Fenchurch has visited the Kent & East Sussex - full details on our new "Official News Release" pages.
The new signal for the south of platforms 1 and 2 is also now coming
together nicely, and should be "planted" fairly soon.
She did this by hauling the Metropolitan carriages as the Vintage Branch-line Train over the weekend of 21-22 September. On the Saturday the special train was so crowded that an extra carriage (one of the SECR compartment coaches) had to be added, and Stepney was required to assist. It's always good to have double heading because it's required by the load up our 1-in-75 banks rather than just for effect!
For the Lindisfarne and Yetties concerts, please note a special offer of £2.00 discount off all tickets purchased before 31st January 2003
We hope to recover a quantity of second-hand rail in November. Anyone able to give a hand with this will be most welcome. Details again on the above web page.
Tim Baker, Commercial Director, issued the following statement concerning Taw Valley:
"We regret that due to a mechanical fault on the locomotive that we were unable to repair in time, Taw Valley was not in operation as planned this weekend
"The train timetable was run as advertised with amendments to the locomotive workings
"Taw Valley was on display in the loco yard at Sheffield Park
"The engine is due to return to the Severn Valley Railway where any work required will be undertaken
"I wish to apologise to our customers of these short notice alterations to this weekends events"
Jon Bowers has provided the following photo of the 9F on the goods train, as part of his photographic report on the Giants of Steam Gala.
"There has recently been some rumours and media speculation which suggests that the site of our proposed northern extension terminus is being sold to Sainsbury's in order to extend their store.
There is a long standing and written undertaking that Railtrack Property would transfer ownership of a strip of land south of East Grinstead South Central Trains station to the Bluebell Railway when we are ready to build our station.
Discussions have in fact been underway between Railtrack Property and our representatives throughout the last year in order to agree various boundary and access details that would enable transfer of ownership to take place during 2002. Solicitors have also been engaged by both parties to complete the legal work.
It therefore came as a shock to learn that despite this progress and the outwardly positive moves, quite separate discussions were taking place between Railtrack and Sainsbury's who wish to use the strip of land destined for our station as a new access road. They are obviously in a position to apply considerably more financial pressure to bear than us and with the national rail network short of cash, Railtrack Property are clearly in a difficult position as a commercial organisation.
The current position is that we are in discussion with both Railtrack and Sainsbury's to find a solution that is mutually acceptable but above all protects our interests. Our aim remains to build a northern terminus at East Grinstead and we are engaging professional help to ensure we have sufficient land made available for this to happen.
In order for Railtrack to dispose of this land at all, either to Sainsbury's or us, the Rail Regulator must give his approval and to that end we have presented a detailed argument to him in support of our claim to this site. Objections are also being lodged by South Central Trains and East Grinstead Council.
We therefore believe that we have a strong case and are doing all possible behind the scenes to explore various options that will achieve our goal. Of unexpected benefit has been the emergence of some useful contacts and unknown supporters that have become known to us during the negotiations so the news is not all bad.
In the meantime, we are dealing with different aspects of the negotiations on a daily basis and will keep you informed of progress over the coming weeks."
Some well-meaning people have launched a campaign to send in submissions to the Rail Regulator, but the consultation is actually only for response by Train Operating companies and other statutary bodies. Fortunately we have good contacts here, and have been able to make our case through these channels, as indicated above.
Similarly, some people have been blaming Sainsbury's, but my reading of the situation is that they were erroneously pursuaded that the Bluebell could be discounted as a serious contender for the site. If, as is to be hoped, the ORR does not permit the sale of the land to Sainsbury's, or if negotiations secure our position in some other way, we will then be free to prove that we can and will push our railhead through to East Grinstead!
Here they have refurbished a section of Brighton fencing, but have had to replace a more dilapidated section with concrete post and wire. This is a small part of what has been one of the most inaccessible section of the line to fence, with all materials being brought to site thanks to the P Way team.
This picture (right) from Martin Oakley shows the new line of fence abutting the Brighton wooden fence.
This second picture shows the up side area being cleared to receive the new fence. This new fence is at the foot of the embankment slip which was repaired recently, where the gabions support the toe of the embankment. This area is particularly marshy with a certain amount of difficulty to obtain a firm base for the posts.
This section will be some 100yds long in a single stretch and will complete a large section of what is currently unfenced, although our boundary is really defined (and protected) by the stream.
These photos show the team is still very much alive and active on the Bluebell!
In line with most other departments we still require volunteers to come and
join us. This area alone has taken some five months to clear, post, wire and secure! If you are interested in giving a hand with this work, contact Martin Oakley (details under Assistant Membership Secretaries on the Contact Page), and come down on the 3rd Sunday each month.
The railway was quick to mobilise support from the many influential bodies it was able to contact, and we were also overwhelmed by the support of many other groups and individuals, particularly in the East Grinstead area.
Today we have heard that the Office of the Rail Regulator has rejected the sale of the site to Sainsbury's. The full text is at: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/landdis2.htm and the following is the important part of the decision:
"28. The Regulator considers that Railtrack's proposed land disposal would not be in either the interest of the future development of the railway network or in the public interest. In reaching this decision the Regulator notes that:
(a) a clear and feasible plan with statements as to how funding is to be secured has been put forward by an alternative party which would protect the future enlargement of the railway network (i.e. the extension to the Bluebell Railway), whereas, Railtrack's proposals would prevent any similarly beneficial development of the land;
(b) planning permission has been granted for the Bluebell Railway extension to East Grinstead;
(c) during the Regulator's consultation, the Bluebell Railway extension to East Grinstead station has been supported by the SRA, South Central Trains, RPC Southern, WSCC, MSDC and EGTC;
(d) the land is the only viable site available to ensure the connection of the proposed Bluebell Railway extension to the East Grinstead line;
(e) granting consent to this application would deny an opportunity for a future passenger interchange at East Grinstead, thereby denying potential benefits to the South Central franchise;
(f) granting consent to this application may prevent the proposed extension of the platforms at East Grinstead, in association with the Thameslink 2000 project; and finally,
(g) future growth of passenger capacity on the rail network would be reduced by frustrating the completion of the Bluebell Railway extension, particularly with regard to the creation of an improved multi-modal interchange system.
29. The Regulator therefore refuses consent for Railtrack to dispose of land at East Grinstead station."
We can now hopefully resume negotiations for the purchase of the site ourselves, having in the interim received some very useful support for our cause!
The railway itself has no money available in its budget to fund the purchase, so we must raise all £300,000 (plus costs and stamp duty) in donations. Beyond that, over coming years we shall have to raise about another £100,000 to complete our contribution if we are successful in our bid to the HLF.
Further details will be available once contracts have been signed. In the meantime, if you wish to pledge your support, the form is on the web site as a pdf and as plain text.
If you have any immediate queries on this project, you can telephone Nicholas Pryor on 020 7359 2819.
NEW SHOP GETS THE GO AHEAD !
At the Board meeting on the 3rd December Directors considered the Budget for 2003, and wider issues of finance for the major projects the company is asked to underwrite.
Graham Flight, David Foale and I met the Bank in November, to seek finance for the Shop project. Our relationship manager had seen papers the board approved at an earlier meeting, and on the basis of those, and additional discussions, felt able to offer finance at a good rate of interest and reasonable fees. The Company will have to find about £50,000 from the budget as seed corn finance but we can expect a loan facility for the bulk of the likely expenditure.
In the light of that, the Board approved a start to the project with a time scale that would see trading from Easter 2004. The bank were particularly impressed that our trading survey showed that we only need to attract an additional 10% of visitors into the shop and achieve an extra spend of about 84 pence per head, to maintain the existing net profit after loan repayments. I believe we will do better than that, but it is wise to be cautious, and this could be a self financing project on its own merits.
However, this project is not seen on its own. Shop affordability depends upon the response to appeals for funding for Woodpax. If the BRPS were unable to raise the full amount needed to buy Woodpax, and the Company was asked to step in, it is highly unlikely it would be in a position to draw down the loan to begin the shop in 2003. That would mean that we'd lose at least a full year's trading in new premises.
I am confident that Bluebell members will respond to this challenge, since we all agree on the importance of BOTH of these projects. We need to break out at Sheffield Park, and get more stock under cover. But at the same time we also need to improve the retail take from our customers to quantitatively boost the overall revenue. We place an unhealthy reliance on special events, and corporate charters for the bulk of our income and must diversify the revenue stream. Remember, net income means maintained coaches, engines, signalling and permanent way.
Bluebell has a good record, and the Directors and Trustees are sure that members will support the effort to raise funds. Cash for Woodpax means loans for the new shop!
The DVDs focus on two legends of the locomotive world. Disc One covers the history of the mighty Flying Scotsman whilst Disc Two looks at the Bluebell Line. The Bluebell footage is BBC archive programmes from the 1980s and 90s, plus original news reports on the closing and re-opening of the line. We have a review of the DVDs on our web site, and full details of both discs are on the BBC Worldwide web page.
An entry form for the competition is on the web site for you to print out and send in. Closing date: 28th February 2003.
Following completion of the canopy itself last October, we duly submitted a report to the Society Trustees and the Bluebell Railway Trust about the building underneath. Approval was given for the first two of the three sections, and we have very nearly finished the first. This corresponds to the area occupied on Platforms 3 and 4 by the gents', ladies', and ladies' waiting room, but is all one large room, since the Building Inspector would not allow re-instatement of lavatories sharing drainage with the surface water. This is what applies on the rest of the station, and had been the case here also.
In order to replicate what was built in 1882, we have used a mixture of small and large windows at differing heights. Those on Platform 2 match those on Platform 3, but on Platform 1 we have not put back the louvres to match those on Platform 4 (the buildings were mirror-images), but have instead fitted similar windows to those on Platform 2. The doors, however, are in the same places, on Platform 1 and at the north end, but that at the end is outward-opening as a means of escape. We are most grateful to Sheina Foulkes who rescued an LBSC door from Kingscote in the early days there and kept it "in case it came in useful" - it has!
The interior contains a small LBSC fireplace - thanks to Chris Knibbs, who put us in touch with members Mr. and Mrs. Favell of Cowfold, who had rescued it from Isfield. The larger (ex S&T) one from Barcombe Mills will go in the next room, coming shortly. It also contains two S.R. enamel lampshades, courtesy of Graham Burtenshaw, who rescued them from Stewarts Lane, but no bulbs - because there is as yet no electricity for lighting, or indeed background heating. All regular users of Horsted Keynes will know that the supply and cabling are in need of updating, and we await the event keenly. We did think of having the lights go dim as an electric kettle approached from the Porters' Room, as a reminiscence of the situation when the station was connected to the third rail, but for safety reasons decided against.
One feature which will not be included at this stage is the external mouldings - skirting, dado and frieze. It makes more sense to manufacture these very elaborate pieces of woodwork at the end of the project in one go. Some interior mouldings will, however, be made for each room as we proceed. This means that as the grant from the Trust, up to 50% of the total, is cash-limited, we are for the first time in deficit, and would welcome modest donations from members to put us right at the year-end.
Use of each room will be a matter for the Committee as we complete it, bearing in mind the temporary lack of electricity. As an aside, our Health and Safety Director tells me that on one recent occasion, a person has been reported to be on the roof of the new canopy - might this have been a hazard? My guess is that it was one of the team watching not hazards, but buzzards - up to seven of these impressive birds of prey have been seen this autumn circling and calling over the Station Cottages - if only they could speak...
Update 2nd Jan 2003 Visiting Engine for the Branch Line Weekend (February 22-23) is now confirmed as No.41312 (2MT tank) from the Mid Hants Railway. It should be in steam on the Bluebell on the previous weekend, and also taking part in a couple of photo charters. Contact Tim Baker via the railway if you would like to be put in touch with the Photo Charter organisers.
Of course, tomorrow and Wednesday you can still come down for our Vintage New Year two-train service using locos and coaches nearly all over 100 years old. These have proved very popular over the last three days, and offer the chance to ride in the newly restored Metropolitan Railway carriages, and with a first-class ticket, the sumptuous luxury of the LBSCR First, 100 years old in 2003, and (on New Year's Day) the Great Northern Railway Directors' Saloon.
The full list of Bluebell special events for 2003 is available.
Bookings are now being taken for the Sat 5 July: Lindisfarne Concert (£14.00 per ticket, £20 if combined with Yetties) and Sun 6 July: An Evening with the Yetties (£10 per adult, £8.00 for Bluebell members, £20 combined with Lindisfarne). Please note a special offer of £2.00 discount off all tickets purchased before 31st January 2003. Tickets include steam train ride. Available from WCM, Bluebell Railway, Horsted Keynes Station, Haywards Heath, RH17 7BB or telephone 01825 720832.
Are you between 16 and 25 years old?
Are you interested in steam railways, bygone years or do you just want something constructive to do in your spare time?
Then why not come along to one of the open days and see what we have to offer.
Full details on the Volunteer Recruitment web site.
Work is progressing well on U-class 1638, the Schools class tender, and the tender for the LBSCR Atlantic.
Camelot has returned to service after firebox repairs.
The 9F has bowed out after 12 years in service, in need of new tubes, firebox repairs and probably a new smokebox tube-plate.
Locos for 2003:
LBSCR 55 "Stepney", 473 "Birch Grove", 672 "Fenchurch"; LSWR 96 "Normandy"; SER 65; SR 21C123 "Blackmore Vale"; BR 75027, 73082 "Camelot", 80151.
Also, we expect GWR 3217 "Earl of Berkeley" to return to service during the year.
The Maroon TSO, 4957, is the next such project, with both ends being attended to.
Chris Pyle has been painting the ceilings in Maunsell 1336, a sure sign of a project coming along nicely. The "missing" seats for this coach have been located, and recovered from storage in a coach in the back sidings. These were recovered from a 6-PUL motor coach back in the 1970s, and are the only seats correct for a drop-light open third.
Replacement partitions are going into Metropolitan composite 412. Interior woodwork for Stroudley 661 is coming on, and LCDR 106 has been receiving paint and varnish on its compartment floors, and new teak mouldings cut to fit on the exterior.
The last new door pillars have been fitted to the LSWR brake, and the SECR birdcage has received still more structural repairs, leaving only the very end of the guard's compartment (complete with the raised "birdcage") to be tackled.
Bulleid 2526 is receiving more exterior panels, and the brake area is now being stripped. The Hastings Maunsell brake is coming along, with preparations well in hand for its new roof canvas, and the guard's compartment nearly complete.
The "Kingscote" gang have moved on to the second bogie from the Queen Mary brake, following the use of the hand crane to lift the vehicle. The same day the crane was used to re-wheel the SR 6-wheel milk tanker, which is coming back together nicely.