Hornby R4251 Devon Belle Coach Pack Lighted Pullman Coaches
The Devon Belle was a luxury express passenger train in England which ran between London Waterloo station and Ilfracombe and Plymouth in Devon in the years from 1947 to 1954. It used Pullman coaches in the umber and Cream BR Pullman Livery.
The Southern Railway was anxious to encourage the resumption of normal leisure activities after the war years, and it commenced operation of the train on 20 June 1947. It set high standards for comfort and luxury, and it was made up entirely of Pullman coaches. Two unusual features of the train were that all seats were reservable (not a common facility at the time) and the observation car, attached at the rear for the benefit of passengers to and from Ilfracombe.
The Southern Railway was especially adept at publicity, and both the westbound and eastbound trains started their journey at mid-day, and uniquely the train ran non-stop between London and Sidmouth Junction, a distance of 160 miles. The end to end journey time was about five and a half hours.
At this time all other trains on the Southern Railway's West of England main line stopped at Salisbury for water and to trim the tender coal, as the Southern Railway did not have water troughs. To enable the non-stop run, the train made an unadvertised stop at Wilton, a small station two miles west of Salisbury, for an engine change.
The train headboards had a red background unlike the customary green nameboard backgrounds on Southern Railway express trains. Three boards were used: one on the locomotive's buffer beam, and one on each side of its smokebox, mounted on the smoke deflectors.
Following the war, Britain was in a state of economic austerity for several years, and a luxury train service involving a supplementary fare was a difficult concept to sell. Despite initial popularity, the train was not as much of a success as hoped, and the Plymouth portion was dropped in September 1949. Services were further reduced in 1952 and withdrawn entirely at the end of the 1954 summer season.
The Southern ran three Pullman trains with the suffix Belle. The others were the Brighton Belle (originally the Southern Belle) and the Bournemouth Belle. British Railways introduced the Thanet Belle (later renamed the Kentish Belle) in 1948.
Traction and rolling stock
Usually, the train was hauled by a Merchant Navy class 'Bulleid Pacific' locomotive between Waterloo and Exeter Central, with Light Pacific locomotives handling the train west of that point. The normal formation was for four carriages to form the Plymouth portion, and eight to form the Ilfracombe portion, although longer trains were sometimes needed. The use of powerful locomotives was essential on the Ilfracombe Branch, due to the very steep gradients and sharp curves on that section of the line. For the eastbound departure from Ilfracombe, it was usually necessary for assistance to be provided by a bank engine for the 1 in 36 climb from the terminus to Mortehoe & Woolacombe station.