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Bluebell Railway Blog:
Archive 2018


Please be aware that due to the historical nature of this page, some of the links on it may be out of date.

The Current What's New page contains all the recent update information.

Also see the 2017, the 2016, the 2015, the 2014, the 2013, the 2012, the 2011, the 2010, the 2009, the 2008, the 2007, the 2006, the 2005, the 2004, the 2003, the 2002, the 2001, the 2000, the 1999 and the 1997-8 "What was new" archive pages.


Blog and Web-site Update Archive 2018

26 April:
H-class and line-side bluebells - Peter Edwards - 22 April 2018

Bluebells from the vintage train - John Horton - 21 April 2018 22 April:
  • John Horton's photo, taken from the vintage train yesterday shows that there's a good display of bluebells starting to bloom on the lineside.

  • To see the best of those lineside bluebells we currently have our Bluebell Specials running on most weekdays to our off-peak Timetable service 1.
    For an all-round view of the lineside, ride in our panoramic LNWR Observation Car, in which you can reserve a seat, for a very small supplement.
    You can still turn up on the day as normal to ride in our ordinary carriages on the rest of the train.

  • Reminder that next Saturday, 28 April, is the first of our two annual Toy & Rail Collectors' Fairs.

  • We are looking forward to our next two major events, the Southern Classic Car Show on 13 May, with a feast of classic cars at Horsted Keynes, and our Branch Line Gala with visiting engine Ex-Port Talbot Railway 0-6-0ST, GWR No.813 of 1901 on 18-20 May, for which we plan an intensive and unusual timetable, featuring also Nos.65, 263, 323 and 30541 from our home fleet, and a wide variety of carriage stock.

  • Brian Lacey's photos below from yesterday were both taken at Horsted Keynes. In the first, the SECR O1-class passes through with the afternoon tea service, the Wealden Rambler. The second photo shows the crew of the H-class with one service train taking a break on Platform 4 (whilst the fireman damps down the coal in the bunker to stop the dust flying about) whilst the Q-class brings the other service train in to Platform 3.

O1 No.65 with the Wealden Rambler at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 21 April 2018 Q and H pass at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 21 April 2018

20 April:
Q-class carrying a wreath in memory of Dave Phillips - John Sandys - 19 April 2018
  • John Sandys' photo from yesterday shows the Q-class during its run-round at Sheffield Park, carrying a wreath in memory of Dave Phillips. It also shows the now pretty-much completed re-roofing of our 1979-built locomotive shed, funded as part of the ASH (Accessible Steam Heritage) project. John has further photos from Thursday, and also from Tuesday, when Camelot was in charge of the service train. This week the Observation Car was attached to the service trains for pre-booked Bluebell Special ticket-holders.

  • The SECR H and O1, plus the Maunsell Q-class, are running this weekend. We have our Peak service 2 timetable. You can buy tickets online up to a day in advance, or on arrival on the day at our stations.

  • Coming up on Sunday is East Grinstead Bus Running Day - it's not a Bluebell event, but it gives some added interest in East Grinstead, and provides interesting options to visit us from further afield by vintage bus.

  • We are running free 'Behind the Scenes' tours of the C&W department at Horsted Keynes on 28th April (the day of our Toy & Rail Collectors' Fair), starting at 11.40, 12.40, 1.55 and 3.10.

  • Update with the latest positions in the Football Competition. This is a fund-raiser for the forthcoming overhaul of our Southern Railway Maunsell Restaurant/Dining First No.7864. And talking of the Restaurant Car, Hornby have just released the first photos of decoration samples of their new OO-gauge versions, expected to be delivered in September.

  • Update to the Locomotive Duty Roster, with expected locomotive use for remainder of April, and current plans for May.

  • John Sandys' photo from Tuesday shows that most of the work on the splendid new canopy around the Bessemer Arms, which had been included in the plans when the building was constructed in the 1980s, has been completed. The project is yet another tribute to the outstanding achievements of the FoSP (Friends of Sheffield Park) project volunteers, who have made a real difference to the appearance and amenity of our headquarters station over recent years.

  • Brian Lacey's photo from last Saturday shows 73082 'Camelot' carrying the headboard in memory of Simon Brown.

Canopy on Bessemer Arms - John Sandys - 17 April 2018 73082 'Camelot' carrying the headboard in memory of Simon Brown - Brian Lacey - 14 April 2018

16 April:
O1 and spring flowers - Brian Lacey - 14 April 2018
  • Brian Lacey's photo on the right shows the spring flowers at Horsted Keynes, as SECR O1 No.65 waits for the Wedding Party to board the Pullman train on Saturday. On the lineside however it's the primroses which form the main display at present; the bluebells will take over soon.

  • News Update An update on the overhaul of Bulleid Carriage, No.5768 on the Bulleid Society web site.

  • Jon Barnes' video compilation featuring the Maunsell Q-class on Saturday, when it hauled the lightweight vintage set in the morning, to which was added the Wealden Rambler Lounge Cars for the Afternoon Tea service.

  • Brian Lacey's photo below from Saturday, a gloriously sunny day, shows Q-class No.30541 with its unusual 8-coach train at Horsted Keynes.

  • Peter Edwards' photo shows No.73082 'Camelot' at Vaux End carrying the headboard in memory of Simon Brown on his birthday.

30541 with vintage coaches plus lounge cars at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 14 April 2018 73082 'Camelot' carrying the headboard in memory of Simon Brown - Peter Edwards - 14 April 2018

12 April:
30541 with anniversary of closure special train - Martin Lawrence - 16 March 2018
  • Martin Larence's photo takes us back a few weeks to the special train run on the actual day of the 60th anniversary of the second line closure; amongst the invited guests that day were some who had travelled on the train on 16 March 1958. A full-colour version of the photo is here.

  • It's the last few days of the Easter Holidays. Tomorrow, and over the weekend, we are running our peak Service 2 Timetable, with one of the trains formed of our vintage LBSCR, LCDR/SECR and LSWR carriages. Tickets can be purchased in advance at a discount, or on arrival on the day. A full-line return gives unlimited travel on the day.

  • On Monday we start our Bluebell Specials - these trains run on most weekdays to our off-peak Timetable service 1; for the best view of the lineside you can reserve a seat, for a very small supplement, in our 1913-built LNWR Observation Car. Weekend trains continue to our peak Service 2 timetable.

  • Derek Hayward's photo gallery for Kingscote Signal Box has had a major revision. It now includes 150 images of the box and the associated signals, covering the period 1998 -2018.


11 April:
The late Dave Phillips, at the Vintage Transport Weekend at Horsted Keynes - Derek Hayward - 11 August 2013
  • It is with great sadness that we have to report that Bluebell volunteer Dave Phillips passed away on Monday night after a spell in hospital. Derek Hayward's photo shows him during the 2013 Vintage Transport Weekend, at which he was one of the judges. Dave did a lot of hard work for the railway, especially in the background on the day to day running of railway. He will be greatly missed by all.

  • John Sandys provides photos from around Sheffield Park yesterday , a gorgeous Spring day which saw Camelot looking magnificent in the sunshine, plus photos of the ASH Project.

  • Daniel Green provides a gallery from Saturday, with 'Camelot', 263 & 65.

  • Bluebell features with our own entry on the National Rail web site. Visitors might find it useful to follow link to their new page "Trains to Brighton", the spiritual home of the LBSCR.

  • Just to prove that the loco roster can only be a snapshot of our intended locomotive useage, always subject to last minute changes, yesterday instead of the H-class and the Q, we steamed the O1 and 'Camelot', as seen in Brian Lacey's photos below, taken at East Grinstead.

65 with vintage coaches at East Grinstead - Brian Lacey - 10 April 2018 73082 'Camelot' at East Grinstead - Brian Lacey - 10 April 2018

9 April:
H-class with LSWR Brake 1520 at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 7 April 2018
  • Brian Lacey's photo from Saturday shows the SECR H-class on departure from Horsted Keynes with LSWR Brake 1520 at the south end of the Vintage set, which is in public service all this week. In the background is BR Mk.1 Brake Composite No.21246, which is approaching the end of its overhaul, with just a little interior work to complete, plus the overhaul of a pair of bogies for it.

  • Martin Lawrence has completed his his March gallery and begun that for April.

  • Photos by Peter Skuce of his visit on Easter Monday, and also an updgraded of his Vintage Trains Weekend album from Saturday 5 November 2011.

  • News Update A significant update on the page for news of our project to re-construct a "Brighton Atlantic", with the headline being that all the tubes and flues are now in the boiler and have been expanded.
    The photos below show the last flue tube being inserted, the safety valves in place, and the backhead, with all orifices blanked off in preparation for the hydraulic test. The full update is available here.

Last flue tube - Fred Bailey - 3 January 2018 Safety valves in place - Fred Bailey - 11 March 2018 Backhead - Fred Bailey - 25 February 2018

Model Railway weekend is 23-24 June 2018 - Mike Hoops' Poster 6 April:
  • Our annual Model Railway Weekend is on 23-24 June. You can download the full size PDF version of Mike Hopps' poster here.

  • Reminder that we are running a 2-train service (Timetable service 2) this week and next, with one of the trains formed of our vintage LBSCR, LCDR/SECR and LSWR carriages. Tickets can be purchased in advance at a discount, or on arrival on the day. A full-line return gives unlimited travel on the day.

  • Some of our Fish & Chip evening supper trains are already sold out, but we still have tickets for the first of the year, on 13 April, or later in the summer - Buy tickets here.

  • John Sandys provides photos from yesterday featuring the two-train service, the canopy around the Bessemer Arms and progress on the ASH project.

  • Ashley Smith supplies the photo below of the demonstration goods train behind the O1 from Easter Monday, and some further photos and a video.

  • The sun shone yesterday, and Brian Lacey's photo shows the Q-class ready to leave East Grinstead with one of the two service trains.

65 delivers the goods - Ashley Smith - 2 April 2018 Q-class at East Grinstead - Brian Lacey - 5 April 2018

5 April:
Track Trek poster - Mike Hopps
  • Join us for Track Trek 2018 on Saturday 30 June.

    Again this year the Trek is raising money for the Tr(ack) Action Appeal, which is an appeal set up to raise £250,000 for the renewal of track along parts of the Railway. The Track Trek will start from Horsted Keynes station with registration and safety briefings taking place between 5:00pm and 6:00pm with the walk starting at 6:00pm. The last walkers will need to leave Horsted Keynes by 6:20pm. Full details of how to participate or support the Trek are available here.

  • A couple of new offers:
    • Bessemer Specials on selected Mondays - steam train ride from East Grinstead and 2-course lunch in the Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park.
    • Steam and Vine in conjunction with Bluebell Vineyard.

  • Paul Simpson's photos from Jon Bowers' photo charter with 847 and the goods train last week.

  • Derek Hayward has made major updates to his photographic galleries for Horsted Keynes (covering the years 1998-2018), Kingscote, and East Grinstead (covering the same period, following the development of the site as our new terminus over the years).

  • Brian lacey's photos below from Saturday show 73082 'Camelot' as it prepares to couple to the Observation Car at East Grinstead, and the H-class ariving at Horsted Keynes with vintage set

Camelot at East Grinstead - Brian Lacey - 31 March 2018 H-class arrives at Horsted Keynes with vintage set - Brian Lacey - 31 March 2018

1 April:
263 and 73082 as the service train pass at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 31  March 2018
  • Yesterday, Nos.263 and 73082 are seen on the two service trains as they pass at Horsted Keynes (Brian Lacey).

  • In addition to our two-train passenger service, and a Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea train, we are also running a Demonstration Goods Train tomorrow, to the timetable shown below.

  • Photos by Dave Bowles from a photo charter with the S15 last week.

  • A second photo below, also from Brian Lacey, shows No.65 on the Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea train yesterday.

  • During March 2018 there were 44,433 total hits on this page, from 25,574 unique visitors.

Demonstration Goods Train Timetable for 2 April 2018 65 on the Wealden Rambler - Brian Lacey - 31 March 2018

29 March:
Thunderbird arrives at Horsted Keynes as Peak 45041 waits - Brian Lacey - 24 March 2018
  • Last weekend's Diesel Gala saw unexpected and extensive use of our Thunderbird! Brian Lacey's photo shows D4106 (substituting for D182 on the Saturday) arriving at Horsted Keynes with the 12.00 from Sheffield Park while 45041's crew looks on (45041 was working the 11.45 from East Grinstead).

  • Steam-hauled trains run daily until Sunday 15 April to our Service 2 Timetable - no pre-booking required, but Bluebell Bonus discount available if you do book ahead.

  • Over Easter - 30 March to 2 April we have our big Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Kingscote Station. If you want to join in the Tea then tickets must be pre-booked, but the party fun is open to all for a small charge on top of a travel ticket, payable on entry to the Paddock at Kingscote.
  • Our normal steam hauled services also run over Easter - no pre-booking required
  • Free guided tours of the Carriage & Wagon workshop at Horsted Keynes take place daily from Good Friday to Easter Monday, at 11.40am, 12.40 and 1.55pm.

  • Update to the Locomotive Duty Roster, with expected locomotive use for April.

  • Andrew Crampton's photo below shows D4106 at Holywell, standing in for 45041 on Friday. This Peak was repaired that evening, and ran for the remainder of the weekend. Julian Clark's photo shows our C&W works Sentinel shunter which took over the scheduled brake van rides at Horsted Keynes on the Friday whilst the 09 was employed on thunderbird duties.

Thunderbird I: D4106 at Holywell - Andrew Crampton - 23 March 2018 Thunderbird II: Skippy with the Queen Mary brake van - Julian Clark - 23 March 2018

  • Next we have two photos provided by Steve Lee. Peak D182 is seen at Town Place on Saturday, on what sadly proved to be its final northbound journey of the weekend. On the Sunday two different 31xxx locomotives came together!

D182 at Town Place - Steve Lee - 24 March 2018 31618 and 31271 at Sheffield Park - Steve Lee - 25 March 2018

  • Update for March with the positions in the Football Competition. This is a fund-raiser for the forthcoming overhaul of our Southern Railway Maunsell Dining Saloon No.7864.

  • News Update The latest newsletter from the Standard Class 2 No.84030 project has now been published on this web site.
    This newsletter is sent to project supporters when produced, and only appears here a while after - if you would like to receive it when first published, why not Subscribe to it and support the project?
    The photo below shows the ever-more complete front of the locomotive. Most of the work in recent months has however been associated with constructing a base for the cover over the locomotive, and the track upon which 84030 will sit.

  • We end with the completely reliable visiting 31271, seen at West Hoathly last Friday in David Long's photo.

Front of 84030 - March 2018 31271 at West Hoathly - David Long - 23 March 2018

23 March:
Peak D182 awaits service - Mike Anton - 23 March 2018
  • Peak D182 and 31271 await their turns of service this morning, as our Diesel Gala kicks off (photo by Mike Anton). Details of the event are included in yesterday's blog entry.

  • Jon Sandys' photos from yesterday, with 'Camelot' out for a test run after winter maintenance, and further work progressing on the ASH project and the Bessemer Arms Canopy.

  • News Update Update to the Project 27 Blog with a couple of months' news of work on SECR P-class No.A27.
    The plan for the next year as set out in the report is ambitious, and really relies on a flow of donations - please do consider supporting the volunteer team's work via the project's BT MyDonate page.

  • We are now registered on Amazon Smile and, if you so wish, you can nominate the Bluebell Railway Trust as your chosen charity.

  • Martin Malins was eligible for the offer to travel last weekend for the 1958 fare of 4/- so here's a photo of the 4 coins, which the ticket office were of course unable to accept, so he paid contactless! The ticket is an interesting one, being routed over two other now-closed lines, but not via Bluebell, which must have already closed at the time.

  • Julian Clark's photo from last Saturday shows the Q-class on the commemoration of the last BR service over our line.

4 shillings and Lewes-EG ticket - Martin Malins - 17-18 March 2018 Q class in the snow - Julian Clark - 17 March 2018

22 March:
Q-class with School special at West Hoathly - Brian Lacey - 16 March 2018
  • As we conclude the first event in our "Steaming towards 60" programme, Peter Edwards' photo from Sunday shows Q-class No.30541, carrying a replica of the headboard used on the last BR train sixty years ago, at Three Arch Bridge with the 11.30am train from Sheffield Park.

  • In preparation for our 23-25 March Diesel Gala, the three visiting locomotives (two Peaks - Class 45 No.45041 'Royal Tank Regiment' and Class 46 D182, and Class 31 No.31271 'Stratford 1840-2001') arrived on Monday.
    Roy Watts' photo shows them hauled onto Bluebell metals by 47813, with D4106 waiting in the loop to take them onwards to Sheffield Park.
    Video from Mike Anton of the diesels' gauging run at Horsted Keynes, showing them hauled by the 09, on Monday, along with the photo below.

    Tickets for the event can be purchased online, or at our booking offices on arrival. BRPS Members' discounted tickets can be obtained on arrival.
    The timetable for the gala, which starts tomorrow, is available as a PDF Download.


47813 with the visiting diesels at East Grinstead - Roy Watts - 19 March 2018 The visiting diesels at Horsted Keynes - Mike Anton - 19 March 2018

17 March:
Q-class with School special at West Hoathly - Brian Lacey - 16 March 2018
  • Brian Lacey's photo shows the Maunsell Q-class No.541 bursting out of the tunnel, with one of yesterday's School Specials. It and the S15 will be taking turns to haul the services over the weekend.

  • This weekend is the 60th Anniversary of the line closure commemorative event.

  • Yesterday's commemoration and the anniversary featured extensively on the BBC South East Evening News.

  • Album of photos covering the trains running for the anniversary of closure commemoration yesterday taken at Horsted Keynes by Neil Munro-Thomson.

  • Steve Lee's photo below shows P-class No.323 carrying the Bluebell's name to the Spa Valley Railway, seen on its first day of operation there, 24 February, approaching Poke Farm Crossing.

  • Brian Lacey's photo is of No.847 with a lightweight load of just the LNWR Observation Car at West Hoathly yesterday.

323 'Bluebell' on the Spa Valley Railway - Steve Lee - 24 February 2018 847 with the observation Car at West Hoathly - Brian Lacey - 16 March 2018

16 March:
60th Anniversary of Bluebell Line Closure
Closure Poster Today marks the 60th anniversary of the final services run over the Bluebell Line by British Railways.

This is a very significant occasion in the history of the Bluebell Line, marking the end of one era and, significantly, the beginning of a new one, with glorious rebirth as the Bluebell Railway, the first ex-mainline standard gauge railway to run passenger trains.

Today the Railway will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the last train service from East Grinstead to Lewes. We are working with schools on a local history project and recreating the historic journey of that last train. Trains being run today are not open to the public, although the stations are open for anyone wanting to watch.

This weekend, 17 and 18 March we will be turning the clocks back with various themed attractions and displays of interest to all ages. We will be inviting the public to experience elements of 1958 and explore what that year means to the Railway. A visit to the Railway this weekend will include opportunities to take tea in '50s style, take mini guided tours in areas not usually open to the public, and, if you were born in 1958, travel at 1958 prices: 4s, equivalent to 20p per ticket, but shillings are not required!

Last train - Mike Esau - 16 March 1958

Further details of this event are available here.

 

 

Mike Esau's photo shows 80154 with the last train, as crowds look on at East Grinstead, on 16 March 1958.



15 March:
O1 No.65 with the demonstration goods train, at West Hoathly - David Long - 10 March 2018
  • David Long's photo shows the SECR O1-class No.65 with the demonstration goods train, at West Hoathly last Saturday.

  • Trains run this weekend, to the 60th-anniversary "Sulky Service" timetable whilst we commemorate the Diamond Anniversary of the 1958 closure of the line. On the Saturday trains will run over the stub of the line to Newick and Lewes (just a couple of hundred yards south from Sheffield Park).
    Further attractions:
    • On the Saturday only, there are brake van rides at Sheffield Park (first-come first-served) behind both the Q-class and the S15, which alternate on the brake van and on the service trains.
    • Special screenings of 'The Titfield Thunderbolt' at Horsted Keynes Station in the Cinema room at 12-noon and 2pm, included in your travel ticket.
    • Guided tours of the Carriage & Wagon Workshop at Horsted Keynes, allowing an opportunity to see behind the scenes with the restoration work on the carriages.
    • Kingscote Signal Box will be open for visitors, limited spaces available on a first-come first-served basis.

  • John Sandys' photos from Tuesday show, amongst other things, the nearly complete new canopy around the Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park.

  • Locomotive No.3, 'Captain Baxter', is currently on a visit to the Great Western Society at Didcot.

  • Brian Lacey's photo below shows the O1-class on the lunchtime Pullman dining train last Sunday, seen passing Bulleid Pacific 21C123 'Blackmoor Vale' which is currently on display in Platform 1 at Horsted Keynes.

  • Steve Lee's photo shows the S15 arriving at Horsted Keynes on last Saturday's sulky service.

O1 passes 'Blackmoor Vale' - Brian Lacey - 11 March 2018 847 enters Horsted Keynes - Steve Lee - 10 March 2018

9 March:
Brickwork on the new entrance to the Loco Shed, ASH Project - Martin Lawrence - 9 March 2018
  • Martin Lawrence's photo from today shows the brickwork on the new entrance to the Loco Shed being constructed as part of the ASH Project.

  • Trains running again this weekend, to the 60th-anniversary "Sulky Service" commemorative timetable.

  • The SECR O1 will be hauling a demonstration goods train on Saturday, to the timetable here.

  • Tickets are now on sale for our Bluebell Specials which run on midweek dates between the middle of April and the middle of May. Travel through the Sussex countryside between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead in our unique 1913-built 'Observation Car' at Bluebell time and see how the Railway got its name!

  • Update to the Infrastructure (P-Way and Civil Engineering) page.

  • News Update Project 27. Undeterred by the weather, last Friday the cylinder block castings for SECR P-class No.A27 were driven up to Statfold Engineering Ltd for machining. The photo below shows them loaded up ready for the journey. The second photo shows progress at Sheffield Park, with the new rear buffer beam and rear drag-box plate drilled, and the front buffer beam brought in to the Villa for the same treatment. The drag-box plate (closest to the camera) is now ready for the reinforcing plate to be riveted on. For those on Facebook, there are more photos on the project's page.
    Please Donate :-)
    All this fantastic progress costs money... so please do support this volunteer team with donations to enable the work to continue at the present rate.

Cylinders ready to go to Statfold Engineering - Project 27 - 2 March 2018 Buffer beams and drag box plate - Project 27 - March 2018

8 March:
The second half of the loco shed roof being replaced - Martin Lawrence - 7 March 2018
  • Martin Lawrence's photo from yesterday shows the second half of the loco shed roof has been removed for replacement, as part of the HLF-funded ASH project. The photo is from Martin's March album. He has also completed that for February.

  • After the disruption caused by the snow and icicles in the tunnel last weekend, our steam-hauled and steam-heated services resume on Saturday with 4 departures each day this weekend, to the 60th-anniversary "Sulky Service" commemorative timetable.
    The actual anniversary of the 1958 closure is commemorated over the weekend of 17-18 March.

  • The SECR O1 will be hauling a demonstration goods train on Saturday. Timings will hopefully be provided here when available.

  • Update to the 9F Club web page. This is our club for young people aged 9 - 16

  • Put Saturday 30 June in your diaries for the 2018 Track Trek, an evening sponsored walk down the line from Horsted Keynes to Sheffield Park, with connecting trains from Sheffield Park and East Grinstead before and after the walk.

  • Some great 1997 footage of the Bluebell, featuring the Q1-class No.C1, 'Camelot' and the C-class, by Trevor Ledgeway.

  • Some recent videos from Mike Anton: 323 at the Spa Valley Railway on Sunday. S15 No.847 shot over the last three days of the 2018 February Half term holiday, and a footplate trip on the Q-class on a Santa train.

  • John Sandys' photos from today including progress on the locomotive shed (ASH Project) and the Bessemer Arms canopy.

  • Dan Gosling's video: "The Best of... No.73082 'Camelot'" has proved very popular.

  • Video from the Timeline Charter with O1-class No.65, by Tom's Steam Videos.

  • News Update Trackwork update thanks to Bruce Healey.
    With the long Tremains relay completed in early February, and with spare time before the weekday trains restart at Easter, the opportunity was taken for a further possession to do a bit more track replacement. The plan was to continue the track relay carried out at Holywell early in 2017, continuing further north over Keysford Bridge up to just beyond Caseford Bridge, in a 5-day window. As of yesterday evening, this relay of just over 1/8 mile was nearing completion, the plan having been modified by the weather. All panels of rail are in and connected up with ballasting and tamping due today and Friday, plus a lot of tidying up.
    The clearance under Caseford Bridge was a bit tight. During this relay, we have been using the technique of putting new ballast over the old to give us an even firmer trackbed. As this would have compromised clearance even more, the opportunity was taken to lower the trackbed by 4 inches.
    The work was due to finish last week but the 'Beast from the East' meant we had to stop where we were on the Tuesday and reconnect the track to ensure it was ready for the weekend service (which as it turned out was cancelled, also due to the weather). An attempt at ballasting on Thursday 1st had to be abandoned because the ballast was too frozen to lay. We started again on Monday 5th to complete the work.
    The section now replaced had some particularly worn track, badly dipped joints, a life expired Insulated Block Joint and the alignment of the curved track south of Keysford Bridge was poor.

Laying track in the snow - Jon Goff - 27 February 2018 Caseford Bridge - Bruce Healey - 7 March 2018

Laying track on 27 February (Jon Goff)
Caseford Bridge (Bruce Healey)


3 March - STOP PRESS:
  • No trains running tomorrow Sunday 4 March.
    Due to the current weather conditions in the locality of the Bluebell Railway we have taken the difficult decision to cancel all train services on Sunday 4th March.

    This decision has been made as the safety of our customers and staff is paramount. We are sorry if this causes any disappointment and people with existing bookings for the 4th March will be contacted directly.

    The Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park station will be open though, so if you fancy something to eat, do pop along. It will be open 8.30am - 4pm for drinks, snacks, cooked breakfast & lunch. Our shop at Sheffield Park will also be open.

  • The two photos below taken by Mark Duhig during an inspection this morning show that, despite the shielding put in place to divert the worst of the water which flows continuously from the tunnel roof, the icicles elsewhere within the Sharpthorne Tunnel are spectacular. Mark reports that the largest are 10 feet long and up to 5 inches in diameter.

Icicles in tunnel - Mark Duhig - 3 March 2018 Icicles in tunnel - Mark Duhig - 3 March 2018


3 March:
  • No trains running today Saturday 3 March.
    Snow at Sheffield Park - John Sandys - 27 February 2018 To repeat and expand the message we put out on Thursday:
    Due to the current weather conditions in the locality of the Bluebell Railway we have taken the difficult decision to cancel all train services on Saturday 3rd March.
    This decision has been made as the safety of our customers and staff is paramount. We are sorry if this causes any disappointment and people with existing bookings for the 3rd March will be contacted directly.

    The Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park station and Grinsteade Buffet at East Grinstead station will be open though, so if you fancy something to eat, do pop along:
    Bessemer Arms - open 8.30am - 4pm for drinks, snacks, cooked breakfast & lunch.
    Grinsteade Buffet - open 10am - 3pm for drinks, snacks and homemade cakes

    Photo (taken on Tuesday) is by John Sandys.

  • Additional date, 29 May, for the Teddy Bear's Picnic in a buffet car travelling behind Paddington 2 locomotive 'Tornado'.

    During the visit of 60163 'Tornado', the remainder of the train is available for passengers booking ordinary tickets, which include reserved seats on one round trip behind 'Tornado' and unlimited travel on our other services on the day of your visit. This applies on 25, 26, 28 & 29 May. Book in advance to guarantee seats!
    On 27 May you can also visit and ride our trains, and can watch 60163 'Tornado' hauling Morning brunch, Golden Arrow Dining and Afternoon Tea services; if you wish to book to travel on these special catering services on Sunday 27 May (or the evening Pullman train on Saturday 26), please ring 01825 720800.

  • Brian Lacey's photo below from Saturday 24 February shows the SECR O1 waiting at Horsted Keynes with the Afternoon Tea "Wealden Rambler" service whilst the S15 arrives with the down service train.

  • Also below is another of Steve Lee's photos from Jon Bowers' 20 February photo charter, this time with the hand crane behind No.65, at Three Arch Bridge.

65 waits whilst 847 brings its train into Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 24 February 2018 65 with hand crane - Steve Lee - 20 February 2018


1 March:
  • No trains running on Saturday 3 March.
    Snow at Sheffield Park - John Sandys - 27 February 2018 Due to the current weather conditions in the locality of the Bluebell Railway we have taken the difficult decision to cancel all train services on Saturday 3 March. This decision has been made as the safety of our customers and staff is paramount. We are sorry if this causes any disappointment.

  • John Sandys' photo shows the snow at Sheffield Park on Tuesday. There are more great snow shots in John's album of photos from that day.

  • Details now available for the Southern Classic Car Show at Horsted Keynes on 13 May.

  • No.323 'Bluebell' is hauling services on the Spa Valley Railway at weekends, returning to the Bluebell just before Easter. Roger Carpenter provides a few shots taken there last Sunday.

  • Brian Lacey's photo below shows the S15 at West Hoathly station site last Sunday. What a contrast weather-wise.

  • Last year over 45,000 visitors came over to Platform 2 at Sheffield Park, and visited the Bluebell Railway Museum. One of our most popular exhibits is the former Withyham signal box which can be found at the North end of the museum. This is a restored Victorian box. It entered service in 1866 and was originally located on the East Grinstead to Tunbridge Wells line, where it saw 100 years' service. We have recently installed an operating signal directly outside the box (as seen in the photo below). The signal post is from a former signal on Platform 2 at Sheffield Park, and most of the components are originally from the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway.

    Visitors may operate the signal under supervision. Our museum stewards also offer them the opportunity to undertake a full signalling sequence for a through train from East Grinstead - it's both instructive and entertaining and something enjoyed by our visitors of all ages, including those for whom English is not their first language! The museum is open when we are running timetabled trains.

  • During February 2018 there were 45,176 total hits on this page, from 25,633 unique visitors.

S15 847 leaving the tunnel - Brian Lacey - 25 February 2018 Withyham signal box and visitor-operated signal at Sheffield Park - Tony Hillman - 25 February 2018


22 February:
SECR O1 No.65 with a goods train - Steve Lee - 20 February 2018
S15 arrives at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 17 February 2018 H-class with the lunchtime Pullman Dining train at Horsted Keynes - Richard Salmon - 11 February 2018


19 February:
S15 with the sulky service - Peter Edwards - 11 February 2018
S15 ready to leave Horsted Keynes - Steve Lee - 13 February 2018 Normandy at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 15 February 2018


1 February:
New canopy around the Bessemer Arms - John Sandys - 1 February 2018
  • John Sandys' album from today includes this photo showing progress on the new canopy around the Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park.

  • Our steam-hauled and steam-heated services resume on Saturday 10 February, and we're running every day for Half Term, until Sunday 18 February, and then at weekends through to Easter. Up to and including the commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the line closure (over the weekend of 17-18 March), we are running 4 trains per day, to the "Sulky Service" commemorative timetable.
    Then over three days, 23-25 March, we have our annual Diesel Gala, running an intensive service with two 'Peaks' and a class 31.

  • Save money with our Kids for a Quid special offer each day over Half Term, 10-18 February. Buy tickets online in advance (with an advance-purchase discount on the adult tickets too), or turn up on the day and buy tickets on arrival.

  • The Footplate Taster sessions have been so popular that those for January and February quickly sold out. We are now taking bookings for November: book online.
     
  • News Update Very old rail - Infrastructure update, thanks again to Jon Goff:
Probably the oldest rail on the main line - Jon Goff - 30 January 2018
During the rail relay, the old rail to which we were going to connect at the north end of the job turned out to be so worn that we did not have a step plate big enough to lift the head of the rail up high enough to match up with the new rail. Therefore we had to remove it and replace it with a less worn rail and put a step plate either end to make up the step in two goes.

New Ballast plough bucket - Jon Goff - 30 January 2018 A step plate is a fish plate with a joggle in the middle so that it lifts one rail higher than the other so that the top surface of the two rails match up and there is no "clunk" when a wheel passes over it. They normally come in 1/16" steps up to about 3/8" although we don't have any that big (and you have not been able to buy them for 96-pound rail for many decades).

The two step-plate solution resolved the problem very well and attention turned to the rail that we took out. It turns out that it was probably one of the original 96-pound rails put in when the line was re-railed from 70-pound to 96-pound near the beginning of the last century. The rail was made in 1903, 115 years ago! Is this the oldest we have still in use?

The picture above of the rail shows the age with the rolled notation of "DOWLAIS STEEL - IX-1903 LB&SCRy", which was also found elsewhere on the rail. It has now been used for some of the new fence posts (seen in the 30 January update) protecting the Tremains foot crossing just north of Rock Cutting, with the writing still visible.
 
The last of the ballast has now been dropped and ploughed ready for the tamper to start (hopefully yesterday). A very wide bucket with miniature rail wheels is a new form of plough that we have not used before and has proved to be a very quick way of smoothing out the ballast, as seen in Jon's second photo.

  • During December 2017 and January 2018 there were 97,218 total hits on this page (or approximately 48,609 each month), from 55,321 unique visitors.

30 January:
LBSCR Bridge Parapet Plaque from Dulwich
  • The Bluebell Railway Museum has acquired (at auction) a London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) bridge parapet plaque from the East Dulwich-to-Tulse Hill railway line in South East London.

    It features on the left the coat of arms of the LB&SCR and on the right that of Edward Alleyn, born in 1566, who was a very successful Shakespearian actor. He started buying land in Dulwich in 1605, which became known as the Dulwich Estate. The initials A and C refer to Alleyn's College, which subsequently became Dulwich College. 1866 is the date the bridge was constructed.

    Many of the bridge plaques are still in situ on various bridges around Dulwich. The top picture shows crests on the over bridge outside North Dulwich station. A couple of years ago Network Rail replaced the parapets on two such bridges with sympathetic replicas, re-using the plaques after rebuilding the brickwork. In previous rebuilds the decorative iron work was not retained and our plate is, we assume, one of those. [Update 1 March 2018: We now believe this had been acquired by the previous owner from the Clapham Museum when it closed and most items moved to York.]

    The Bluebell Museum is located on Platform 2 at Sheffield Park. It is open when we are running timetabled trains.

  • Following the resignation for personal reasons of Gordon Owen MVO, we are now advertising the vacant post of General Manager. The closing date for applications is Friday 9 March 2018.

  • Martin Lawrence provides a video showing one of our 'Footplate Taster' sessions, using locomotive 323 'Bluebell'. Every single Footplate Taster session in January and February was sold out. We also have our Full Steam Ahead Firing and Driving Experience days, and we expect to run more taster sessions at some point too.

  • John Harwood has produced a fascinating video covering the construction of the OP4 shed at Horsted Keynes from the cleared site through to the first carriages stored within it.

  • News Update The big track relay project reconnected and first train through
    With the reconnection of the track after the laying of 5/8 mile of new track through rock cutting, the first train through literally waited at the south end for the final screw to be put in of Thursday 25th January. It was the diesel shunter pulling the Dukedog and one carriage, taking them to Horsted Keynes and returning with the first ballast train.

Cutting in the last rail - Jon Goff - 24 January 2018 First train - Tim Crump - 29 January 2018

Cutting in the last rail (Jon Goff)
First train (Tim Crump)

Something in the order of 1000 Tons of ballast needs to be dropped and ploughed into the new track before it can be tamped and with only 20 tons per hopper, that is a lot of train loads.

In addition, as part of the relaying task, the foot crossing at Tremains needs to be replaced and as part of the task, the path from the boundary to the crossing has to be fenced. This path is in a very poor state and so a new one is being cut into the embankment with much bigger and better steps.

First ballast hopper train - Jon Goff - 25 January 2018 New Tremains foot crossing fence - Jon Goff - 29 January 2018

First ballast hopper train (Jon Goff)
New Tremaines foot crossing fence (Jon Goff)


23 January:
Base for the new entrance to the Loco Shed - John Sandys - 23 January 2018
  • This photo, from John Sandys' album from today, shows progress creating the new entrance lobby to the Locomotive Shed. The concrete base has now been poured within a blockwork shell, which will be faced with brick. This is the most visible part of the ASH project currently under way.

  • Details now available for the 23-25 March Diesel Gala.
    Three locomotives have been confirmed:-
    • Class 45 45041 owned by Peak Locomotive Company Ltd
    • Class 46 D182 also owned by Peak Locomotive Company Ltd
    • Class 31 31271 owned by A1A Locomotives Ltd
    Tickets for the event can be purchased online.

  • We have job vacancies currently advertised for a variety of roles in our Catering Department.

  • Travel information if visiting between 16 January and 3 March.

  • News Update Update to the Project 27 Blog with this weekend's riveting of the rear drag-box plate of SECR P-class No.A27. An entry from earlier in the month shows preparations for this, with the machining of some of the angle sections which were riveted on this weekend.
    Please remember that this work can only continue with the donations, support and interest that is forthcoming from all of the project's supporters. If you would like to help the team to continue this work with a donation, please go to the project's BT MyDonate page.

  • Update with the positions in the Football Competition as of 22 January. This is a fund-raiser for the forthcoming overhaul of our Southern Railway Maunsell Dining Saloon No.7864.


22 January:
  • News Update 813 to visit for our Branch Line Event
    813 - Photo Courtesy SVR/Keith Wilkinson We are pleased to confirm that plans are at an advanced stage for Ex-Port Talbot Railway 0-6-0ST No. 813 to be amongst the line-up for our Branch Line Event to be held on 18/19/20 May. Built by Hudswell Clark in June 1901, this locomotive is now owned by the GWR 813 Preservation Fund and based at the Severn Valley Railway. Taken out of service in 2009 for heavy boiler repairs, 813 re-entered service in late 2016.
    The locomotive will be transported to and from the Bluebell Railway by road. More details to follow.
    Photo Courtesy SVR/Keith Wilkinson

  • Two photos below from Bruce Healey, from last Wednesday, showing progress relaying half a mile of track through Rock Cutting, roughly midway between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes. The first shows the view looking north towards Tremains. The tracklaying had reached there by the end of the day. Our youth group, the 9F Club, are helping with the clipping up.

    The second photo shows the process of laying the sleepers. Specially constructed wooden spacers are used to ease the task of getting the sleepers in the correct position as they are lifted into place by the digger.

    By the end of Wednesday about half the remaining distance from Tremains to the end of the section had been cleared, levelled and "whacked" ready to have sleepers put down on Thursday. There's some drainage to lay, in the form of a French drain (stone filled invisible ditch) on one side through a small cutting, and then, once the rails are rejoined, hopefully this week, we have to drop lots of ballast, adjust the track alignment and tamp it smooth, carry out any snagging, relay the foot crossing and add some fencing and then clear up. Still lots to do but the project is pretty well on schedule.


Sleepers laid out awaiting rails - Bruce Healey - 17 January 2018 Laying the sleepers out - Bruce Healey - 17 January 2018


14 January: News Update Track relaying reaches Rock Cutting
Track relaying in Rock Cutting - Paul Booth - 13 January 2018

During the six-week closedown, until services resume on 10 February, we are re-laying half a mile of track on either side of Rock Cutting, as seen in Paul Booth's panoramic shot taken yesterday, segments of which are presented here.

The work is funded in part by donations through the Tr(ack) Action Appeal. Further donations are urgently required, since further funds raised will in practice enable more track-work to take place over the coming few months since it really does add to the finite pot of money currently available.

Track relaying in Rock Cutting - Paul Booth - 13 January 2018 Track relaying in Rock Cutting - Paul Booth - 13 January 2018
  • Details of our 2018 "Find out More Days" are now available. These days are a tour behind the scenes, which will show the variety of roles for which we are looking for new volunteers across the various departments of the Railway, or to discuss what you might be interested in doing if you might already have an idea of what you're interested in.

  • News Update Stop Press: Tornado to visit. Plans are at an advanced stage for the Bluebell Railway to again host a visit by new-build locomotive 60163 'Tornado' over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, with five days of operation: Friday 25 to Tuesday 29 May inclusive. Further details will be available once the plans for events surrounding the visit are developed. The news release is available here.

  • News Update Update from the Bulleid Society with the latest on both of the Bulleid Pacifics and their SR Composite carriage 5768.

  • News Update On 19 December Roger Kelly retired from the board as director responsible for fundraising, after a decade during which he raised an estimated £5 Million for a huge variety of projects around the Railway. The full news release is available here.

  • Every train during the Santa Season was essentially sold out, and operating on an additional weekend resulting in 10140 adult passengers and 4276 children being carried, which is over 30% up on last year. Running an additional Victorian Train, to cater for additional demand, was an indication that the additional services (Reindeer, Victorian, Festive Feast, Santas for Schools, Pullman Dining) also delivered their share of increased numbers on top of those above.

  • Video from PSOV of our LSWR B4 0-4-0T No 96 'Normandy' in June 1994 back at Southampton Docks.

  • News Update Dave Clarke has updated his Flickr site with the latest progress in the Carriage & Wagon department:

    Pullman Car 54
    The Pullman has been shunted into the northern end of the maintenance road where the body has been lifted off the underframe. A start has been made on replacing the life expired transverse beams at the northern, or lavatory end. The lowest layer of floorboards have been removed and the old horsehair replaced with modern insulation board and new softwood timbers. Bracket and bolt corrosion is being tackled. Some new steel plate is being riveted onto the underframe and the majority of the cleaned are is being painted up to black gloss. The bogies will be treated later.

    SR Bulleid CK 5768
    The third class half of the coach is almost complete. The sliding doors have been hung, lino laid in the centre and southern vestibules. The lavatory is virtually complete and the window bars have been fitted in the corridor.
    In the first class half of the coach work has started on the end vestibule and the door fitted to the lavatory which will become a table store. The quarter pads have been trimmed and fitted, together with the armrests, where the six seat backs have been installed. Once the last two backs have been returned from the trimmers the rest will be fitted. The sliding doors have been revarnished and their droplights installed.
    The six exterior doors have received their interior trim and a start made on fitting the mouldings to the surrounding door frames. The first class lavatory water tank has been installed and canvassed. This has allowed the end hand rails/filler pipes to be fitted. Once the canvas receives its final gloss coats the ends can be finished.
    The coach has received three coats of brushing filler to smooth out the imperfections. This has been flattened back and two further coats of green undercoat applied to all but the east side of the third class compartments. Two further coats will be applied before we turn to gloss.

    BR CCT 2531
    The Camelot Society's van was shunted into the down yard at the same time as Car 54. The frames and the majority of underframe have been gritblasted and a start made on priming and painting the cleaned up frames. The two drop-down flaps and both doors from the north end have been overhauled and painted up to undercoat. The two southern ones will be largely replaced with only some of the inner, horizontal boards being reusable. The SW door has been rebuilt and a start wil be made shortly on the second one.

    LBSCR Stroudley Third 328
    The end panels have been cut to shape and test fitted. Once the lamp brackets and steps have been trial fitted, the panels will be removed for priming and sealing of the sides and ends.

    LBSCR Stroudley Brake Third 949
    The seat bases have been installed and the structural repairs to the second brake door are almost complete. The west side and brake end mouldings have received more coats of undercoat primer.

    SR 10-ton Box van 44611
    The vehicle was brought in for some TLC before it deteriorated further and required a full rebuild. Most of the boards have been removed from the southern end and replaced. Corrosion has been tackled and the whole body treated to a repaint.

    Metropolitan carriages
    No.387, the Met brake, has taken the space vacated by Pullman Car 54 for split panels to be repaired and the first of the refurbished door locks to be test fitted

    SR Maunsell Third open 1309
    The retrimming of the coach is ongoing.

    BR Mk.I TSO 4754
    The asbestos has been stripped from under the seats and the lowest section of sheeting has been removed from the southern end to see how bad the corrosion of the corner and end pillars is.

    SR Milk tanker 4430
    During routine maintenance, the buffer patrices, which were known to be rotten, have been replaced.

    New arrivals
    Just before Christmas, these two SER coaches were recovered from a site in Pagham, as has been reported below. Dave took a number of photos of them on arrival at Horsted Keynes. They have been placed on two underframes and are now under tarpaulins. They will be stored until such time as their restoration is undertaken. Individual web pages for the two carrriages are in now available:

  • A few pictures from Keith Duke, below, taken at Sheffield Park yesterday morning with Bluebell on Footplate Taster duty and the ongoing works on the station. More photos are available in Keith's album.

323 on Footplate Taster duties - Keith Duke - 13 January 2018 Construction of new canopy on Bessemer Arms - Keith Duke - 13 January 2018


5 January 2018:
S15 on the service train on New Years Day - Steve Lee - 1 January 2018
H-class on the Golden Arrow luncheon train on New Years Day - Steve Lee - 1 January 2018 Camelot approaches East Grinstead - Brian Lacey - 28 December 2017


The Current What's New page contains all the recent update information.

Also see the 2017, the 2016, the 2015, the 2014, the 2013, the 2012, the 2011, the 2010, the 2009, the 2008, the 2007, the 2006, the 2005, the 2004, the 2003, the 2002, the 2001, the 2000, the 1999 and the 1997-8 "What was new" archive pages.

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