1914 twelve wheel kitchen car.
Elmira and Maid of Kent were two of those originally built as ambulance cars by the LNWR, and were converted into 1st Class Pullman Cars in 1921 by Claytons. They were subsequently rebuilt as Composite cars at Preston Park in the 1930s. They were both further rebuilt and declassified to third class cars at Preston Park in 1948, Elmira becoming car 135 and Maid of Kent, car 137. They were then converted to Camping coaches in 1960, Elmira becoming 022261 and Maid of Kent 022262, both being allocated to Ravenglass.
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Pullman Car Pegasus and the Trianon bar
Preston Park Pullman Works with abandoned cars.
Archive copies of Coupe News and Pullman & CIWL News, newsletters on Pullman and CIWL topics
This page was last updated 23 January 2006
For more information on Pullman train services and cars you are strongly recommended to read "Pullman Trains in Britain" by R W Kidner and published by the Oakwood Press ISBN 0-85361-531-4.
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