Northern Belle

A Northern Belle excursion in 2011 (Wikimedia Commons)

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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,[5] 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[6]. 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.

Rolling stock

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

See also