27 November 2021

A recent visit to the Brighton Belle four cars under restoration at Locomotive services at Crewe (Cars 88 – Beryl, 85 Gravetye Manor, Doris 82 and 91 Mabel) now reveals substantial progress since their arrival from Shirebrook. There have been major problems affecting the work: firstly managing through the restrictions imposed by Covid, and secondly the need to rectify the extremely complex installation of the electrical equipment needed to make a 1930s build, electric multiple unit fit to run on today’s modern rail network, with all the safety systems demanded. This has been both very expensive and complex. Fortunately the people at Crewe have been up to the job. Apart for the inevitable requirements of the inevitable ‘snagging’ works, the restored unit now approaches the time for it to be able to advance to the next stage.
During the next stage the 4BEL unit will be taken to Eastleigh, where the vehicle will have all its systems tested on the third rail itself. When it is ruled compliant, it will then undergo proving test running, and all the passenger systems, like catering, will be brought to satisfaction. A huge amount of work has therefore still to be carried out, as well as all the equipment must be obtained and installed to allow the service of high-quality meals on board.
We shall not forecast and date for the completion of the work at either Crewe or Eastleigh, as we have been too optimistic in the past, leading to high hopes, that have then had to be dashed with subsequent disappointment.
Following are a series of interior ‘working’ photographs of each of the four cars, taken whilst the ‘job’ was going on. You can see the improvements that have been achieved at Crewe. The quality of the fitments and furnishings are a delight to the eye, and the restoration work of the teams is excellent. The finishing touches are still to be made, but these photographs are something of a celebration of where we have come so far.

CAR DORIS

Car Doris with filler applied and painted over, yet both have been misapplied, so there is not adherence, and there is too much filler. This is work that must be done again. This continues inside a warm shed to make for a high quality, hand finished, painted Pullman exterior.

Car Doris end, interior bay, with reupholstered Pullman armchair, finished table with glass top, silvered hat rack, but no antimacassars, and no curtains yet fitted. Doris now looks well, and is completed with an attractive red carpet laid in. Soris has its blinds fitted, the there is a problem with blinds to be obtained and fitted in other cars. Blinds are needed to prevent sun-bleaching of the interior when the train lies over at destinations.

Car Doris, the coupé compartment, with appropriate LED strip lighting, splendid woodwork and comfortable armchairs. This 4 seat compartment has come out well, and should form a delightfully private area for those who wish it.

Car Doris, the vestibule, showing the necessary drop-down shelf for staff storage of ‘used’ table items – necessary for efficient meals service in every car. Note that the vestibule floor covering here is designed to mitigate the bringing of dirt into the vehicle.

Car Doris, the toilet is quite excellent, and the black toilet seat matches better than a wood one that was specified. The Formica is an excellent match to that fitted originally. Note also the black linoleum (a change from the original) matches the rest of the toilet scheme well. There are three toilets fitted in the 4BEL formation.

CAR 88 – BERYL

Car 88 the driver’s desk. This is – in effect – the same as a 400 Series EMU desk. The usual controls are all there and to these have been added the mandatory safety equipment, such as TPWS, GSMR etc. New, metal framed double-skin safety glass windows have been fitted, together with modern windscreen wipers. It changes the look a little, but not to detriment.

Car 88 the saloon entrance-exit doors at either end: on the left into the guards’/driver’s compartment, at the front, on the right into the vestibule, at the rear. The exit at the front (LH) is centred, so note the architrave remains in its original position. Car Beryl is panelled in grained wood with a minimum of parquetry – the wood shines through, and the grain looks well. Note the metalwork throughout the restored cars has all been returned to ‘silver’ by nickel plating.

Under Car 88 the equipment covers are now in place to shroud and protect the electric circuits inside- all is now neat, tidy and as it should be. The air-blown heating system of the 1930s has been replaced by conventional ‘element’ heaters out of 1963 stock. The levels are thermostatically controled and the system is both simpler and more reliable.

CAR 85 – GRAVETYE MANOR

Car 85 the saloon. Note the freshly painted roof, the clock placed ‘centre’, but the architrave placed ‘off centre’, to permit the installation of 2+1 seating. The green carpet looks well, the table lamps stand out, the centre aisle is wide enough for meal service and you can see the seat number checkers reaffixed. The new seats are wide and comfortable. The replacement of Pullman for B5 bogies will offer a good ride, to improve the original poor ride. There are 24 seats in this saloon that has had a kitchen installed.

Car 85: This well equipped, gas powered kitchen has been installed to allow high quality meals to be freshly cooked for all patrons on the train. It is fully equipped to cook meals to serve (eventually) up to six cars, with a small original kitchen in Car Doris next door to cater for desserts and beverages. Alongside there is a service corridor with hatches to serve meals for distribution up and down the train. Above the gas burners there are enough grills, below are gas ovens for joints – opposite are sinks.

Car 85 the saloon. Attractive unburst Art Deco parquetry has been restored after it received extensive water damage during the car’s storage. This was expensive indeed, but the effect was worth it. Note the restoration of the sunburst light glasses, now lit with low energy consumption ‘warm glow’ LED modern bulbs. Together with the LED lit table lamps, the car has a most attractive atmosphere , making it both cosy , and with the well-padded seats, pleasant and comfortable.

CAR 91 – MABEL

Car 91, the second motor car, has accommodation for the mobility impaired, including a full size toilet for wheelchaired guests. This has led to reorganisation of the bay next to the guard’s compartment, with an automatic door in the corridor leading from the saloon.

Car 91. Two seats have been removed from the saloon in order to allow wheelchairs to be positioned freely, close enough for the occupants comfortably to position themselves at a dining table, facing two conventional places opposite for companions. Note that Car 91 has Art Deco parquetry known as ‘coffee pot’ design repeated throughout the car.

Car 91. All cars, apart from Doris are upholstered in an attractive green and brown, velvet moquette, with matching green carpets. Seats are numbered for allocations. Both the moquette and the numbers are copies of the original 1930s Brighton Belle designed elements. Note the clocks that have been fitted to the roofs at the car end. These are reproductions of the originals, but battery driven for reliability (no wound clock ever told the same time, which is why they were eventually removed from the Belle).