The latest news about the return of the Brighton Belle.
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March 2014

Brighton Belle Newsletter

The images below show how the complex engineering programme at Barrow Hill to return a complete 5bel train to the mainline has shifted up a gear. Further modifications to the underframe prototype on Car 91 have now been signed off and completed, largely to build in additional redundancy in the overall strength and crash-worthiness of the vehicle. This additional work has added some four to five months to the prototyping phase – somewhat irritating for the management team, as well as further expense - but the prize is not just a much safer unit, but timescales for the re-engineering of the underpinnings of the other five cars will be very significantly telescoped from now on. With ‘heavy’ work on three Belle cars now ongoing in the Brighton Belle workshop at Barrow Hill, the scene now looks highly reminiscent of the major overhaul carried out at Preston Park during 1955! 

There is quite a contrast between Car 91 (on the left in the first image) and Car 88, with milestones on the former including re-fitting of the vestibule woodwork. Car 88 still retains the original buffer beams that will shortly be transformed by the revised profile that will allow use of (mandated) buck-eye couplings.


On the floor to the left of the steps of Car 91 can be seen one of the two jumper boxes – one about to be fitted to either side – that are required on each car for the updated control, power and Train Protection Warning System wiring that will be installed shortly. One box will provide the linkages that will permit the train to be coupled to a diesel or ED locomotive at the rear, but controlled and driven from the motor third at the front. With commodity prices having rocketed over the last three years, cable purchases have become a significant budgetary item.

Meeting today's

Safety Standards

Meeting today’s mainline safety standards has made the 5BEL project much harder, more complex and massively more expensive than restoring a carriage for use on a heritage line or zero-timing a vintage airliner to return it to service. Happily, the travelling public will never see the massive strengthening of the front end and front corners of each of the motor thirds.


The new vertical and horizontal pillar braces, largely hidden by the driver’s desk, offer massively improved crash-worthiness. The welded-shut and cross-braced driver’s doors will at long last give a warm, dry and safe environment for the driver (the driver will enter the cab via the luggage doors). A ‘false’ floor permits service access to the control gear wiring. The standard of welding and fabrication work by the Rampart team is exemplary.

Part of the glamour and atmosphere will be delivered by the large batch of fabulously accurate new-build Pullman table lamps just received by the Trust; these were lovingly re-created by Benedict Cadbury’s ‘Lampholder’ consultancy.


We would like to start ‘proving’ trials of a short train of three cars on the mainline towards the summer of next year – let’s keep all fingers crossed that this can be achieved. This will be made up of the two motor thirds (Cars 88 and 91) and Car 85. The latter was purchased from VSOE in very poor internal condition, having suffered from significant water ingress at Stewarts Lane; one half of the car will be kitchen, to allow rather grander meals to be prepared than were ever offered in Southern/BR service. 

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For the mainline....

It's All In The Detail

The buffers are now back in place at the front of Car 91, albeit no longer operational. All forces are now transmitted from the buckeye couplings through the sole bars and underframes of the cars. The driver’s door shut-lines remain after being welded shut. The sharp eyed will spot the revised window formation on this side of the car after installation of the enlarged toilet at the front of the passenger area to meet the needs of disabled travellers, who will enter the car via the luggage doors.


As one might expect for returning to the mainline a train that has long passed its 80th birthday, the level of engineering detail required by this project is immense. Yet, no doubt, all that will register to the passenger will be the sumptuous Art Deco interiors and the calm of a First Class Coupe! 

As mentioned above, each of the Brighton Belle units spent time under a major overhaul the Pullman Works at Preston Park in 1955. The scene of Pullman craftsmen in a spotless work environment has been beautifully captured by noted transport artist, Jonathan Clay, in this evocative painting.
If you would like this magnificent framed original on your living room wall, the 5BEL Trust is conducting a raffle which will run until the end of May – simply post a cheque for £5 a ticket (payable to The 5BEL Charitable Trust) to 5BEL Trust, Old Hall, Strethall, Saffron Walden CB11 4XJ or buy your ticket via our  secure online server here. There is no limit to the number of tickets you can buy!

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