Welcome to this edition of POINTS AND CROSSINGS. The New Year has got off to a positive start and to paraphrase a well known advertising slogan
"THE FUTURE'S BRIGHT, THE FUTURE'S BLUEBELL"
The Santa Specials were well supported by our visitors and we would like to thank all those who helped us to a great success. The total revenue for Santa Specials was £170,801 which is 10 % up on 2000. As a percentage of capacity of the rolling stock, occupancy was between 95% and 98% which in terms of passenger is 18,767. We distributed 16,000 mince pies, 17,500 drinks, and cleared four skips of rubbish, each containing 7 tons!
Ticket revenue for 2001 topped the million mark at £1,067,685 with 173,768 visitors compared with 181,535 for 2000. revenue was just 2% down on the previous year which was every encouraging as the year got off to a bad start with foot and mouth reducing trade by 25%.
The good news continues as January started with a bang, with revenue up 24% compared with 2001. In visitors that is 3,377.
You will know that we intend to purchase part of the Woodpax site and develope it into an operational carriage shed and New Museum. Just think of the long term benefits this will bring for our operations team and our visitor experience. I urge you to contribute to this scheme by sending your pledges to "PDE" at the Sheffield Park Booking Office. Just think that by putting one carriage under cover we can save £150 per month in maintenance costs, just consider what we can do for ALL our rolling stock. Not only that, we can clear up a site that is in desperate need of a good tidy up and we can begin to help turn Sheffield Park into the prestige Headquarters it should be. Please pledge what you can to this vital project to conserve our rolling stock for now and the future.
Chris Cooper; Trustee and Internal Information Officer
Barry le Jeune, who has taken on the creation and management of a corporate membership scheme asks if any member thinks his employer, customers or suppliers could benefit from being a corporate member to send contact details to him as soon as possible. The Bluebell will be very flexible towards the requirements of corporate members. For more information or to send names and address of contacts you can e-mail Barry or write to Barry via me at Sheffield park Station.
Pam is our Administration Assistant, responsible for stationery, booking the Training Centre ( 'Early Learning Centre'), and lots of other administrative duties. She is also rather good fielding telephone enquiries.
David is our new Marketing Assistant.
As a result of this Russell Pearce has taken on the role of operations director in addition to his posibilities as retail director. Any member who is suitably qualified to be health and safety manage should contact Chris White forthwith. The focus on the northern extension clearly needs a review following the recent extension of the planning consent for Kingscote by MSDC it is important to revisit the remaining key activities, therefore Messrs Flight, Watts and White are currently taking stock and considering all the options faced in extending to East Grinstead.
Team work is how we are coping with Operation Undercover ( Woodpax and carriage accommodation), as Martin Lock has a team comprising Nigel Bowles, Nicholas Pryor, Steve Sumitomo-Wyatt, Richard Salmon and Roy Watts running the project under Martin's direction. Similarly the new museum project lead by our curator John Potter has a team comprising Roger Price (museum project manager appointed by the Bluebell Railway Trust), Terry Cole (as a trustee of the Bluebell Railway Trust), Sam Bee, Colin Tyson and Simon Baker ( as Society Trustee responsible for the museum). This is clearly a joint Trust and Society project.
The next team to be formed will be to assist the directors on the extension.
Golden Arrow Train Manager
Resulting from a re-organisation within the Catering Department at Sheffield Park a vacancy now exists for someone to join the catering team and take the lead in running the railways prestigious Golden Arrow train.
Key applicant requirements are: -
This includes the new sales kiosk at Sheffield Park, Horsted Keynes Buffet and Kingscote kiosk.
Applicants must have:-
Senior Operating Staff Vacancies
It is intended to make the following voluntary appointments over the next few months:
Senior Station Master Kingscote
Senior Station Master Sheffield Park
(These two posts to have overall responsibility for other Station Masters and staff at each station)
Relief Station Master (2 posts)
Assistant Loco Inspector
Assistant Guards Inspector
Assistant Platform Staff Inspector
Closing date for applications will be 1st May 2002 with interviews held during May and appointments from June 2002. Job descriptions, requirements and any further details can be obtained from Chris Knibbs.
Mindful of the financial difficulties other railway have found themselves in over the last year or so, the Bluebell board have spent some time reviewing how we control our expenditure and putting in place procedures to tighten up on the time honoured way we have always spent our money in the past.
The result is something called General Instruction 005 which came into force in January this year. It applies to anyone on the railway who is involved in ordering materials or services and lays down rules about who can incur expenditure, authorise invoices for payment and the various limits which apply.
The instruction also contains a list of posts which are approved to spend money. Those people who are currently occupying these posts have been issued with GI005 and have been briefed on the contents so they understand how to operate the system. One of the key requirements is the need for an official Bluebell Railway Order form to be used for ordering and this in turn is used to reconcile invoices when they arrive.
So, if you have not received a copy of this instruction, in effect from now on you cannot commit the railway to any expenditure. It could be there are people who have been missed off the list quite innocently and thus will be unaware of the new requirements. If you read this and consider you are one of them then you should advise David Foale quickly and he will then give some consideration to your name being added to the list.
In the meantime, remember you cannot spend the railways money if you are not on the list in which case your next step is to consult with the appropriate director responsible for your area of activities and he will deal with your request. Day to day queries about the system can however be directed to Carol Elliott at Sheffield Park Finance Office. It's no longer any good turning to John Potter even if you see him about as he is now officially retired and can no longer authorise anything.
If after reading this you think it's all a bit of a pain, just reflect on how you would feel if we failed to exercise good financial management and our railway found itself in the position that some of our contemporaries have done.
The Catering Department had a very good year and ended approximately where it did at the end of 2000, which is encouraging in the light of the flatter level of business all round the railway!
It shows that the level of net profit is somewhat static over recent years, and this is due in some part to a rising burden of wages. This is turn can be attributed to a continued reliance on Agency staff, as well as rises in the National Minimum Wage, and also increased costs resulting from improvements under the law to the employment conditions of part time staff.
Nonetheless I have asked that the department strive to get its wages costs down. In connection with that, it is a pity that there was a disappointing response to Roger Price's initiative to attract a volunteer gang to work on the Golden Arrow train. Let no member complain that we are making insufficient use of volunteers in the light of that exercise.
The Golden Arrow was returned to traffic on 3rd of February, and is fully booked for the month, this is a result of the loss of Car 76, however March is also booking well.
Ice Cream Kiosk
Mr White tells me that the contract is let, and off site fabrication has commenced, the shell should be erected by late February. On completion we hope that the turnover in the department as whole will rise and so help out the labour cost as a percentage of turnover. Just because you spend a lot on labour does not mean that you are over staffed.
Instructions on the use of Catering Facilities
The Board, at its December meeting approved, and brought into effect standard instructions governing the use of Catering Department facilities (including stated policy on the use of the Bessemer Arms, the Birch Grove Suite and the Golden Arrow) by company officials, the Society, and Society members. It also lays down pricing guidelines so that there can be certainty as to how prices are calculated, while allowing some flexibility.
The Shop also had a good year considering the set backs of the slip at Ingerwersons and Foot & Mouth, but once again the performance looks similar to last year.
Continuing our practice of building a loco ash pit every 21 years, the long-planned new pit will be built this April, starting immediately after Easter. This will occupy most of the length of 3-road outside the loco shed, and will accommodate between 2 and 6 locos depending on their lengths. This should mean special-day loco crews won't have to start at 05:30 any more, and we are expecting it to be open for business by Thomas weekend.
An associated work is to get a working water crane in the yard. The existing one, the double-sided Stirling crane from Hither Green, is in an unsuitable place, and hence has hardly been used. As part of the pit job the water pipe to the crane will be re-routed so that at a later stage a water crane can be installed in a more usable position between 3 and 4-roads but further south. With this in place signalmen should no longer need to hang around whilst the last engine of the day fills up in the station.
The Maunsell Locomotive Society continue to make good progress overhauling Stowe's tender. A new front dragbox is being constructed on site by the Sunday gang. The wheelsets have gone off to Swindon for tyre turning and hopefully the chassis should be re-wheeeled by the Summer.
Good progress is also being made on the work to 1638's motion. Eight new bushes have been fitted and more pins etc. are being made.
Did you know that the Dukedog 3217 has been with us just 40 years? The Late Tom Gomm's successful bid to save 9017 as it then was, resulted in its arrival on Bluebell metals on 15th February 1962. It left Old Oak Common and went to Brighton for turning before transferring to the Bluebell Railway. 3217's overhaul is well under way, and there is a chance that the 'Earl' will be in traffic this year.
Locomotive Mileage Days in Steam Bluebell Locomotives 55 2603 68 (a) 65 4744 98 96 1886 88 473 4960 94 672 2866 71 (b) 21C123 3384 52 73082 5128 92 75027 5728 94 80151 1173 27 92240 6385 106 ----- --- Total 38857 790 Visiting Locomotives 1 128 7 34081 510 7 W8 262 8 W11 142 4 ---- -- Total 1042 26 Grand Total for 2001 39899 816 (a) Includes 131 miles and 4 days on the I.O.W. Railway (b) Includes 564 miles and 10 days on the I.O.W. Railway
The railway will be taking part in this nationwide event from 7 to 10 May.
For a fare of £10 passengers will be able to ride in the observation coach where guides will give the history of the line and how it served the local farmers and industries. There will also be a printed guide to the line's history available. Sam Bee is organising competitions for local schools and the Historical Association who are promoting the week have expressed an interest in broadcasting our event on Channel 4 Television. If you would like to bring a group or want more information please contact me.
A Chris Cooper coach trip to this railway in Staffordshire, including a steam hauled train travelling twice over this line, with lunch included costs only £45. Coaches depart Sutton and Sheffield Park at 8 a.m. Hurry seats are limited contact Chris NOW . Telephone 01306 713295 evenings only.
The extended carriage works continues to pay dividends. Following the re-canvas and re-paint of 1098, the other SECR hundred-seater has also received attention to its roof, and we are also hoping that we've cured the leaks in the roof of the SR brake van which runs with them. This has also benefitted from a repaint. So too has the LMS Banana Van, which ran on one of the passenger trains on the branch Line Weekend. Thus most of the coaches on two of the three trains running on the Branch Line Weekend have been through the paintshop in recent months, and the quality of our stock was only too apparent to our visitors.
Currently in the paint shop is Pullman Car No.76, "Lilian". Bodyside corrosion turned out to be far worse than anyone had imagined, and so the "filler in the holes" technique has given way to complete new steel panels being riveted to the outside in many places, including some new sections of guttering. Fortunately these 1928 steel-bodied Pullmans are built like battleships, so this repair should be good for a few years. However, it points out that this coach was originally obtained five years ago so that Car 64 could be released for a overhaul. We'd better hope that money and time can be found to do that overhaul before Car 76 itself expires.
Currently in for a re-canvas, unexpectedly, is Bulleid Brake No.4279, and the other brake, No.2515 is also leaking and will need attention soon to prevent damage to the interior and structure.
The LNWR Observation Car is now in works for attention to the bodyside panelling on one side, and the doors.
Too many visitors in January?
At a time of year when virtually no other railway is running steam, and with part of our own line closed for engineering work , we thought this would be the ideal time to run a lightweight train behind "Fenchurch". We were initially proposing to use just the pair of Metropolitan Railway coaches, but it was quickly apparent that another coach was needed to carry the passengers presenting themselves. So the LBSCR Bogie coach was added. Still more intending passengers turned up each day, so the LNWR Observation Car also had to be added, and the operation of the train passed to Fenchurch's big brother, "Birch Grove".
This problem is apparent whenever we run the Met coaches. They are too popular! So we really do need the other two Met coaches in service to carry the crowds. Well, the news on No.368 is that it's coming on well, with an anticipated launch date in May. Jobs still in hand are the completion of some brake rigging, steam heat, communication cord tubing, luggage racks, lighting, door drop-lights, the last few bits of seating, carpets (in the First-class compartments) and blind-boxes. The roof also needs a final coat of paint. With work only just started on the fourth coach, it will still be two years before this train will be up to its full strength, although before then it could well run with the LBSCR Stroudley First and the LCDR brake Third, once they are completed in the next year or two.
Branch Line Weekend
Yet again we seem to have hit the right note with our visitors, here are some e-mails from the Bluebell NewsGroup :
"What a great weekend! Travelling behind Normandy was a rare treat, the goods looked excellent, and the shiny green coaches were extremely impressive. Almost too much to take in!"
"May I thank everybody for a wonderful weekend. I was lineside with camera for the first time in a couple of years, both days! Both days were different and most enjoyable. Special thanks to Neil Glaskin although I realise it is not a solo effort. Great weekend. Thanks Again"
"May I take this chance to congratulate all those involved in organising the weekend. Especially Neil, well done."
And from Neil himself:
"Thanks to everyone who came to Branch Line weekend and everyone who worked to make it work. I hope everyone enjoyed it."
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