Luke Honey | Decorative Antiques, Chess, Backgammon & Games

The Brighton Belle

September 03, 2015


Lovely television programme from Andrew Martin last night about the famous ‘named’ trains of the 1930’s and 50’s: The Flying Scotsman, The Coronation Scot, The Silver Jubilee, The Golden Arrow, The Cheltenham Flyer, The Cornish Riviera Express, The Brighton Belle. Andrew Martin wrote a splendid book about it, which you can buy on amazon. I gave it to my father for Christmas and it went down well judging by the sporadic little knowing chuckles I kept on hearing from the other room.

The Brighton Belle was especially stylish, and amazingly survived until 1972. Oh for a more leisured, civilised age! This glamorous all-electric train was popular with theatrical luvvies, Larry Oliver was a fan. We’re thinking waiters in white mess jackets with brass buttons serving breakfast kedgeree on porcelain plates. The Southern Railway was good at this sort of thing.



This photograph made me laugh. It looks like a pub, but unbelievably it’s actually a Mock Tudor Southern Railway Tavern Car, circa 1947. They called it "At the Sign of the White Hart"; here you could enjoy a pewter tankard of bitter, (or presumably a slice of gammon with pineapple?) as you steamed through the Surrey countryside towards Waterloo or Victoria.

The gel at the front looks a bit like Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter. She's got her foot foward like a Harrod's model. I bet my bottom dollar the chap at the back (missing only a manly pipe clenched between his teeth) is a bogus Wing Commander and drives an MG. We’re in Patrick Hamilton territory.

I would love to know what the waiter is serving up through the hatch. Steak and Kidney pie? A grapefruit half, garnished with a glacé cherry? Dover Sole?


Brief Encounter, directed by David Lean, script by Noel Coward, 1945

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“Oh for a more leisured, civilised age!” Interesting statement, that. My maternal grandmother once said to me when I was 15: “Marek, you need to go to the old country. The United States is so uncivilized.” Considering that she left Moravia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire for the last time in 1912. I was 15 in 1977.
You cannot live in the past. You can only learn from it and make your future based on what you’ve learned. Depending on whom you talk to, the 1930’s through 1950’s were not that leisurely as they were slow. The “great” named trains were not for the average person as they were for the well heeled.
Even if you had the money to pay for a roomette on the CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO between Chicago and Omaha, the C&NW would look at you and steer you toward the CORN KING LIMITED or a Greyhound Bus (Chicago & Northwestern Stages).
I have a nice Depression Era styled apartment of mostly Edwardian and Mission Style furniture. Most of it I got from my paternal grandparents, great aunts and uncles. I have a Victrola, Westclox Big Ben, Tiffany reproduction lamps, Art Deco floor rugs . . . it looks very 1920s and 1930s considering I was born in 1962.
I dress appropriately too. Suit and fedora or panama; denim work clothes and a low crown cowboy hat . . . used to be a Navy sailor too. Nothing says 1930’s and 1940’s like wool Cracker Jacks, right?
You can be civilized or you can keep up appearances. Its like Christianity, you can appear to be one or the proof in the pudding is that your life proves your Christianity through your actions and daily example.
“Would you like a biscuit, dear? I have Uneeda, Oreo and Ritz. Which do you prefer with your tea or coffee?” Sorry, I live in Lincoln, Nebraska but I come from Omaha and O’Neill working class families. Mostly agriculture industry. I have a BA in History.

Life’s an adventure, live it!

Posted by Mark D. Budka on August 25, 2017

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