Why do historic trains have such emotional appeal? Say the words ‘Orient Express’ to most people and their eyes glaze over at the thought of elegant soirees. The words ‘Flying Scotsman’ will conjure up in most people’s minds dramatic images of speed and steam. Now another formerly famous train is hoping to capture our imagination again.
The Brighton Belle was once one of the UK’s most famous electric Pullman trains that journeyed daily from London Victoria to Brighton. Although it was withdrawn from service fully forty five years ago, its memory refused to die and, after a nine year fund raising campaign, £6 million has been raised; enough to restore five of the coaches to their former glory and enough to launch a new rail service sometime next year.
The 5-Bel Trust, the organisation in charge of the restoration project, (Click here to watch a short video about their restoration efforts) is hoping to launch a new service sometime in 2019. Only it won’t be for commuters but day tripper who’ll be able to enjoy rides through Kent, Dorset and Sussex.
In its heyday the Brighton Belle’s luxury Pullman service was renowned for its top quality service and art deco style, with avant-garde designers and famous furnishers like Maple fitting out the interior. It was also known for its celebrity passengers including many famous actors and actresses who lived in Brighton. Lord Olivier was one of them who, when discovering that his favourite breakfast kippers had been removed from the menu, kicked up such a fuss that a petition was organised calling for their reinstatement. (And today’s celebrities consider themselves divas!)
Although absent for nearly half a century, the Brighton Belle was considered the flagship of the then Southern Railway’s mass electrification project, which began in 1931 and which carried on until April 1972 when it was withdrawn on the grounds that it was too expensive to run.
Which is not surprising if they had to serve fresh kippers every day.