Wednesday 25th of November 2015

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Help us get her back on the mainline quickly!
People said that it couldn't be done, but we are bringing back a complete early 1930s train to the mainline; in all its Art Deco splendour, the world's most famous electric train, the Brighton Belle. The journey has been more complex, more time-consuming and more expensive than we envisaged when we launched the project. While the end is in sight, how soon we complete the restoration really depends on you. Our ambition is to have a complete five car set running within two years - can you help us achieve this. Become a Friend of the Brighton Belle - your regular contributions allow our technical team to better plan ahead and speed up progress. Or dig deep into your pockets and make a donation which takes just a few seconds.....and convince your friends and colleagues to do the same as every contribution gets us to the launch date quicker. Every single pound will bring forward the date when this wonderful train returns to the mainline - where she belongs
Latest Project News
BBC documentary on The Belle!
Monday, 23 March 2015 20:29

The BBC celebrated the imminent return of the Brighton Belle with a very generous ten minute mini documentary on 23 March 2015, which was broadcast in most regions. If you missed it, the package can be viewed on BBC iPlayer for the next 30 days (until 20 April) - click here. The documentary follows the Belle's story from its introduction into service in 1932 through to the dispersal of the fifteen Belle cars around the country and the story of the 5BEL Trust's struggle to locate, then acquire, enough vehicles to restore to return a complete train to the mainline. It also highlights the high cost of the project, now expected to exceed £5 million. You can help speed up the restoration of the final elements of the train by making a donation using our secure server here; don't forget to tick the Gift Aid box! Or you can sign up as a Friend of The Brighton Belle by making regular monthly donations - click here. Together we will return the Brighton Belle to the mainline!

Railway Herald Brighton Belle mega feature!
Wednesday, 04 March 2015 16:29

There's a fantastic five page feature in the 4 March 2015 issue of Railway Herald on the engineering and other challenges faced by the 5BEL Trust and the engineering team in their quest to return the Brighton Belle to the mainline. The article gives you a very good idea of what is going on in the Brighton Belle shed at Barrow Hill. If you aren't a Railway Herald subscriber, you can buy a copy of Issue 446 here.

Back on the rails in 2015!
Thursday, 27 November 2014 07:29

The Brighton Belle will be back on the mainline next year! This hugely important moment in Britain's rail heritage will come 43 years after she was withdrawn from service and 83 years after she was built by MCW in Saltley. All of the engineering challenges have at last been resolved and the approvals process is now well underway. Since the programme to restore the Brighton Belle was launched in 2009, it has steadily become the biggest and most complex rail restoration project underway in Britain.

Starting with just two of the five cars needed to complete a train, the 5BEL Trust has had to move heaven and earth to acquire four more of the fourteen surviving Belle cars. The challenge of returning vehicles of this vintage to mainline use has been a formidable one for the engineering team at Barrow Hill. The train has to meet current safety standards, ride and brake better than when built, as well as travel at higher speeds. The project almost ground to a standstill when it became clear that there were no replacements for the motors removed by British Rail when the train was taken out of service in 1972. External panels were in poor condition. And the once glorious Art Deco interiors had suffered from decades of neglect, water ingress from outside storage and some regrettable internal alterations.

Five years on, the Brighton Belle shed at Barrow Hill is buzzing, with the first three cars now brought to the new common engineering standard. The first three cars, which can operate as a short unit, are expected to be given their final approvals by autumn 2015 after a period of mainline test running, including some very limited carriage of passengers. The 5BEL Trust is currently planning for the phased introduction into service of each of the remaining three cars. The speed at which the second batch of three cars, including ‘Hazel’ and ‘Doris’ – sisters in service as part of Unit 3051 – will be returned to the mainline is therefore dependent on the generosity of donors. Why not make a donation using one of the secure links above.

You can read the full story in Issue 196 of Heritage Railway Magazine.

Interior woodwork nears completion
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 00:00

The herculean task to restore the interiors of the first three Brighton Belle cars is almost completed. Twelve craftsmen at Wheathills have been working flat out for the last six months to bring the dark and, in some cases damaged, wooden panels back to the condition they were in when the train was built 82 years ago.

The transformation is remarkable. With the many coats of French polish carefully removed, the rare veneers now have depth and shimmer in the light. A number of panels have seen the veneers painstakingly lifted from their water-damaged backing board and then lovingly rebuilt on a new panel. Remarkably, Wheathills have managed to finish their work with a final clear coat that confers a 45 minute fire resistance, to meet current mainline safety regulations. 

Watch the video to see how the restoration experts make a difficult job look remarkably easy! To watch in full screen mode, click on the icon at the bottom right hand corner.

New Pullman clocks commissioned
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 00:00



When the Brighton Belle entered service in 1933, each of the cars had three Pullman clocks - one at each vestibule end and a double-faced item set into the central bulkhead. These heavyweight items were made by Smiths of Derby, the leading producer of accurate timepieces for public organisations such as the General Post Office etc. Each clock bore the name or number of the car it was installed in.

In service, the clocks proved to be something of a mixed blessing - customers liked being able to see how their sixty minute journey was progressing, but it proved time consuming to ensure that each of the clocks showed precisely the same time. There was also the matter of ensuring that these eight day clocks had been wound up at the beginning of the working day. Eventually, the clocks at the vestibule ends were removed and the holes covered with a shield bearing the Pullman crest - at a stroke, the winding task was reduced by two thirds and it was no longer possible for a passenger to see more than one timepiece from his or her seat.

When the Belle was withdrawn from service, the Pullman clocks were progressively 'lost' from the stores department. None of the Trust's six cars has an original timepiece and there is little likelihood that the originals could be located and acquired. We have therefore commissioned new Pullman clocks from the original makers. The technical drawing for the clock face is seen above.

Interior restorers hard at work!
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 00:00

A very busy shed at Barrow HillAnother sign of the project moving ever faster is the appointment of Wheathills of Derby to restore the interiors of the Brighton Belle cars. Click here to see Wheathills' craftsmen in action, restoring exquisite furniture and artefacts - often in very trying circumstances!

This family run business maintains a long standing tradition based on inherited skill and experience stretching back to the early 1800’s when Baron Theodore Otto Alexander Heldreich was employed - as a prisoner captured during the Napoleonic Wars - as a natural varnish maker. Their busines expanded throughout the 19th century to incorporate painting, brass working and clock making. Today, they  are a leading restorer and preserver of period property interiors and antique furniture, giving the project the rich blend of traditional skills required to return each of our 1932-built cars to their former Art Deco glory!

Click on the first image below to see the craftsmanship required to restore the Belle interiors after more than 80 years of exposure to operations and often damp storage. Image 1 shows a panel of Car 91 before restoration. Image 2 shows a craftsman creating new bearers or 'hooks' for the panelling to sit on. Image 3 shows the clamping of newly-spliced timber. And image 4 shows recreated marquetry for the end wall of Car 85. Wheathill's well-honed skills in action elsewhere is shown in Image 5, recreating panelling for a significant Listed Building. (Images by Wheathills)

Keep up to date by subscibing to our Newsletter!
Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:00

A very busy shed at Barrow HillOur regular Brighton Belle Newsletters keep you fully up to date with the latest news on progress with the restoration of this wonderful train and the projected dates for her return to the British mainline!

Click here to read the extensive March 2014 issue. You can also sign up for future editions by entering your email address here.

New History of the Brighton Belle published!!
Monday, 02 September 2013 00:00

A fabulously detailed and illustrated book on the history of the Brighton Belle has been published by our Heritage Advisor, Antony Ford. "Pullman Profile No 4: The Brighton Belle and Southern Electric Pullmans" is the product of absolutely meticulous research from Europe's principal Pullman expert. While Antony's first three volumes were widely acclaimed for their combination of in-depth insight and a plethora of previously unpublished images, this new title sets an even higher standard.

The book has an appeal on a number of levels, but for the Pullman devotee, it is all there. The specifications for the engineering and the interior design and the subsequent changes are described in detail. For the student of design these marvellous icons of 1930s art deco are revealed in many luscious illustrations. For the social historian luxury travel in an earlier age is brought to life in words and pictures. For the railway historian the rise and decline of Pullman travel on the Southern Railway and Region is described objectively and with insight, penetrating the economic problems of operating the Brighton Belle and those Pullman cars within trains of green carriages.

You can buy the book via the Brighton Belle Bookshop here - terrific value and every copy purchased this way raises a small contribution towards the Brighton Belle project.

Walk through "Hazel" on the Belle's 80th anniversary!
Saturday, 29 June 2013 00:00

If you missed the latest BBC feature on the Brighton Belle, here's a chance to walk through First Class Car "Hazel" on the 80th anniversary of the naming of the Brighton Belle.

Having been launched as the Southern Belle on 1 January 1933, Brighton's Lady Mayor, Miss Margaret Hardy, performed the naming service - surrounded by massed well-wishers - at Brighton Station on 29 June 1934. meanwhile, at London's Victoria Station, this momentous event was marked by the erection of a decorative 'Brighton Belle Arch' on Platform 17 - the dedicated Brighton Belle platform.

The walk through is revealing - you can sense the sumptuous Art deco splendour....as well as the challenge! You can help us to speed her restoration by making a secure online donation.

Buy from Amazon and help fund the restoration!
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 11:04

The Brighton Belle Bookshop offers a huge selection of books, CDs and DVDs. Do browse around the store! Each item is sold and dispatched by Amazon UK. Every single item purchased via our links to Amazon - no matter whether this is a book, clothes, a CD or a TV - produces commissions to support the restoration project. At no extra cost to yourself. For non-book items just click on the 'Powered by Amazon' logo to enter Amazon's UK site.

Click here to visit the Brighton Belle Bookshop. And encourage your friends to use this link!

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