Operation Undercover is our big push to get as much as we can of our locomotive and carriage fleets undercover.
The Bluebell is renowned for its diverse collection of historic carriages and wagons. However, one of the major issues facing the Railway is the rapid weather-induced deterioration of much of its running fleet, as well as the vehicles stored outside awaiting restoration to their former glory, simply for the want of adequate covered storage accommodation.
As 'Heritage Railway' magazine observed in the April 2008 edition: "... For decades the standard of carriage restoration at the Bluebell has been a benchmark for the movement; it seems incredible that the magnificent carriage fleet has by necessity been left to stand out of doors..."
Quite simply, if more of our priceless fleet could be stored under cover, the carriages and wagons would survive much longer between repaints or renovation, thus freeing up capacity to restore more of our rare or unique vehicles to running condition. The new Sheffield Park Carriage Shed (built as Operation Undercover phase 3) greatly assists in this regard, but there is still an urgent need for more weather-proof storage facilities.
With this challenge in mind, back in 2008 a group of volunteers at the C&W Dept. drew up some plans for a new parts storage shed and a large extension to the existing C&W works, with the main objective of providing much-needed additional covered storage for approximately 20 carriages.
Matthew Cousins' sketch shows the design of the main shed, with 4 tracks in the storage part to the right, and just one road (the maintenance/pit road) in the other part of the extension. The two sections on the left are the existing carriage shed/works.
You can keep good track of progress though Dave Clarke's photo album of the project. Derek Hayward also provides coverage as part of his C&W Department Gallery.
23 August 2016
Phase 1 of the project is now virtually complete, thanks to the generousity of so many people. We have the money to complete that work, and some to start the next phase, but are still urgently seeking funds to enable us to push on with work to make the maintenance area fit for purpose.
Derek Hayward's photo shows drainage work in progress as of 13 August; work which is being carried out by volunteers.
August 2016 News Bulletin issued by the Project Steering Group is intended to keep all interested parties up to date with project progress. It is provided as a pdf - you may need to download the file to disk and open outside your browser.
To read the PDF you need Acrobat Reader. If you don't already have it installed you can download it free of charge from Adobe.
After a slow start to the foundations due to the appalling weather earlier in the year, we now have the steel structure up and roof over the maintenance pit and jacks. The first section of steel structure was also erected at the North end of the 4-road storage shed, just in time to be viewed by public and shareholders alike, as part of tours of the C&W during the Shareholders' Weekend. It is hoped that the next month or two (weather permitting) will see the completion of stage 1 of the project, for which funds were received from huge numbers of very generous donors in response to the 'Cash for Cover' fundraising campaign, after which second-hand track can start to be laid into the building to get the first carriages under cover.
The Rolling Stock Sub-committee is considering what carriages can be accommodated, and how to evaluate criteria to select the few which can't be accommodated. It will probably be possible to fit 22 or 23 carriages in the storage shed, so it looks as though only 4 or 5 pre-nationalisation carriages will be left outside under tarpaulins; they could be ones which are already so far gone that further deterioration will make little difference, or ones in very good condition, which will deteriorate very little under a tarpaulin, since there is no rot present.
Dave Clarke's three photos here show progress as of 3 April 2016. The section constructed so far is the roof over the maintenance road ("E-road"). The photos below show the junction between the two different roof heights - the higher section over the pit and lifting jacks, already constructed, and the section remaining to be built, with a lower roof, which will extend a further 100 feet southwards.
The project is now known around the railway under the contracted title "OP4". The next stage of the project, for which funds are currently being raised, is to add some of the walls around the maintenance area, including firewalls to separate it from the storage area, and to finish the Heritage Skills Centre, the two-storey range of buildings along the eastern edge of the shed, which will include a training room, meeting room, varnish shop and trim shop, as well as toilets, showers, an office and storage for moquette and vehicle records. The roof and steel frame for the skills centre is included in the part already funded and under construction.
24 January 2015
This project is now formally underway thanks to the generousity of so many people last year.
News Bulletin No.1 - the first in a series of News Bulletins, which will be issued by the Project Steering Group to keep all interested parties up to date with project progress, is now available as a pdf - you may need to download the file to disk and open outside your browser.
See report on the Infrastructure News pages.
The Bluebell Railway is justifiably renowned for its fantastic collection of vintage carriages. We still have over 20 pre-nationalisation carriages stored in the open - to conserve them for the future it is vital to get them under cover as soon as possible.
The project is explained in Nicholas Owen's Video for Cash for Cover.
The Cash For Cover Appeal is to raise money to make a substantial start on the Horsted Keynes Carriage Shed Extension, by constructing the shell and roof of the building. The overall project is known as Operation Undercover Phase 4.
Some generous benefactors have promised matching funding for the first £125,000 donated to this project, but only if the donations are made by mid-November so the Double Donations Dash DDD125 will run until this date. Thus donations of £100, if eligible for Gift Aid, will be worth £225 to the project!
The aim is to put up the supports and the roof over four proposed roads and the current maintenance road. You can see here an artist's impression (thanks to Matthew Cousins) of how it will look; the building to the left is the existing Carriage Works. If the target of £125,000 is raised by mid-November, with the match funding of £125,000 promised, we will have sufficient to put up the shed structure and half the roof, and cover 10 carriages. You can read more about the ten carriages which we'd prioritise below. Constuction work would commence in 2015.
If by the time construction starts we have raised an additional £100,000 (so reaching the £350,000 target) then we can complete the roof and thus provide cover for 20 carriages, meaning that virtually all of the pre-nationalisation coaches on the Bluebell can be placed under cover.
That will not complete the project, of course, since we eventually will need to build a component store, office, trim shop, add walls and roller-shutter doors to complete the project, but this will be a tremendous start. The drawing at the top of this page, also by Matthew Cousins, shows how the finished shed, for which we have already secured full planning permission, will look.
There is a long way to go to reach our target. Any donation, small or large, will be very welcome.
Please Donate to the appeal.
Priority carriages for first phase:
Priority in selecting the first ten carriages to benefit from covered accommodation is broadly given to those which:
* are complete (as opposed to vehicles gutted internally for other uses)
* are likely to deteriorate whilst stored under a tarpaulin
* form part of a current project for enhancing current carriage sets
* are favoured by the society membership
Vehicles due to be overhauled in the next few years are not included.
The list is, in no particular order of preference:
6575 (Maunsell brake/composite)
One of Bluebell's first carriages, and was operational until recently. It is planned to be overhauled in the medium term to provide a second brake vehicle for the Maunsell train.
5644 (Maunsell composite)
This carriage is also planned to be overhauled for the Maunsell train. Although this vehicle has much of its interior missing, it is an important part of the Maunsell train, and is suffering damage from open storage.
1481 (Bulleid open third)
This carriage is complete, and was in operation for many years. As a 64-seater it is commercially valuable for its carrying capacity in the Bulleid/BR sets.
4279 (Bulleid brake/third)
Only recently taken out of service, and hence a complete vehicle, this type is valuable for having 48 seats in a brake vehicle.
1050 (SECR/SR non-corridor composite)
This vehicle is complete, but has not run in service since the early 1970s, and has recently suffering damage owing to the loss of its tarpaulin during stormy weather. Of the non-corridor bogie vehicles waiting to be overhauled this one is in the best condition, so is planned to be the next of that type to be overhauled following 971.
1061 (SECR short Birdcage brake/third)
This ran in service until the mid 1970s, and is complete. Its overhaul with 1050 would allow a 3-car Birdcage set to be made up.
1170 (SECR long Birdcage brake/third)
Although this has not run in Bluebell service and is gutted internally, the vehicle structure is sound and, for a brake vehicle, has high seating capacity.
60 (LBSCR Directors' saloon)
The "Brighton Saloon" was operated for several years in the early Bluebell time, but has been stored for many years awaiting a suitable opportunity to undertake its overhaul. As a structurally good vehicle with a fancy interior it will benefit from proper undercover storage.
157 (Pullman brake/third "Car No 54")
This vehicle is structurally sound, but came to Bluebell in a dismantled state. It is a key part of the future development of the Pullman train.
172 (SER first saloon)
This vehicle will be a part of the SECR 4/6-wheelers train, as the only vehicle providing first class accommodation. As a first class vehicle it has interior decoration which is more susceptible to damage from open storage than third class vehicles.
And as 172 is a short vehicle we can add another short one:
25 (LSWR first saloon) - This needs undercover storage for the same reason as 172.
That this list does not include some of the Bluebell's other important carriages, such as Constance, 320 and 1365 is simply an indication of how important it is that we work to raise sufficient money to get a roof over 20 carriages, rather than just 10!
A start has been made clearing the site at the North end of the proposed main shed (photo on the right from John Sandys).
Derek Hayward's photos below show the start that has been made on the foundations for the building, with work also required on drainage and services for the existing building. This is being funded from earlier fund-raising within the Carriage & Wagon department, and secures the planning permission we obtained for the project 3 years ago.
Outline of the plans for Phase 4, for which Planning Permission has now been granted.
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