What’s in the Shops: Hornby ‘Devon Belle’ observation car returns

Modellers have welcomed the return of the ‘Devon Belle’ observation car to the Hornby range after a long absence, writes Nigel Burkin.

The use of the Pullman ‘J’ Type ‘Devon Belle’ observation car in Pullman service was relatively short, being introduced as part of an attempt to return Southern Railway services to relative normality after the war. The ‘Belle’ operated between Waterloo and Ilfracombe, with a portion running through to Plymouth.

Two distinctive observation cars, built from redundant vehicles by Pullman at its Brighton works in 1947, were numbered 13 and 14 respectively. Each car could seat 27 passengers and had a bar counter area as well as brake equipment.

Two Pullman Type ‘J’ observation cars were built for the short-lived ‘Devon Belle’ service, and Hornby’s OO-gauge model captures their appeal and appearance very well indeed.

Following a decline in passenger numbers, the ‘Devon Belle’ Pullman service was steadily reduced in frequency before ceasing in September 1954, when the observation cars spread their wings to the Midland Region of BR for use in charter and ‘land cruise’ trains following renumbering and repainting.

In 1961 they were transferred to the Scottish Region for use as observation cars on Kyle of Lochalsh and West Highland line services until their eventual withdrawal later in the 1960s.

Both cars are now preserved, with No. 13 on the Dartmouth Steam Railway and No. 14 on the Swanage Railway. Each has been fully restored and is in full working condition.

Hornby’s OO-gauge model of the car is most appealing, and will be useful to Scottish Region modellers of the 1960s in addition to those wishing to complete their ‘Devon Belle’ trains. The model was last issued in 2009, when it sold out relatively quickly, and it is good to see Hornby responding to requests for its reinstatement in its catalogue. The latest issue (R4860) is likely to be just as popular as before!

For the full article and to view more images, see the December edition of Modelling – available now!

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