Pullman cars

Such is the scope of this subject it is not possible to provide definitive coverage so we only aim to give a flavour of this stock. The Pullman Cars pictured in these pages did not necessarily operate over Southern metals.

George Mortimer Pullman had been building and operating passenger cars in USA since the 1860s. He also had his eye on expansion into the UK and Europe. On the continent Pullman formed a complex, some would describe as suspiciously muddy, association with the Wagons-Lits organisation. The first Pullman cars in Britain were constructed and operated on the Midland Railway from 1874. Pullman found the market in the UK for sleeping cars - his main trade in the USA - to be limited due to short distances and regular service on long haul routes compared to the USA, though the competition from Pullman did force the railway companies to take on train dining seriously. So Pullman concentrated on luxury daytime travel.

The British Pullman Car Company was founded in 1882 and was under British management for most of its 20th century existence. Pullman cars were initially constructed in the Midland Railway's Derby works, then by the LBSCR at Brighton until a Pullman works was established at the former LCDR Longhedge works. By 1908 most new construction was being carried out by British carriage building companies and from 1928 rebuilding was moved to their new Preston Park works at Brighton. The British Pullman operation was characterised by the rebuilding of cars and re-assigning cars between services as necessary. In 1954 the British Transport Commission, "the "owners" of British Railways, started buying up British Pullman Company shares and by 1963 it was a wholly owned subsidiary of British Railways. The operation was eventually subsumed into BR until the concept of luxury rail travel was allowed to lapse, albeit occasionally the Pullman name would be re-invoked for certain first class services, whilst travel by rail generally declined.

Devon Belle

The Devon Belle, photographed between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple, formed here of 14 coaches including the observation car.

photograph: by Mike Morant collection

Former Devon Belle Observation Car No.14 (converted in 1921 into a Pullman from a 1918 LNWR Ambulance Car, rebuilt as a Bar Car in 1937 and remodelled as an Observation Car for the Devon Belle in 1948) went to North America in 1969 to accompany the Flying Scotsman on tour. Here carrying the number SC281, the car is seen prior to departure for the USA.

photograph by Ray Soper

Observation Car
Observation Car Now in the USA, she is seen here in 1971 crossing from Fort Erie, Ontario, to Buffalo, New York. Nº14 can now be found in San Francisco.

photograph by Michael Taylor

The other Devon Belle Observation Car (No. 13) is now service in Devon, although not on a former Southern line. It is seen here on the South Devon Railway in June 1980.

photograph by Colin Duff

Observation car

Newly completed Devon Belle Observation Car, seen with a full works compliment in July 1947, outside Preston Works.

photograph courtesy Charles Harvey Hunt, who can be seen sat fifth from the left in the front row

All photographs are copyright

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Archive copies of Coupe News and Pullman & CIWL News, newsletters on Pullman and CIWL topics

Photos from inside the derelict Pullman Works at Brighton

This page was last updated 23 January 2006

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