Kent Rail


Pullman Parlour First


Pullman cars were not synonymous with the GWR. This was partly because the company felt that it produced luxurious carriages of its own which were just as good as Pullman cars, and also because this type of exclusive vehicle was heavily associated with the rival Southern Railway. However, the GWR eventually decided to test the water, and in 1928 ordered seven Pullman cars from the Pullman Car Company. These comprised four Kitchen Cars and three Parlour Cars, and construction was subcontracted to the Metropolitan Cammell Carriage, Wagon & Finance Company, Birmingham.


GWR 1928 Order

Metropolitan Cammell



Initially, the Pullman vehicles were formed amongst standard GWR stock within ‘’Ocean Liner Expresses’’. These ran between Millbay Docks, Plymouth, and London Paddington, and first appeared in the passenger timetable during May 1929. On 8th July of the same year, a number of these vehicles were reformed into the ‘’Torquay Pullman Limited’’, an all-Pullman service which ran two days of the week between the Capital and Paignton, calling at intermediate stops of Newton Abbot and Torquay only.


Torquay Pullman Limited








Notes: Service commenced on 8th July 1929; Mondays and Fridays only; eight Pullman cars from the outset.


Pullman cars were not a success on the GWR, and low patronage saw the ‘’Torquay Pullman Limited’’ formation reduced by three vehicles for the 1930 timetable. The luxurious service was discontinued after that summer, never to return, and the GWR’s Pullman vehicles, including ‘’Zena’’, went into store at Old Oak Common. It was not the end of the line for the carriages, however, and the GWR had high hopes of running the Pullmans during the summer timetable of the following year. However, by 1931, the company had decided to cut its losses, and on New Years Day of that year, ‘’Zena’’ and her sister cars made the short trip across the Thames to Clapham Junction Yard, where the vehicles became part of the Southern Railway’s Western Section carriage fleet pool. Thereafter, the GWR embarked on building its own Ocean Saloon vehicles. On the SR, the Pullman cars were employed on Waterloo to Southampton Docks ''Ocean Liner Expresses'', a role similar to that which they first undertook on arrival to the GWR. The all-Pullman ‘’Bournemouth Belle’’ inaugurated on 5th July 1931, as a Sundays-only summer service – it became a daily, all-year round operation from summer 1936 onwards. It re-used existing SR Pullman carriages in its formation, no new-build examples arriving specifically for the service, and these included the ex-GWR vehicles. ‘’Zena’’ alternated between both the Ocean Liner Expresses and the ‘’Bournemouth Belle’’, until the withdrawal of all Pullman services on the outbreak of war on 3rd September 1939.

After the war, ‘’Zena’’ was destined for the LNER: in January 1946, the vehicle was re-fitted at the Pullman Car Co.’s Preston Park Works, in preparation for the re-launch of the ‘’Queen of Scots’’ all-Pullman service. Industrial action by the National Union of Vehicle Builders delayed Pullman car refits, and the ‘’Queen of Scots’’ service (Kings Cross to Glasgow Queen Street) did not recommence until 5th July 1948, by which time nationalisation of the railways had occurred. There appears to have been a fluid use of Pullman cars between the main services on the ex-GNR route – the ‘’Yorkshire Pullman’’, the ‘’Queen of Scots’’, and the ‘’Tees-Tyne Pullman’’ to name but three – with carriages frequently switching between trains. On 27th June 1955, the Western Region commenced the ''South Wales Pullman'', between Paddington, Cardiff, and Swansea, and ''Zena'' was transferred from the Eastern Region for this service.


South Wales Pullman: August 1960 Formation

In September 1961, the ''South Wales Pullman'' became dieselised in the form of the ''Blue Pullman'' train sets. As a consequence, the aforementioned Pullman vehicles of the steam-hauled stock were kept in store as standby, to be used only when one of the diesel units was undergoing overhaul. At this time ''Zena'' escaped, again to the Eastern Region, were it spent the last of its BR days plying the ex-GNR route from Kings Cross. It was absorbed back into the ''Queen of Scots'' all-Pullman train, until the total cessation of this service on 13th June 1964. The ''Queen of Scots'' was replaced by the ''White Rose Pullman'', which initially ran between the capital and Leeds, but was extended to Harrogate on 7th September 1964. In the following year, the withdrawn ''Zena'' was dispatched to York, and shunted into the ‘’condemned’’ sidings alongside the railway works. Fortunately, the carriage avoided destruction, and was purchased for preservation in 1966, being taken by rail to Leeds Holbeck engine shed. From there, the Pullman was hauled to Keighley by ex-NER tank engine ''JOEM'', together with a goods brake van. The little trio travelled up the main line via Shipley, and the carriage spent the next fifteen years on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, West Yorkshire, until purchase by the VSOE Company in 1980. The carriage was subsequently taken to Carnforth for a complete strip down and restoration, which, as per the other restored Pullmans, involved a comprehensive re-wire, the incorporation of Electric Train Heating (ETH), and the provision of an air braking system. A false underframe was fitted to the vehicle, ensuring that it matched the height of the other Pullman carriages when coupled in a formation. The completed vehicle re-emerged in 1982, and was taken by road to Stewarts Lane.

Additional Notes [Zena: As Built]



With thanks to Alan Mitchell for information concerning the Pullman vehicle's journey to Leeds Holbeck and Keighley.


21st June 2007


''Zena'' is a well-travelled Pullman, having been allocated in the past to the GWR, the Southern Railway, the

LNER (albeit not used operationally on this company's network until after nationalisation), and subsequently

Western and Eastern Regions. The gleaming carriage is depicted basking in the sun at Folkestone Harbour.

David Glasspool



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