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Early Days of the Bluebell Railway

Part Two

In 1961 an attempt was made to bolster the meagre coaching stock by purchasing some ex LSWR "gate stock" (open vestibule, gated stock with tram style seating) still in use in the Plymouth area, but this was scuppered when the coaches were seriously damaged during a storm. [The full explanation of how this was not quite the full story is told by Mike South.] The dearth of coaches was relieved when four of the six Victorian ex-Metropolitan Railway coaches that had seen service on the Chesham branch (from 1940 until electrified in 1960) were purchased.

Stepney with the Chesham Set

"Stepney" with the four Metropolitan Railway coaches at Horsted Keynes in the early 1960's. Note the third rail still in place for the BR electric service.

The asking price for ex-BR coaches was £200 each but the Bluebell managed to aquire the four "Cheshams" from LT for a total of £260. They form the oldest complete set of preserved bogie coaches in Britain and worked long and hard on the Bluebell for several years, until age finally took its toll in the late 1960s. The first two of the four coaches returned to service in rejuvenated condition in February 1999, with the third completed in May 2002 and the set completed at the end of 2006.

Another Bluebell policy, that of no duplication of locomotives (despite the original intention to purchase a second "Terrier") fell by the wayside during 1961 when a second SECR "P" Class, number 27, was purchased to augment number 323. 1961 also saw the arrival of the LSWR Adams "0415" Class 4-4-2T number 488 (BR number 30583).

No.27 Primrose - Ken Chown - 1961 LSWR 488 - Mike Esau

SECR P Class No.27 lettered as "Primrose", and LSWR Adams Radial Tank No.488.

A big milestone in Bluebell history was achieved on 29th October when, for the first time, the Bluebell was allowed to work into Horsted Keynes Station, still used by BR for the electric service to Seaford. All four of the Bluebell's operational locomotives were used, with Stepney leading the Adams, and the two P-classes, Nos.27 and 323, bringing up the rear, as seen below in R.C. Riley's photo in the Bluebell Archives.

First Bluebell service into Horsted Keynes - R.C.Riley - 29 October 1961

Click here to move to part three.


Return to Bluebell Home Page, to the Timetable or to Special Events
History of the Bluebell:- L&EGR - Early Days 1 - Early Days 2 - Early Days 3 - Early Days 4 - Kingscote Station - Fenchurch
Personal Recollections of the Bluebell Line: Daniel Wilson - Martin J.N. Payne - Martin Ternouth - Early Bluebell Days: Mike South
Biography: Frederick Hutchings - 50 years with the LBSCR, SR & BR
Track Layouts through the years: Horsted Keynes - West Hoathly - Kingscote. More to come later!
Map showing how the line relates to other railways in the locality.
The Extension

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This page updated 17 September 2014 by Richard Salmon.
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