British Rail Class 403

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Southern Railway 5-BEL
British Rail Class 403
BB at Purley Oaks (1964).jpg
3052 passing through Purley Oaks in 1964
In service1932–1972
ManufacturerMetropolitan Cammell Carriage, Wagon and Finance Company
Number builtThree sets (15 cars)
Number preserved14 cars
Number scrapped1 car
Formation5-car set: DMBPT-TPFK-TPFK-TPT-DMBPT
Fleet numbersSets: 2051–2053 (later 3051–3053);
Cars: 279–293
Capacity40 First, 132 Third
(DMBPT: 48, TPT: 56, TPFK: 20)
Operator(s)Southern Railway (1933–1941, 1946–1947);
British Railways (1948–1972)
Line(s) servedBrighton Main Line
Car body constructionAll steel
Maximum speed75 mph (121 km/h)
WeightSet: 249 long tons (253 t; 279 short tons)
Traction motorsEight EE163[1] traction motors
Power output8 x 225 hp (168 kW)
1,800 hp (1,342 kW) (total)
Electric system(s)660–750 V DC third rail
Current collection methodcontact shoe
Braking system(s)Automatic Air
Coupling systemScrew-link
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Southern Railway (SR) gave the designation 5-BEL to the five-car all-Pullman electric multiple units which worked the prestigious Brighton Belle trains between London Victoria and Brighton. These units survived long enough in British Rail ownership to be allocated TOPS Class 403. Between 1933 and 1935 the units were designated 5-PUL (the 'PUL' code was then used for the 6-PUL units).


The SR electrified the London Victoria to Brighton line in the early 1930s, and full electric services commenced over the route from 1 January 1933. For the high-profile Southern Belle Pullman train three five-car units, consisting entirely of Pullman cars, were built. All 15 cars were built by Metropolitan Cammell. In June 1934 the Southern Railway renamed the Southern Belle as the Brighton Belle.[2]

As they were Pullman cars, owned by the independent Pullman Car Company, the individual carriages were numbered in its series, taking numbers 279 to 293, and the first class cars were given women's names while the third (from June 1956, second) class cars carried less-inspiring Car No xx designations, derived from the second and third digits of the Pullman Car Company's number. However, the units together were allocated numbers in the SR series, originally taking 2051-2053, which was revised in January 1937 to 3051-3053.


Three different car types were built - Driving Motor Brake Parlour Third (DMBPT), Trailer Parlour First with Kitchen (TPFK), and Trailer Parlour Third (TPT). Initial formations of these units were as follows:

2051 / 3051 288 Car No 88 279 Hazel 282 Doris 286 Car No 86 289 Car No 89
2052 / 3052 290 Car No 90 280 Audrey 284 Vera 287 Car No 87 291 Car No 91
2053 / 3053 292 Car No 92 281 Gwen 283 Mona 285 Car No 85 293 Car No 93

Withdrawal and preservation[edit]

The last Brighton Belle train ran on 30 April 1972, and the three 5BEL units were withdrawn. However all 15 cars were sold into private ownership, though no unit was kept together as a single entity. Instead they were split up and each vehicle was initially used as an individual Pullman car, the majority not in railway use. A number have been returned to service on the main line with the Belmond British Pullman (previously the Venice Simplon Orient Express or VSOE), as hauled cars forming part of the British Pullman charter train. A campaign[3] to return the Brighton Belle to mainline service was launched by the 5BEL Trust [1] in 2008. By 2009, the trust had assembled a four-car set,[4] having acquired cars from the North Norfolk Railway and VSOE. A fifth car, No.282 'Doris', was acquired from the Bluebell Railway in 2011 and a sixth, No.279 'Hazel' in 2012. After restoration, the Brighton Belle is expected to enter testing in Autumn/Winter 2018.

The table below sets out the current position:

Key: Stored In service Scrapped Preserved
Number Name Location Note Image
279 Hazel Ramparts, Barrow Hill 5-BEL Trust, under restoration
280 Audrey VSOE, in service
281 Gwen VSOE, in service
282 Doris Bluebell Railway[5] 5-BEL Trust, to be restored
283 Mona VSOE, stored
284 Vera VSOE, in service
285 Car No 85 5BEL Trust, under restoration
286 Car No 86 VSOE, stored
287 Car No 87 Southall 5-BEL Trust, under restoration
288 Car No 88 Ramparts, Barrow Hill 5-BEL Trust, under restoration
289 Car No 89 Little Mill Inn, Rowarth, Derbyshire Privately owned,
290 Car No 90 Destroyed by fire in 1991
291 Car No 91 Ramparts, Barrow Hill 5-BEL Trust, under restoration
292 Car No 92 VSOE, stored
293 Car No 93 Ramparts, Barrow Hill VSOE, stored


  1. ^
  2. ^ By Pullman To Brighton By H. C. P. Smail
  3. ^ Coupe News (Journal of Pullman Car Services) No. 66, pp 24-25
  4. ^ "Southern Electric Group: Preserved Pullmans". Archived from the original on 5 September 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  5. ^
  • Marsden, Colin J. (1983). Southern Electric Multiple-Units 1898–1948. Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Limited. pp. 33–37. ISBN 0-7110-1253-9.