THE Dartmouth Steam Railway has celebrated the centenary of its Devon Belle observation car.
Built in 1917 as an ambulance vehicle for the LNWR, it was converted in 1921 into a Pullman car with a new body. After the Second World War, it was again rebuilt, this time with an observation end for the Southern Railway’s short-lived ‘Devon Belle’ Pullman train, which ran between Waterloo and Ilfracombe.
After this service was discontinued, the observation car was later transferred to routes on the Scottish Highlands where it was attached to ordinary trains as an observation vehicle to give passengers a superb view of the Highlands.
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The Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company rescued it after its withdrawal from service. Operating on the line since the 1980s, and one of only two surviving examples of the type, it was rebuilt in 2017.
A note was also found chalked under one of the seats during the rebuild. It read: “Banbridge. Carriage and Wagon Shopman. Lancing Carriageworks, June 1947”, and is most likely a memento left by a worker, possibly called Banbridge, who was refurbishing the vehicle.
The 100th birthday was celebrated at a special ceremony on May 25 at Queen’s Park station, Paignton before it was used on a round trip to Dartmouth for guests.
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