The “Devon Belle” Pullman service between London Waterloo and Ilfracombe with a portion to Plymouth did not in reality last for long as named train services go. It was introduced by the Southern Railway on 20th June 1947 and lasted until September 1954. Usually the train was worked from London to Exeter with Merchant Navy class pacifics and was then split with a four coach portion heading to Plymouth and the remaining eight (sometimes up to ten) coaches including the iconic observation car heading to Ilfracombe both portions usually behind Bulleid Light Pacifics.
At the time it was the only service to as advertised run ‘non stop’ from Waterloo to Exeter i.e. not stopping at Salisbury, although in reality an unadvertised stop was made at Wilton (the next station to the west of Salisbury) to change engines. This resulted in light engine movements between Wilton and Salisbury in each direction.
To meet the needs of up and down services two Devon Belle rakes were formed along with two popular observation cars on the Ilfracombe portion. These observation cars, numbered 13 and 14, were converted from other coaches, with the origins of No 14 being an ex LNWR Ambulance car which was converted into a Pullman car in 1921 before being ultimately converted for its role as an observation car. With the decline in passenger numbers first the number of operating days was reduced, then from 1950 the Plymouth section ceased and ultimately the final Ilfracombe Devon Belle service was run in September 1954.
A representation of the Devon Belle has been one of the signature trains on Fisherton Sarum since the layouts first public appearance in November 2006. My rake, albeit not a full 12 /14 coaches for space reasons is formed from Hornby Pullman coaches along with a brass observation car from ‘00’ Works prior to the later introduction of the Hornby model. I have both a light Pacific 34011 ‘Tavistock’ (in early British Railways apple green livery) and a Merchant Navy Pacific 21C14 ‘Nederland Line’ decorated with the iconic Devon Belle head board and smoke deflector wing plates for operating this train. Where possible we also include the light engine movement from the shed to the west towards Wilton and back.