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Among many noteworthy features precipitating its success, Belmond's British Pullman employs eleven antique railcars, all flawlessly restored in the 1980s.

Each car is a modern masterwork of vintage revivalism, seamlessly blending belle époque luxe​​​​​ with the stylish art deco adornments of interwar Britain.

Before incorporation into the British Pullman, all eleven cars served on at least one of England's classic rail lines during the Golden Age of Steam, where several were reserved exclusively for dignitaries, nobility, or English royalty.


Six ran on the glorious Golden Arrow, a luxury boat train between Victoria Station and Dover Marina. Half of these served on the Festival of Britain, a line reserved solely for heads of state, monarchs, and other members of Britain's ruling elite.

Three others operated on the luxurious Brighton Belle, the world’s first all-electric Pullman train.

Rather ironically, given the dearth of such cars on the VSOE itself, one even ran on arguably the most influential rail service of all time: the Orient Express.

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Though all the British Pullman cars have been painstakingly renovated, they retain their peerless vintage charm.

Along with varnished wooden paneling, luxurious plush upholstery, winged armchairs, and exquisite inlaid mosaics, each carriage possesses its own unique name, character, and style.

Ibis (1925)

The oldest of the British Pullman cars, Ibis was built for the famed Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL)—founder and operator of the historic Orient Express and its sister line, the Taurus Express,

For two years, as part of CIWL's rolling stock, Ibis ran between Milan and Venice as a part of the Orient Express's Simplon line.

Related: A History of the Orient Express

Today, despite refurbishing, Ibis retains the trademark opulence of its founding years, with scarlet drapery, kaleidoscopic upholstery, and raised panelings of polished wood, on which medallion friezes of Greek dancers are painted.

Minerva (1927)

Named for the Roman goddess of victory, wisdom, and battle, Minerva initially ran for two years on the all-Pullman Devon Belle luxury express line between London Waterloo and Devon, where it served as a first-class parlor car.

As part of the Festival of Britain train, it exclusively conveyed British royalty and visiting heads of state between Dover Marina and England's capital city.

In 1952, as part of the Golden Arrow, it carried guests along the English coast for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

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Sleek, elegant, and faithful to its original decor, the modern carriage is characterized by its brass furnishings and sylvan color scheme—a subtle blend of viridian, taupe, and gold—as well as its polished veneer and Edwardian marquetry of fleur-de-lys motifs.

In every British Pullman carriage, the washroom floors are encased with the breathtaking stone mosaics of the late British artist Marjory Knowles. In two respects, though, the inlays in Minerva's washrooms are unique.

First, they include the only incomplete mosaic on the train: a sepulchral rendering of the car's eponymous deity, which remained unfinished at the time of Knowles' death in 1998.

Second, they feature an original work by modern artist Aimee Harman, who also skillfully restored the mosaics in all eleven British Pullman cars and has since been commissioned for similar pieces on Belmond's Northern Belle.

Phoenix (1927)

Originally named Rainbow, this car ran between Waterloo and Southampton until 1936, when it was mostly destroyed in a railway fire. In 1952, it was wholly rebuilt from the surviving steel chassis and aptly rechristened Phoenix.

As a member of the Golden Arrow line, it became a preferred carriage among the aristocracy and a particular favorite of the Queen Mother.

In 2021, this car was refurbished with hand-stitched upholstery in midnight blue. Its panels were varnished, and its cherry wood marquetry was replaced with elegant modern tablatures to complement its washroom mosaics.

Lucille (1928)

One of the earliest railcars to feature all-steel construction, Lucille served on the renowned luxury line the Queen of Scots.

Later, the car was transferred to the Bournemouth Belle, where it became one of several modern carriages to replace the line's older, wooden-built Pullman cars.

Tasteful yet attractively eclectic, the modern Lucille carriage boasts distinctive holly paneling and delicately painted marquetry of Grecian urns. Its washroom's stunning floor mosaic is one of the train's best.

Ione (1928)

Car Ione spent its first year in operation serving on a variety of Ocean Liner Express trains. After 1931, it ran on the Bournemouth Bell. After World War II, it joined the Queen of Scots luxury line, connecting Kings Cross Station in London to the Scottish city of Glasgow.

Today, the lavish interior of Ione features burr wood paneling, cinnabar carpets, and Victorian rose marquetry friezes.

Zena (1928)

With a history nearly identical to that of Ione, Zena also spent a year as a rolling stock for Ocean Liner Express train before joining the Torquay Pullman Limited and, later, the Bournemouth Belle.

After being withdrawn from service in 1964, Zena narrowly avoided being scrapped but was fortunately purchased for preservation in 1966.

Today, its stately moquette, a fleur-de-lys pattern of soft greens and golds, is complemented by the car's stunning art deco marquetry.

Vera (1932)

Constructed by the Pullman Car Company, Vera was part of a special batch of carriages built specifically to coincide with the electrification of the Brighton Line.

It ran on the all-electric Brighton Belle, which ran between London Victoria and Brighton from 1933 until 1972, and was advertised as "the most luxurious train in the world."In 1939, Vera, along with sister car Audrey, was present at London Victoria when the station was targeted by German airstrikes during the Blitz.

Both carriages sustained direct hits. Vera's roof, having absorbed the brunt of the impact, was almost entirely caved in.

After nearly a decade of repairs, with a refurbished interior and a fully restored roof, Vera returned to the Brighton Belle, where it was later used for Prince Charles’ and Princess Anne's first trip on an electric train.

Bold and stylish, Vera boasts harmonious visual symmetry and rich earth tones. Its most distinctive feature is its sandalwood marquetry of a leaping gazelle.

Audrey (1932)

Sister carriage and faithful companion of Vera, prior to joining the British Pullman, Audrey also spent the entirety of its operational years on the Brighton Belle. Like Vera, Audrey sustained damage in the 1940 bombing of Victoria Station.

Notable for its unique, rose-toned moquette and contemporary lighting, the modern restored Audrey is distinguished by its lovely marquetry panels.

Gwen (1932)

Deployed in 1933, Gwen served with cars Vera and Audrey on the Brighton Belle. In 1948, as a part of this service, this car brought Queen Elizabeth to Brighton from London.

Sophisticated and stately, Gwen is arguably the British Pullman's most beautiful carriage apart from Ibis.

With panels of pear wood and walnut, upholstery in Maya blue and pale gold, pearl shell marquetry, and art deco strip lighting, it retains the classic elegance of its bygone founding era.

Perseus (1951)

Perseus ran spent most of its operational years on the Golden Arrow, where its notable passengers included Soviet leaders Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev. In 1965, as part of this service, it ran on Winston Churchill's funeral train.


Perseus's ash-paneled interior is accompanied by rich blue drapery with golden embroidery, vivid entablatures evoking the Gorgon, geometric moquette furnishings, and a wine-colored carpet.The car's washroom mosaics depict the various exploits of the Greek hero for which the carriage is named, including his encounters with Pegasus, Medusa, and the legendary Ethiopian princess, Andromeda.

Cygnus (1951)

Cygnus been associated with the silver screen since its appearance in Agatha, a 1979 British thriller starring Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave.

Fittingly, the car was redesigned in 2021 by legendary director Wes Anderson, whose splendid films are distinguished by exquisite symmetry, whimsical color schemes, and a masterfully executed art nouveau aesthetic.

The Royal Tenenbaums auteur has transformed Cygnus into one of the British Pullman's most distinctive cars: a stunning tribute to the vintage joys of rail travel and the Golden Age of Cinema.

Along with inlaid panels of Australian walnut and a silver-leaf ceiling, Cygnus now features velvet upholstery in emerald green and matching bespoke chinaware.

Its namesake is evoked in its swan-shaped champagne coolers, the wave detailing on its handcrafted marquetry, and its washroom mosaics, showing the myths of Leda and Cygnus.