Operation Undercover is our big push to get as much as we can of our locomotive and carriage fleets undercover. As Phase 1 of the project, several of the team were involved in the extension of the Carriage Works at Horsted Keynes, which was completed in 2001 - Photos here and here - Opening ceremony.
Phase 2, completed in early 2004, was the relatively minor project to finish the north end of the existing Locomotive Running Shed, extended by one bay, and brickwork and roof completed at that end. This was funded partly from money already raised over many years for the purpose, by new donations given specifically for this latest work, and by a contribution from the Bluebell Railway Trust. Photo during construction
What might be termed "Phase 2A" was the completion of the west side brickwork and windows of the locomotive running shed, at Sheffield Park. This was not actually an Operation Undercover project as such, being funded by the Shed wall fund and the Bluebell Railway Trust. This was completed in early 2006 - photos here and here.
The Woodpax site formed the basis for Phase 3 of Operation Undercover, which provides covered accomodation for up to 17 carriages, a new museum building, a new loco washout pit, the repair and reconstuction of the platform buildings and canopy, provision of toilets on platform 2, and the shell of a building for new loco staff facilities, all at Sheffield Park.
As outlined by the Carriage Fleet Overview I wrote for Bluebell News back in 1995, 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 was 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. The opportunity arose to purchase land at Sheffield Park from part of the "Woodpax" site which has been crucial for the success of this part of the project, which has been part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The railway itself had no funds available to support the purchase of the land, so the Society undertook 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 posted to the membership at large appealed 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 initially expected to cost several million pounds, to start with we set ourselves a target of £400,000. However, most importantly in the short term, we needed to reach £320,000 in just two months for the land purchase! The superb response ensured that we were able to secure the site in March 2003.
We built a carriage storage and display building at Sheffield Park, behind platform 2, able to hold the Pullman set, two other operational carriage sets and a major new Museum display. Rail access is through the use of the Pump-house siding as a headshunt. The scheme also includeed a new loco washout pit, and new lavatories, and an extension to the canopy on platform 2 to restore the canopy to its original length. The shell of an above-workshop building for new loco staff facilities was included since the old ones were on the site required for the new pit. Details are here.
HLF funding: The total project cost was £3.9 million, of which £2.875 million was covered by a grant from the heritage Lottery Fund, awarded in March 2008, with the remainder funded with the money raised to purchase the Woodpax land, other donations, the value of volunteer labour and materials committed to the project, and a grant from the Bluebell Railway Trust.
Construction was completed during 2010, with fitting out of the museum and the Carriage Shed completed during 2011. News reports and photos from the project are available below.
Having completed the HLF-funded Phase 3, we have moved back to Horsted Keynes for a carriage works extension and storage shed. More details of, and the latest news from, Operation Undercover Phase 4 are available here.
Photo reports from Derek Hayward showing progress with the construction of the shell for the "Above Workshop Facilities", which as the name suggests are above (but also in front of) the single-storey section of the Loco Workshop. These will provide the Locomotive Department with permanent toilet, shower, messing, locker-room and office facilities, and replace the temporary classroom in the car park.
The HLF-funded element of this project has concluded, and fitting out of the facility is continuing under the Infrastructure Department. The opening of the new locomotive department facilites is reported here.
Photo reports from Derek Hayward showing fully detailed progress on the new shed, and other buildings and canopy on platform 2 at Sheffield Park - 21 January 2012
Photo reports from Derek Hayward showing work on the Loco Washout Pit - 21 January 2012
Past news items:
- Photo reports from the Museum Committee showing the official opening - 23 June 2011
- Clearance work on Phase 3 site, and appointment of main contractor - 20 November 2009
- Start of work on site - 5 October 2009
- Heritage Lottery Fund Stage Two Pass announced - we have the go-ahead for the Phase 3 project - 26 March 2008
- Planning consent received from Lewes District Council for the buildings. The Heritage Lottery Fund Stage Two decision is awaited - 26 February 2008
- Bluebell News article by Nicholas Pryor, including drawings of the Woodpax and platform 2 elevations, plus a Press Release concerning the application for planning permission for the scheme - 23 January 2008
- Consultants appointed to conduct a full project review, to produce a timetable and project management scheme to complete stage 2 - 17 November 2006.
- Preliminary site clearance in the old wood yard [Photos no longer available] - 15 March 2005.
- Heritage Lottery Fund Stage One Pass: Article by Nicholas Pryor and Press Release - 10 January 2005.
- Application for funding submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund, 24 March 2004.
- News of completion of the purchase of the Woodpax site, from Nicholas Pryor, 27 March 2003.
- News of exchange of contracts on the Woodpax site, and the start of fundraising, from Nicholas Pryor, 18 January 2003.
- Nicholas Pryor's Progress Report, as published in Bluebell News, December 2002.
Background information as regards covered accommodation for carriages is available here, as well as some more details of our plans for the Woodpax site.
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