British Rail Classes 251 and 261
|British Rail Class 251 and 261
Blue Pullman at Swansea in 1967
|Number built||5 sets|
|Number scrapped||5 sets|
|Formation||6 or 8 cars per set|
|Capacity||6-car sets: 132
8-car sets: 228
|Operator(s)||6-car sets: London Midland Region and Western Region
8-car sets: Western Region
|Maximum speed||90 mph (145 km/h)|
|Weight||6-car sets: 299 long tons (335 short tons; 304 t)
8-car sets: 364 long tons (408 short tons; 370 t)
|Prime mover(s)||NBL/MAN V12 Supercharged (×2)|
|Power output||1,000 hp (750 kW) (×2)|
|Transmission||traction motors: 199 hp (148 kW) (×8)|
|UIC classification||6-car sets: 2'Bo'+Bo'2'+2'2'+2'2'+2'Bo'+Bo'2'
8-car sets: 2'Bo'+Bo'2'+2'2'+2'2'+2'2'+2'2'+2'Bo'+Bo'2'
Named after their Nanking blue livery, the trains were conceived under the 1955 Modernisation Plan to create luxury diesel express trains aimed at competing with the motor car and the emerging domestic air travel market. Although not entirely successful – they were seen as underpowered, unreliable, and ultimately not economically viable – they demonstrated the possibility of fixed-formation multiple-unit inter-city train services, and inspired the development of the Inter City 125, which resembles them in having an integral power car at each end of the train.
There were two versions, built by Metro Cammell in Birmingham: two first-class six-car sets for the London Midland Region (LMR), and three two-class eight-car sets for the Western Region (WR). They were initially operated by the luxury train operator the Pullman Car Company, which the British Transport Commission (BTC) had recently acquired. Shortly after their introduction, in 1962, Pullman was nationalised, and operation was incorporated into the British Railways network. Originally given the last Pullman vehicle numbers, towards the end of their operational life the trains gained the British Rail TOPS classification of Class 251 (motor cars) and Class 261 (kitchen and parlour cars), although they never carried these numbers.
The WR sets operated from London Paddington to Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and to Bristol, Cardiff, and Swansea. The LMR sets operated the Midland Pullman between London St Pancras and Manchester Central, a journey it accomplished in a record 3 hours 15 minutes with a maximum speed of 90 mph. The Midland Pullman was withdrawn in 1966 following electrification of the Euston-Manchester line, which brought greatly reduced journey times with which the Midland route could not compete. The LMR sets were then transferred to the WR, where some of the first-class seating was downgraded to form two-class sets.
The sets were an advanced and luxurious design, befitting a Pullman train, although they did suffer some criticism particularly over a persistent ride quality problem. Over time it became costly to maintain such a small fleet of trains. By 1972, with the development of first-class accommodation in Mark II coaching stock, the surcharge for Blue Pullmans seemed uneconomical to passengers and BR managers, and in 1973 the trains were withdrawn. None of them was preserved.
The sets featured in three films, one of the same name as a documentary of the design and development, and an observation of the first service. From 2006, the Blue Pullman name was revived as a charter railtour, operated by various companies.
In June 1954, the BTC, which operated the railways through its British Railways subsidiary, purchased the full equity of the Pullman Car Company, a private operator of luxury carriages on the otherwise nationalised passenger network.
Under the 1955 Modernisation Plan there was a push toward diesel power to replace steam locomotives, and Pullman coaching stock was ageing. The BTC and PCC formed a committee to examine the possibility of running diesel express passenger trains using new trains. Initially proposed as the Midland Pullman, it was timed to compete on the London to Manchester route against car and air travel. After being initially rejected for operational reasons, the BTC decided to make use of the reputation of the recently acquired Pullman company to operate the new service. Two six-car units – all first class – were to be ordered for the LMR, and three 8-car units for the WR.
The selection of Pullman caused some initial delays due to trade union staffing problems, variances in pay and conditions of the Pullman staff compared to BR train staff. After some production delays, the first set appeared for trials in October 1959. These trials revealed that rough ride quality was a problem, and modifications were made. These mitigated the problem, but it was never entirely removed.
After a demonstration run on 24 June 1960, Midland Pullman started in July 1960,[note 1] and the WR trains on 12 September. They operated Monday to Friday only. Weekends were reserved for maintenance, and also allowed their occasional use on special or charter services to events such as the Grand National.
The "Midland Pullman" ran from 1960 to 1966 in the morning from Manchester Central to St Pancras calling at Cheadle Heath railway station near Stockport, a fill-in journey from St Pancras to Leicester and back, and an evening return to Manchester. With completion in 1966 of the electrification of the West Coast Main Line from London Euston to Manchester London Road (now Piccadilly), there was the opportunity for a faster electric-locomotive-hauled Pullman service than the diesel sets, and the Midland Pullman sets were transferred to the WR in March 1967. The introduction of new Mk1 (non-air conditioned) Pullman cars on the East Coast Main Line in 1961 had been questioned as it was believed the ER had not waited for the completion of evaluation of the Blue Pullmans. The later introduction of 2nd-class air-conditioned Mk2 coaches on these services hastened the perception that the Pullman supplement was not value for money.
The WR "Birmingham Pullman" ran in the morning Wolverhampton Low Level to London Paddington, via Birmingham Snow Hill, a fill-in journey from Paddington to Birmingham Snow Hill and back, and an evening return to Wolverhampton, and the "Bristol Pullman" from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington and back, twice in a day. The two morning services were booked to arrive at the same time at Paddington, giving the possibility of a side-by-side arrival.
From 1961, an additional morning train, the "South Wales Pullman", operated from Paddington to Cardiff and Swansea.
The withdrawal of the Midland Pullman allowed its sets to be used on a new non-stop service for Oxford, and on additional out-and-back services on the Bristol and Swansea routes. The Birmingham services were eventually withdrawn, with the last services being to South Wales. At least one South Wales Pullman set was running from Wales to Paddington in April 1974.
Towards the end of their operational life, the sets operated as three makeshift sets formed from various original cars to maintain a working service. With the imminent introduction of the InterCity 125 sets and declining reliability, the last sets were withdrawn en masse in May 1973. A farewell commemorative special journey out and back from Paddington was run by the Western Region, travelling for 12 hours via High Wycombe, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Kenilworth, Coventry, Birmingham New St, Cheltenham, Bristol Temple Meads, the Severn Tunnel, Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol Parkway, Didcot and Slough.
Ten cars (6 Midland and 4 Western) had been reportedly saved from the scrapyard in July 1975 for preservation, however, none have been preserved.
Some of the motor cars were retained at Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Road until mid-1974 as standby electricity generators during industrial action in the electricity and coal-mining industries.
The sets had a maximum speed of 90 mph (140 km/h). The fixed couplings reduced much of the jerky movement experienced by conventionally buffered carriages and allowed smooth acceleration and stable running. The bogies had hydraulically damped helical springs, and the axles were pneumatically braked in a two-stage system, allowing highly controlled stopping.
They were air-conditioned with automatic humidity control. Motor cars had a large primary diesel engine and generator for motive power, and a secondary diesel engine and auxiliary generator provided power for the air-conditioning, fridges and ancillary equipment. A single auxiliary per set was normally sufficient. An onboard technician monitored the supply of services.
Seating was 2+1 armchair-type round tables with a table lamp and with steward call button. The saloons were protected from track noise by extra insulation in the bodywork and double-glazed windows with Venetian blinds between the panes.
To emphasise the new type of service, a Nanking blue livery and associated brand image replaced the traditional Pullman livery of brown and cream, and cars bore the word "PULLMAN" rather than individual names. Seating was also different from traditional first-class Pullman cars, increasing from 1+1 to 1+2.
The original livery was Nanking blue with white window surrounds and the Pullman crest on the front and sides. From mid-1966 full wrap-around yellow ends were applied to the driving cars. From October 1967 the sets were repainted in a reverse corporate blue and grey livery, similar to other Pullman coaches and the prototype Class 252, though some retained the Nanking blue livery into 1969.
Power car (one at each end of set):
- Introduced: 1960
- Weight: 67 tons 10 cwt
- Engine: NBL/MAN 1,000 bhp (750 kW)
- Motors: two 199 hp (148 kW) GEC traction motors (plus two on the adjoining car)
- Maximum tractive effort: Not known
- Driving wheel diameter: Not known
- Coupling code: Not known
- Train heating: Electric, powered by 190 bhp (140 kW) Rolls-Royce underfloor engine on adjoining vehicle
The sets were formed from three basic types of car: motor car, kitchen car and parlour car. The cars were permanently coupled and hermetically sealed for maintenance of the air-conditioning settings. The sets were symmetrical with a motor car at each end, and two kitchen cars serving their respective halves of the train. In an emergency, the buffers on the front of the sets were used in conjunction with a normally concealed coupling hook.
The LMR operated two sets of six first-class cars, the WR three sets of eight cars with first- and second-class seating. Withdrawal of the Midland Pullman allowed operation of 12-car formations. The seating in the full length of the parlour cars was augmented by seated sections in the motor and kitchen cars, and motor cars also had a passenger compartment. Kitchen cars and Midland Pullman power cars had had one toilet, parlour cars two.
Formations were made up as follows:
|London Midland Region|
|This section does not cite any sources. (April 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
The units starred in the 1960 British Transport Film Blue Pullman directed by James Ritchie, which followed their development, preparation and a journey on the train. As with earlier British Transport films, many of the personnel, scientists, engineers, crew and passengers were featured. It won several awards, including the Technical & Industrial Information section of the Festival for Films for Television in 1961. It is particularly notable for its score, by Clifton Parker.
The units were the subject of the British Transport Film Let's Go To Birmingham in 1962. This was of a run from London Paddington to Birmingham Snow Hill via Leamington Spa and was largely a speeded-up "cab view" film in the style of London to Brighton in Four Minutes. Sadly, the driver in the film, Ernest Morris, was killed on 15 August 1963 in the Knowle and Dorridge rail crash when his express train collided with a freight train at 20 mph (32 km/h). His train was a Birmingham Pullman hauled by a Class 52 "Western" diesel-hydraulic locomotive, a stand-in for the regular Blue Pullman set.
A WR set appears twice in the 1963 British Transport Film Snow in both a panoramic view and a passing view from an adjacent track at slow speed, and a few very short snips of close side on views of the train passing the camera.
There have been several commercial models, of varying dimensional accuracy.
Kitmaster produced an unpowered polystyrene injection-moulded model kit at 00 scale. In late 1962, the Kitmaster brand was sold by Rosebud Dolls to Airfix and it is thought the tools were destroyed in a fire, so no further kits were produced. Triang produced ready-to-run models of the power cars and one type of parlour car, all of which had dimensional compromises. In May 2010, Olivia trains of Sheffield announced its intention to produce a ready-to-run model in association with Heljan models of Denmark. On Bachmann's announcement that it would be producing a model, the project was cancelled.
In July 2010 Bachmann announced two Nanking blue versions of the Midland Pullman, with and without full yellow wrap-around ends. The models were released in late 2012. In June 2016, Bachmann released a collectors' edition of the Midland Pullman, which included a book about the Midland Pullman, written especially for the product by Kevin Robertson, a reproduction menu card, a print of the artwork featured on the box, as well as a set of stewards and train crew figures.
References and Notes
- Sources differ on the date of the first service: Heaps says 23 July, whereas Tufnell says 4 July.
- Allen, G. Freeman (December 1959). "Talking of trains: The 'Midland Pullman'". Trains Illustrated. Hampton Court: Ian Allan. p. 574 ff.
- Tufnell 1984, p. 58.
- Tufnell 1984, p. 61.
- Tufnell 1984, p. 64.
- Heaps 1988, pp. 66–67.
- Fox, Peter (1980). Multiple Unit Pocket Book: 1980 Edition. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publication. ISBN 0-906579-02-3. p. 65.
- "Córas Iompair Éireann: Not On" (PDF). Irish Railfans' News. 19 (4). November 1973. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Knight, Stephen (1999). Let's Stick Together: An Appreciation of Kitmaster and Airfix Railway Kits. Clopthill: Irwell Press. ISBN 1-871608-90-2.
- Heaps, Chris (1988). "End of the Blue Pullmans". BR Diary: 1968–1977. Ian Allan. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0-7110-1611-9.
- Tufnell, R.M. (1984). The British Railcar: AEC to HST. David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-8529-1.
- Kevin Robertson (2005). Blue Pullman. Kestrel Railway Books.
- Ian Allan ABC of British Railways Locomotives. Summer 1966.
- Allen, Geoffrey Freeman (June 1982). "'Blue Pullman'". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. pp. 6–11. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
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