The Northern Belle is a private luxury train launched in 2000 which operates mainly in northern Britain with departures from Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. It reflects the style of 1930s rail travel on England's 'Belle' trains and Pullman carriages.
Northern Belle Limited was owned by Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and operated the train under under the title 'Belmond Northern Belle' as a sister to the 'Belmond British Pullman', which operates mainly around London.
Contract with the SVR
In February 2017, the SVR announced that they had entered into a 10-year contract to stable the Northern Belle set at Kidderminster using Carriage Siding 1, located between the Carriage Shed and the running line. Following its mainline trip and return to the SVR, the train usually entered the SVR mainly late at night and stabled back on Carriage Siding 1 before SVR services began in the morning. An hour before its mainline departure time the set would have Direct Rail Services (DRS) locomotives (often Class 57 locomotives in top and tail mode) attached and move to the exchange road ready for departure. This mainly occurred before SVR services started. The operation required the SVR to provide signalmen and shunters available for working anti-social hours, which was covered by paid staff. Some maintenance work took place and, on occasion, locomotives underwent an exam in the Diesel Depot.
A small compound at the North end of the Kidderminster car park provided space for Belmond Northern Belle containers and office accommodation for their staff. Some on-train staff were recruited locally.
2017 special train
To mark the tenth anniversary of the 2007 Storm Damage the SVR organised on 19 June 2017 a special service on the line for its members and supporters. This utilised the Belle, hauled by SR 34027 Taw Valley and a Class 57 diesel locomotive.
2017 sale and 2018 contract termination
On 2 November 2017 the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express sold The Northern Belle Limited for an undisclosed sum to Northern Belle (Holdings) Limited, a new company being a 50-50 joint venture between tour promotor David Pitts, owner of Wakefield-based marketing agency D P Publicity, and David Smith, owner of West Coast Railways. The new owners invoked the early termination clause in the contract from June 2018. The stock was rebased at Carnforth by 9 March 2018, by which time the compound was cleared and only two spare vehicles remained on the SVR, although occasional stabling continued after that date. The spare vehicles were collected by two West Coast Railways locomotives and moved to Carnforth in May 2018. The 2018 Report and Accounts recorded £57,000 of stabling cost revenue to the SVR in addition to the budgeted annual amount, by virtue of the termination.
The Belmond rolling stock comprises 11 operational carriages and two spare vehicles. The carriages are painted in ‘Northern Belle’ livery and have been re-engineered in the style of 'Pullman' coaches. The interiors feature artwork, mosaics and wooden marquetry panels. They comprise:
|Number||Name||Type||Built||Build location||Notes||RHR Carriage Survey|
|3273||Alnwick||BR Mk 2e First Open||1974||Derby||Dining Carriage||3273|
|3267||Belvoir||BR Mk 2e First Open||1974||Derby||Dining Carriage||3267|
|3247||Chatsworth||BR Mk 2e First Open||1972||Derby||Dining Carriage||3247|
|3174||Glamis||BR Mk 2d First Open||1971||Derby||Dining Carriage||3174|
|3275||Harlech||BR Mk 2e First Open||1974||Derby||Dining Carriage||3275|
|3182||Warwick||BR Mk 2d First Open||1971||Derby||Dining Carriage||3182|
|325||Duart||BR Mk 1 Restaurant First||1961||Swindon||spare Kitchen diner||325|
|10729||Crewe||BR Mk 3a Convertible Sleeper||1980||Derby||Staff sleeper||10729|
|10734||Balmoral||BR Mk 3a Royal Train Staff Sleeper||1984||Staff sleeper (formerly No 2914)||10734|
|17167||Mow Cop||BR Mk 2d Brake Corridor First||1972||Derby||Brake staff service car (formerly No 14167)||17167|
|1566||Caerdydd||BR Mk 1 Buffet Kitchen (RKB)||1961||Cravens||Kitchen car||1566|
|1953||BR BR Mk 1 Unclassed Restaurant Car (RU)||1960||Swindon||Kitchen car||1953|
|92904||BR Mk 1 Gangwayed Full Brake (BG)||1956||Pressed Steel||Baggage car (formerly No 80867)||92904|