Some of you will already have heard the wonderful news of the impending purchase of part of the Woodpax site upon which we plan to build a new storage shed, the first step in Operation Undercover which will also provide covered storage at Horsted Keynes. The new shed at Sheffield Park will enable us to store our valuable rolling stock (including the Pullman set) under cover, thereby saving many thousands of hours in maintenance and repair; and large sums upon materials. We estimate that storage under cover will save £150 per month per coach. The opportunity to provide an enlarged and modern museum that will enable our hidden treasures to be displayed for the first time will also form part of this project.
The Society is greatly indebted to many people for making the purchase possible. In the three days prior to the Bluebell plc's Board meeting, we raised pledges of support totalling £126,000, so making an already strong case for purchase that much more powerful. Given the many calls upon the Company's limited resources, we are grateful to the Board for its far-sighted decision to support this exciting initiative which, it is clear, will not retard progress with the extension to East Grinstead.
Great though progress has already been, we now need to raise not only the balance of the purchase price (a further £124,000), but also approximately 25% of the total anticipated cost. We anticipate that Operation Undercover will cost £2 million, and we are preparing a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for approximately three-quarters of that sum.
Whilst we shall as part of the bid be able to apportion the costed time expended by colleagues upon the preparation and execution of the project, the Society must still raise approximately £500,000 from the Bluebell's membership. The more money we have to support our bid, the greater our scope is to enhance the project. Taken as a whole, the project will maintain for far longer the wonderful quality of our restored locomotives and carriages in a way that has not been possible hitherto. That outcome will enhance the quality and viability of our railway for generations to come.
This is where you come in. We need your help with gifts or interest-free loans. We hope to be able to accept donations directed through Gift Aid to the Bluebell Railway Trust, thereby permitting (for example) the Trust to reclaim £282 from the Inland Revenue on a gift of £1,000. Moreover, a higher-rate taxpayer may reclaim £231 on her or his tax return. Similarly, shares may be gifted to the Trust, free of Capital Gains Tax: a higher-rate taxpayer giving shares worth £1000 may reclaim £400 from the Revenue on her or his tax return.
Please do not send money now but, instead, pledge by completing and posting the form (click here for pdf or plain text versions). We shall keep you up to date with developments via Bluebell News and the Society's web pages.
Please help. We would like to have as many pledges as possible by the end of March. Your railway now needs your active support more than ever.
Please note: this letter contains corrected tax reclaim figures compared to the letter sent to members by post.
As outlined by the Carriage Fleet Overview I wrote for Bluebell News back in 1995 (available on this web site - click here) for the long term preservation of our carriage fleet, we need to get all our coaching stock under cover when not actually in use. In addition, many of our locomotives live outside, a particular problem due to the dangers of frost damage in the winter. We therefore also need to increase the shed space available for locomotives. To achieve these aims, it is proposed to construct two new buildings, one in the down yard at Horsted Keynes and one at Sheffield Park, and to complete the enlargement of the locomotive running shed, as well as finishing the loco shed wall. We are progressing rapidly towards an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The opportunity has arisen to purchase land at Sheffield Park from part of the "Woodpax" site which will be crucial for the success of this project, and this purchase is currently under negotiation.
The railway itself has no funds available to support the purchase of the land, so the Society has undertaken to raise the purchase price from the membership. To that end, pledges were initially solicited from working members and those we could contact rapidly over the Internet. This resulted in a massive kick-start to the fund-raising, with £126,000 promised within three days, confirming that the project was viable. The letter (above) posted to the membership at large appeals for pledges for the remaining money for the land purchase, plus the ongoing fund-raising which will be required to achieve the Bluebell's contribution (at least 25%) to a possible HLF grant. The land purchase can be included in this 25%, so, with the project likely to cost well over 2 million pounds, to start with we have set ourselves a target of £500,000. However, most importantly in the short term, we need to reach half that total in the coming few weeks for the land purchase! The superb response so far leaves us hopeful that, with your help, we shall do it.
We are considering at present a combined running shed and Museum building at Sheffield Park, behind platform 2, able to hold the Pullman set, two other operational carriage sets (probably one Bulleid set and one Maunsell set) and a Museum display of a few locos, coaches and wagons, plus a large area for displaying smaller artefacts. Rail access would be through the use of the Pump-house siding as a headshunt.
As well as completing the north-most bay of the existing loco running shed, it may be possible to extend the shed southwards, and the project also aims to achieve our long-standing aim of finishing the loco-shed wall.
At Horsted Keynes we are considering a 24-vehicle storage shed behind the existing shed/works, plus roofing over the maintenance track between the two sheds. The limited length of the down-yard headshunt means that this shed is not suitable as a running shed for 6-car rakes. It is therefore considered that this shed would be the home of the shorter vintage sets, plus those vehicles stored awaiting overhaul. Some locos may also find a home here whilst awaiting attention, and this shed may therefore also need to be open for public access on occasions. In addition there will be up to 5 coaches at any time under-cover on the maintenance/pit road, and 10-12 coaches in the main workshops. At the same time, the existing works would also be re-clad in the same style as the works extension.
These plans are still evolving, and input from around the railway is being canvassed at present as these plans develop. Representatives of the Heritage Lottery Fund has already visited us, both to see for themselves our existing operation, and the scale of the problem we are trying to address. They were apparently favourably impressed by the railway and our proposals. At the same time they were able to give our team some useful advice on the best way to proceed with the application.
Use this Pledge Form: Plain Text or pdf which you can print out to Pledge a Donation.
A donation is made to this project when you buy Historical Transport Film videos from Beulah.
Funds are also being raised for this project by the Railway's Football Competitions, and also thanks to
Jon Bowers who is selling Railway
Drawings and large-format photographic prints in aid of the project.
This problem is apparent whenever we run the Met coaches. They are too popular! So we really do need the other two Met coaches in service to carry the crowds. Well, the news on No.368 is that it's coming on well, with an anticipated launch date in May. Jobs still in hand are the completion of some brake rigging, steam heat, communication cord tubing, luggage racks, lighting, door drop-lights, the last few bits of seating, carpets (in the First-class compartments) and blind-boxes. The roof also needs a final coat of paint. With work only just started on the fourth coach, it will still be two years before this train will be up to its full strength, although before then it could well run with the LBSCR Stroudley First and the LCDR brake Third, once they are completed in the next year or two.
On Sunday Morning I emerged from the carriage works to lead the first
guided tour of the day, to find a crowd of about 80 people jammed
onto the dock. Retreating to the safety of the shed, I summoned help
from John Coleman, who rescued me by taking half the party round the
shed (by a different route). In all I must have shown 300 people
round the works over the weekend, and the "Operation Undercover"
appeal benefitted to the tune of some £317 in donations.
(Photos above: Dave Bowles, below: Tony Pearce)
For a fare of £10 passengers will be able to ride in the observation coach where guides will give the history of the line and how it served the local farmers and industries. There will also be a printed guide to the line's history available. Sam Bee is organising competitions for local schools and the Historical Association who are promoting the week have expressed an interest in broadcasting our event on Channel 4 Television. If you would like to bring a group or want more information please contact Chris Cooper at the railway.
During excavations some narrow gauge sleepers and rails from the tramway used in construction of the embankment were uncovered. Please be aware that this area is currently a major engineering site and so is out of bounds to anyone not specifically authorised by Paul Robertson, our Permanent Way Manager, to enter the site.
Currently in the paint shop is Pullman Car No.76, "Lilian". Bodyside corrosion turned out to be far worse than anyone had imagined, and so the "filler in the holes" technique has given way to complete new steel panels being riveted to the outside in many places, including some new sections of guttering. Fortunately these 1928 steel-bodied Pullmans are built like battleships, so this repair should be good for a few years. However, it points out that this coach was originally obtained five years ago so that Car 64 could be released for a overhaul. We'd better hope that money and time can be found to do that overhaul before Car 76 itself expires.
Currently in for a re-canvas, unexpectedly, is Bulleid Brake No.4279, and the other brake, No.2515 is also leaking and will need attention soon to prevent damage to the interior and structure.
The LNWR Observation Car is now in works for attention to the bodyside panelling on one side, and the doors.
The new disposal pit in the loco yard will be constructed in the near future. The Loco Lobby have put some of their own accumulated funds into the kitty, enabling a longer pit to be provided, to all-round benefit.
The council are as keen as we are that trains should operate to East Grinstead in the fullness of time, and thus, as in the past, this is only temporary, not permanent, permission to use Kingscote as a terminus. The delay in obtaining permission was as a result of the council asking for further discussions with the railway on our plans for completing the extension. We had intended to present the application at an earlier (monthly) meeting. BRPS Chairman, Roy Watts, and Bluebell Railway plc Chairman, Graham Flight, held productive meetings with councillors, and at the planning hearing itself, no objections to our application were raised.
So whilst the service is curtailed to the Sheffield Park - Horsted Keynes section of the line, this is a chance to experience some of our most popular rolling stock!