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Southern Belle Railtour: Ramsgate to Waterloo

Report by Gregory Beecroft:

Southern Belle ticket A special ticket for the Southern Belle

As the "Southern Belle" pulled out of Ramsgate before dawn it established the first of many records. It is amongst the earliest departures of any railtour which the SEG had been associated with and none had used rolling stock as old as 4Cep 1698 - and particularly motor coach 61355 which was 46 years 7 months old. On departure from Ramsgate 1698 was leading, followed by Vep 3545 (which includes the motor coach originally in unit 7701) and Southern Cig 1866. A surprisingly large number of people were on board for such an early start - many wishing to be sure of a seat in the Cep on the very last working by the very last unit.

A reporter from BBC Radio Kent roamed the train, interviewing passengers and organisers, as it made its way around the coast towards Dover. He was told how well the old trains had served the South East for so long and of the many special features of the day. Dawn was breaking over Deal, it was daylight by Dover and the sun was shining at Ashford, as it did for the rest of the day. However, being mid-September it was not too hot, making for very pleasurable travel.

Southern Belle headboard The Southern Belle headboard

The first, minor, hitch came at the approach to Ashford, where the wrong route was taken due to an error - though passengers were told that this was a points failure. There was a delay of about ten minutes while the train set back and then ran into platform 2. Departure via the old connection to the Maidstone line was noteworthy, for most trains now use the Maidstone Relief line and platforms 5 and 6. The delay at Ashford meant that the tour was following, rather than preceding, the 7:01 to Victoria. However, that was overtaken at Lenham, by use of the up passenger loop.

An unadvertised stop was made at Otford to pick up the SEG sales stand. As a result of the early delays the tour was 16 minutes late by Swanley. Quite a large crowd awaited the train at Bromley South, wishing to experience one of the tour's particular attractions, use of the 'Eurostar' curve from Linford Street Junction to Nine Elms Junction. If the train had been just a few seconds earlier, it would have passed the 8:12 to Paris on the curve. Other railtours have used this curve, but the "Southern Belle" was probably the second electric railtour train, other than Eurostar, of course.


early morning at Ramsgate Early rising passengers, both those that live relatively local and those that stayed in hotels overnight, join the train at Ramsgate.

photograph by R.M. Brumé
1698 before departure 1698, the final Cep running on Network Rail, at Ramsgate before departure. Note the 'customary' shoe-beam paddle wedged in the secondman's windscreen!

photograph by R.M. Brumé


approaching Ashford Dawn, and the tour is approaching Ashford International. The incorrectly routed points are noticeable.

photograph by Colin Price

Westwell Leacon

Westwell Leacon, near Charing, Kent The new day is getting lighter as the tour passes Westwell Leacon, near Charing.

photograph by Don Benn

Working Timetable: 1Z11 05.56 Ramsgate to Weymouth
Buckland Jn
Dover Priory
Folkestone C
Saltwood Jn
Ashford Int
Maidstone East

Otford Jn
St Mary Cray Jn
Bickley Jn
Bromley S
Shortlands Jn
Beckenham Jn
Herne Hill
Voltaire Road Jn
Linford Street
Nine Elms Jn
06.11 06.11 ˝
06/23 ˝
06.25 ˝ 06.26 ˝
06/37 ˝
06/40 ˝
06.49 ˝ 06.54
07.13 ˝ 07.17 ˝
07.42 07.42 ˝ FL
07/47 ˝ SL
07/48 ˝ SL
07.50 ˝ 07.51 SL
07/54 ˝
07/59 ˝
08/00 ˝
08/18 WL