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5 Bel - "The Brighton Belle"

photograph: Mike Morant collection

The down Brighton Belle passes through Wandsworth Common station during March 1964.

Following the Southern Railway's 1932 electrification of the line to Brighton, the all electric, all Pullman Southern Belle was inaugurated on 1st January 1933 and three five car units, known as 5 Bel, were supplied for the service:
Unit No. 2051 2052 2053 Seats: 1st/3rd
Motor 3rd Parlour Brake 88 90 92   - / 48
First Kitchen Hazel Audrey Gwen   20 / -  
First Kitchen Doris Vera Mona   20 / -  
3rd Parlour 86 87 85   - / 56
Motor 3rd Parlour Brake 89 91 93   - / 48

They were built by Metropolitan Cammell and equipped with four BTH 225hp traction motors and control equipment. From 1st January 1937 1000 was added to the unit numbers and they became 3051, 3052 and 3053 and these were retained until the final run of the "The Belle", on Sunday, 30th April 1972.

Originally the "Belle" was London based and three non-stop round trips per weekday were run:

Victoria depart 11.00 a.m. Brighton depart 1.25 p.m.
Brighton arrive 12.00 noon Victoria arrive 2.25 p.m.
Victoria depart 3.00 p.m. Brighton depart 5.25 p.m.
Brighton arrive 4.00 p.m. Victoria arrive 6.25 p.m.
Victoria depart 7.00 p.m. Brighton depart 8.25 p.m.
Brighton arrive 8.00 p.m. Victoria arrive 9.25 p.m.

Latterly the Belle units became Brighton based which allowed an earlier departure from Brighton and a late night return from London and were favoured by the acting fraternity (such as Laurence Olivier - later Lord Brighton) and theatre-goers alike.
The additional trips were:

Victoria depart 11.00 p.m.# Brighton depart 9.40 a.m.
Brighton arrive 12.00 midnight Victoria arrive 10.40 a.m.
# Called additionally at Haywards Heath

Trains were either 5-car or 10-car, depending on the demand, and one unit was held spare to cover for failures and repairs. However it was not unknown, at some times, for the service to be covered by a 5-Bel plus a 6-Pul or a 4-Buf/Res.

Pullman Schedule Numbers
All Pullman cars were given a schedule number by the Pullman Car Co. and those for the Brighton Belle were:
Car No./ Name Schedule Car No./ Name Schedule Car No. Schedule
Hazel 279 Vera 284 89 289
Audrey 280 85 285 90 290
Gwen 281 86 286 91 291
Doris 282 87 287 92 292
Mona 283 88 288 93 293

Until their final overhaul, and repainting in BR "Corporate" blue and grey, the cars only carried the last two of their schedule numbers, as shown above. However, following these last overhauls they carried the numbers in full. For 3051 this was from February 1969, for 3052 from December 1968 and for 3053 from May 1969.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • Platform
    The Belle arrived and departed from platform 12 or 13 at Victoria. In later years the 2:00pm departure became the 14:00, but the train was the same. Many household names of the theatrical and Fleet Street worlds lived in Brighton and, flushed with success from an earlier campaign to restore cooked breakfasts to the train, led a big campaign to "Save the Brighton Belle" following the announcement of its impending withdrawal - but all to no avail this time.
    Photograph: John Bradshaw collection.
  • Quarry Line
    The up Brighton Belle entering Redhill Tunnel northbound on the quarry line.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • Victoria
    The Brighton Belle standing at Platform 13 at Victoria. Note the "extra" track starting by the front of the train. Before the station was rebuilt many of the platforms could accept two eight car trains. The middle line was so that the train nearest the buffers could leave when there was one still standing behind it. The Brighton Belle shown here consists of ten cars and is, therefore, fouling the point in question!
    Photograph: John Bradshaw collection.
  • Clapham Jn
    Ten car "Belle", with unit Nº3051 in the rear, photographed leaving Clapham Junction. Date not known.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Gatwick
    Unit Nº3052 photographed at the head of a ten car "Belle" in 1968, belived to be near Gatwick Airport.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Liveries
    This photograph depicts both the old (right) and the new (left) liveries carried by the Brighton Belle, captured in winter sunshine near Purley.
    Photograph: John Bradshaw collection.
  • Quarry Line
    A ten car down blue "Belle" photographed on the Quarry Line, date not known.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Horsham
    Unit Nº 3051 on a "Cheese and Wine Special" photographed at Horsham during April 1972.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Last Day
    The date is 30th April 1972 and the Brighton Belle is in Brighton station preparing for the very last up run, once again with unit Nº3051.
    Photograph by Trevor Tupper.
  • Last Day
    Unit Nº 3051 photographed near Gatwick Airport 30th April 1972, the last day of Brighton Belle operation.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • Interior
    Better than your average EMU...
    Pictures of the interior of Car 92 after re-furbishment with BR blue mocatta seat coverings. Unfortunately, despite the opulent interiors, the refurbishment did nothing to improve the ride of these units, and it was a case of beware the steward who poured you more than half a cup of coffee!
    Photograph: John Bradshaw collection.
  • Later...
    Not what it seems!
    What appears to be unit 3052 is, in actual fact, 5 of the 6 Brighton Belle Motor Coaches stored in Montpelier sidings, Brighton. They are, from the camera, 291, 290 (Unit 3052), 288 (unit 3051), 293 and 292 (unit 3053) following withdrawal from service. No self-respecting Brighton Belle would have carried headcode Nº17, theirs was the prestigious Nº4, Victoria to Brighton non-stop! (Although there was for a short period after WWII, up to 1957, a Sundays Only, Eastbourne Pullman using a spare 5-Bel.) Photograph taken 14 April 1972.
    Photograph by Glen Woods.

This page was last updated 1st May 2017

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