In 1952, ‘ARIES’ became the last traditional Pullman Car to be built at the Pullman Car Company’s own works at Preston Park, Brighton. This series of ten Cars were amongst the first railway vehicles to have double glazing and it was no coincidence that a Director of Pilkington Glass was also a Director of The Pullman Car Co! The Cars were noticeably different from earlier Pullman Cars , having less marquetry, plainer veneers and a greater use of mirrored panels. Lighting was somewhat different too, being of a more stylish design. Externally, flush panelling and rectangular toilet windows gave the Cars a cleaner appearance. The Cars were also amongst the first to use bottled ‘Calor Gas’ for cooking, which was not only more convenient than the previous coal, but safer and cheaper. Cost was always an important factor to the Pullman Car Company!
‘ARIES’ soon settled down to regular use, initially in the famous Golden Arrow service with the other 1951/2 ‘Festival of Britain’ Cars. This prestige train, which became famous world-wide, was the way to travel from London to Paris. The British section of the train went only to Folkestone or Dover, passengers transferring to the ferry & thence the French equivalent ‘La Flèche d’Or’ at Calais for onward transit to Paris.
The Pullman Car Company was frequently called upon to operate special trains for Royalty, visiting Heads of State and for the Derby and Ascot races each year. With these Cars being the newest in the fleet, ‘ARIES’ and her sisters were the usual choice for Royal Trains from 1951 onwards. The most popular for Royal use was ‘PHOENIX’, but normally there would be at least two or three Pullman Cars and more often than not ‘ARIES’ would be in the formation. Perhaps her most unusual use was on 15th July 1953 when a Royal Train was formed of just one Pullman Car, ‘ARIES’. The train took the Queen and some of the Royal Family from Waterloo to Winchfield in connection with the Farnborough Air Show. The photograph of the Royal party alighting from ‘ARIES’ at Winchfield was used in the official Pullman Christmas card that year and clearly shows ‘ARIES’ as a backdrop.
Following the acquisition of The Pullman Car Company by British Transport Hotels in 1963, the slow run down of prestige services took place. There is evidence that ‘ARIES’ was converted to a higher density seating configuration at this time and employed on Eastern Region services. The coming of cheap fast air travel took its toll and the ever increasing cost of maintaining the non-standard Pullmans resulted in the Golden Arrow being withdrawn in 1972.
ARIES’ had been withdrawn in 1968, fortunately not scrapped but purchased for the sum of £880 to use as a static restaurant at the Yew Tree Inn, on Oldham Road, Rochdale. Some internal alterations took place to provide more seating, but otherwise she stayed substantially intact. There she remained for thirty years until offered ‘for preservation’, initially at the East Lancs Railway. Sadly the proposed restoration never actually commenced.
In 2006 a move to Devon took place, where ‘ARIES’ was well cared for & made weatherproof. However, due to a change in circumstances, further restoration could not proceed and she was offered for sale to the Kent & East Sussex Railway. The purchase was completed thanks to the generosity of our 'Wealden Pullman' customers, whose donations are collected to fund improvements specific to 'Wealden Pullman' services.
Removal from Devon had to await a dry period as the site was in close proximity to a river and the area had also been popular with moles! Restricted access dictated that before 'ARIES' could be removed by road, it would be necessary to jack the vehicle up & then slew her sideways. Despite this work being undertaken after a dry period, soft ground conditions remained such that the jacks were in danger of sinking down rather than the carriage rising up! 'ARIES' was finally hauled aboard a lowloader for onward transportion in August 2012.
'ARIES' initially travelled north to workshops near Chesterfield for restoration of the underframe and running gear by contractors. On completion of that work she travelled to the K&ESR to await her turn in the workshops for bodywork and interior restoration - which will take many man-hours and cost several thousands of pounds.
In aid of that fundraising, Aries was exhibited at Tenterden Town Station with a table seemingly set for dinner, enabling those present to visualise how Aries will, one day, again welcome guests for an experience to remember…..