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22 February:
SECR O1 No.65 with a goods train - Steve Lee - 20 February 2018
S15 arrives at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 17 February 2018 H-class with the lunchtime Pullman Dining train at Horsted Keynes - Richard Salmon - 11 February 2018

19 February:
S15 with the sulky service - Peter Edwards - 11 February 2018
S15 ready to leave Horsted Keynes - Steve Lee - 13 February 2018 Normandy at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 15 February 2018

Latest updates     -     Earlier updates     -     Latest Project News     -     Weekly train running information     -     Archive News

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Older updates are in the What's New Archive
or the 2016, the 2015, the 2014, the 2013, the 2012, the 2011, the 2010, the 2009, the 2008, the 2007, the 2006, the 2005, the 2004, the 2003, the 2002, the 2001, the 2000, the 1999 and the 1997-8 "What was new" archive pages.

latestlatestMost recent updates: See top of this page

1 February:
New canopy around the Bessemer Arms - John Sandys - 1 February 2018
  • John Sandys' album from today includes this photo showing progress on the new canopy around the Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park.

  • Our steam-hauled and steam-heated services resume on Saturday 10 February, and we're running every day for Half Term, until Sunday 18 February, and then at weekends through to Easter. Up to and including the commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the line closure (over the weekend of 17-18 March), we are running 4 trains per day, to the "Sulky Service" commemorative timetable.
    Then over three days, 23-25 March, we have our annual Diesel Gala, running an intensive service with two 'Peaks' and a class 31.

  • Save money with our Kids for a Quid special offer each day over Half Term, 10-18 February. Buy tickets online in advance (with an advance-purchase discount on the adult tickets too), or turn up on the day and buy tickets on arrival.

  • The Footplate Taster sessions have been so popular that those for January and February quickly sold out. We are now taking bookings for November: book online.
  • News Update Very old rail - Infrastructure update, thanks again to Jon Goff:
Probably the oldest rail on the main line - Jon Goff - 30 January 2018
During the rail relay, the old rail to which we were going to connect at the north end of the job turned out to be so worn that we did not have a step plate big enough to lift the head of the rail up high enough to match up with the new rail. Therefore we had to remove it and replace it with a less worn rail and put a step plate either end to make up the step in two goes.

New Ballast plough bucket - Jon Goff - 30 January 2018 A step plate is a fish plate with a joggle in the middle so that it lifts one rail higher than the other so that the top surface of the two rails match up and there is no "clunk" when a wheel passes over it. They normally come in 1/16" steps up to about 3/8" although we don't have any that big (and you have not been able to buy them for 96-pound rail for many decades).

The two step-plate solution resolved the problem very well and attention turned to the rail that we took out. It turns out that it was probably one of the original 96-pound rails put in when the line was re-railed from 70-pound to 96-pound near the beginning of the last century. The rail was made in 1903, 115 years ago! Is this the oldest we have still in use?

The picture above of the rail shows the age with the rolled notation of "DOWLAIS STEEL - IX-1903 LB&SCRy", which was also found elsewhere on the rail. It has now been used for some of the new fence posts (seen in the 30 January update) protecting the Tremains foot crossing just north of Rock Cutting, with the writing still visible.
The last of the ballast has now been dropped and ploughed ready for the tamper to start (hopefully yesterday). A very wide bucket with miniature rail wheels is a new form of plough that we have not used before and has proved to be a very quick way of smoothing out the ballast, as seen in Jon's second photo.

  • During December 2017 and January 2018 there were 97,218 total hits on this page (or approximately 48,609 each month), from 55,321 unique visitors.

30 January:
LBSCR Bridge Parapet Plaque from Dulwich
  • The Bluebell Railway Museum has acquired (at auction) a London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) bridge parapet plaque from the East Dulwich-to-Tulse Hill railway line in South East London.

    It features on the left the coat of arms of the LB&SCR and on the right that of Edward Alleyn, born in 1566, who was a very successful Shakespearian actor. He started buying land in Dulwich in 1605, which became known as the Dulwich Estate. The initials A and C refer to Alleyn's College, which subsequently became Dulwich College. 1866 is the date the bridge was constructed.

    Many of the bridge plaques are still in situ on various bridges around Dulwich. The top picture shows crests on the over bridge outside North Dulwich station. A couple of years ago Network Rail replaced the parapets on two such bridges with sympathetic replicas, re-using the plaques after rebuilding the brickwork. In previous rebuilds the decorative iron work was not retained and our plate is, we assume, one of those.

    The Bluebell Museum is located on Platform 2 at Sheffield Park. It is open when we are running timetabled trains.

  • Following the resignation for personal reasons of Gordon Owen MVO, we are now advertising the vacant post of General Manager. The closing date for applications is Friday 9 March 2018.

  • Martin Lawrence provides a video showing one of our 'Footplate Taster' sessions, using locomotive 323 'Bluebell'. Every single Footplate Taster session in January and February was sold out. We also have our Full Steam Ahead Firing and Driving Experience days, and we expect to run more taster sessions at some point too.

  • John Harwood has produced a fascinating video covering the construction of the OP4 shed at Horsted Keynes from the cleared site through to the first carriages stored within it.

  • News Update The big track relay project reconnected and first train through
    With the reconnection of the track after the laying of 5/8 mile of new track through rock cutting, the first train through literally waited at the south end for the final screw to be put in of Thursday 25th January. It was the diesel shunter pulling the Dukedog and one carriage, taking them to Horsted Keynes and returning with the first ballast train.

Cutting in the last rail - Jon Goff - 24 January 2018 First train - Tim Crump - 29 January 2018

Cutting in the last rail (Jon Goff)
First train (Tim Crump)

Something in the order of 1000 Tons of ballast needs to be dropped and ploughed into the new track before it can be tamped and with only 20 tons per hopper, that is a lot of train loads.

In addition, as part of the relaying task, the foot crossing at Tremains needs to be replaced and as part of the task, the path from the boundary to the crossing has to be fenced. This path is in a very poor state and so a new one is being cut into the embankment with much bigger and better steps.

First ballast hopper train - Jon Goff - 25 January 2018 New Tremains foot crossing fence - Jon Goff - 29 January 2018

First ballast hopper train (Jon Goff)
New Tremaines foot crossing fence (Jon Goff)

23 January:
Base for the new entrance to the Loco Shed - John Sandys - 23 January 2018
  • This photo, from John Sandys' album from today, shows progress creating the new entrance lobby to the Locomotive Shed. The concrete base has now been poured within a blockwork shell, which will be faced with brick. This is the most visible part of the ASH project currently under way.

  • Details now available for the 23-25 March Diesel Gala.
    Three locomotives have been confirmed:-
    • Class 45 45041 owned by Peak Locomotive Company Ltd
    • Class 46 D182 also owned by Peak Locomotive Company Ltd
    • Class 31 31271 owned by A1A Locomotives Ltd
    Tickets for the event can be purchased online.

  • We have job vacancies currently advertised for a variety of roles in our Catering Department.

  • Travel information if visiting between 16 January and 3 March.

  • News Update Update to the Project 27 Blog with this weekend's riveting of the rear drag-box plate of SECR P-class No.A27. An entry from earlier in the month shows preparations for this, with the machining of some of the angle sections which were riveted on this weekend.
    Please remember that this work can only continue with the donations, support and interest that is forthcoming from all of the project's supporters. If you would like to help the team to continue this work with a donation, please go to the project's BT MyDonate page.

  • Update with the positions in the Football Competition as of 22 January. This is a fund-raiser for the forthcoming overhaul of our Southern Railway Maunsell Dining Saloon No.7864.

22 January:
  • News Update 813 to visit for our Branch Line Event
    813 - Photo Courtesy SVR/Keith Wilkinson We are pleased to confirm that plans are at an advanced stage for Ex-Port Talbot Railway 0-6-0ST No. 813 to be amongst the line-up for our Branch Line Event to be held on 18/19/20 May. Built by Hudswell Clark in June 1901, this locomotive is now owned by the GWR 813 Preservation Fund and based at the Severn Valley Railway. Taken out of service in 2009 for heavy boiler repairs, 813 re-entered service in late 2016.
    The locomotive will be transported to and from the Bluebell Railway by road. More details to follow.
    Photo Courtesy SVR/Keith Wilkinson

  • Two photos below from Bruce Healey, from last Wednesday, showing progress relaying half a mile of track through Rock Cutting, roughly midway between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes. The first shows the view looking north towards Tremains. The tracklaying had reached there by the end of the day. Our youth group, the 9F Club, are helping with the clipping up.

    The second photo shows the process of laying the sleepers. Specially constructed wooden spacers are used to ease the task of getting the sleepers in the correct position as they are lifted into place by the digger.

    By the end of Wednesday about half the remaining distance from Tremains to the end of the section had been cleared, levelled and "whacked" ready to have sleepers put down on Thursday. There's some drainage to lay, in the form of a French drain (stone filled invisible ditch) on one side through a small cutting, and then, once the rails are rejoined, hopefully this week, we have to drop lots of ballast, adjust the track alignment and tamp it smooth, carry out any snagging, relay the foot crossing and add some fencing and then clear up. Still lots to do but the project is pretty well on schedule.

Sleepers laid out awaiting rails - Bruce Healey - 17 January 2018 Laying the sleepers out - Bruce Healey - 17 January 2018

14 January: News Update Track relaying reaches Rock Cutting
Track relaying in Rock Cutting - Paul Booth - 13 January 2018

During the six-week closedown, until services resume on 10 February, we are re-laying half a mile of track on either side of Rock Cutting, as seen in Paul Booth's panoramic shot taken yesterday, segments of which are presented here.

The work is funded in part by donations through the Tr(ack) Action Appeal. Further donations are urgently required, since further funds raised will in practice enable more track-work to take place over the coming few months since it really does add to the finite pot of money currently available.

Track relaying in Rock Cutting - Paul Booth - 13 January 2018 Track relaying in Rock Cutting - Paul Booth - 13 January 2018
  • Details of our 2018 "Find out More Days" are now available. These days are a tour behind the scenes, which will show the variety of roles for which we are looking for new volunteers across the various departments of the Railway, or to discuss what you might be interested in doing if you might already have an idea of what you're interested in.

  • News Update Stop Press: Tornado to visit. Plans are at an advanced stage for the Bluebell Railway to again host a visit by new-build locomotive 60163 'Tornado' over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, with five days of operation: Friday 25 to Tuesday 29 May inclusive. Further details will be available once the plans for events surrounding the visit are developed. The news release is available here.

  • News Update Update from the Bulleid Society with the latest on both of the Bulleid Pacifics and their SR Composite carriage 5768.

  • News Update On 19 December Roger Kelly retired from the board as director responsible for fundraising, after a decade during which he raised an estimated £5 Million for a huge variety of projects around the Railway. The full news release is available here.

  • Every train during the Santa Season was essentially sold out, and operating on an additional weekend resulting in 10140 adult passengers and 4276 children being carried, which is over 30% up on last year. Running an additional Victorian Train, to cater for additional demand, was an indication that the additional services (Reindeer, Victorian, Festive Feast, Santas for Schools, Pullman Dining) also delivered their share of increased numbers on top of those above.

  • Video from PSOV of our LSWR B4 0-4-0T No 96 'Normandy' in June 1994 back at Southampton Docks.

  • News Update Dave Clarke has updated his Flickr site with the latest progress in the Carriage & Wagon department:

    Pullman Car 54
    The Pullman has been shunted into the northern end of the maintenance road where the body has been lifted off the underframe. A start has been made on replacing the life expired transverse beams at the northern, or lavatory end. The lowest layer of floorboards have been removed and the old horsehair replaced with modern insulation board and new softwood timbers. Bracket and bolt corrosion is being tackled. Some new steel plate is being riveted onto the underframe and the majority of the cleaned are is being painted up to black gloss. The bogies will be treated later.

    SR Bulleid CK 5768
    The third class half of the coach is almost complete. The sliding doors have been hung, lino laid in the centre and southern vestibules. The lavatory is virtually complete and the window bars have been fitted in the corridor.
    In the first class half of the coach work has started on the end vestibule and the door fitted to the lavatory which will become a table store. The quarter pads have been trimmed and fitted, together with the armrests, where the six seat backs have been installed. Once the last two backs have been returned from the trimmers the rest will be fitted. The sliding doors have been revarnished and their droplights installed.
    The six exterior doors have received their interior trim and a start made on fitting the mouldings to the surrounding door frames. The first class lavatory water tank has been installed and canvassed. This has allowed the end hand rails/filler pipes to be fitted. Once the canvas receives its final gloss coats the ends can be finished.
    The coach has received three coats of brushing filler to smooth out the imperfections. This has been flattened back and two further coats of green undercoat applied to all but the east side of the third class compartments. Two further coats will be applied before we turn to gloss.

    BR CCT 2531
    The Camelot Society's van was shunted into the down yard at the same time as Car 54. The frames and the majority of underframe have been gritblasted and a start made on priming and painting the cleaned up frames. The two drop-down flaps and both doors from the north end have been overhauled and painted up to undercoat. The two southern ones will be largely replaced with only some of the inner, horizontal boards being reusable. The SW door has been rebuilt and a start wil be made shortly on the second one.

    LBSCR Stroudley Third 328
    The end panels have been cut to shape and test fitted. Once the lamp brackets and steps have been trial fitted, the panels will be removed for priming and sealing of the sides and ends.

    LBSCR Stroudley Brake Third 949
    The seat bases have been installed and the structural repairs to the second brake door are almost complete. The west side and brake end mouldings have received more coats of undercoat primer.

    SR 10-ton Box van 44611
    The vehicle was brought in for some TLC before it deteriorated further and required a full rebuild. Most of the boards have been removed from the southern end and replaced. Corrosion has been tackled and the whole body treated to a repaint.

    Metropolitan carriages
    No.387, the Met brake, has taken the space vacated by Pullman Car 54 for split panels to be repaired and the first of the refurbished door locks to be test fitted

    SR Maunsell Third open 1309
    The retrimming of the coach is ongoing.

    BR Mk.I TSO 4754
    The asbestos has been stripped from under the seats and the lowest section of sheeting has been removed from the southern end to see how bad the corrosion of the corner and end pillars is.

    SR Milk tanker 4430
    During routine maintenance, the buffer patrices, which were known to be rotten, have been replaced.

    New arrivals
    Just before Christmas, these two SER coaches were recovered from a site in Pagham, as has been reported below. Dave took a number of photos of them on arrival at Horsted Keynes. They have been placed on two underframes and are now under tarpaulins. They will be stored until such time as their restoration is undertaken. Individual web pages for the two carrriages are in now available:

  • A few pictures from Keith Duke, below, taken at Sheffield Park yesterday morning with Bluebell on Footplate Taster duty and the ongoing works on the station. More photos are available in Keith's album.

323 on Footplate Taster duties - Keith Duke - 13 January 2018 Construction of new canopy on Bessemer Arms - Keith Duke - 13 January 2018

5 January 2018:
S15 on the service train on New Years Day - Steve Lee - 1 January 2018
H-class on the Golden Arrow luncheon train on New Years Day - Steve Lee - 1 January 2018 Camelot approaches East Grinstead - Brian Lacey - 28 December 2017

20 December 2017:
Today the Bluebell acquired two South Eastern Railway (SER) carriage bodies that had been in part of a bungalow in Pagham for at least the last 80 years. The two bodies (one being 130 years old, the other 140) have been donated to The Bluebell Railway Trust, and sponsors have covered the transport costs. These 5 photos, showing the two carriages at Pagham after the demolition of the bungalow, the crane recovering them, and their arrival at Horsted Keynes as daylight faded, are provided by C&W Trustee Robert Hayward.

SER 6-compartment 3rd at Pagham - Robert Hayward - 20 December 2017 SER centre-birdcage brake 3rd at Pagham - Robert Hayward - 20 December 2017

First of the SER coaches lifted out at Pagham - Robert Hayward - 20 December 2017 That seen on the left above is a 33-ft long 6-compartment third (No.2159, built in November 1887), identical to No.2162 which we failed to secure when it was sold on eBay in 2009. The other is a very unusual 4-compartment brake third, 30-ft long with a central brake compartment with raised birdcage lookout. It was later converted to a 2-compartment luggage brake. We believe it to be one of only four such carriages, built in 1877-8 (Nos.1887-90), and has yet to be definitively identified. The two carriages, the structures of which are made of teak, are considered to be eminently restorable, although there are no plans at present to do more than conserve the bodies for restoration at a future date.

SER carriages are extremely rare in preservation, and this makes the Bluebell pre-eminent with the only current collection of such vehicles. We also have a first-class saloon (No.172) and the Gilbert Car, No.33 (later named 'Constance'), plus the oddity, "hundred seater" No.1050, rebuilt in 1924 from former SER carriage bodies as a prototype for 3rd-rail electric stock, but itself only ever being steam hauled.

The new brake vehicle is the only SER guard's brake vehicle in preservation, and we would envisage it would be rebuilt back to its original condition with 2 passenger compartments on each side of the guard's van. We now consider we at last have a viable and coherent collection of SER vehicles, enabling us eventually to run a Victorian SECR 4/6-wheeler train formed of three SER carriages plus the three LCDR carriages which have already been restored to service. As home to 6 of the 8 surviving SECR steam locomotives, such a set of carriages is of huge importance to us.

Second of the SER coaches lifted out at Pagham - Robert Hayward - 20 December 2017 SER coaches arrived at Horsted Keynes - Robert Hayward - 20 December 2017

12 December:
Q-class with a Santa Special service - David Warwick - 9 December 2017
  • Three photos today from David Warwick, taken during the clear crisp weather on Saturday, showing the Q-class, S15 and 'Camelot' working on our sell-out Santa Special trains.

  • Sadly we have to report the passing of Frank Ferris at the age of 87, seen below in Dave Clarke's picture, working on seating for Maunsell carriage 3687 in September 2014. Frank came to the railway as part of the group which saved the SECR C-class locomotive, and in recent years had become a stalwart of the Carriage & Wagon Department, where he worked until just a few weeks ago. A fuller tribute will be found on the BRPS Members' Notices page, and in forthcoming issues of Bluebell News.

  • News Update The new cylinder castings for SECR 27 have arrived. See Facebook Post and photos. They need to weather/de-stress before being machined. Donations towards completing the cylinders most welcome!

    Keith Duke's photos from Saturday; 4 locos in steam for the Santa Specials.

S15 with a Santa Special service - David Warwick - 9 December 2017 'Camelot' with a Santa Special service - David Warwick - 9 December 2017 Frank Ferris working on a seat cushion for Maunsell carriage 3687 - Dave Clarke - 14 September 2014

6 December:
Carol Service at Horsted Keynes - Paul Furlong - 2 December 2017
  • Paul Furlong's photo shows the annual Carol Service which took place on Saturday evening. 288 people attended, including many who travelled down from East Grinstead on a train hauled by 'Camelot'.
    Mike Anton's video shows the end of the service.

  • News Update Today we were pleased to hear that we were the winner, at the National Railway Heritage Awards, of the Siemens Signalling Award for Horsted Keynes Signal Box and signalling. This was the second year in a row that Bluebell had won the award; Kingscote Signal Box and signalling was the winner in 2016. In addition the Friends of Sheffield Park were presented with a Highly Commended certificate for the restored LB&SCR entrance porch at Sheffield Park in the Stagecoach Volunteers Award. Further details are available in the NRHA Press Release.

  • News Update A press release is also now available covering our success last week in the Sussex Business Awards

  • News Update Two updates on the Project 27 Blogspot: Work progressing on rear dragbox and frames and the cylinders have been cast for the major overhaul of SECR P-class No.A27.

  • A great atmospheric video from Jon Barnes showing the four locomotives in steam on Sunday for our Santa Special services, which are sold-out for the remainder of the season.

  • Photos from the Santa Specials on 2 December by Nick Burgess

  • Photos by John Sandys from yesterday of the S15 (complete with its smoke deflectors again) leaving Sheffield Park with the Festive Feast train (as also seen in John's picture below), and also some photos of stock in the Bulleid Shop.

  • News Update Press release now available for the first carriages to go into the new Operation Undercover Phase 4 storage shed at Horsted Keynes last week. Mike Hopps photo below records the moment the Brighton Directors' Saloon broke the ceremonial ribbon.

The S15 departs from Sheffield Park with a Festive Feast train - John Sandys - 5 December 2017 Breaking the ribbon - OP4 Storage Shed - Mike Hopps - 30 November 2017

2 December:
Q-class arrives at Horsted Keynes with a Santa Special service - Brian Lacey - 2 December 2017
  • Brian Lacey's photo shows the Q-class arriving at Horsted Keynes with one of six Santa Special trains running today, with the other two being hauled by the S15 and 'Camelot'.

    All remaining Santa Specials are fully booked, but returns may become available.

  • Andy Palmer's video camera was strapped to the LBSCR Saloon as it entered the OP4 shed on Thursday.

  • Dates are now available, and bookings open, for our 2018 Golden Arrow Pullman dining trains.

  • We are pleased to confirm that we already have a visitor booked for the Branch Line Gala on 18-20 May 2018: ex-Port Talbot Railway & Docks Company Hudswell Clarke Saddle Tank, GWR No.813, is seen in Gareth Price's photo below at its home shed, Bridgnorth, on 4 July this year.

  • We were very pleased to have been presented with the top award for Leisure & Tourism in the Sussex Business Awards on Thursday evening, as seen in the photos below. The award was received by Gordon Owen (General Manager), who gave a small acceptance speech acknowledging the commitment and hard work of the volunteers and staff. He was joined on stage by Steve Bigg (Vice Chairman - Bluebell Railway Preservation Society) and James Funnell, a working volunteer and member of the Commercial Team.

813 at Bridgnorth - Gareth Price - 4 July 2017 Leisure & Tourism Award - 30 November 2017 Leisure & Tourism Award - 30 November 2017

1 December:
First carriages into OP4 shed - Martin Lawrence - 30 November 2017
  • News Update First carriages moved into OP4
    Yesterday, in front of the project teams from the Infrastructure department and the C&W, and some of the major donors who have made the project possible, the first three carriages (the LBSCR Directors' Saloon, Maunsell Brake No.6575 and Bulleid Brake No.4279) were propelled into the new storage shed at Horsted Keynes to mark a significant milesone in the project. It also marked the retirement of Roger Kelly as our Funding Director, who has done so much to aid the development of the Railway over the last decade.
    • Martin Lawrence's November gallery is completed with his coverage of the OP4, but also includes some shots from last weekend and preparations for the ASH project, including that below, showing stock temporarily shunted out of the Loco Shed whilst the roof is re-clad. The locos should be able to return to the shed in advance of its re-opening to the public, planned for June next year.
    • John Sandys provides both a video of some of the speeches yesterday and a photo gallery (which also covers the first of the Festive Feast trains, today).
    • Nick Dearden's video complements John's, with shots of the carriages being shunted into the shed, and Camelot (a late substitution for the H-class) with the Observation Car which conveyed those travelling up from Sheffield Park.

  • Saturday 2 Dec: Annual Carol Service - 7.30pm at Horsted Keynes Station. Free Admission, or £5 by train (pre-booked) from (and later returning to) East Grinstead at 6pm - more details.

  • We are currently advertising some new Job Vacancies:
    • Catering Front-of-house Team Leader,
    • Kitchen Porter,
    • Volunteer to help in Finance and Administration Department,
    • Data Protection Officer,
    • Volunteer to assist with publicising events via Social Media.

  • The latest issue of the Bluebell's "Safety News" is available to download via the Society Members' information area of the web site.

  • Update to the Locomotive Duty Roster, with expected locomotive use for December.

  • Update to the web page for SECR carriage 1050 (5546) with a photo by Chris Ward.

  • Footplate video on the Q-class from Horsted Keynes to East Grinstead by Mike Anton.

  • During November 2017 there were 43,576 total hits on this page, from 25,443 unique visitors.

  • Keeping tabs on "our" locomotive on the main line: Bluebell life member Keith Foster sent the photo below of 66739 'Bluebell Railway' taken at Lea Bridge Station on Friday 24 October. The GBRf locomotive was hauling ballast trucks for the 'Meridian Water Line' project.

The Adams, Birch Grove and the C-class being shunted at Sheffield Park - Martin Lawrence - 29 November 2017 GBRf 66739 'Bluebell Railway' at Lea Bridge Station - Keith Foster - 24 November 2017

Older updates are in the What's New Archive
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