Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Blue Pullman

The Blue Pullman was a luxury class of DMU that was in service on British Rail from 1960 until 1973. The train was so named because of its Nanking Blue livery, as used in Chinese blue and white porcelain, and it was conceived following the 1955 Modernisation Plan in an attempt to try and compete with both the motor car and the emerging domestic air travel market.

Although not completely successful the Blue Pullman did demonstrate the potential for high-speed, fixed-formation, multiple unit, inter city train travel and, as such, were the inspiration behind the development of the Inter-City 125.

There were five complete sets of Pullman trains built by Metro Cammell of Birmingham with all coaches being air-conditioned with automatic humidity control. The coaches had armchair-type, table seating, each with a lamp and steward call-button whilst noise from the track was kept to a minimum by extra insulation in the bodywork and double glazed windows. There were even Venetian blinds contained within the panes of glass!

Initially the trains were operated by the Pullman Car Company (PCC) which had, by then, been acquired by the British Transport Commission. In 1962, however, the PCC was fully nationalized and, so, operation of the Pullmans was incorporated into the BR network. Towards the end of their operational life the trains were given the BR TOPS Classification Number 251, for the motor cars, and 261, for the kitchen and parlour cars. They were, however, never to carry these numbers.

The Pullman services ran from Monday to Fridays only, with weekends being reserved for maintenance and for the occasional special or charter service.

The London Midland Region were allocated two six-car sets and these operated the Midland Pullman between Manchester Central and St Pancras. Meanwhile, the Western Region had three eight-car sets which operated the Bristol Pullman between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington and the Birmingham Pullman between Wolverhampton and Paddington via Birmingham Snow Hill. From 1961 the WR also ran an additional morning train called the South Wales Pullman between Paddington, Cardiff and Swansea.

Following electrification of the West Coast Main Line in 1966 there was introduced a faster, locomotive-hauled Pullman train between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly at which point the LMR ceased its Blue Pullman service and their sets were transferred to the Western Region.

By 1973, through a  combination of the introduction of air-conditioned, second class Mk2 coaching stock, declining reliability, the cost of maintaining such a small fleet of trains and the imminent arrival of the Inter-City 125, the days of the Blue Pullman were numbered and May of that year saw the withdrawal of the last sets. There was a final, commemorative special that ran to and from Paddington via High Wycombe, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Kenilworth, Coventry, Birmingham New St., Cheltenham, Bristol Temple Meads, Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol Parkway, Didcot and Slough.

Sadly all of the Blue Pullman sets were subsequently scrapped with none being preserved for posterity despite ten carriages, reportedly, being saved from the scrapyard in July 1975.

I mentioned earlier the livery of these units was, originally, Nanking Blue. This lasted until 1971 when all the sets were repainted in corporate BR grey and blue livery and this is how they stayed until the end of their days.

The only models that were produced of the Blue Pullman were made by Tri-ang; originally in the Nanking Blue livery between 1963 and 1967 with the extra parlour cars being produced between 1964 and 1974. Then, between 1969 and 1971, Tri-ang produced these models in their 'new' BR livery of grey and blue. 

These models, particularly in their original Nanking Blue livery, are still highly sought after today and an updated model has long been requested by modellers. Finally, it seems, these requests are going to be answered since Olivia's Trains of Sheffield, in conjunction with Danish manufacturer Heljan, are about to produce a ready to run model - hoooray!

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