Tenterden - Northiam - Bodiam
Kent & East Sussex Railway

Pullman Car No. 246 'Lydia'

Pullman Car No.246 'Lydia' on display in the National Railway Museum, York as part of the display "Churchill's Final Journey" January 2015 © Terry Bye

Lydia was constructed in 1924 by the Midland Railway Carriage & Wagon Company as part of an order for seven First Class Kitchen Cars, each with accommodation for 20 covers. The order also included three Parlour Cars, each with 24 covers, of which ‘Isle of Thanet’, now also resident on the K&ESR, was one.

In 1925 ‘Lydia’ was moved by rail to Harwich, enroute to Italy via Paris, for operation by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits on services between Milan – San Remo - Nice and Cannes.

In December 1929, Lydia was repatriated and rebuilt at workshops in Birmingham before entering service on the Golden Arrow service between London Victoria & Dover.

Lydia featured in this 1938 Pullman advertisement

During World War Two the Car was retained for the use of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and was reported as occasionally being kept at Westerham, close to Churchill’s home at Chartwell.

Following the cessation of hostilities, Lydia resumed her place in the Golden Arrow, but was also to be seen in the Bournemouth Belle, Tees–Tyne Pullman, Yorkshire Pullman and Queen of Scots services. Whilst operating these services in 1959, Lydia was significantly damaged when struck by an excursion train outside Leeds Central station, becoming derailed and blocking two of the lines into the terminus. Repairs were undertaken at the Pullman Car Company workshops at Preston Park, Brighton during which the body was plated with aluminium sheet – which we still see today.

In January 1965, ‘Lydia’ and ‘Isle of Thanet’ were included in the funeral train of the late Statesman Sir Winston Churchill.

Sir Winston Churchills Funeral Train at Clapham Junction © Ben Brooksbank

Withdrawn from service on November 5th 1966, ‘Lydia’ was donated to the National Railroad Museum at Green Bay, Wisconsin, being shipped from Liverpool Docks in September 1969 and then accompanying the famous locomotive Flying Scotsman on a tour of North America until 1972.

Following private purchase, ‘Lydia’ was repatriated once more, arriving at Newport Docks in November 2000. Restoration was undertaken at workshops in Carnforth, but the Car remained in store until she formed part of a display commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Churchills funeral train at the National Railway Museum in 2015.

Lydia arrives on the K&ESR © Graham Williams

Following a change of ownership, the K&ESR were delighted to be able to provide a home for ‘Lydia’ and she was delivered to Wittersham Road Station on the 7th November 2023. Although further restoration will be required (as sadly ‘Lydia’ was subjected to theft of parts whilst in store), she will soon join ‘Barbara’, ‘Theodora’ and ‘Isle of Thanet’ in the K&ESR’s Wealden Pullman dining train.

Wealden Pullman dining services

With thanks to Terry Bye for his help with compiling this article