A new Pullman Car to join the Wealden Pullman dining train.
In 1952, ARIES became the last Pullman Car to be built at the Pullman Car Company’s own works at Preston Park, Brighton. The Cars were noticeably different from earlier Pullman Cars, having less marquetry, plainer veneers and a greater use of mirrored panels. Lighting was somewhat different too, with wall, ceiling & luggage fittings being of a more stylish design. Externally, flush panelling & rectangular toilet windows gave the Cars a cleaner appearance. This series of ten Cars were amongst the first railway vehicles to have double glazing and it was no coincidence that a Director of Pilkington Glass was also a Director of The Pullman Car Co! The Cars were also amongst the first to use bottled Calor gas for cooking, which was not only was more convenient than the previous coal, but safer and cheaper. Cost was always an important factor to the Pullman Car Company.
ARIES soon settled down to regular use, initially in the famous Golden Arrow service with the other 1951/2 Festival of Britain Cars. This prestige train, which became famous world-wide, was the way to travel from London to Paris. The British section of the train went only to Folkestone or Dover, passengers transferring to the ferry & thence the French equivalent ‘La Flèche d’Or’ at Calais for onward transit to Paris.
The Pullman Car Company were frequently called upon to operate special trains for Royalty, visiting Heads of State and for the Derby and Ascot races each year. With these Cars being the newest in the fleet, ARIES and her sisters were the usual choice for Royal Trains from 1951 onwards. The most popular for Royal use was PHOENIX, but normally there would be at least two or three Pullman Cars and more often than not ARIES would be in the formation. Perhaps her most unusual use was on 15th July 1953 when a Royal Train was formed of just one Pullman Car, ARIES. The train took the Queen and some of the Royal Family from Waterloo to Winchfield in connection with the Farnborough Air Show. A photograph of the Royal party alighting from ARIES at Winchfield was used in the official Pullman Christmas card that year and clearly shows ARIES as a backdrop.
Following the acquisition of The Pullman Car Company by British Transport Hotels in 1963, the slow run down of prestige services took place. The coming of cheap fast air travel took its toll and the ever increasing cost of maintaining the non-standard Pullmans resulted in the Golden Arrow being withdrawn in 1972.
ARIES had been withdrawn in 1968, fortunately not scrapped but purchased for the sum of £880 to use as a static restaurant at a pub near Rochdale. Some internal alterations took place to provide more seating, but otherwise she stayed substantially intact. There she remained for thirty years until offered for preservation, initially at the East Lancs Railway. Sadly the proposed restoration never actually commenced and in 2006 she was sold and moved to Devon & made weatherproof.
Due to a change in circumstances however, further restoration could not proceed and she was offered for sale to the Kent & East Sussex Railway. The purchase was completed thanks to the generosity of our Wealden Pullman customers, whose donations are collected into a restricted fund to make improvements specific to Wealden Pullman services.
Removal from Devon had to await a dry period as the site was in close proximity to a river and the area had also been popular with moles! Restricted access dictated that before ARIES could be removed by road, it would be necessary to jack the vehicle up & then slew her sideways. Despite this work being undertaken after a dry period, soft ground conditions remained such that the jacks were in danger of sinking down rather than the carriage rising up!
ARIES was finally hauled aboard a lowloader for onward transportion in August 2012.
Due to the existing workload of our Carriage & Wagon workshops at Tenterden, ARIES travelled north to restoration workshops near Chesterfield for restoration of underframe and running gear by external contractors. On completion, she travelled to Tenterden for her bodywork and interior restoration, which will take many man-hours and cost several thousands of pounds.
When restoration is completed and 'ARIES' joins the Wealden Pullman, she will enable every customer to experience dining in a Pullman Car, so realising a long held ambition of the K&ESR.
For news on the restoration of ARIES click here.