Kent Rail


Pullman Kitchen Car


‘’Vera’’ is one of three ex-Brighton Belle vehicles now in the operational VSOE British Pullman fleet. Its origins date back to the early 1930s, when the Southern Railway ordered a total of thirty-eight Pullman cars from the Pullman Car Co. (the latter of which subcontracted the construction task to Metropolitan Cammell Carriage, Wagon & Finance Co. Ltd of Birmingham), to coincide with the Brighton Line electrification. These Pullman carriages were unlike any previously seen on the SR network, for not only were they to run within electric multiple unit formations, but they were also of all-steel construction. All-steel Pullmans had first been introduced by both the LNER and GWR in 1928: a total of twenty-nine vehicles were completed for the former during that year by Metropolitan Cammell; the same company produced seven carriages for GWR's ''Ocean Liner Expresses''. The first all-steel carriages built by Metropolitan Cammell were sleeping cars for the ‘’Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits’’ (CIWL: International Sleeping Car Company), and these had emerged during 1922. Standard Pullman Kitchen and Parlour cars of this ilk followed four years later, again for use on the Continent.

The full-accelerated electric timetable between London and Brighton came into effect on 1st January 1933. Fifteen of the aforementioned Pullman vehicles ordered by the SR, and subsequently completed during 1932, were divided up among three five-car electric units, to form the newly electrified ‘’Southern Belle’’ service. Whilst these units, designated ‘’5-BEL’’, were all-Pullman in composition, the other twenty-three carriages of the batch were absorbed into what became ‘’6-PUL’’ and ‘’6-CITY’’ units. In brief, the latter were six-vehicle EMU formations which comprised a single Pullman Kitchen Car amongst standard SR coaching stock. ‘’Vera’’ formed part of 5-BEL unit No. 2052, and as per the coaching stock of the SR’s exiting third rail EMU classes, featured screw couplings and air braking.


5-BEL Unit No. 2052:

·         Car No. 90: Third Class Motor Brake Parlour Car (Schedule No. 290)

·         Audrey: First Class Kitchen Car (Schedule No. 280)

·         Vera: First Class Kitchen Car (Schedule No. 284)

·         Car No. 87: Third Class Parlour Car (Schedule No. 287)

·         Car No. 91: Third Class Motor Brake Parlour Car (Schedule No. 291)


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; three 5-BEL units cost a total of £205,000 (about £10,202,300 at 2007 prices)

The 5-BEL units maintained a service duration time of one-hour, start-to-stop, between Victoria and Brighton, and interruption of the successful ‘’Brighton Belle’’ operation occurred only as a result of the outbreak of war, on 3rd September 1939. Indeed, withdrawals of Pullman services on both Eastern and Western Sections of the SR’s network had also taken place, but the electric Pullmans of the Central Section were then granted a reprieve, the ‘’Brighton Belle’’ recommencing in 1940. This transpired to be an unfortunate year for 5-BEL No. 3052, the carriage ‘’Vera’’ in particular. Whilst the unit was stabled as empty stock alongside platform 17 at Victoria, over the night of 9th/10th October 1940, a German bombing raid took place. The ‘’Brighton’’ side of the terminus received considerable damage, and ‘’Vera’’ suffered a direct hit – sister vehicle ‘’Audrey’’ was also struck badly. No. 3052 went into store at Crystal Palace High Level in its bomb-damaged state, for the rest of World War II. All Central Section Pullman services were again withdrawn on 22nd May 1942, and were not to return until the end of the conflict.

The ‘’Brighton Belle’’ resumed service between Victoria and the Sussex Coast on 1st May 1946. The fleet comprised 5-BEL Nos. 3051 and 3053, and a 6-PUL unit. The latter had been drafted in as cover, to maintain a three-unit fleet for the ‘’Brighton Belle’’ operation. Hitherto, it had been standard practice to have two 5-BEL units in service at any one time, with the third undergoing maintenance. No repair work had yet commenced on 5-BEL No. 3052, but on the restarting of the luxurious electric Pullman service, the unit was dispatched to builders Metropolitan Cammel for complete restoration. Works at Preston Park and the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company were also busy repairing war-damaged Pullman cars. 5-BEL No. 3052 was formally re-commissioned into service on 6th October 1947, the ‘’Brighton Belle’’ once again becoming all-Pullman. The trio of 5-BEL units were subject to a bogie replacement exercise during 1955, in the endeavour of providing a smoother ride and reducing damage to the track, but the fleet remained resplendent in Umber and Crème ‘’New Standard’’ Pullman colours right up until 1968. In December of this year, No. 3052 emerged from Eastleigh Works after overhaul, wearing British Rail’s Corporate Blue & Grey livery, as applied to all ‘’main line’’ coaching stock since the launch of the ‘’Modern Image’’ in 1965. The names of all Pullman vehicles were dispensed with during the overhaul, and stock became identifiable simply by original schedule numbers – ‘’Vera’’ was designated No. S284S. The text ‘’BRIGHTON BELLE’’ was applied to the lower body side, where individual car names were formerly displayed. The ‘’Golden Arrow’’ fleet was similarly treated, and although the BR Blue and Grey scheme was by no means as attractive as the previous Umber and Crème colours, it was nevertheless a livery which the Pullman fleet wore well.

The ‘’Brighton Belle’’ service last ran on 30th April 1972, and all three units went into storage in sidings at Brighton. Every one of the fifteen vehicles was destined for preservation, and in the year of withdrawal, No. S284S was purchased privately. It was taken by low-loader to Westleton, Suffolk, where it became a static feature in a large garden. There it remained for thirteen years, wearing the 1968-applied BR Blue and Grey scheme. The VSOE British Pullman operation was formally launched at Victoria in November 1981, but during that decade, the company was still actively looking for surviving Pullman vehicles to restore and add to its Stewarts Lane-based fleet. No. S284S was bought by the VSOE Company in April 1985, but delivery to Stewarts Lane could not take place until the following September – only after the crops of the fields surrounding the garden had been harvested could a low-loader be brought in to remove the carriage. Restoration commenced in 1989, and involved replacing the EMU screw couplings with a conventional locomotive-hauled stock variant, to match the existing VSOE Pullman fleet. The Southern Region Electric Bogie sets of 1955 were removed and replaced by BR B5 Bogies, as used on Mk 1 SR electric stock. The interior was completely refurbished, and ‘’Vera’’, finished in Umber and Crème ‘’New Standard’’ Pullman colours, was commissioned into VSOE service in July 1990.


Additional Notes [Vera: As Built]



21st June 2007


''Vera'' has been restored to its original 1932 Kitchen Car Format, seating 20 passengers, but now rests upon

B5 Bogie sets which were once found on trailer vehicles of the 4 CIG/4 VEP EMU fleets. David Glasspool



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