IT HAS been nine decades since the famous Bournemouth Belle express first ran through Basingstoke and Hampshire.

And now the journey will be recreated this summer with Britain’s poshest train passing through the town on Monday, July 5.

The steam-hauled Northern Belle – described by actor Bill Nighy on TV recently as “the Grand Duchess of luxury trains” – is scheduled to follow the same route from London.

But the exact timings are likely to be kept hush-hush in a bid to avoid hordes of trainspotters and railway enthusiasts thronging station platforms along the route and trying to photograph it.

Northern Belle sales director Howard Barclay explained: “Normally we’d be delighted to see crowds turning out to see our train and the passengers love that too – they say they feel like royalty waving back!

“But if there is still social distancing in July because of Covid then it would be irresponsible to encourage too many people to gather on station platforms, jostling to take photos.”

The Bournemouth Belle, the last of the great Pullman trains operating on British Rail’s Southern Region, ran for the first time on July 5, 1931 before finally being withdrawn from service in 1967.

Although originally non-stop to Bournemouth, it later began stopping at Southampton so that passengers – among them Hollywood legends, aristocrats, wealthy industrialists, rock stars and even royalty – could catch transatlantic liners to America.

In the 1930s, a return ticket from London to Bournemouth cost just six shillings (30p). Nowadays, passengers will pay £399 to travel on the Northern Belle, once part of the iconic Orient Express group.

But for that they will be welcomed aboard the refurbished 1930s-style Pullman carriages with a glass of champagne before tucking into a three-course brunch during the outward journey.

And after spending five hours in Bournemouth. there will be another champagne reception on board followed by a slap-up five-course dinner with wine on the way home

Mr Barclay added: “It may sound expensive, but we are not just taking passengers to Bournemouth – we are transporting them back to the glamorous 1930s.

“This will be the trip of a lifetime – an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.

“From the moment they step aboard over a red carpet in London, it will be luxury all the way.”

For more details of the Northern Belle, see