5BEL Trust is fortunate that Locomotive Services Limited at Crewe has such skills that it has solved the really difficult, long standing problems needed to restore four cars of the Brighton Belle to run on the main line. These are the people who handle the engineering for A4 Sir Nigel Gresley, Royal Scot, modern diesels and the glorious HST based Blue Pullman unit. Thus Brighton Belle is safe in their hands – however, none of this reduces the sheer complexity of what has needed to be done to rescue this famous 1930s electric Pullman unit and to run it on the main line once more.
It was decided some time back that the right thing to do was to restore two motor cars, a first class Parlour Car, and a third class Parlour Car, with a 20 foot gas-fired kitchen newly installed. Pictures of all of these vehicles can be seen in the body of the website. The 4 cars: 88 (Beryl), 91 (Mabel), 85 (Gravetye Manor) and 82 (Doris) all now have completed interiors and are nearly ready. The train could not operate with its outmoded 1930s electrics, and so the massive task was undertaken of fitting 400 series electrics and modern running gear to offer the necessary superior performance and power as well as excellent reliability. In addition much modern electronic equipment must be fitted for main line running. The refurbished train has ‘lifting shoegear’, and is fitted with 400 series multiple running gear, so it can work with a Class 73 Electro-diesel.
There are two further cars, unrestored, waiting beneath tarpaulins, ready for refurbishment and re-engineering, though prudently this will not be progressed until the current 4 cars have proved themselves. These cars are : 79 Hazel and 87 (Clare).
Having been stored and work completed through various stages at Barrow Hill and WH Davies, Shirebrook, the four cars being restored were moved to Locomotive Services at Crewe. At all stages the engineering problems necessary for the 4BEL unit to run on the main line were expensive and difficult to overcome. The work and expense has been so time consuming and frustrating as to exhaust the restorers to the point where ever seeing the train working again was beginning to be considered as a faint hope.
No! No one has given up. However the continual announcements that resolution was just round the corner has had to be amended. The promises, that through no fault of the restorers at all were raising false hopes had to cease. The dogged determination shown by LSL at Crewe saw the train go there, where restoration promises have all gradually been redeemed. LSL have expertly and solidly worked through all the problems, one by one, but it has taken time and expense to achieve it.
Almost every difficulty has now been overcome, leaving the train in sparkling, and working condition. It will soon reach its final hurdle of testing on the main line. Information will be deliberately kept low-key; false starts do no one any favours. The restorers, the funders, the Trustees, are all fervently looking forward to the day when the power collectors make contact with the third rail, the lights all go on, and the train becomes live for the first time since April 1972. Then the Brighton Belle will growl serenely along the rails.
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 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).