South for Sunshine

    Like other companies, the Southern Railway provided "camping coaches" in which holidaymakers could stay at many of its wayside stations. These were in the holiday areas of Devon, Cornwall and the New Forest. The coaches provided were extensively adapted to contain everything that the holidaymaker could require. In its camping coach leaflets, the Southern Railway was not very complimentary about the "old way" of camping out but still happy to provide details of camping sites in Southern England and how to reach them.

    The Southen Railway also began to operate ships over many routes to the Continent and was keen to make information available to assist travellers in choosing where to spend holidays abroad. The earliest continental guidebook was a simple description of the Route from London to the Channel port but later booklets gave details of how to obtain visas, foreign currency and passports. Some of the "Off the Beaten Track" booklets, which were published throughout the Southern Railway's existence from 1924 until 1947, advertised destinations as far away as Egypt and Palestine.

    Luxury travel was also promoted by the Southern Railway. There were four Pullman trains known as "The Bournemouth Belle", "The Brighton Belle", "The Devon Belle" and "The Thanet Belle". The Bournemouth Belle was considered the height of luxury. It was introduced on Saturday 5 July 1931. During its first season, it left Waterloo daily at 10.30 am and returned at 7.18 pm. It originally had ten Pullman cars but this varied in later years depending on the number of passengers.

    When the all-Pullman "Devon Belle" was introduced in 1947, it added yet another name to the list of famous British expresses. It brought a new standard of luxury to the journey westward and the added bonus of a specially constructed observation car. It ran from Waterloo to Ilfracombe. At the time, it was referred to as "The Glasshouse" and "Britain's only American style observation car".

    The Southern Railway also advertised its continental services to promote the "exotic" destinations that could be reached by its ferry services. Again, luxurious trains were used including the "Golden Arrow" or "Flèche D’Or". The Golden Arrow was introduced as a deluxe train for first class Pullman passengers between London and Paris. The Southern had the advantage of being the major continental carriers and offered information on foreign hotels, passports, trains and reservations.

    In the Southern booklet "Travelling South", Helen McKie describes the journey from Victoria to Paris on the Golden Arrow. It began with "the distinct thrill on arriving at Victoria and seeing the sumptuous blue coaches. The Wagons-Lits Company have excelled themselves in these new coaches specially built for the train ferry, with their blue lacquer walls, chromium fittings, mirrors, bells, lights everywhere even the water bottle in a neat little cupboard looks like a handsome gin decanter."