The Flèche d’Or was introduced in 1926 as an all-first-class Pullman service between Paris and Calais. On 15 May 1929, the Southern Railway introduced the equivalent between London Victoria and Dover while simultaneously launching a new first class only ship, the Canterbury, for the ferry crossing. The train usually consisted of 10 British Pullman cars, hauled by one of the Southern Railway’s Lord Nelson class locomotives, and took 98 minutes to travel between London and Dover. Because of the impact of air travel and ‘market forces’ on the underlying economy, ordinary first- and third-class carriages were added in 1931. Similarly the first-class-only ferry, Canterbury, was modified to allow other classes of passenger.
The train service ceased at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. It resumed after the war on 15 April 1946, initially running with the pre-war Pullmans and the Trianon Bar car, a converted twelve-wheeled Pullman. The Southern railway flagship, the Invicta replaced the Canterbury from 10 October 1946. As of 1949, the all-Pullman train was scheduled to depart from London Victoria at 10:30, with the connecting train from Calais reaching Paris (Gare du Nord) at 17:30, and from Paris at 12:15, with the connecting train from Dover arriving in London at 19:30. This worked out to a scheduled journey time of 6 hours eastbound and 6 hours, 15 minutes, westbound after accounting for the one-hour difference between Greenwich Mean Time and Central European Time.
In 1951, a new set of Pullmans was built, as part of British Railways’ celebration of the Festival of Britain.
In 1961, with the Kent Coast electrification scheme, the train became electric-hauled. This allowed an acceleration to 80 minutes for the down service and 82 minutes for the up service. A decline in demand for rail travel between London and Paris saw the last Golden Arrow run on 30 September 1972, and in its later years only the first class section was advertised as a Pullman service.