Pullman Balmoral of 1882
BY STEPHEN MIDDLETON
Detroit built Pullman Balmoral of 1882 arrived on its’ own wheels August 2009. This is an immensely important coach and may be the oldest running Pullman when restored. Restoration is expected to take two years. Special thanks to the Highland Railway Society for sponsoring its’ move out of the old Preston Park (Brighton) Pullman works and Andrew Goodman of Moveright International who truly accomplished what many said could not be done – moving the old stock via Brighton Station to road transport and safety before the buildings were demolished.
Another miracle was the discovery of the correct bogies. Although Balmoral was on its’ original underframe it was missing all metal components except drawgear. The Foxfield Railway has some Midland Railway scenery vans. One was in very poor condition but the bogies, remaining brake gear and buffers were an exact fit on to the remaining bolt stubs on Balmoral. Indeed it is possible that Balmoral and her three sister cars yielded bogies etc. for re-use, maybe on the scenery vans. Photos confirm the buffers and bogies are correct. Again thanks to Andrew Goodman, whose team fitted the ‘hardware’ on to Balmoral in his Sutton Coldfield yard prior to its’ move north. This allowed easy transport in to the restoration shed. Missing end and side components are present and Stephen Middleton has most of the interior safely stored, being given it by the original owing family ten years ago. New headstocks have been bought and a specialist Pullman joiner is doing the frame and roof frame repairs to allow swift restoration. The biggest challenge is going to be doing the wonderful lettering and stenciling, but that is one of the last jobs. Much of the original paintwork is present to give a pattern.
Balmoral was on of four short Pullman bodies built experimentally by the Pullman Car Company in Detroit around 1880. It was built to American standards using many standard components but no balcony ends, just one centre door each side. A buyer was found – Chemin de fer de l’Ouest but this French railway company cancelled the order. The Midland Railway company purchased them and in January 1882 built six wheel underframes for them. It is said that 18 months later bogies were fitted due to the poor ride. However initial examination suggests that new bogie underframes were made. Used as long distance day saloons/night sleepers on major routes they cannot have been that popular as they passed from the Midland to the Great Northern and then on to the Highland Railway who withdrew Balmoral from general service 100 years ago (1909).
The superintendant of the Pullman car company in Britain, Mr Marks (son of the first Pullman attendant) bought Balmoral and sister coach Dunrobin to make his home in Seaford. Some years ago this home was demolished and no takes could be found for the two bodies. The family removed much of the interior and fitted it in their new home. Dunrobin was a goner but scrapping of Balmoral had only just started when a representative of the Brighton Railway Museum said they would take on the body. However this venture located in the former Pullman works at Preston Park had financial problems and closed. Access to Balmoral soon became impossible. The family was concerned and contacted Stephen Middleton through an intermediary, donating the parts and asking him to do his best for the old coach. He acquired title through painstaking detective work and after ten years finally ‘liberated’ the coach.It has very little in common with English coaches, being made of softwood tied together with steel rods in a straight sided construction. It is wider and taller than British coaches of the period and although simply built has the most incredible carving and marquetry within. It will join Stately Trains three six wheelers on the E&BASR giving a splendid Victorian train.