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) will greatly assist 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.
The full scope of Operation Undercover Phase 4 is still being defined, but the development of covered accommodation in the down yard at Horsted Keynes is at present termed Phase 4A.
Matthew Cousins' sketch shows the initial thoughts on the project design - the finalised plan actually has 4 tracks rather than 3 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.
Outline of the plans for Phase 4A, for which Planning Permission has now been granted - November 2011
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