Typically 12 or 14 cars at height of season in SR days (pre-1948
nationalisation), reduced to 10 and then 8 in British Railways days.
As introduced, it was an all Pullman car train of the 1923 design
known as 'K-type' with wooden bodies and 'Match-Boarding' sides. Although
of a different design, the Observation (& Bar) Cars built in 1947 were
of the similar
construction, but using underframes and running-gear from WW1 ex-LNWR Ambulance vehicles
previously used for 1921-build 'J-type' 3rd Parlour Cars No. 13 & 14. 1st Guard
Parlour Cars Princess
Elizabeth and Minerva were an unusual Pullman car variation,
and unique to the Devon Belle service were the Observation Cars (Nos. 13 & 14).
SR Formation (Plymouth
portion - Ilfracombe portion): 3rd
Brake Parlour, 3rd Kitchen, 1st Kitchen, 3rd Parlour, 1st Guard
Parlour, 1st Kitchen, 1st Kitchen, 3rd Parlour, 3rd Kitchen, 3rd Kitchen,
3rd Brake Parlour, Observation.
BR Formation (Plymouth
portion - Ilfracombe portion):
Brake Parlour, 1st Kitchen, 3rd Parlour, 1st Guard
Parlour, 1st Kitchen, 3rd Parlour, 3rd Kitchen, 3rd Kitchen,
3rd Brake Parlour, Observation.
Waterloo- Clapham Junc - Surbiton - Woking - Andover Junc - Salisbury (see
Service) - Yeovil Junc - Sidmouth Junc - Exeter Central:-
Front Portion of Train: Exeter
Central - Exeter St David's - Okehampton - Tavistock - Devonport -
Plymouth North Road - Plymouth Friary.
Rear Portion of Train: Exeter
Central - Barnstaple Junc - Barnstaple (Town) - Braunton - Mortehoe - Ilfracombe.
The Devon Belle was a seasonal service involving two complete trains. Trains having left
Waterloo and Ilfracombe at midday passed between Yeovil and Sidmouth Junc;
the Plymouth portion departed Plymouth Friary at 11.30 A.M. The Plymouth
service was discontinued from September 1949; the front portion (3 cars)
continued to be detached at Exeter but stored there until the return
journey. Services were reduced even further in 1952 with a typical train
of 7 cars plus Observation car, and the Devon Belle ceased
operation at the end of the Summer season in 1954. In it's heyday, trains
of 14 cars (a load approaching 600 tons fully laden) were hauled by the
Southern Railway (to become British Railways Southern Region) elite
Air-Smoothed Pacific locomotives, designed by OVS Bulleid. The locomotives
were painted in SR Malachite Green with three broad yellow lines
(post-war) prior to nationalisation. Following nationalisation, the
Merchant Navy Class locomotives were repainted in British Railways Express
Passenger (Steam) Blue livery with two sets of white-black-white lining along the sides.
For a few months in 1949 an experimental blue livery with solid red lining
was applied to No.35024 East Asiatic Company; 35024 has the distinction of
being the first to be repainted (again) in the standard Express Blue
livery and, in May 1951, the first to be given the BR standard Passenger Green
livery - see note below on lining. Note locos 35011, 35014 & 35023
went straight from SR Malachite Green to BR Green.
The locomotive headboards were a major departure from railway tradition in
that there were wing-shaped boards for mounting on the smoke deflectors of
the locomotives, in addition to the scalloped headboard.
Locomotives used on the Devon Belle service had a mounting added towards
the top of the smoke deflectors. The front board carried the word 'The' in
addition to 'Devon Belle' and included a hole for the (lower) middle route
indicator lamp. As the headboard covered the (oil) lamp / route indicator disc
bracket, a bracket was provided on the top of the board. These yellow
letters on a red background boards were replaced by a single, smaller,
BR(SR) standard green and white headboard, mounted on the smokebox door,
for the 1953 season. By this time the majority of the Merchant Navy Class
locomotives had been repainted in BR Green livery, although the
lining-out was unique in that the central black was wider and bordered the
outer orange lines.
Schedule - Locomotive Roster
Another unique aspect to the Devon Belle was that as many as four
Merchant Navy Class and four West Country Class locomotives could be
required to operate the service. Merchant Navy Class locomotives were
changed at Wilton, 2 miles west of Salisbury, due to servicing needs. West
Country Class locomotives were used west of Exeter Central (where the train was spilt and
reformed) as road loading restrictions prevented the use of the heavier Merchant Navy
Class locomotives. Note I'm using the generic class of 'West Country'
light pacific locomotives thereby inferring both West Country and Battle
of Britain named locomotives. Note in the following table: MN =
Merchant Navy Class; WC = West Country Class.
||WC-1 departs Plymouth Friary
arrives Exeter Central
arrives Exeter Central
departs Exeter Central for Wilton
arrives Exeter Central
departs Exeter for Plymouth
departs Wilton for Waterloo
||WC-2 (4?) departs Exeter for Ilfracombe
(4?) arrives Waterloo
(3?) arrives Plymouth Friary
Because of the length of time idle
between Devon Belle duties, WC-1 & 2 could have been used for other
duties hence the possibility of two further locomotives being required.
I've assumed the possibility of re-use of MN-1 as schedule allows for
both watering & coaling at Salisbury prior to taking over the "Up" train
for the final leg to Waterloo.
The Devon Belle ran from Thursday to Tuesday with the full service (in
both directions) from Friday to Monday. In order that the trains were in
place for the full service, Thursday was a down service only,
similarly an up only service on Tuesday.
With the stock lying idle
on Wednesday a scheme of 'Special Excursions' was introduced in 1950.
These were run from both Waterloo and Victoria stations. For
example, a special excursion to Dorchester, Dorset took place on
20th August 1952. Once passengers had alighted at Dorchester, the train of
7 cars plus Observation car, hauled by West Country Class No.
34008 Padstow, proceeded to Weymouth. At Weymouth the train was re-configured
for its return journey. This involved both the locomotive and the
Observation car being turned on the Turntable and the Observation car
attached to the opposite end of the train. During this manoeuvre a
woman passer-by commented: 'I suppose it's come here because of the
flooding!' She was referring to the disastrous Lynmouth Flood 5 days
earlier, on the night of 15th August 1952.
My 20th Aug 1952 recreation in miniature (7mm Finescale):
34008 hauling The Devon Belle - 7 cars plus Observation car.
Note: Modeller's license has been applied - 34008 wasn't fitted with the headboards for the actual excursion!
I, now, consider myself very fortunate indeed to have lived until the age of
three and a half at Raynes Park within sight and sound of the former LSWR
main-lines out of Waterloo. Further, fairly frequent visits were made to
Waterloo and Victoria stations over many years. Time permitting (in our
rail journey), I was taken by my parents onto the platforms for a closer
look at the Pullman Trains: Devon Belle, Bournemouth Belle and Golden
Arrow. This was the only chance to see them properly, as by Raynes Park
the Belles were travelling pretty fast; with a clear road out of Waterloo,
the expresses would scream through Raynes Park at speeds well in excess of
60mph. As a toddler, I was very wary of the locomotives and my father did
his best to get me over my uneasiness (circa July/August 1950):- we'd walk
the length of the Devon Belle and arrived alongside the blue and shiny
35003 Royal Mail just as the safety valves lifted. My father later
insisted that he didn't hear the locomotive over the sound of my
crying!!!!! He also asserted that the wailing I made as I dragged him back
to the relative safety of the Ticket Barrier was mistaken by many
passengers as the starting whistle and caused them to hurry aboard the
FOOTNOTE: The above information has been obtained and
verified where possible by sources too numerous to relate, over several years.
Kindly note that the above locomotive rostering for the service is my personal
interpretation and currently is unsubstantiated. Hopefully I've included
something on all of the (many) unique and unusual aspects of the SR/BR Devon
Belle service. Save to note, I read somewhere that Ilfracombe
station was a pretty windy place that gave rise to concerns when turning the
Observation car on the Turntable. Further, yet to be resolved is the
implication that the Plymouth portion travelled by itself from Exeter.