Kent Rail

Car No. 88

Pullman Third Class Motor Brake Parlour Car


‘’Car No. 88’’ was a later addition to the VSOE Company’s carriage fleet, and joined an interesting group of long-decommissioned Pullman vehicles at Stewarts Lane, which awaited restoration. It was constructed in 1932 by the Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage, Wagon & Finance Co. Ltd, which had been awarded a contract to build a total of thirty-eight Pullman cars for the Southern Railway. This was a significant order for the SR, and the vehicles procured in this batch differed from existing Pullman cars on the company’s network in two respects:



Of the thirty-eight carriages ordered, fifteen were to be divided among a trio of five-vehicle all-Pullman electric multiple units, which were intended to replace the steam-hauled stock of the ‘’Southern Belle’’. This all-Pullman train had been inaugurated as far back as 1st November 1908 by the LB&SCR, and ran between Victoria and Brighton. The remaining Pullman cars of the 1932 batch were intended as standalone vehicles, to be inserted within EMU formations comprising standard SR coaching stock – these later became the 6-PUL and 6-CITY units. The aforementioned all-Pullman units became ‘’5-BEL’’, and were numbered in the series 2051, 2052, and 2053. The combined cost for this trio alone was about £205,000 (circa £10,202,300 at 2007 prices), and ‘’Car No. 88’’ was formed into unit No. 2051. The 5-BEL formations commenced service on 1st January 1933, the first day of the accelerated Brighton Line electric timetable.


5-BEL Unit No. 2051:

·         Car No. 88: Third Class Motor Brake Parlour Car (Schedule No. 288)

·         Hazel: First Class Kitchen Car (Schedule No. 279)

·         Doris: First Class Kitchen Car (Schedule No. 282)

·         Car No. 86: Third Class Parlour Car (Schedule No. 286)

·         Car No. 89: Third Class Motor Brake Parlour Car (Schedule No. 289)


Livery: Pullman ‘’New Standard’’ Umber and Crème
Notes: Unit renumbered to 3052, effective from 01/01/1937; service known as ‘’Brighton Belle’’ from 29th June 1934


The sets were owned by the Pullman Car Company, but all electrical and running equipment was maintained by the SR. Eight British Thompson Houston Company (BTH) 225 HP traction motors powered each unit to a top speed of 75 MPH, and these were divided equally between the driving vehicles. The fact that ‘’Car No. 88’’ was a Motor Brake Parlour meant that it weighed twenty-two tons more than Parlour Car No. 86, and nineteen tons more than either Kitchen Car. It has already been documented within the Audrey and Vera Pullman pages that out of the three 5-BEL units, No. 3052 has had the most eventful history, having been bombed during an air raid on Victoria station on the night of 9th/10th October 1940. All SR Pullman services had initially been withdrawn on the outbreak of war on 3rd September 1939, but those electric services on the Central Section, both 5-BEL and 6-PUL, were reinstated during 1940. These were withdrawn once again on 22nd May 1942, and were not to be seen again until after the war had ended.

The ‘’Brighton Belle’’ returned to the passenger timetable on 1st May 1946, albeit one 5-BEL unit short. Whilst the bomb-damaged No. 3052 was repaired, a 6-PUL unit was drafted into ‘’Brighton Belle’’ service, a situation that remained until 6th October 1947. As the 5-BEL and 6-PUL units reached twenty years of age, there was concern over the ride quality of the train sets, in addition to the amount of damage their wheels caused the track. Consequently, during 1955, bogie sets on all 5-BEL and 6-PUL units were replaced, at a total cost to the Pullman Car Company of £70,000 (£1,321,765 at 2007 prices). Thereafter, the 5-BEL sets continued to ply the Victoria to Brighton line, with a journey time of an hour each way, but more change was to occur just under fifteen years down the line. In February 1969, 5-BEL No. 3051 emerged from overhaul at Eastleigh wearing BR Blue and Grey corporate colours, as applied to all ‘’main line’’ coaching stock since 1965. Pullman car names had disappeared, and the vehicles simply became designated by their original schedule numbers. ‘’Car No. 88’’ became No. S288S, and as per all the driving cars, the cab became host to the then obligatory full yellow warning panel. Internal decoration of the Pullmans remained largely unchanged, although the seats were recovered in ''InterCity 70'' blue moquette. Repaints of the ‘’Brighton Belle’’ and ‘’Golden Arrow’’ Pullman cars were crude, for it seemed to be a case of simply applying the new scheme over the existing Umber and Crème livery – later paint stripping exercises usually revealed the still extant carriage names, complete with intricate lining and umber and crème colours.

5-BEL No. 3051 has a claim to fame, for it alone formed the very last ‘’Brighton Belle’’ service to Victoria on that fateful day – 30th April 1972. Withdrawn units were stored in sidings at Brighton, and all traction motors, air braking, and electrical gear were salvaged by British Rail; the six driving vehicles of the 5-BEL trio thus became dummies. Later in the same year, No. S288S was purchased by London-based brewers Truman & Co, but remained in store there since the company’s initial proposals for the vehicle fell on stony ground. Later in that same decade, No. S288S was transferred to Chappel & Wakes Colne station, Essex (the ‘’Stour Valley Railway’’), still as the property of the brewer. It was eventually donated to the Stour Vallety Railway (SVR) in 1980, but remained there only until 1982. In May of that year, the SVR leased No. S288S to the ‘’Southern Steam Trust’’, the latter of which transferred the vehicle to Swanage. On the Swanage Railway, the interior was refurbished, which included replacing the blue seating moquette of 1969 with a red pattern. Vacuum brakes were installed, to allow the vehicle to operate with the rest of the railway’s steam-hauled stock, and the ‘’New Standard’’ Umber and Crème livery was applied, although neither name nor lining was restored. ‘’Car No. 88’’ was finally purchased by the VSOE Company in August 1988, and transferred by road to Stewarts Lane. The vehicle remained in store there for over two decades, eventually being purchased in 2009 by the ''5BEL Trust''. This concern intends to reform a five-vehicle ''Brighton Belle'' EMU, a £500,000 project which will hopefully restore the iconic train to the Central Division main line. At the time of writing, the vehicle had been cosmetically restored and was awaiting transfer from Horsted Keynes, on the Bluebell Railway, to Barrow Hill, Derbyshire. At the former, Car No. 88 had taken part in 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Sussex line, whilst at latter, it was due to receive heavy engineering work. Part of the restoration will result in bogie replacement.


Additional Notes [Car No. 88: As Built]


Latest information and status of Car No. 88 kindly provided by Neil Marshall of the 5BEL Trust.


May 1984


''Car No. 88'' is seen after overhaul at Swanage, having been restored to original Pullman colours, but still

lacking name and lining. Head code 4 was that used by the ''Brighton Belle''. Mike Glasspool



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