Back in November ...
Two photos from Nick Beck, showing GWR Dukedog 4-4-0 loco No.9017 prepared for service, and on its way to Horsted Keynes for the re-dedication ceremony on 1st November last year. Note the name-plate is covered.
The "Earl of Berkeley" was re-launched into traffic following the end of its major overhaul, and is seen in the photo left (courtesy of Ted Hamer) being toasted at the ceremony on 1st November 2003, when it was re-commissioned by Charles Hendry MP, a Bluebell Railway member. In the course of the overhaul, major boiler work was required, including the fitting of a new smokebox tube plate, manufactured in our own workshops, and complete new sections of front and back main frames.
Another photo from Nick Beck, later in the day, with the loco emerging from Sharpthorne Tunnel with a public passenger train.
Since then the loco has been putting in fine performances, hauling both vintage branch-line trains, and on occasions when traffic has been lighter, our main service trains, and has rapidly become an important part of our medium-power loco fleet, operating turn and turn about with the LBSCR E4 and SECR O1.
This has been all the more vital, since 2004 has seen a major revision of the Bluebell's timetable, with much greater use being made of smaller trains of vintage carriages, with the introduction of a two-train hourly service at weekends in February and March for the first time. They have proved very popular, and have shown the importance in having these medium-sized locomotives.
Also in November ...
The Bluebell Railway's engineering apprentice scheme was featured on BBC2's business programme "Working Lunch". The Working Lunch Web Site has much more information about the programme, which featured Henry Mowforth, the first Bluebell apprentice on a scheme involving periods of study at Crawley College in addition to periods of work in the Bluebell's locomotive works.
Over the winter ...
Our new bookshop has been constructed, behind the old one, which continued trading. Then a couple of weeks ago, in just a few days, the old one was demolished, with the brick-work removed by special train! The new one was opened on March 27th (as seen on its first day of operation in the photo left from David Harp). What a difference the spacious new shop makes. At last one can move from one end to the other without falling over a rack of Thomas items or a pile of videos.
These next three photos show, firstly (in a photo, right, from Paul Pettitt) the size of the new building , which incorporates offices above (replacing a portacabin) and then, how attached to the existing "Bessemer Arms" restaurant building, set back from the platform edge, it does not look out of place or scale compared to the station buildings when viewed from the platform and footbridge.
The new shop opened prior to Easter (the originally intended date) and a formal opening is planned for AGM day, 15th May. It is hoped a well known personality will be invited to attend and cut an official ribbon.
The previous shop was opened in 1976, and was a step change itself in
the retail operation of the time - the old W.H.Smith stall from Hassocks Station (now at Horsted Keynes) which in turn had superceded a "garden shed" by the ticket barrier. However in turn it became far too small for the Bluebell's current level of business, both in terms of numbers of visitors, and the range of stock now demanded. The Railway will broaden the range of products for sale while also
improving the flow of customers. The new shop will be the main exit,
following a trend in tourists attractions generally. This will also
ease congestion around the booking hall and ticket barrier.
Branch Line Weekend
An intensive service ran over this weekend at the end of February, and many photographs are available:
Goods Train Day
Our first specific day of this type, at the end of March, and again our photographers have done us proud. There is even a video clip from this event available.
Wagon and Carriage news
In preparation for the goods train event, SR 8-plank No.30004 and SECR Box Van No.15750 (seen above left) were overhauled (although this is part of our ongoing maintenance programme, but now given fresh impetus by Chris Willis taking on wagon refurbishment as his "project"). The SECR Box Van was given a re-paint, and the roof recovered, and the SR wagon was re-planked at one end and re-painted.
The second photo (above right) shows current progress with the rebuilding of the LBSCR Box Van (No.8196), which is being re-erected with much new timber in the carriage works under the auspices of the Midweek Volunteer Gang.
One of the features of the Goods Train day was the operation of LSWR engine Normandy with the SR 12-ton Hand Crane, which has recently been overhauled (and its match-wagon rebuilt) by two of the department's youngest volunteers, Tom and James.
On the carriage side, Pullman Car 64 has gone away to Stewarts Lane for a body overhaul. The 1913 LNWR observation car has come into the works for its third overhaul in its 40 years on the Bluebell. This is progressing very well, with only a few structural repairs required, and most of the work focused on re-panelling the exterior (as seen in these two photos) and re-finishing the interior.
The SECR Birdcage brake is becoming ever more complete at the brake end, as seen in this photo taken last week shows. New stainless steel water tanks have been made for this coach, and the LSWR Brake third (and the tank has already been fitted to the LSWR coach, since this enables the team working on it to get on with replanking the roof).
The next major carriage restoration to be completed at Horsted Keynes will be the LBSCR Stroudley First No.661, which should be outshopped within the next three months.
Father and son team, Andy and Stuart, have made stunning progress
with the "oak effect" graining of LCDR Brake Second 106's partitions and side panels, as seen in this photo by David Clarke. Work has now re-started on the overhaul of the doors.
East Grinstead extension
With all the rail, sleepers and ballast now on site for laying the extension (thanks to a very reasonable price for some second-hand rail, largely paid for by the Bluebell Railway Trust) track-laying has recommenced north of Kingscote, as seen in this photo, with an initial spread of ballast (exhausting the small supply that had been stored at Kingscote) on the short "narrow" section of trackbed just north of the Turners Hill Road bridge where we have only been able to purchase half the width of the original formation.
A "first" for the Bluebell is that this part of the extension is being laid using flat bottom rail on concrete sleepers. It is hoped to be up to the south "face" of the tip by June.
(Please note - this area is classified as a construction site and access is strictly controlled. Please do not create embarrassment either to the railway or adjacent landowners by attempting to gain entry.)
In spite of what has appeared in one national railway magazine, the
station site at East Grinstead is still under negotiation, and is not
yet in Bluebell ownership, although this is not thought to be far off.
Loco Works cranes replaced
Nine young volunteers on the Bluebell Railway have now received their 200 hour Award of Excellence from Wealden Youth Action, signed by Charles Clarke, Education Secretary. Peter Relf of Wealden Youth Action said "We aim to promote quality and sustained volunteering among young people. At the Bluebell Railway these young volunteers will have gained skills, accreditation, training and confidence which will prove invaluable for their future."
Congratulations go to : Phil Keller, Tom Lawson, Sinclair Vincent and Glen Daniels who work on the stations, Jonathan Lee in the signals department, and David Martin, Henry Mowforth, Bob Blake, and Matt Holloway in the locomotive department.
Bluebell Chairman Roy Watts said "I hope it will encourage other young people in the area to come and join the Bluebell and gain an accredited award that will help them in their future as well as seeing what goes on in and around the railway."
Loco Works activity
Much works activity centers around the overhaul of the U-class, where the boiler overhaul is now well in hand. The Maunsell Locomotive Society are also progressing well with the rebuilding of the tender for the Schools Class, "Stowe". The most dramatic news though is the entry into works of the SECR P-class No.323, which is being worked on by the volunteer team who did much of the work on "Earl of Berkeley", as is seen in this photo taken in December by Nick Beck. The £7,000 raised by Clive Groome and his small team will go a long way towards the cost of the work, since the loco is thought to be in good condition.
Bluebell presence at Railfest 200
Two locomotives from Sheffield Park, 21C123 Blackmoor Vale and C1 the sole remaining Q1, will be travelling to York for the National Railway Museum's Railfest 200 from 29 May to 6 June.
The launch of Bluebell Railway President Bernard Holden MBE's Autobiography "Let Smoke, Make Steam" took place on 22nd February.
Bernard Holden MBE and Dame Vera Lynn were transported to the railway in the Bluebell's own VIP Transport, in the shape of the Crossley Regis bequeathed to the Railway by Peter Cox. They were accompanied by Dame Vera's brother Roger, and were escorted by Steve and Gill Everest and Clive and Claire Emsley. There was a guard of honour provided by members of the Burma Star Veterans Association. The book launch and signing took place in the LNWR Semi-Royal Saloon which was parked in the dock at Sheffield Park. Media interest was high with reporters from the local newspapers and a crew from the BBC in attendance.
Whilst the book signing was taking place the Burma Star Veterans were treated to a trip to Horsted Keynes and return, prior to a sumptuous lunch provided by Bernard in the Bessemer Arms. The book signing carried on until late afternoon when Dame Vera Lynn and her Brother Roger were whisked away in the Crossley Regis. (Photos from Clive Emsley)
Copies of the book are now available in the Railway's new bookshop.
Chairman runs in Marathon
Roy Watts is running in his sixth London Marathon next weekend (Runner number 32183). This year he is asking for sponsorship in aid of the restoration of the LBSCR Directors' Saloon, and anyone wishing to sponsor him (go on, please do!) should do send it to Pam Snuggs, c/o Sheffield Park station.
Volunteer permanent-way activity
This is well covered on their own news page on the web site. The team have been hard at work moving bits of points around in conjunction with the Horsted Keynes resignalling, as well as the routine maintenance of the line which is so essential to the operation of the line.
Going Dutch 2004
Roger Price is organising a group visit to our twin railway Museum Stoomtram Hoorn-Medemblik for their celebrations of the 125th anniversary of steam trams in Holland. The trip will run for five days from 30th June to 4th July 2004 and will include visits to other steam railways, a cheese market, folk museum and some novel dinner venues. Travel will be by chartered luxury coach in the Netherlands with a Dutch/English speaking guide and accommodation will be in the charming Hotel Petit Nord in Hoorn.
The price including flights from and to London Gatwick, some meals and all coach travel is expected to be about £360.
Please contact Richard Salmon to be put in touch with Roger Price for full itinerary.
Following our loan of "Fenchurch" to the Museum Stoomtram Hoorn-Medemblik a couple of years ago, Dutch loco "Bello" (photo left courtesy Museum Stoomtram Hoorn-Medemblik) is expected to visit the Bluebell during late August and Early September. More details when available.
One-time Bluebell loco, Aveling Porter "Blue Circle", is hopefully to visit the Bluebell again in June, and there is the possibility of a photographic trip one evening.
New photo galleries and videos
Two Bluebell members have new photo galleries which may be of interest: Tony Frost and David Pratt. There are new Bluebell video clips on Paul Pettitt's website.
Postcard prints to benefit Brighton Atlantic fund
"Steam, Sidings and Semaphores" is a set of six black and white postcards depicting Southern Railway locomotives, taken from Sussex railwayman Brian Groome's original photographs of c.1949. Sadly, Brian, a life-long enthusiast, died suddenly in September. Brian, a Railway Inspector, was a familiar face throughout Sussex's once-intensive railway system.
The edition is limited to a single print run of 500 sets only. Sets can be ordered from the address below. Please enclose a cheque (no Postal Orders please) for £2 (plus 25p P&P for one set or 45p for 2 or more sets) made out to "Buggleskelly Books".
10% of the income from all orders received through this site will go to the Bluebell Railway "Atlantic Project". Please mention the project when ordering.
"Steam, Sidings and Semaphores",
22 Glassenbury Drive
E. Sussex TN40 2NY
£10,000 raised for "Children in Need"
Gordon Darby raises money for the BBC Children In Need charity by playing Christmas tunes on his violin to passengers on our Santa Specials. Having done this each Christmas for the last seven years, during the recent Santa season Gordon reached a £10,000 milestone.
He recalls that it was only by chance that the idea of raising money while he was playing on the train took off. "What happened was that a lady snatched my hat and walked along the observation car and said: 'Let's hear it for the fiddler'. I was very embarrassed but at the end she had a hat full with about £50, which was quite surprising. I did wonder what to do with it all so gave it to charity and have kept on doing so."
Forthcoming Special Events on the Bluebell Railway
April 25 - Toy & Rail Collectors Fair at Horsted Keynes.
April 25 is also East Grinstead Vintage Bus Running Day with a special service using vintage vehicles serving Kingscote Station. The rally is based in Queen Street, East Grinstead. See also a report on the 2003 event.
May: 1-3: Terrier Specials - One of our Stroudley Terriers (dating from the 1870s) helps out hauling a set of vintage coaches.
May: Sat 8 - Sun 9: The Southern at War - Weekend with wartime troop trains, military vehicles and reconstructions, etc.
June 11-13. Booking is now open for the Bluebell Railway Music Festival - discounts available on bookings made before May 1st. Details on the web site.
June 19,20,26,27. Full details and advance booking forms available for the Day out with Thomas event.
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