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Remembering the Brighton Belle

The Brighton Belle photographed c1932
Royal Pavilion and Museums: Brighton and Hove

Saving the kippers

The Brighton Belle was an incredible service and there was nothing like it anywhere else; an entire Pullman train with white jacketed waiters. There were one hundred and fifty third class seats and forty first-class. But for this train to be useful, you had to have a leisurely start to your day in London to commute, as the earliest train from Brighton left at 9.40am. Of course this was much too late for anyone travelling to London for business. There were many regular travellers like Lord Olivier who lived in Royal Crescent at the time, for whom the Brighton Belle was ideal. In 1972 he fought a lengthy battle to save kippers on the breakfast run to London. So to everyone’s delight, the kippers remained!

Service ended in 1972

There was a last train from Victoria at 11.00 pm arriving in Brighton at midnight, which was very useful for actors and theatre goers getting home after the curtain fell in the West End. By 1972 the carriages, which were built in the 1930s, were getting very shakey on their wheels and tended to rock and roll along the line. Eventually British Rail ended the service on 30th April – the cost of replacing the rolling stock was too high. Fortunately the rolling stock found retirement homes on preserved lines and two of the Pullman coaches, which had female names, Vera and Audrey, were superbly restored and now form part the Orient Express.

If you want to read more about the Brighton Belle, visit the website here.

Do you remember?

Did you ever travel on the Brighton Belle? Did you see any celebrities on your journey? If you can share your memories with us, please leave a comment below.

Comments about this page

  • I took my wife and two children on the Belle to Victoria and return for a treat, for the wonderful thrill of traveling First Class in those lovely single seats and décor.

    By John (25/11/2013)
  • I travelled quite often to London on the early morning train and enjoyed kippers for breakfast in the first class carriage.  I was fortunate to have traveled on the last run of the Belle. This was an exciting but obviously sad event. There was music, celebrities, drink and talk about the Brighton Belle the entire journey.  I still have two unopened bottles of champagne with the special celebration label that were offered during the journey. I tried to sell one on ebay a few years ago but they took the auction down as they claimed I could not sell alcohol on eBay.  Has anyone else got an unopened bottle still?

    By Chris Kisko (29/11/2013)
  • Yes, I still have one bottle from the last run of the Belle.

    By Mr H.M. South (09/10/2014)
  • My  friend,  Jackie  Wilson,  was  a  waiter  on  the  Brighton  Belle.  I was  working  on  a  block  of  flats  in  Boltro  Road,  Haywards  Heath,  just  behind  the  Station  and  when  the  train  passed  through,  he  would  fly  a  yellow  balloon  and  get  the  driver  to  toot!

    By Harry Atkins (13/10/2014)
  • In the early 1960’s I was introduced to the magnificent Brighton Belle by my lifelong friend Martin Ireson. One late evening we traveled to Haywards Heath and ate the best Welsh Rarebit I have ever eaten which I still attempt to repeat myself to this day.

    By Nigel Sweet (03/04/2020)

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