Refurbishing the Interior of Brighton Belle

Nigel Heldreich from the famous marquetry firm of Wheathills, Near Derby, examines some parquetry that his team remanufactured for the interior panelling of Car 85, that has not become kitchen saloon. This sunburst design adorned the original vehicle and is typical of the Art Deco period in which the train represents. To have restored the design so exquisitely is a major feat that gives Wheathills as well as the Brighton Belle team a great deal of pleasure. Alas the original parquetry was destroyed by prolonged exposure to damp and rain, that managed to gain entry through the rotting metal roof during Car 85’s rather unfortunate period of almost dereliction. It’s safe now!

Refurbishing the Interior of Brighton Belle

During the disturbance of interior fit comes the trying out of various new and restored artefact’s to restore Brighton Belle to the glory it offered in the 1930s. After much thought and discussion it was decided that the best way of restoring the tables was to make new ones. All the seating arrangements were being changed from 2+2 to 2+1 across the former third class cars, and so it followed that all the tables would need to be changed as well. Here is the first of the glass-topped tables, offered up in the interior of Car 85 – it looks splendid. Note too the newly made Pullman table lamps and remanufactured plastic shades, facsimiles of the originals – magnificent!

Refurbishing the Interior of Power Car 91

In Car 91 the original ‘coffee pot’ parquetry of the 1930s has been carefully replicated or restored, as appropriate. What was not obvious before starting was the effect of current legislation against fire. Varnish coverings must comply with the new standards, and this requires some experimentation to make sure that the expected deep shine of the fresh woodwork will also comply with the new standards. This has proved a problem across the wide range of humidity and temperature that railway vehicles must accept. So getting a resilient, compliant surface that offers the expected deep shine has taken time. This typifies the project – it all takes time!

The new kitchen in Car 85

As the concept of the Brighton Belle restored to the main line is to offer fine dining, then a splendid kitchen is a prerequisite. Thus former third saloon Car 85, whose interior was much damaged by water ingress, has had a kitchen installed in one saloon, with the other saloon restored to Art Deco glory. Here is the modern kitchen, with the gas-fired burners under the cardboard. Next door, kitchen to kitchen will be Car Doris, so the two kitchens will work together to be able to serve 175 people a splendid meal to remember in opulent Pullman surroundings whilst gliding through the Garden of England. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The problems of Car Doris

If you were not convinced that restoring this train is deeply expensive, difficult and time consuming, then this story may convince you. This is the shell of first class saloon Car Doris. Said to be in ‘reasonable’ condition, this was hardly the case. The interior was half stuffed with asbestos, and significant parts of the metalwork resembled lace! Filler and a spot of paint is not acceptable for 90mph capability trains, so any substandard material had to be cut out and replaced with solid stuff before the whole was mounted on a ‘tonka’ underframe to take its B5 bogies. Most of this has happened. The floor is now in, and restoration of the truly splendid interior begins.

Getting the wires crossed

This is Car 88, and for those who are familiar it hasn’t changed very much at all for quite a long time – except that its interior is coming along rather rapidly. The problem is hidden from view. Perhaps the most difficult task to deal with has been the electrical side. Apart from the maxim that you take no chances were electricity is concerned, it is hardly surprising that todays safety bodies are clear that 1930s wiring is not welcome, and that the whole train must conform to the latest safety standards. So what’s been happening is all ‘behind the scenes’. The entire electrical system has had to be replanned and then replaced – and to the very highest standard. Guess what – this all takes time!

Accommodating the mobility impaired

Car 91 is the other Pullman power car, and it can be seen, with underfame and bogie spigot, ready for the ex CIG BR Mk6 power bogies to but placed underneath. The interior of this car is progressing well, as can be glimpsed through the windows. The electrical wiring is what is taking the time. Some unusual changes have been needed for this car. Note that it has an end window – unusual in a Pullman. The loo has had to be moved to the front of the car, as it was decided that this would be where we would invite the mobility impaired to travel with us. As a result the loo’s in the front and an extra bay of seats has been added at the back – and that is unusual! The decision was also taken to make the lot retention toilets too.