The 1951 Golden Arrow cars had been planned before the second world war; indeed the design, the LNER-design of underframe and Gresley heavyweight bogie, and some other materials date from 1938. The timing of their eventual completion in 1951 ensured they were associated with the "Festival of Britain" that year, some of the new Cars forming a short VIP train prior to the reformation of the Golden Arrow using the new cars, and others rebuilt to match, on 11 June. Distinctive due to their cleaner, more modern interiors, and particularly their rectangular rather than oval lavatory and pantry windows, they were the last "traditional" Pullman design to be constructed before the takeover of the Pullman Car Co. by the BTC in 1954. Subsequent designs were based on BR's standard rolling stock.
'Aquila' was built as a first-class kitchen car, with separate arm chairs, and entered service on the Golden Arrow on 11 June 1951.
'Aquila' was used by HM The Queen on a number of occasions such as for a journey to Windsor in March 1958. From 14 June 1965 Pullman cars just provided the first-class accommodation on the Golden Arrow train, with second class passengers travelling in ordinary carriages.
From 1968 it was one of five Pullmans which formed the Bulmers' Cider Train based in Hereford, along with Car Nos 36, 64 and 76 (which are or have been also resident on the Bluebell), when it was painted green, red and white. These 5 cars were subsequently sold to the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, in 1986. Along with Car 36 it went to the Colne Valley Railway in 1988. In November 2019 it was moved to the South Devon Railway, having been bought privately, where its owner has refurbished the interior with many newly made parts commissioned to replace missing fittings.
It is intended that, following completion of the overhaul of Pullman Car No. 54, this car will enter the Bluebell workshops for a body and underframe overhaul, re-wiring and fitting of steam heating. You can read more about the plans for 'Aquila' and our Pullman Strategy (pdf).