SEmG

Southern Named Trains
"Devon Belle"

Devon Belle
Merchant Navy class Nº21C4 Cunard White Star photographed near Pinhoe with the Devon Belle in 1947.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

 
The all-Pullman "Devon Belle" was a rather short-lived train, but one that built up a good following during its early years of operation. Introduced by the Southern Railway, the inaugral train on 20th June 1947 ran behind Merchant Navy class Nº21C15 Rotterdam Lloyd from Waterloo to Wilton, with further Merchant Navy power to Exeter then light pacifics for the final stages from Exeter Central to Ilfracombe and Plymouth. Patronage was not great, though, and from 1950 only the Ilfracombe section was run. Frequently consisting of twelve cars (though thirteen or fourteen were not unknown) with four for Plymouth and eight for Ilfracombe, one big attraction when it was first introduced was the availability of reserved seats, something that was not possible at that time on the "Atlantic Coast Express", nor on any of the competing services from Paddington.
The "Devon Belle" set a new standard of comfort and luxury for the journey west to Ilfracombe and Plymouth and had a unique feature, a beaver-tailed observation car that was nick-named "The Glasshouse".
 
Back in Southern Railway days Merchant Navy class Nº21C11 General Steam Navigation with a full load of coal in her tender and all prepared to work the "Devon Belle".

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Devon Belle
 
One of the more popular features was the provision of an observation car for Ilfracombe passengers at the rear of the train, an unusual but not unknown provision on a British train. There were two, numbered 13 and 14, and they were not a new-build but had started life as other vehicles. One, Nº14, was originally built in 1918 as a LNWR Ambulance car which was converted into a Pullman car in 1921, rebuilt as a Bar car in 1937 and finally remodelled as an Observation Car for the Devon Belle in 1948. With the decline in passenger numbers first the number of operating days was reduced, then came withdrawal with the final service of this well-loved but short-lived train operated in September 1954. Both these observation cars survive, but away from Southern territory, today. Nº13 works on the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway whilst Nº14, which was in the USA, has recently been repatriated from San Francisco and will, once refurbished, work on the Swanage Railway.
 
Devon Belle Nº21C14 Nederland Line at Waterloo with the down "Devon Belle". This photograph, and the one above, shows off to good effect the distinctive nameplates of this train. The background colour was red, which was a departure from the normal green background used on Southern nameplates.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

 
An unidentified Merchant Navy with the "Devon Belle". This locomotive is thought to be either Nº21C8 Orient Line or Nº21C18 British India Line.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Devon Belle
 
One unusual operational feature of the "Devon Belle" was that it stopped at Wilton in each direction, where it changed engines there rather than the more normal Salisbury engine stop. Just six minutes was allowed for this manoeuvre in each direction.
 
Devon Belle The "Devon Belle" climbing Honiton bank behind 35007 Aberdeen Commonwealth during July 1949. Although carrying her new British Railways number, Nº35007 still has SOUTHERN on her tender.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

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This page was last updated 27 September 2011

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