Belmond British Pullman

Travel by rail on the Belmond British Pullman to experience the bygone era of the 1920s, the golden age of travel. Being the sister train to the world renowned Venice Simplon Orient Express, a trip on the Belmond British Pullman is an experience of a lifetime! Epitomizing the finest in luxurious travel, all the exquisite carriages have been painstakingly restored and refurbished to their former glory.

 

Belmond British Pullman journeys all start from London Victoria station with a choice of day, overnight and round trip excursions around England with lunch, afternoon tea or dinner served on board. Visit the historic cities of York and Bath or escape for a weekend to the west coast of Devon and Cornwall. Each trip is as exciting as the next as every journey will showcase the glamourous era of elegance and decadence.

 

The Belmond British Pullman is a private luxury train and is part of the Belmond group which operates forty five luxury hotels, restaurants, tourist trains and river cruises in twenty four countries.

 

THE HISTORY

Belmond British Pullman consists of Pullman coaches dating from the 1920s to 1950s. Until the 1960s the Pullman carriages were used as part of Britain’s famous luxury train services the Bournemouth Belle, The Brighton Belle, the Queen of Scots and The Golden Arrow.

 

In 1977, it was American entrepreneur, James Sherwood, who had a dream of reviving the Orient Express, which would otherwise have been lost, bought some of the carriages at a Sotheby’s auction held in Monte Carlo and overtime managed to acquire thirty five carriages. For the English sector of the route only eleven carriages were used.  Whilst trying to maintain the authentic vintage look of each carriage, regulations required electric heating and safety glass which had to be fulfilled. The marquetry used in all the carriages had to be either restored or made new, by highly skilled craftsmen. This task was undertaken by A Dunn and Son, a family business that dates from 1895 which created the originals panels in the carriages Minerva, Ibis and Audrey. Their other prestigious commissions include the Titanic and Buckingham Palace. These carriages were finally launched in November 1981. 

 

The original Orient Express was the brainchild of a Belgian businessman Georges Nagelmackers, and in 1883 it ran its first service from Paris to Istanbul. Sleeping and restaurant cars on a train was a novelty in Europe at this time. The sleeper Pullman carriages were designed and manufactured by the American, George Mortimer Pullman, who literally created ‘’Palaces on Wheels.”

 

The Orient Express soon became known as the King of Trains and Train of Kings and it operated until 2009. The last service to Istanbul was 1977 and Paris 2007. It’s most famous carriage is linked with Hitler, when Germany signed the armistice with the Allies in November 1918 and in June 1940 Hitler forced the French to sign their own surrender in the same carriage.

 

The most famous train in the world has given authors and movie producers ample romantic and mysterious story lines both true and fictional. The world renowned ficitonal author, Agatha Christie, wrote her infamous novel Murder on the Orient Express in 1934, which featured Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and adapated for the movie screen aired in 1974.

 

THE EXPERIENCE

Anomalous London was invited to experience the classic Golden Age of Travel by steam-haul, which was a round trip journey departing from Victoria station heading towards Redhill, passing the North Downs and Guildford along the way. The total distance is 84 miles, however, the train can only travel at a maximum speed of 75 mph and several stops need to be made along the way to refill water, so the round trip duration is approximately four hours.

 

On arriving at platform 2 the brown and cream carriages of the Belmond British Pullman are very distinct from adjacent trains and little red carpets are placed at the entrance for each carriage with immaculately dressed stewards waiting to receive and escort the guests to their preassigned seats. A brass band plays on the platform to add to the spirit of the era. Please note that the toilets on board can only be used once the train is in motion and has left the station.

 

Travelling by steam power gives the authentic experience of how vintage travel was. Wintessing the smoke from the stream engine is also very unique and to enjoy this experience ensure you are seated on the left hand side of the carriage. Being able to relax on this round trip without having to disembark, is the perfect opportunity to indulge in the fine food on offer and admire the British countryside in all its glory.

The journey included a five course lunch menu with half a bottle of wine and coffee.

THE CARRIAGES

The British Pullman can carry up to 252 passengers and consists of 11 carriages which can seat between 20 and 26 passengers depending upon the layout. Tables are for two or four in the open carriage, with some offering a coupe compartment which provides a more intimate setting for up-to four. Each carriage is a unique masterpiece from the 1920s with its own name, character and history behind it. 

 

All the carriage interiors are lined with veneered panels decorated with exquisite art deco marquetry (the art of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative pictures). Polished brass luggage racks, art nouveau lamps on perfectly displayed tables set with the finest silver, bespoke crystal and crockery. 

 

It is only natural to settle back in the large comfortable velvet armchairs with ease and be transported to an era where comfort, class and refinement were of the utmost importance. Admiring the beautiful British countryside is an added bonus.

 

To appreciate Belmond British Pullman in its entirety, a stroll through the whole train is encouraged. The train may be a bit bumpy at times so walk with care and take the time to admire the uniqueness of each carriage, especially the fine marquetry.

 

Some of the carriages  worth mentioning for their historic connections are:

  • Audrey - Has 12 unique marquetry panels of landscape scenes and was a favourite of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1953.
  • Vera- Always paired with Audrey as a two-car unit. It was directly hit in an air raid at Victoria Station in 1940 and hence the roof was extensively repaired. Used by the Royal family and in 1954 was the first electric train ride for Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Marquetry of graceful gazelles leaping between two palm trees is very unique. This is the carriage Anomalous London sat in.
  • Cygnus - Was used by Heads of State on official visits and it together with Perseus was used to join Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral train. In 1976 it starred in the film Agatha about Agatha Christie together with Zena.
  • Perseus- In 1956 Russian leader Khrushchev used it in his 10 day state visit to Britain and in 1965 it was used in Winston Churchill's funeral train.
  • Phoenix -The preferred carriage for the Queen Mother and used frequently to carry foreign dignitaries including General de Gaulle in 1960. Stunning unique oval frames of marquetry flowers.

 

THE DINING

Fine dining is offered on all Belmond British Pullman journeys and is the highlight of each trip together with the impeccable silver service. Bespoke crystal glasses with the Pullman logo and the fine bone china with the Pullman crest are used for the dining and can also be bought as unique mementos of your journey.

 

Taking into consideration the limitations in size of the kitchen galley on a train, the five course menu has been devised meticulously and written expressively in the menu card. The freshest ingredients are used which are all sourced from the British Isles.

To accompany the meal, the Sommelier had selected four house wines, from Italy, South Africa, France and Chile which complement the fine food. There is a further extensive list of over 30 wines which guests can select from if they so desire, but this will be an additional cost.

 

Cold Canapes

Bespoke crystal glasses & White wine

Potted Cornish Crab and marinated Loch Duart Salmon on saffron potato salad, mixed leaves and beetroot dressing.

Seasonal vegetable broth with basil pesto and garlic croutons, served from a huge silver pot.

Roast rump of new season lamb on minted pea and woodland mushroom ragu, jersey potatoes and salsa verde

Roast plum and almond tart with vanilla sauce and mixed berries.

Tea and Petit Fours 

Fine champagne 

 

A trip on the Belmond British Pullman is an extravagant expense. It is the perfect setting for a celebration or even a proposal! Relish the pleasure of the 1920s era by adorning period dress for the journey.

 

To make a booking or an enquiry please click here .

 

View the album of pictures taken by Anomalous London