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Latest Updates - Earlier updates - Latest Project News - Weekly train running information - Archive News
14 January: Track relaying reaches Rock Cutting
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Update from the Bulleid Society with the latest on both of their Pacific Locomotives and their SR Composite carriage 5768.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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Most recent updates: See top of this page
20 December 2017:
Today the Bluebell acquired two South Eastern Railway (SER) carriage bodies that had been in part of a bungalow in Pagham for at least the last 80 years. The two bodies (one being 130 years old, the other 140) have been donated to The Bluebell Railway Trust, and sponsors have covered the transport costs. These 5 photos, showing the two carriages at Pagham after the demolition of the bungalow, the crane recovering them, and their arrival at Horsted Keynes as daylight faded, are provided by C&W Trustee Robert Hayward.
That seen on the left above is a 33-ft long 6-compartment third (No.2159, built in November 1887), identical to No.2162 which we failed to secure when it was sold on eBay in 2009. The other is a very unusual 4-compartment brake third, 30-ft long with a central brake compartment with raised birdcage lookout. It was later converted to a 2-compartment luggage brake. We believe it to be one of only four such carriages, built in 1877-8 (Nos.1887-90), and has yet to be definitively identified. The two carriages, the structures of which are made of teak, are considered to be eminently restorable, although there are no plans at present to do more than conserve the bodies for restoration at a future date.
SER carriages are extremely rare in preservation, and this makes the Bluebell pre-eminent with the only current collection of such vehicles. We also have a first-class saloon (No.172) and the Gilbert Car, No.33 (later named 'Constance'), plus the oddity, "hundred seater" No.1050, rebuilt in 1924 from former SER carriage bodies as a prototype for 3rd-rail electric stock, but itself only ever being steam hauled.
The new brake vehicle is the only SER guard's brake vehicle in preservation, and we would envisage it would be rebuilt back to its original condition with 2 passenger compartments on each side of the guard's van. We now consider we at last have a viable and coherent collection of SER vehicles, enabling us eventually to run a Victorian SECR 4/6-wheeler train formed of three SER carriages plus the three LCDR carriages which have already been restored to service. As home to 6 of the 8 surviving SECR steam locomotives, such a set of carriages is of huge importance to us.
5 January 2018:
- Happy New Year!
2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the second closure of the Lewes to East Grinstead line by British Railways, leading to its eventual and glorious rebirth as the Bluebell Railway, the first ex-mainline standard gauge railway to run passenger trains in the preservation era.
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. In recognition, a special "Sulky Service" timetable will be running for part of February and March, culminating in line closure-themed events over the weekend of 17 and 18 March.
- Steve Lee's two photos from New Year's Day show the S15 on the service train and (below) the H-class on the Golden Arrow luncheon train. The two locomotives had hauled these services over all three days from Saturday to Monday, and the Saturday had been the first day the H-class had run since its repaint, and a subsequent repair to its steam pipe.
- We are next running trains on 10 February, when the 60th Anniversary "Sulky Service" timetable will be used. In the interim we are re-laying half a mile of track through Rock Cutting, and donations towards this work, being funded by the Tr(ack) Action Appeal, are urgently required.
- Report from the Infrastructure team on reconstructing the embankment ends and much more at Poleay bridge, completed back in November.
- Atmospheric set of photos by Tony Naunton - steam mixed with Santa on 17 December.
- Keith Duke's photos from 16 December and 21 December.
- This video of the Victorian and Edwardian Santa trains.
- Neil Munro-Thomson's pictures taken at Horsted Keynes on 16 December whilst working there as a Christmas volunteer.
- Multi-view video from Mike Anton of a footplate ride on the S15 on 8 December from Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes.
- Jon Barnes' video of the H-class on the Golden Arrow last Saturday.
- John Sandys' photos of the Victorian and Edwardian Santa trains on 21 December, 'Camelot' on the post-Christmas trains on Boxing Day and 28 December, the S15 and H on New Year's Day, plus the 09 shunting on Tuesday, and the subsequent start of work on ASH and the Bessemer Arms Canopy
- Martin Lawrence has completed his December gallery and begun that for January 2018.
- A photoshoot at Horsted Keynes in October has provided the front cover of the current issue of "BN5".
- Advanced notice that the Model Railway weekend is on 23-24 June.
- Details of Frank Ferris's funeral are now available on the BRPS Members' Information page.
- The Horsted Keynes Carriage Shed (OP4) Appeal has been relaunched to raise a further £125,000 for the completion of the walls on the eastern side of the shed, incorporating those for the Heritage Skills centre. The principal focus of the appeal has moved from JustGiving to BT MyDonate, as part of a general migration of the Trust's appeals to MyDonate, due to much lower charges on the latter platform.
- Video reviews of the year from Nick Dearden (mostly of main line steam in and around the Southern Region, with a bit of Bluebell thrown in), The Southerner (Diesel and Steam action on preserved lines in the South), Daniel Gosling (including Flying Scotsman's and the Coal Tank's visits) - and Part 2 (featuring City of Wells' visit, and 323 and 541 elsewhere) and Lee Andrew Davies (featuring Bluebell locos on tour, and 813, which will be visiting us later this Spring).
- In addition to Steve Lee's photo of the H-class, the second photo below is from Brian Lacey, taken on 28 December as 'Camelot' approaches East Grinstead.
- Paul Furlong's photo shows the annual Carol Service which took place on Saturday evening. 288 people attended, including many who travelled down from East Grinstead on a train hauled by 'Camelot'.
Mike Anton's video shows the end of the service.
- Today we were pleased to hear that we were the winner, at the National Railway Heritage Awards, of the Siemens Signalling Award for Horsted Keynes Signal Box and signalling. This was the second year in a row that Bluebell had won the award; Kingscote Signal Box and signalling was the winner in 2016. In addition the Friends of Sheffield Park were presented with a Highly Commended certificate for the restored LB&SCR entrance porch at Sheffield Park in the Stagecoach Volunteers Award. Further details are available in the NRHA Press Release.
- A press release is also now available covering our success last week in the Sussex Business Awards
- Two updates on the Project 27 Blogspot: Work progressing on rear dragbox and frames and the cylinders have been cast for the major overhaul of SECR P-class No.A27.
- A great atmospheric video from Jon Barnes showing the four locomotives in steam on Sunday for our Santa Special services, which are sold-out for the remainder of the season.
- Photos from the Santa Specials on 2 December by Nick Burgess
- Photos by John Sandys from yesterday of the S15 (complete with its smoke deflectors again) leaving Sheffield Park with the Festive Feast train (as also seen in John's picture below), and also some photos of stock in the Bulleid Shop.
- Press release now available for the first carriages to go into the new Operation Undercover Phase 4 storage shed at Horsted Keynes last week. Mike Hopps photo below records the moment the Brighton Directors' Saloon broke the ceremonial ribbon.
- First carriages moved into OP4
Yesterday, in front of the project teams from the Infrastructure department and the C&W, and some of the major donors who have made the project possible, the first three carriages (the LBSCR Directors' Saloon, Maunsell Brake No.6575 and Bulleid Brake No.4279) were propelled into the new storage shed at Horsted Keynes to mark a significant milesone in the project. It also marked the retirement of Roger Kelly as our Funding Director, who has done so much to aid the development of the Railway over the last decade.
- Martin Lawrence's November gallery is completed with his coverage of the OP4, but also includes some shots from last weekend and preparations for the ASH project, including that below, showing stock temporarily shunted out of the Loco Shed whilst the roof is re-clad. The locos should be able to return to the shed in advance of its re-opening to the public, planned for June next year.
- John Sandys provides both a video of some of the speeches yesterday and a photo gallery (which also covers the first of the Festive Feast trains, today).
- Nick Dearden's video complements John's, with shots of the carriages being shunted into the shed, and Camelot (a late substitution for the H-class) with the Observation Car which conveyed those travelling up from Sheffield Park.
- Saturday 2 Dec: Annual Carol Service - 7.30pm at Horsted Keynes Station. Free Admission, or £5 by train (pre-booked) from (and later returning to) East Grinstead at 6pm - more details.
- We are currently advertising some new Job Vacancies:
- Catering Front-of-house Team Leader,
- Kitchen Porter,
- Volunteer to help in Finance and Administration Department,
- Data Protection Officer,
- Volunteer to assist with publicising events via Social Media.
- The latest issue of the Bluebell's "Safety News" is available to download via the Society Members' information area of the web site.
- Update to the Locomotive Duty Roster, with expected locomotive use for December.
- Update to the web page for SECR carriage 1050 (5546) with a photo by Chris Ward.
- Footplate video on the Q-class from Horsted Keynes to East Grinstead by Mike Anton.
- During November 2017 there were 43,576 total hits on this page, from 25,443 unique visitors.
- Keeping tabs on "our" locomotive on the main line: Bluebell life member Keith Foster sent the photo below of 66739 'Bluebell Railway' taken at Lea Bridge Station on Friday 24 October. The GBRf locomotive was hauling ballast trucks for the 'Meridian Water Line' project.
- Martin Lawrence's photo on the right shows a group of the walkers at the end of their 11-mile Track Trek from East Grinstead, on arrival at Sheffield Park on Saturday.
The 210 walkers were led at a brisk pace by East Grinstead Town Mayor, Councillor Julie Mockford, accompanied by Bluebell Railway plc Chairman, Dick Fearn. The first arrivals at Sheffield Park were at around 12.45 and the last at 4.15.
Many thanks to those participating, raising over £13,000 in sponsorship monies towards the Tr(ack)Action Appeal, to support the cost of relaying sections of the track between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes. The walkers were given a first hand opportunity to see where their money was being spent as they passed Poleay Bridge as track renewal works were taking place following the works to the bridge itself. It was the track closure for this work which enabled the event to occupy the trackbed, since no trains were able to run that day.
A team of 52 volunteers, under the leadership of James Young, helped with setting up and managing the event, including 42 who acted as track-side marshalls.
The BRPS Chairman's Sponsorship Page is still open, should you wish to contribute to the event.
- Great video from John Harwood showing what's been going on at Kingscote during the last couple of weeks. With the repairs and reglazing of the canopy complete, the scaffolding is down. Slewing of the track in the sidings and a shunt has released Bulleid carriage 1481, which will be stored in the new shed at Horsted Keynes. Fascinating insight into the casting of new concrete gradient posts. The SECR dancehall brake van is being repainted.
- We are running steam trains to our Service One timetable this coming weekend (25-26 November), and again, after our Santa season, daily 26-31 December.
The following dates for 2018 are currently advertised on the Event Calendar:
- 1 January 2018 - Service 1 (No services 2 Jan - 9 Feb dues to track relaying)
- 2018 is the 60th anniversary of the (second) line closure, the start of two years of 60th Anniversary events. To start this off, we are replicating the "Sulky Service" on
10-18, 24-25 February, 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18 March. This is a four-train service with timings closely following those of the 1958 pre-closure timetable. Since we run trains more slowly, it works well with the Sheffield Park departure times approximating those originally from Lewes. The event culminates over the closure weekend of 17-18 March.
- 23-25 March - Diesel Gala
- Steam-hauled services run daily between 30 March and 30 September
- 18-20 May - Branch Line Gala
- 11-12 August - Steam through the Ages
- 12-14 October - Autumn Gala
- 29-31 October - Halloween
- Dates are now available for our Full Steam Ahead Driving Experience days with 'Camelot' in March, July & September 2018
- Update with the positions in the Football Competition as of 20 November. This is a fund-raiser for the forthcoming overhaul of our Southern Railway Maunsell Dining Saloon No.7864.
- Martin Lawrence's photo, below, shows the H-class having just been shunted by the O1, in preparation for its transfer on Thursday by road to the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition.
Martin has now added further photos the recently out-shopped H, the 9F club at work, some training turns, the signal post which will form part of the hands-on signalling feature in the Museum's Withyham signal box, and other photos from the Track Trek to his November gallery. He also has a video which includes clips from the mega-shunt at Horsted Keyens in preparation for filling the OP4 shed.
- Bruce Healey's photo, taken last Wednesday, shows the first pre-cast concrete block already in place, and the smaller block which is located under the walkway being lowered into place. Beneath the square holes there are 4 metre deep concreted piles. Old rail has been used as reinforcing. The piles and blocks stabilise the end of the embankment.
- Camelot powering up Freshfield Bank; another photo from Chris Rose taken on 29 October.
- A reminder that we're next running trains on the weekend of 25-26 November.
- Good luck to everyone taking part in our Track Trek sponsored walk, tomorrow, raising money for our Tr(ack) Action Appeal.
A couple more walkers have created on-line sponsorship pages on BT MyDonate:
Pleased to say that the weather forecast looks better than it was last year, particularly in the morning! It will however be cold.
- The Tr(ack) Action Appeal itself has now reached over £100,000, but more donations are needed to get us to our £250,000 target, to fund the relaying of half a mile of track next January/February.
- The Bulleid Society's Latest News includes an update on the restoraton of Bulleid composite carriage 5768.
- Nick Dearden has a short video showing OP4 progress, filmed about a couple of weeks ago.
- Hornby's The Engine Shed Blog covers the fine detail of the repainting of our H-class by Heritage Painting before its forthcoming trip to Warley for next weekend.
Infrastructure Update: New tracks to OP4! - with thanks to Jon Goff.
The new headshunt and the points that lead off it towards the new shed have been completed. The pointwork, assembled alongside the Ardingly Spur, is now in the process of being moved over into its final position. The points were broken down into three main sections and the long rails taken off. These were then lifted onto the road railer trailers and slowly taken into the yard next to where they will be sited. The out of gauge load cleared the rain water down pipe at the corner of the carriage shed by only 3/4 inch!
Two of the three sections of the points are now approximately in the correct position as seen below. E-road will be temporally disconnected to allow connection to the running in road. The turnout path will curve round though the pile of soil/clay/masonry waste into the shed in line with G-road, which is the second road from the left in the shed. Work to clear the path needs to be done very soon so that we can get the track into the shed in time for its grand opening at the end of November.
More details on the Infrastructure News page.
These points are now in position and lined up although the crossover section is not yet in position. The new headshunt and engineering sidings are now in their final positions and awaiting ballast. Also the route into the new shed has been cleared ready to connect up for the head opening at the end of November.
New Headshunt and engineers' siding
Route to OP4 F-road
- An all-SECR train, with No.323, the three LCDR 4-wheelers and the SECR hundred-seater, just north of Town Place bridge on 29 October. This is the first of what we hope will be many photos from new contributor, Chris Rose.
- January & February 2018: Footplate Tasters - New for 2018 - The perfect Christmas gift?
- We can now reveal that our SECR H-class No.263 has received a full repaint (at the mid-point of its 10-year boiler certificate) at the hands of Heritage Painting. It will be taking centre stage as the highlight of the Hornby stand at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition, 25-26 November.
- Next Saturday, 18 November, is our Track Trek sponsored walk, raising money for our Tr(ack) Action Appeal.
To participate, see details here.
To support one of the walkers, the following have on-line sponsorship pages on BT MyDonate:
The Tr(ack) Action Appeal itself has got off to a great start, with £91,000 raised so far, but more donations are needed to get us to our £250,000 target, to fund the relaying of half a mile of track next January/February.
- Brian Lacey's photo below shows the Q-class freshly returned to service after a major valve and piston overhaul, on the 1.15pm train from Sheffield Park, arriving at Horsted Keynes on Saturday 4 November.
- Martin Lawrence has completed his October photo gallery, including a photo of the two scaled-down Deltics at Sheffield Park, and his Deltic Gala video. His photos below are from his November album. The first shows the levelled site next to Atlantic House where 84030 will be positioned (under cover) to enable work on the loco continue throughout the year. Please note that this is an area of the loco yard which is only accessible on the occasional days when Atlantic House is open to the public. The second, taken yesterday, is an unfamiliar view, with the stock shunted out of the long siding behind the signal box, whilst the stored stock is re-arranged into an order which will facilitate placing carriages in the new storage shed at Horsted Keynes.
- 73082 'Camelot' on arrival at Horsted Keynes with the 11:10 service from Sheffield Park on Saturday - photo thanks to Brian Lacey.
- During the coming month trains run to our Service One timetable, on 4, 5, 25, 26 November only. The line is closed for work on Poleay Bridge (just north of Sheffield Park), and some track relaying, between 6 and 24 November.
- There are still some tickets available for Thursday 2 November, 7.15pm: An Evening with Nicholas Owen. The talk will cover his life as a journalist, author and keen supporter of The Bluebell Railway. Further details here.
- On Thursday 21 December we are running Reindeer Special Trains from East Grinstead. As with all our Christmas seasonal special trains, pre-booking is necessary.
- Also on Thursday 21 Dececember we have our Victorian Christmas Trains from Sheffield Park. The two trains initially advertised have sold out, and a third train has been added, at 11am, and there are only a very few seats left on this too!
- Two updates on the Project 27 Blogspot which documents the restoration of SECR P-class No.27. The first covers the arrival of the frame components and work on the associated angle sections. The second outlines forthcoming activities, and an opportunity for anyone interested to get involved in the work.
In addition, some of the items sold in aid of Project 27 are now available via Harrison Brown Models' online shop.
- Update on the Bulleid Society web site with some pictures John Fry took of the new inner fireboxes for 21C123 and 34059 on his last trip to South Devon Railway (Engineering).
- Our Locomotive Works is looking for volunteers, both skilled and un-skilled.
- During October 2017 there were 46,260 total hits on this page, from 27,025 unique visitors.
- Brian Lacey's photo below shows the SECR O1 at Horsted Keynes with the Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea train on Saturday. Julian Heinemann's photo shows the Camelot Locomotive Society's CCT van on Sunday, stripped to a skeleton (the roof timbers have already been stripped, repaired and replaced, and work is progressing on the repair or replacement of doors) and the steel structure part way through being grit-blasted using our new water-based grit blaster.
Older updates are in the What's New
or 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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