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Early Days of the Bluebell Railway

Part Four

1963 brought a major campaign to secure some coaches before the supply of pre-nationalisation stock dwindled too much and several Maunsell coaches were bought, together with the two 100-seaters. These were not the most popular of coaches with many of the members, but proved to be amongst the most regular and reliable performers.

971 1098

The two "Hundred Seaters", SR built No.971 and SECR built No.1098.

Now both outshopped in full Maunsell livery they are a joy to behold (and with the recently installed through lighting, no longer the guard's nightmare now trains run through Sharpthorne tunnel!) Coaches did not have far to come as most were being stored on the Ardingly branch after withdrawal before being taken to Newhaven for scrapping. Supplies were so good that on a couple of occasions a coach was sent back to be exchanged for another because it had broken windows! If only we had been able to buy more.... One tragedy of the Ardingly branch was when the last LBSCR coach, reserved for the Bluebell and marked accordingly, was accidentally removed and converted into a car-carrying flat truck. The mistake was realised just too late to save the coach. Amends were made, however, two years later when the LBSCR Directors' Saloon became available and BR, no doubt remembering their error of two years previously, gave the Bluebell preferential treatment and did not go to open tender to dispose of this vehicle.

Directors' Saloon

LBSCR Directors' Saloon

Another "miss" of 1963 was the "Lancing Belle", a six coach rake of pre-grouping stock that had been used to form the Brighton-Lancing Works staff special. Complete and available, it was scrapped because the Bluebell just could not raise the purchase price.

1964 was a desperate year for the Bluebell. The attitude from BR was fast hardening and basically the Railway had to find the funds to purchase the line, or be closed down. No money was available for anything else! History can tell the story of the protracted negotiations with a hostile BR management and the final triumph in 1968 when a hire purchase deal was struck, but there was a long and agonising period when it seemed the Bluebell's days were coming to a sad end. One, and probably the only, highlight of 1964 was when, after the personal intervention of that famous East Grinstead resident, Dr Beeching, the original "Terrier" of 1872, number 32636 Fenchurch arrived.

Fenchurch "Fenchurch" standing by the Pump House at Sheffield Park.

BR had given the Bluebell just four weeks to acquire it but the Doctor instructed that the loco should be reserved for six months. Fenchurch was the very last of the Bluebell's locos to arrive in steam before the Bluebell was cut off from the National Railway network.

Thus the first five years of the Bluebell's operations came to a close under a dark cloud but, as we all know today, the struggle was not in vain and now the railway has possibly the finest collection of rolling stock to be seen on any preserved line. Much of the stock is not Bluebell-owned, but is there because the owners appreciate the facilities available. To own a loco or coach is not an easy task, but if that loco or coach is based on the Bluebell then the owner will know it is being well maintained and used for the purpose it was intended.


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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.
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This page updated 6 September 2005 by Richard Salmon
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