Few people know that George Pullman’s hands stretched across the pond.

The Pullman name existed in the United Kingdom for many years.

Cruising the past looks at this famous British company, their Pullman trains and a video of the Brighton Belle.

Youtube video of the final run of the PULLMAN BRIGHTON BELLE in 1972…

The British Pullman Car Company was formed in 1882 and named after the Pullman concept pioneered in the United States by the American railroader George Pullman. The company entered into contracts with the railway companies to operate Pullman services over their lines.

As opposed to regular mainline services, Pullman trains were noted for their more luxurious carriages. The PCC had its own workshops at Brighton. Pullman Car manufacture was also carried out by Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. and Metropolitan Cammell Carriage and Wagon Co.. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway was the first UK railway company to operate a complete Pullman train, the Pullman Limited which started on the London to Brighton route on 5 December 1881.

As Mr Smail recounts “…In 1906 the LBSCR introduced three new thirty-five ton twelve-wheelers Princess Ena, Princess Patricia, and Duchess of Norfolk. These last three cars were the first Pullmans to be painted in the now familiar umber and cream livery. Hitherto the Brighton Pullmans had been painted dark mahogany brown with gold lining and scrollwork.

Some of the older cars had the name in an oval panel on the side. In 1903 Mr. Billinton changed the colour of the ordinary L.B. & S.C.R. coaches to umber brown with white or cream upper panels, and in 1906 this colour scheme was also adopted by the Pullman Car Co., with the name of the car in large gilt letters…”.

This was the beginning of the tradition of PCC services operating with a brown and cream livery, and named carriages which continues to the present day. Pullman trains were locomotive hauled, although from 1932 the electrified Southern Railway and successors operated electric multiple units, the British Rail Class 403 as the Brighton Belle.

The Pullman agreements were continued by British Railways upon nationalisation in 1948, whilst the Pullman company remained privately owned. During World War II all Pullman services were suspended. They were restarted shortly thereafter. By the late 1950s the image of Pullman trains remained luxurious but the rolling stock was increasingly outdated.

The PCC was eventually bought by the public body the British Transport Commission (BTC) in 1954. The BTC decided to relaunch Pullman services as part of the 1954 British Railways Modernisation Plan with diesel powered rolling stock, resulting in the building of the diesel multiple unit Blue Pullman trains. These would go on to operate the “Midland Pullman” and “Western Pullman” services from London to Manchester and Bristol respectively. These were joined in 1960-61 by new Pullman carriages built by Metro-Cammell for the East Coast Main Line Pullman services.

Despite new rolling stock the Pullman company was experiencing difficulties. Although its equity was wholly owned by the BTC, its separate staffing and operations became an anomaly on the state-owned railway system, and staffing of the new Blue Pullman had created some union disputes. The National Union of Railwaymen urged its nationalisation, which was completed in 1962. The company was thus taken over by British Rail, but Pullman trains continued to be operated.

The Blue Pullman rolling stock was a relatively short lived venture, with only five units built and operated, withdrawn by 1973. This had been hastened by the introduction of the upgraded air-conditioned Mk II stock and the faster InterCity 125 trains, which also resulted in the demise of the remaining Mk 1 non air conditioned Pullman services, with the exception of the Manchester Pullman.

The Yorkshire Pullman and Hull Pullman were the last East Coast Main Line Pullmans and were withdrawn in 1978.

The Manchester Pullman continued until the privatisation of the West Coast Main Line in the 1990s.


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