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Bluebell Railway Northern Extension Project

We opened the Extension to East Grinstead on 23 March 2013.

With the opening of the extension to East Grinstead, this Extension news page is complete.
latest Further news reports are included in the new Infrastructure News page.

8 May 2013: Steam at East Grinstead proving very popular - Further work to complete the project continues.

The Bluebell Railway arrives in East Grinstead - Official video of 23 March 2013 23 March 2013: Opening Day - The Official Video report

19 March 2013: Steam into East Grinstead! - Crew training runs over last weekend - the line opens to the public next weekend!
15 March 2013: The Line Is Joined!
4 March 2013: The end is in sight. Also Track Trek report and new videos, and photos showing work in the cutting
7 February 2013: Special report - East Grinstead ... Here We Come!
4 February 2013: Good weather enables work to progress well, and so March 23 opening festival can be announced
21 January 2013: Better weather has helped move the project forward!
7 January 2013: Work re-starts after Christmas - dry weather required, but we could still open in March Reproduction SR Target installed at East Grinstead - Chris Dadson - 4 October 2010
29 November 2012: More track-laying and a ballast delivery
19 November 2012: Rapid progress towards cutting breakthough and First details of Opening Festival announced

Photo, showing one of the new East Grinstead lamp standards and SR "Target" signs: Chris Dadson

Extension Project archives: 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2006-7 - 2004-5 - 2003 - 2002 - April - Dec 2001 - Oct 2000 - Feb 2001 - April 2000
8 May 2013: Steam proves popular at East Grinstead!

9F at East Grinstead - John Sandys - 2 April 2013

The opening of our extension to East Grinstead has proved incredibly popular, with, not unexpectedly, a huge increase in visitors during the opening 2-week festival. However, it is very pleasing to see that the increase has continued since, and that more passengers than expected are arriving from the North by train at East Grinstead, and making the 50 yard walk down the new footpath linking the two stations.

John Sandys' photo shows the visiting 9F locomotive in the platform at East Grinstead, attracting the attention of visitors.

Following the two week festival, and a third week of trains for the Easter school holidays, we then settled into a three-week period of consolidation, with trains running to East Grinstead each weekend, but cut-back to Kingscote on weekdays, while work continued both on the engineering side, and to tidy up the environmental aspects of the extension. The ground was still very muddy, so earth-moving on the site has been restricted, and indeed still continues. The removal by rail to elsewhere on the line of the majority of the surplus clay capping was not in any case planned to take place until the Autumn, but there has been plenty else to do, as reported below. We are now fully open, with trains running to East Grinstead every day, and though booking from National Railway stations in the South East of England also now up and running (tickets, which give a discount on Bluebell travel, are available from booking offices, but not online).

Patrick Plane's photos below, taken while working on the covering of the remaining section of cutting face, show B473 hauling its train though the cutting on 7 May.

B473 in cutting - Patrick Plane - 7 May 2013 B473 in cutting - Patrick Plane - 7 May 2013
Tying up the loose ends Water Tower base - John Sandys - 7 May 2013

The S&T department's outstanding work is now completed. This was in the main limited to completing the track-circuit bonds at rail joints on the track circuit section EB, which is now operational, extending through the cutting.

John Sandys' photo taken on 7 May shows the progress with the base of the water tower brickwork. Bob Sailles is finishing the last four courses. Then there are the steel beams to place plus lead work along the top. Mike Hopps has finished making and fitting the internal pipework and ballcock inside the tank (which has now, since the photos below, been turned round the right way allowing the final side to be painted). A water test on new flanges should take place next week. When the brickwork has hardened the tank can be lifted into place and then a start made on fitting the external pipework and column.

Mike Hopps photos below, taken on 1st May, show a general view across the top of the brickwork with Bob Sailles and Mick Coppin working on it, and a view of the base of tank showing the blanked off original flanges (which were in the wrong place) and the three new flanges fitted, together with the 6" outlet to the column. The final two photos show the view inside the tank - while on its side. The rather large spun copper ball, over 1 ft in diameter, is connected to the mains-water feed. The other pipes are the inlet from the pump for the captured rain-water collected in the sump below the water tower, and the overflow.

Working on the brickwork - Mike Hopps - 1 May 2013 Water tank on side - Mike Hopps - 1 May 2013 Interior of water tank - Mike Hopps - 1 May 2013 Interior of water tank - Mike Hopps - 1 May 2013

Canopy over booking office - John Sandys - 7 May 2013 The other main work undertaken over recent weeks has been the construction of a canopy over the temporary booking office. The valence boarding is actually that prepared for the rebuilding of the canopy at Sheffield Park, which has been "borrowed" for this project. The pattern cut in the timber is water-jet cut.

As seen in John Sandys' photo, by 7 May the green paintwork on the lower sections was progressing, although the canopy roof had yet to be completed.

19 March 2013: Steam trains are returning to East Grinstead!

About Funding for the Finish - Donate
23 March - 7 April: Opening Festival

NEP Workers celebrate the first steam engine into the cutting since the 1960s - Mike Hopps - 16 March 2013 1638 at East Grinstead - David Haggar - 17 March 2013

Last weekend saw our first steam locomotives in East Grinstead!  These were crew training runs; Mike Hopps poster (which will be available to purchase here) shows the volunteers celebrating the occasion, on Saturday, with the 9F. The U-class was used on Sunday, as seen in David Haggar's photo above, and Mike Hopps' below.

All Eyes Are on Us

U class north of the cutting - Mike Hopps - 17 March 2013 Next weekend the great day arrives, and trains will be running to a regular timetable service into and out of East Grinstead.

This will be the culmination of almost 40 years of work, albeit in stages, by a virtual volunteer effort. As I write, the first loco has run through to Sheffield Park off the main network, and the very first steam locomotive has arrived from the south as we begin the series of training trips. In terms of symbolism, historians will note that the opening event comes just after 15 March; not only our late President's birthday but also, of course, back in 1958 the day the very last British Rail trains worked the line. Not to be deterred, our Railway began its journey on 13 March, 1988, when the very first panel was laid just north of Leamland Bridge.

There is still much work to be done before we open, so bear with the teams if it's not all complete; trust me, it soon will be. Yes, we have had setbacks and disappointments, such as the weather and the loss of visiting locomotive No. 70000 "Britannia", but that won't stop us putting on a great show.

All eyes are focusing on us, from all over the world. Indeed I have a message of congratulations from member Nicholas Pryor from the depths of Patagonia as he tours South America! There are many people to thank for their hard work over the years. I am not sure if people realise that what they physically can see is just a fraction of the overall. Count those involved from the very beginning, and you have a veritable army of members who have made the extension possible. It is a shame not all will be there on 23 March.

We must enjoy the next few weeks but also we need to keep an eye on the future, as there are many key areas to address. Will we ever do a project of this magnitude again? I'm not even going to get a pound out of my pocket to say we won't ... of course we will! My thanks to everyone across the broad spectrum of the Railway who has made all this possible, you deserve all the credit you receive. Enjoy!

Roy Watts, Chairman, Bluebell Railway Preservation Society

9F on training run today - Yoshi Hashida - 17 March 2013 9F ready to head north! - Martin Lawrence - 16 March 2013
The 9F also took a crew/staff training train up the extension later on Sunday, as seen above in Yoshi Hashida's photo. Martin Lawrence's photo from Saturday, at Horsted Keynes, shows the train on its way to East Grinstead and Victoria... If only! Presumably this board has been stored unused at Horsted Keynes for the last 55 years.

Ashley Smith got the photo below and this video on Sunday afternoon in the pouring rain of the U-class on another round test trip to East Grinstead.

Ready, Set, Go!

U class in cutting - Ashley Smith - 17 March 2013 We are now in T-1, with less than a week before the first public trains are due at East Grinstead. Since the last update we have been frantically waiting the arrival of our tamper which was not only late but could not start work until it had been repaired. This has caused a knock-on effect with getting the track ready for traffic at line speed, crew training, and, of course, final safety verification, which cannot take place until everything is complete.

Having said that we were able to run three test trains at reduced speed over the extension on 16 March. The only people on board were the construction team who had the honour of being carried on the first steam-hauled train through Imberhorne cutting for more than 55 years; a momentous event for all concerned and something of a surprise to some Sainsbury's customers!

At East Grinstead the inter-station pathway and disabled car parking area are nearing completion, while customer facilities are coming together nicely ready for opening. The catering coach was craned into place on 10 March during a blizzard after Sainsbury's closed, another challenge that went exactly to plan!

So, this is my final Northern Extension Project (NEP) report before opening and, yes, I can confirm that 23 March will happen. It's been a tight run with the weather throwing anything it can at, but everyone now simply takes that in their stride.

We've got quite a bit of clearing up, the cutting upside top surface has to be made good, and there are numerous other drainage jobs, but this work will carry on during the coming weeks with a planned final completion and shut down of the project in early May. Meantime during the festival and Easter, the NEP construction team will remain on site and on duty.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

9F on its way to East Grinstead - Steve Lee - 16 March 2013 9F at East Grinstead - Steve Lee - 16 March 2013 9F returns from East Grinstead - Steve Lee - 16 March 2013
Steve Lee provides the three photos above, showing the train passing up through the cutting at about 3.35pm, the 9F at East Grinstead, and on its return journey on Saturday. Martin Lawrence's photo below, taken last Thursday, shows some of the stock destined for display at Horsted Keynes over the Festival.

Enough Locos for the Festival?!

80151, 488 and 1520 at SP - Martin Lawrence - 14 March 2013 It was back in the early autumn when things started going awry - broken stays in U-class No.1638, and no choice but to unwrap the firebox and replace them, which took until early February. That postponed routine work on other locos, LBSCR E4 No.B473 in particular. Then in the last week of last year No. 92212 sprung a leak just inside the firehole door, which turned out to be cracks in the copper plate. The winter months were spent fixing this, with copper welding and new stays, and it was completed just in time for some pre-opening trial running on the new line.

In late autumn C-class No.592 was clearly suffering from mechanical wear, and we were about to restrict its load to three carriages when it became obvious that it would not continue working for much longer unless the cylinders were repaired. There was a degree of doubt about how to go about it, but having got the cylinders out, it was clear that liners in the bores and false valve faces were required. This work is almost complete, the liners having arrived a few days ago, but the loco won't run until late in April.

Then a few weeks ago external influences threw another spanner - all the locos started leaking stays. Looking for a common factor we found that the river water had become slightly acid, so now the locos are being dosed with sodium carbonate to restore the correct alkalinity in the boiler water. This solution may have a detrimental effect by encouraging priming, so as yet we do not know how many days each loco will run between washouts on the new line. All this extra work delayed No. 847's boiler, so whereas last summer we were confident it would run on opening day, now it won't be finished until July

And then there's the locos visiting for the event. We had gone a long way arranging all the necessary preparations for two of them, only for both to be cancelled owing to external influences (flats on the tender wheels and a collision on another heritage railway). With the national shortage of working steam locos, and our event being only a week before Easter, there was no realistic chance of finding another loco to hire.

So a week-and-a-bit before the opening, the locos that run will all be ours, with trains hauled by Nos.1638, 92212, B473/323, and 263/178. "Stepney" will do brake van rides, and "Captain Baxter" will be shunting carriages. There is no spare capacity for anything to go wrong ...

Lewis Nodes Director, Locos & Rolling Stock

GN Saloon and Carriage Shed Tours during the Festival

Water tower construction - John Sandys - 19 March 2013 Any passengers travelling on Set B (see timetables) are able to ride in the Great Northern Railway Directors' Saloon, for a 10 supplement per seat in the Saloon during the opening weekend. The supplement, valid for a single journey on the line (Sheffield Park to East Grinstead or East Grinstead to Sheffield Park only), entitles passengers to a glass of Bucks Fizz, a special East Grinstead Opening cupcake, unlimited tea or coffee, and a piece of one of the other various other cakes on offer. Only 17 people can travel in the saloon at a time on a first-come, first-serve basis. Since we expect the trains to be crowded there will be space for further passengers in the GN vestibules, limited to five per vestibule, but standing elsewhere within the saloon will not be possible.

There will also be C&W works tours at Horsted Keynes in aid of 7864, the Maunsell Restaurant car, and the C&W shed extension, from mid day to early afternoon on:

Saturday 23rd March
Sunday 24th
Thursday 28th
Friday 29th
Saturday 30th
Sunday 31st
Monday 1st April
Saurday 6th
Sunday 7th

John Sandys photo above shows the water tower under construction at Sheffield Park. It is expected that locos will initially take water from a temporary water tanker, until the tower is commissioned. David Haggar's photo, below, shows the U-class approaching Imberhorne Lane Bridge on Sunday

Opening Festival: Press & Photography Notice

1638 at Imberhorne - David Haggar - 17 March 2013 Photographers who have attended the safety courses at Sheffield Park will know that there are certain sections of the Railway that are out of bounds, such as West Hoathly tunnel. With the opening of the extension to East Grinstead, the restricted area now includes the entire line north of Kingscote through to East Grinstead. There is no direct access to the lineside apart from the nominated emergency points or off the platform end.

During the three-week gala, the lineside will be regularly patrolled by members of the Permanent Way teams and anybody found on Railway property outside of permitted areas, unless under supervision, will be asked to leave immediately. As normal, only those in posession of a valid Bluebell lineside photographic PTS pass are permitted elsewhere on the lineside.

Likewise, people will naturally want to take advantage of public areas along the line, but please note that both the road leading to Sainsburys Car Park, the car park itself, and the Imberhorn waste transfer station are all private property, so do not cause a nuisance or put yourself or our Railway in an embarrassing position if asked to leave.

It is very important we respect our neighbours and their property during the opening weeks, and it would be a great pity if after all the hard work, were ruined by a minority acting irresponsibly. Remember, many fields are now planted with crops, while others have animals, and they need to get used to new sounds!

There are three public parking areas close to East Grinstead station that are clearly marked, but there is no public parking close to the Bluebell Railway station, and Sainsburys are employing marshalls over the opening weekend.

All press or similar enquiries should be referred to the General Office at Sheffield Park so they can be assigned to a team member.

Fiver for the Finish concludes

Travel Centre and restaurant coach at East Grinstead - John Sandys - 19 March 2013 Tenner for the Tip/Fiver for the finish collectors are seen below, assembled at Sheffield Park on Sunday, the final day of on-train sales of the Fiver for the Finish Certificates. Between them the collectors have raised approximately one third of a million pounds over 4 years towards the Extension! Left to Right Back Row: James Turner, Martin Lawrence, David Heasman, Alan Clark, David Cockram. Front Row: Nigel Longden, Michael Cole, Lorna Webb, Roger Kelly, Roger Lamb. (And of course we must not forget Peter Forrester-Smith who did a brilliant job in the early days, of the scheme).

Fiver for the Finish collectors - John Sandys - 17 March 2013

To the right we see the new Travel Centre and restaurant coach at East Grinstead. We hope, one day, that we'll have enough land to build a proper station, hence the temporary (if substantial) nature of the present facilities. Both photos with thanks to John Sandys.

23 March - 7 April: Opening Festival

15 March 2013: The Line Is Joined!

About Funding for the Finish - Donate

White Fishplate Official video - 8 March 2013 Barbara tightens the white fishplate bolts - John Sandys - 8 March 2013

The Official Video of the "White Fishplate" event is now available, and John Sandys' photo shows Barbara Watkins tightenning the ceremonial bolts.

66712 at Horsted Keynes on Gauging run - Andrew Strongitharm - 7 March 2013 Two recent, significant milestones for our Railway:
  • On 7 March a GB Rail Freight (GBRf) class 66 locomotive ran from East Grinstead to Sheffield Park to check gauging issues prior to the first scheduled charter train from London Victoria on 28 March (as seen, at Horsted Keynes, in Andrew Strongitharm's photo on the right).
  • On 8 March the line was formally joined using a white fishplate; the honour of tightening the four bolts falling to Barbara Watkins (aka "Mum") who has looked after Northern Extension Project (NEP) workers by providing refreshments, as roster clerk, and as First Aider.

Nigel Longdon writes:

I started as a regular volunteer on the NEP 25 years ago. My expectation was that the project would take 15 years to complete; well, I was only 10 years out! The task seemed enormous, but by "eating the elephant one mouthful at a time," small parts of the project were completed and progress became recognisable.

The first milestones were laying track without mechanical assistance in April 1989 and the Q class running the new line on 29 April. Completion of Phase 1 (to Horsted House Farm) enabled shuttle trains to run along the new line. The Extension Team then relocated to West Hoathly, New Coombe bridge was built, and the line was extended Kingscote. Passenger services to Kingscote started in 1994.

Track laying almost complete - Jon Bowers - 4 March 2013 The remaining two miles to East Grinstead have been the most challenging. Trackbed acquisition took time and careful negotiation. As land was purchased, clearance and fencing renewal was undertaken. The largest problem was Imberhorne Cutting, a landfill site in the 1960s and 1970s. Thanks to Chris White and his team of experts, an agreement on the various controls and methods for waste removal was made with all authorities.

Removing waste by road was very expensive, but lucky circumstances allowed us to remove the majority by rail at significantly less cost. But before we could do that, we needed to lay track from East Grinstead to the tip, make a connection to the national network, build our station platform, and install a new drainage system on Hill Place viaduct. Waste by Rail (WBR) was a great success. We built an excellent relationship with our contractors (GBRf and L&W) and staff, contractors, and volunteers worked as a cohesive group.

During the past 15 months we experienced another significant challenge: the weather. After the final WBR trains, the remaining waste still needed to be "re-engineered," and that was not always possible thanks to the rainfall. The project fell behind, but since January 2013 we've worked hard to meet the 23 March deadline. But we still have work to do to be ready for the "big day."

The project has been an incredible, emotional, experience. On occasions, I wondered just how much longer it would take, but then again we have met the Society's number one long-term objective.

There's been great camaraderie among volunteers, some of whom sadly did not live to see the completion, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to Chris White and Matt Crawford for their planning and leadership and to everyone who has financially supported the project; without them the project would never have come to fruition.

Adds Roy Watts, Chairman, Bluebell Railway Preservation Society: "After the success and the hard working labours of Chris White, Matt Crawford, and the team, the Railway is now one throughout. Join me in thanking Matt and the volunteers for what they have achieved. The Trustees couldn't be more proud of seeing something accomplished that began some 38 years ago!"

Jon Bowers' photo above left, taken on 4 March, shows virtually all the track having been laid. The gap (10 ft or so) between railheads remained for a few days, since the next two tasks, replacing the 30-ft rails with 60-ft lengths, and adjusting the curve to its final design shape, resulted in the gap changing.

The Official Video of the event is now available, as are John Sandys' photos and videos, and this report on the BBC website. John's photo below shows the three cheers from the team for a job completed (if not of course totally finished yet...).

The first rolling stock through was, however, the S&T departments Wickham trolley, which was the cause for a minor celebration as seen below in Alan Grove's photo. Just after 5 pm on Thursday 7th March 2013 members of the S&T Department pose in front on the Wickham Trolley at East Grinstead station, shortly after it had become the first rail vehicle to travel over the newly "joined up" extension. The trolley had spent most of the day parked south of Imberhorne Lane bridge whilst members of the department had carried out various tasks in and around the new cutting, including track bonding. Following the "joining up" at about 4.20 pm, the trolley had to travel to East Grinstead in order to allow the tamper to complete its journey from the south. As well as S&T members, the trolley also carried a large number of P-Way staff who had been involved in making the final connection. Shortly after this the tamper made its way North.

Workers celebrate - John Sandys - 8 March 2013 S&T Celebrate first vehicle into East Grinstead - Alan Grove - 7 March 2013

Seen below is one of the Carriage & Wagon's "can you just" jobs, with an overhauled Southern Railway platform seat, with all new timbers, being prepared for East Grinstead. This was being trial-assembled in undercoat, remarkable considering this was little more than a rotten pile of timbers and rusting metal just a week before.

Another significant occurence on the extension, photographed by John Sandys on 12 March, is seen below. The Queen Mary brake van is the first item of the Bluebell's pre-war Southern stock to make it to East Grinstead. It is seen in the company of 33103 Swordfish, our three Dogfish ballast hoppers, and the tamper.

Seat construction at Horsted Keynes - Richard Salmon - 9 March 2013 Queen Mary brakevan at East Grinstead - John Sandys - 12 March 2013

Tim Baker's photo below shows the other major event at East Grinstead on Friday 8th, as the new National Rail/Southern station was officially opened. Chris White, Tim Baker and Customer Service Team members Caroline Collins and Lesley-Anne Liddell represented Bluebell at the ceremony. Seen cutting the ribbon in Tim Baker's photo is Mid Sussex MP Nicholas Soames, in the company of Cllr Liz Bennett, The Mayor of East Grinstead, Chris Burchell, Southern's MD and Mark Ruddy, Network Rail's Sussex Route Manager. Note the new sign pointing to the Bluebell Railway visible through the window!

John Sandys' photos below, from Tuesday 12th March, show the tamper at East Grinstead, and the travel centre, the refurbished restaurant/shop coach, and the toilet block in place, and then from today, the path being contructed which links the two stations in East Grinstead.

John also has further photos from the extension today, including progress on the water tower, and a video of the Road-Railer ballast regulating today, plus a video showing the tamper in action yesterday and also photos of the ballast tamper in the cutting.

Official Southern Station opening - Tim Baker - 8 March 2013 Tamper at East Grinstead - John Sandys - 12 March 2013 Travel Centre and new coach at East Grinstead - John Sandys - 12 March 2013 Toilet facilities and new coach at East Grinstead - John Sandys - 12 March 2013 New path being laid at East Grinstead - John Sandys - 15 March 2013

Down starting signal at Kingscote - Alf Brown Gang - 1995

Being up to their necks in signalling for the extension, S&T asked 'Friends of Kingscote' (FoK) if they might clean and paint all the signals and cabinets at Kingscote. FoK agreed and started by pressure washing the signals. The signals south of the station had not been painted since they were erected in the mid 1990's (as seen in the photo on the right showing the Alf Brown Gang in 1995, with one of the signals they had constructed - thanks to Chris Saunders for the photo).

The three photos from Richard Hill illustrate the FoK's recent painting work. Primer was applied to exposed steel followed by undercoat and finally gloss top coat. The awful weather and near freezing temperatures have hindered progress but all the work will be completed before the 23rd March. If you notice a cabinet not repainted just south of the up platform, it is because this is no longer used and will be removed in due course.

FoK have also painted the inside of the north box and are currently replacing a small amount of rotten timber on the staircase.

Newly painted signals and equipment cases at Kingscote - Richard Hill - 2013

4 March 2013: The end is in sight, plus Track Trek report

About Funding for the Finish - Donate

Funding for the Finish

Feb 2013 Extension update

Our Extension Appeal is still open,
with just a small remaining amount to raise.

Please help us to complete the funding
by the time it opens!!!

Details of the AppealDonate to the Appeal

Track Trek

TrackTrek Official video - 24 February 2013

Many thanks to all who joined in the track trek.
Please send cheques, payable to
"Bluebell Railway Trust" to

Track Trek, Sheffield Park Station
East Sussex, TN22 3QL

You can also still
Sponsor the Mayor of East Grinstead, Liz Bennett

On Target for 23 March

The Northern Extension Project (NEP) remains on target for the first public trains to operate into East Grinstead on 23 March. The cutting is now cleared, and with the outstanding ballast deliveries completed, the remaining 120 metres of track bed was ready to accept sleepers and rail on 4 March. The usual top ballasting and tamping will commence later in the week.

Our focus is now on the safety verification process, which commences on 11 March, culminating in a visit from the Railway Inspector, to "cast his eye over what we have done" and review our safety file. After this, it will be possible to run some test and crew familiarisation trains. Most of the desk top crew training is complete

Meanwhile at East Grinstead, the Travel Centre, toilets, disabled car park area, and walkway are being installed ready for our visitors, whilst the water tower is gradually extending upwards; and very good it looks too.

It's very satisfying to see things coming together, more rushed than we would wish but nevertheless in time for the long-planned opening.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

Restaurant Car Chair - David Chappell - 24 Feb 2013

David Chappell contributes a photo of one of the refurbished (and awaiting varnishing) Southern Railway Restaurant Car chairs, which will be used in the newly refitted refreshment and shop coach for East Grinstead.

The first photo below by John Sandys shows the subbase for the track from north and south met in the cutting on 1 March. Jon Bowers' photo from 2nd March shows the newly installed East Grinstead Distant signal.

Track base complete - John Sandys - 1 March 2013 East Grinstead Distant signal installed - Jon Bowers - 2 March 2013

Thank You for supporting the Track Trek
on Sunday 24 February 2013

In the cutting - Tony Sullivan - 24 February 2013 400 walkers, plus others who sent in donations but didn't take the walk, raised a total of £40,000 for the Bluebell Railway by completing Track Trek over the two-mile extension the Railway is building between East Grinstead and Kingscote stations. This was the third attempt to run this event, which was cancelled twice due the foul weather!

In zero degrees and with a freezing nor'easterly wind on their backs, the intrepid Trekkers set off at 10 a.m. from East Grinstead, led by East Grinstead Mayor Liz Bennett. "It is a great privilege to support the Bluebell Railway by helping to raise money for its Northern Extension Project, which will mean so much to the town," said the Mayor.

The East Grinstead Council provided £1,000 towards the cost of taking the Trekkers by bus back to East Grinstead, and the Mayor raised more than £1,500 in sponsorship, a sum that was only exceeded by top fundraiser John Sandys, who collected more than £2,000.

Everyone enjoyed the day, and there were many smiling faces as the participants fell on tea and bacon sandwiches at the end--although we had to assume the chap dressed in the gorilla suit was happy: it was hard to tell! One lady enjoyed the experience so much that, having taken the bus back to East Grinstead, she did the walk all over again. Another enthusiast took more than three hours to complete the route.

"It was a fantastic day," said Funding Director Roger Kelly. "I am delighted we have been able to raise so much money. A big thanks to our main organiser Nigel Longdon and also our army of stewards and marshals who were out doors for more than four hours."

Together, the Track Trekkers made a substantial dent in the amount still required to fully fund the NEP.
The top four fundraisers at the event were:
    John Sandys: £2,051
    Liz Bennett: £1,520
    Joseph Wright (aka Bollo the Gorilla): £1,137
    Deborah Salmon: £731

The "Chit Chat Track Trekkers" Team, comprising 11 Trekkers, all members of the Bluebell's email chat group, including John, Deborah, and Joseph, raised more than £6,000 between them. Lastly, spare a thought for John Sandys, who also provides us so many wonderful photos and videos, for he is due to have a major operation this week.

If you need more sponsorship forms please print more copies (download the PDF) - Sponsor the Mayor, Liz Bennett, who joined us on the walk.

Track Trek videos and photos:

The photos below show (from John Sandys), setting off across the viaduct, and Roger Kelly presenting Mayor of East Grinstead, Cllr Liz Bennett, with her certificate and medal, (from Tony Sullivan) the walkers in the cutting (also above-right) and (from Richard Salmon) looking southwards at the ballasted section awaiting tracklaying beneath Imberhorne Lane Bridge.

Track Trek on the viaduct - John Sandys - 24 Feb 2013 Mayor and Roger Kelly - John Sandys - 24 Feb 2013 Track Trek in cutting - Tony Sullivan - 24 Feb 2013 Imberhorne Lane Bridge - Richard Salmon - 24 Feb 2013

Finish for the Fiver

The on-trains sales of the Fiver for the Finish certificates will come to an end on 17 March. The sales of these certificates (and their predecessors, the Tenner for the Tip certificates) have been going on for four years, and it is time to bring the campaign to a close. Intrepid sellers have raised one third of a million pounds for the Northern Extension Project!

The last certificate to be sold has been signed by Roy Watts and Roger Kelly and will be presented to the highest donor on the 3 p.m. from Sheffield Park on 17 March. We plan to get as many of the sellers together at 12:45 p.m. on that day for a commemorative photo.

Meanwhile the certificates are still on sale here should you wish to have one as a memento of this unique period in Bluebell Railway history.

Roger Kelly, Funding Director

Record of earlier work in February

Conduit and trench within cutting - Mike Hopps - 12 February 2013 Mike Hopps provides a series of photos, taken on 12th February. To create a 7m wide base to the cutting, and in particular space to one side to bury the bundle of four conduits for communications and signalling cables, a certain amount of sandstone was excavated from the base of the east side. This also gave us the perfect material for creating the new sub-base for the trackbed.

The photo to the right shows the trench, with conduit being laid in, and below the trench in more detail.

Trench for conduit within cutting - Mike Hopps - 12 February 2013
Sub-base created in cutting - Mike Hopps - 12 February 2013 Terram matting laid - Mike Hopps - 12 February 2013
The next two photos above show the sub-base being created and levelled within the cutting, onto which is then laid the Terram matting, forming an impervious layer.

The next photo below shows the trackbed drains laid into the cutting, both the main run along the cutting, with vertical catchpits, and diagonals across the trackbed to feed into the main drain. The ballast is brought to the railhead, in a trailer, using the road-railer and loaded into the small tracked dumper. The next two photos show the dumper laying ballast. Not shown is the subsequent use of a small ballast-levelling bulldozer, which is guided by our surveyor's laser level to produce the flat ballast bed onto which the pre-prepared 30-ft track panels are then laid.

Drainage - Mike Hopps - 12 February 2013 Loading ballast - Mike Hopps - 12 February 2013
Laying ballast - Mike Hopps - 12 February 2013 Laying ballast - Mike Hopps - 12 February 2013
On 21st and 22nd February we received ballast trains via our main-line connection at East Grinstead. This is a lot more cost effective than bringing in a succession of lorries by road. The ballast was stockpied at the north end of the cutting. Initially this is for the bed beneath the sleepers. Once rails are in place, ballast is then laid between the sleepers and finally a tamper will come in to achieve the final line and level.

Brian Kidman's two photos below show Class 66 66708 and its train of Falcon wagons loaded with ballast, passing Hurst Green Junction at 2.20pm on 21st February, en-route to East Grinstead.

66708 with ballast train at Hurst Green Junction - Brian Kidman - 21 February 2013 66708 with ballast train at Hurst Green Junction - Brian Kidman - 21 February 2013
The train is split into two halves for unloading. John Sandys's photos below show the train arrived at Imberhorne, and the first half being unloaded.
66708 arrived with ballast - John Sandys - 21 February 2013 Ballast train being unloaded - John Sandys - 21 February 2013
Jon Bowers' photo below shows the unloading of the ballast train on Thursday, taken from mid-way along the eastern bank of the cutting.

Tony Hayllar's photo shows that the second ballast train, seen here at East Grinstead, on 22nd February, with GBRf's No.66708 "Jayne" again providing the motive power.

Ballast being unloaded in the cutting - Jon Bowers - 21 February 2013 Ballast train at East Grinstead - Tony Hayllar - 22 February 2013

7 February 2013: Special report - East Grinstead ... Here We Come!

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Sunset at East Grinstead - Mike Hopps - 5 February 2013 Both the Bluebell Railway Preservation (BRPS) Society Trustees and the Company Board of Directors are pleased to announce the long-awaited opening of the Society's longest and largest project in its history, if not in the history of heritage railways - the completion of the Northern Extension Project and the return of the Railway to East Grinstead. That date, 23 March 2013, occurs almost 55 years to the day of the original closure.

The decision to open the extension in March was reached based upon an assessment of what needs to be done, despite the fact there is still a lot of work to do, but it is achievable! Just pray the weather gods smile upon us favourably for the next few weeks. Although it has been very cold and windy of late, construction conditions have been great.

I visited the site on 5 Feb., with PLC Chairman Graham Flight, Project Director Chris White, and the design team. We were able to see first-hand the scope of the remaining works. By taking the safe walking route along the east side of the cutting, to a point roughly level with the entrance to the local recycling depot, we could take in all the on-site activity.

To begin with there were more than seven pieces of plant feverishly working away, the nodding arms of the diggers shifting bucket loads of soil with every move and the dumper unit spinning through 360 degrees to load and tip. It's a case of clearing the trackbed by moving the remaining spoil in a giant "chain like" movement upwards to the cutting shoulder, but I can tell you that it is now possible to walk through the infamous cutting! It needs a bit of tidying, but the Track Trek will go ahead as planned.

The cutting - Roy Watts - 5 February 2013 From a vantage point on the cutting shoulder, if you look north, the clean white ballast punctuates the scene as the track moves ever deeper into the cutting proper, further than at any time since 1964. As you look left, the terrain and ballast shoulder edges under the Imberhorne Lane bridge; it's just a short distance now until the great moment when the two railways are finally joined together.

Chris White's final surprise of the visit was to walk us ankle deep through the somewhat stodgy mix of clay stored on site. I am sure he was illustrating the size of the remaining problem, but at least it's one we can deal with ourselves, making use of the material elsewhere!

It's not just the cutting that sees work. Up at East Grinstead, the volunteers on the Permanent Way gangs are putting together the last of the track panels ready to be lowered into place, and as we were there, enjoying a cup of "Aunty Barbara's" famous tea and cake, another piece of mobile plant, in the form of a specialist track mover, arrived on the scene ready to move the track panels.

Along the line between Kingscote and Imberhorne, the Signal and Telecommunications gangs are commissioning signalling that will include the new signal marker for East Grinstead and the lineside telecom points.

It felt a little strange that my last day at Kingscote station, having been there since the opening in May 1994, would be on the weekend the new signalling was to be commissioned, and now we have operating starting signals at both platform ends and the "stop" boards have finally gone! Telecoms are being installed at East Grinstead for the new Travel Centre and Catering blocks, and the ticket office is being updated.

In fact, the Travel Centre is now under construction, as is the Mark 1 BSK coach that is being converted for its new life prior to installation at East Grinstead. All the buildings being installed at East Grinstead will be in British Rail/Southern Rail green and cream, sympathetic to the surroundings and the era portrayed. (There will be no red lighting standards, digital clock, Solari train indicator, or jeans or open shirts here!)

Tim Baker's commercial team will be in place and ready to trade once the new buildings have been installed, just prior to opening. The buildings will include a new visitor toilet block.

Even Carriage and Wagon teams are helping, by preparing Southern Railway seating and furniture for the new refreshment facility, so there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes.

Water tower construction continues (if the tower is not ready, we will move a tanker up there to replenish the locos), and whilst one gang of bricklayers works on this project, another is on the Imberhorne occupation bridge, re-pointing and replacing old and damaged bricks, before it returns to the viaduct to complete the remaining works at the southern end.

Turning now to operations. We are going to open on the 23 March, and we will run daily for three weeks, but then we will temporarily close the line between Kingscote and East Grinstead to public operations for three weeks to enable a concerted effort to tidy up and clear as much of the site as possible. Even this programme will not clear all debris, but at least it's a start because there is a lot of material to clear (and yes, the class 33 should be with us on 8 February). We will continue to have the line to East Grinstead open at weekends and for a couple of previously booked evening charters.

You also will notice that Network Rail has opened its new station, and you can expect to see others changes and improvements around the area.

Sleepers prepared at East Grinstead - Mike Hopps - 5 February 2013 Work still to be undertaken obviously includes the finishing-off of track work - ballasting, with more stone to be delivered, and then tamping the line - as well as the provision of a dedicated path from the new Southern station and of dedicated parking spaces for disabled persons on land adjacent to the two stations.

Add to that - because we now know the proposed date - more testing of equipment, staff training, and route familiarisation, and there is a lot to do in a short time, but we can do it, and it is all achievable to the standard we would expect.

So if you see one of the many members of the construction gangs, shake his or her hand and say "thank you", because these men and women have worked through some pretty harsh conditions in order to deliver what will be a first class railway, of which you should all be proud.

Lastly, this situation is being constantly updated, so look out for updated information and remember that people are working very hard right across the Railway to make the opening happen. Please give them your support.

Roy Watts, Chairman, BRPS

Mike Hopps' photos, both taken on 5 February, show that we can expect attractive sunset views from the trains as they cross the viaduct, and that we now have 30 track panels made up ready for installation, enough to complete the tracklaying to join the railheads. These short 30-ft panels are small enough to be lifted by the machinery being used, and once laid it is a relatively simple matter to tip out the short rails and replace them with standard 60-ft lengths.
Roy Watts' photo was taken from the East bank of the cutting, looking south.

4 February 2013:

Good weather enables work to progress well, and so March 23 opening festival can be announced

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Mike Hopps' photos below, taken on 11 January, show the ballast bed laid up to Imberhorne Lane bridge. This now has track laid on it, track sections having been prepared at West Hoathly and brought up to site by train. The second shows the cutting beyond, the sides now lined with two layers of geotextile material, the outer layer being a woven mesh which will support the growth of vegetation over a period of time. The bank on the right is only partly covered with material, since the lower section is the original rock face of the cutting. On the bed of the cutting is seen a waterproof membrane, providing protection (at the time of the photo) from the weather for the prepared and consolidated trackbed beneath. Subsequently this section has had drainage and signalling conduits installed, ready for track laying.

Ballast laid up to Imberhorne Lane - Mike Hopps - 11 Jan 2013 The south end of the cutting - Mike Hopps - 11 Jan 2013
Late in the afternoon of Friday 1 Feb, Infrastructure Manager Matt Crawford and I were at East Grinstead reviewing progress against the construction programme we have been following since resumption of work after the Christmas break. This programme showed a decision point 4 weeks into the New Year where we had to decide if it remained possible to run the first train on Saturday 23 March and so launch the long awaited opening festival.

Whilst many people have played out their roles across a wide range of tasks from the front line construction team to the back room professionals addressing all the design, legislative and regulatory processes required, at the end of the day it came down to the value judgement of Matt and myself to decide whether to press the 'Go' button or not. So after looking at progress to date and assessing how much time we have left (6 weeks) we did just that and said "lets go for it".

We were acutely aware once this is done there was no going back so we did just that. Later that evening following a brief discussion with Roy Watts, we announce to the Trustees the first public train will run on Saturday 23 March. As always the weather caveats this statement, if we get snowed in or flooded out again we could be in trouble but the weather forecast looks sufficiently promising to take the risk.

As reported many time before, our original programme had us running test trains last October but every minute of recovery time in the programme and more besides has been lost due to inclement weather. Only by dint of careful planning and very tight control of site work, not to mention seven diggers working on site six days a week and a lot of very bedraggled volunteer track laying teams working in the mud, has it been possible to claw back some of deadlines that have slipped so seriously.

Watching the budget has been another juggling act, all the extra plant does not come cheap and was not allowed for but against this has to be weighed up the loss of revenue if we do not open as planned. So there we are, it really is going to happen now, I hope you enjoy your very expensive two miles of extra journey when you next travel over the line. I suspect you will agree its been worth the effort, we certainly do. Watch the Railway's web site and local press for detailed Festival information.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

H-class is the first loco signalled northwards out of Kingscote - Martin Lawrence - 2 February 2013

So... we are pleased to be able to confirm that:
The Bluebell Railway's Extension to East Grinstead will open to the public on Saturday 23rd March 2013.

We are launching our long awaited Northern Extension with a fortnight-long festival, including a visiting engine (the identity of which will be confirmed soon).

Further details, including links giving full information, and how to book for the various events (booking opens on Friday, 8 February), are available via the events listing, here. Pre-booking is only required for certain special/catering trains and associated events, and these will be detailed later in the week. Otherwise, we will be operating a "turn up and go" service just as at any normal special event.

Martin Lawrence's photo on the right shows that the way North is becoming clear, as the H-class runs round its train on 2nd February under the full control of the new signals installed at the north end of Kingscote. This was the very first time this newly commissioned signal had been used.

Mike Hopps' photos below, taken on 11 January, show the 08 arriving at Imberhorne Lane with a short train of ballast wagons, and then being unloaded. It is the restricted haulage capacity and slow speed of the 08 which has prompted the hire of 33103 "Swordfish" to see the remaining work required, plus further activity after the opening, expedited.

Ballast train arrives to the south of Imberhorne Lane - Mike Hopps - 11 Jan 2013 Ballast being unloaded south of Imberhorne Lane - Mike Hopps - 11 Jan 2013

21 January 2013: Better weather has helped move project forward!

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Work restarts after the snow - John Sandys - 21 January 2013 Up to the predicted change in weather conditions that occurred at the end of last week, we were pretty much on target with the January delivery plan. It remains to be seen what happens over the next few days.

Meantime good progress has been made covering the cutting faces, with the down side face now completed, and a start made on the up side. We have brought in a couple of specialist guys who are trained in abseiling, and who have successfully and very quickly secured the covering material to the cutting faces.

Preparation of track laying is proceeding well including installation of drains and duct routes into the south end of the cutting. On the signalling side of the project work continues in the background with commissioning and testing, which also continues to plan.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

John Sandys' photo on the right shows progress, as seen from the north of the cutting, as work re-starts, with snow lying on the ground, on Monday 21st January. John's photos below from 17th January show progress at the south end, with ballast and one new panel of track in place to the south of Imberhorne Lane, and drainage and comms trunking going in at the south end of cutting. The new platform starter up signals at Kingscote are seen in Keith Duke's photo from Saturday 19th January.

Ballast laid to the south of Imberhorne Lane - John Sandys - 17 Jan 2013 Drainage and comms trunking going in at south end of cutting - John Sandys - 17 Jan 2013 New signals at Kingscote - Keith Duke - 19 Jan 2013


7 January 2013: Work re-starts after Christmas - dry weather required, but we could still open in March

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Work on west side of the cutting - John Sandys - 5 January 2013 Dry Weather Required for Planned Opening

The Northern Extension Project (NEP) opening is still planned for the last week in March, but no formal announcement on the opening will be made until the end of January.

Progress will be reviewed at that time; what happens will depend upon some dry weather during the next four weeks. Please know that the Railway is determined to open the extension on time if at all possible.

Currently, volunteers and contractors are working seven days a week on the NEP. This extra work is costing extra money, so contributions will be gratefully received, either via Fiver for the Finish certificates or by donations (details of various ways to give are here), or online via

Roger Kelly, Funding Director
John Sandys's photo shows work underway on Saturday 5 January just north of Imberhorne Lane Bridge, on the western side of the cutting, where drainage is being provided to stabilise the top of the earthworks. Further into the cutting, the final profile of the cutting wall is being created, and the curve of the cutting edge set to the final geometry.

Work re-starts after Christmas

Looking south to the Kinscote home signal repeater - John Sandys - 3 January 2013 The NEP project got underway again on 2 January following 10 days of Christmas shut down. It was clear everyone deserved a break having worked extremely hard in what can only be described as diabolical weather conditions for most of December and with more of the same forecast for the break their was no point in trying to carry on. For the same reason progress on clearing the last defiant section of cutting was frustratingly slow and instead of completing this before Christmas as planned ready to lay track when work resumed in January, it was still there with the added bonus of a couple of clay slips caused by flooding ready to tackle in January.

A serious re-think of the strategy took place over the break as it became clear the amount of water on site and extreme muddy conditions would need a different approach if the March deadline is to be met having slipped a further 4 weeks on the revised programme due to the weather. Consequently time is now very tight; it remains possible to open on the planned date and this remains the intention but this depends on us hitting several key milestones through January and February. There is no mores spare capacity in the programme so watch this space, we will keep you updated as we go along.

Meantime on the bright side, literarily (as seen in John Sandy's second photo), a look southwards over Imberhorne Lane bridge will give a glimpse of the now lit up down distant signal for Kingscote. Most of Kingscote too is now powered up with track circuits operational, points being prepared for power operation and the remaining signals coming into service this month.

Lastly a personal thank you and Happy New Year to everyone supporting the project; we are nearly there.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

29 November 2012: More track-laying and a ballast delivery

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Track extends right into the cutting - John Sandys - 23 November 2012 Temporary buffer stops in position - John Sandys - 23 November 2012

John Sandys' photos above show that as of last Friday we had laid additional drainage, communications conduit (with junction boxes), ballast and track, including buffer stops, in preparation for the arrival of a train of ballast. Over the weekend, the area where the ballast was to be stored, as close to the advancing railhead as possible to minimise subsequent movement distances, was then covered with matting, and weighted down with a little ballast to prevent it blowing away.

Mike Hopps' four photos below then show GB Railfreight's 66731, arriving from Whitemoor yard with 30 wagons yesterday, loaded with good quality (washed) second-hand ballast, and unloaded to a temporary stock-pile.

66731 with ballast train arrives on Bluebell metals - Mike Hopps - 28 November 2012 Part of ballast train ready for unloading - Mike Hopps - 28 November 2012

Ballast being unloaded to temporary stockpile - Mike Hopps - 28 November 2012 66731 with empty wagons - Mike Hopps - 28 November 2012

There's also been a lot of S&T activity at Kingscote this week. Following the end of the main running season, with December's pre-christmas trains only using the Sheffield Park - Horsted Keynes section of the line, an engineering possession has been taken to enable the re-configuration of the signalling for through running onto the extension. Also at the weekend the main transformer was installed in the relay room at Kingscote to feed the 650V power the two miles up to East Grinstead. There are smaller step-down transformers to 110V distributed along the extension to feed individual installations in the signalling system. Yesterday the new mains supply to the relay room was powered up for the first time, earth-bonding was being undertaken up the line, and the back drive was being installed for the points at the North end of Kingscote.

Also yesterday an NEP gang were working near Vowels Lane Bridge repairing a cable duct that had been damaged sometime ago, and building some fencing around a location case on Turners Hill Road bridge.

Finally, two photos of Hill Place Farm Bridge taken from the north by Mike Hopps over a 20-month span. Firstly, note just how much rubbish still had to be removed (back in March last year) and secondly, the raised level of the track bed which has reduced the depth of the cutting. For comparison, take a look also at these photos showing what the northern approach to Imberhorne Cutting looked like 15 years ago!

Hill Place Farm Bridge - Mike Hopps - 10 March 2011 Hill Place Farm Bridge - Mike Hopps - 28 November 2012

19 November 2012: Rapid progress towards cutting breakthough and the first details of the Opening Festival announced

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Track Trek - will now take place on Sunday 24 February 2013
More details of the Track Trek - Sponsor East Grinstead Mayor, Liz Bennett, who is joining us on the walk.

DDD125 - our Double Donations Dash - achieves its target.

Looking North from the occupation bridge - track awaits ballasting - John Sandys - 20 November 2012 The target of £125,000 was reached just as the DDD125 closed on 6th November. My thanks to everyone who has given to this event. The generosity shown has been truly astonishing. The average donation excluding Gift Aid has been £95. The Fundraising Team and I are exceedingly grateful for the support shown to the Bluebell Railway. Our thanks of course also go to the sponsors who put up the matching funding. Without them we would not have had the target to aim at.

So where does this leave us? Well, when all the matching funding and gift aid on donations have been collected, the DDD125 will have raised around £275,000 for the Northern Extension Project. So "How much more do we need to raise for the NEP?" I hear you ask. The answer is as follows; based on Chris White's latest estimates and taking into account other money we have had come in or which is promised (e.g. MSDC's grant for the water tower) we need to raise somewhere between £150,000 and £200,000 over the next few months to see us into East Grinstead. We cannot be more accurate as nearly all the work is outside and weather dependant, over the Winter.

Considering what we have achieved in the past couple of weeks, and compared to £4 million target four years ago the remaining sum may seem a small amount, but it is still significant. We cannot just say "oh well, we can borrow it or it will come with increased revenue" because our ageing infrastructure needs every penny of any bonus from that direction. Thus the Fundraising Team and I will not be complacent. The on-train "Fiver for the Finish" collections will continue for the rest of this month. We don't run this scheme during the Santa specials, however if the FftF collectors are up for it we will give the FftF a last blast after Christmas, in the lead up to the opening of the Extension.

On Sunday 24 February 2013 there will also be the weather-delayed Track Trek. Other Heritage Railways have raised £10,000 out of 300 walkers on similar events. We have 600 people signed up so I am hopeful that the Track Trek could net us as much as £20,000.

I will also be keeping up my efforts to get money from elsewhere, including East Grinstead businesses. So there is still work to do, but for the moment let's all enjoy the magnificent achievement of the DDD125, which any Heritage Railway would be immensely proud of. If not insanely jealous!

Roger Kelly, Funding Director
John Sandys's photo shows the track laid and awaiting eventual ballasting, looking North from the occupation bridge.

NEP Update: Track-laying going well

Looking south into the cutting as digging and tracklaying progresses - John Sandys - 15 November 2012 Good progress is once again being made excavating the remaining waste from the cutting, following on from a period of weather-induced stop/start work. If this rate of progress continues, the route through should be completed in two to three weeks, leaving just the final track bed profiling and consolidation to make it ready to accept the railway.

Additional plant has been drafted in to maximise the current accommodating spell of weather, so there is a lot of site activity just now. Track-laying is proceeding well, with the rail head now some 50 metres south of the occupation bridge and moving steadily southwards into the cutting behind the waste removal team, along with associated drainage and cable ducts.

Work also has started on covering the residual waste surfaces on the down side embankment in order to stabilise and camouflage the waste itself. This covering is made up of two layers of material that are designed to aid eventual vegetation growth and form a protective covering. Importantly, encouraging nature to take its course in this way will facilitate the cutting's return to its traditional shape and appearance.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director
John Sandys's photo, taken on 15th November, shows the track-laying, looking south into the cutting from the occupation bridge. The geo-textile material on the cutting sides is seen to the left.

Plans are starting to be announced for the
opening of our Northern Extension though to East Grinstead
East Grinstead Opening Painting - Matthew Cousins Over the coming month or so, as they are finalised, details of our opening two-week Festival will be revealed, through the Railway's Special Events web pages.

Some initial plans for the two-week Festival next spring are already available, although the date is not yet confirmed. A Special Gala with trains every 45 minutes will take place on the opening weekend of the Festival.

Tickets will be sold in advance for:

  • The first passenger train to start from East Grinstead.
  • First train from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, which includes a celebratory Champagne Breakfast.
  • A five-course gala evening Pullman on the opening day.
  • First "Rail Ale" service from East Grinstead.
  • Special exhibitions and tours.
There will also be a visiting locomotive.

The first incoming charter train from London (details of which were given on here a month ago), which is being organised by UK Railtours (and not by the Bluebell) and which is intended to run during the opening week, is already a sell-out!

6 November 2012: Cattle Creep Collaboration, Track Trek postponed (again), and DDD125 approaches its target

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New railings on Cattle Creep - John Sisley - Nov 12 DDD125 - our Double Donations Dash closes at 6pm today.

With an hour to go, we are now just £1,550 adrift from the £125,000 target. This includes cheques received at Sheffield Park this morning, so there may be a little more to come if anything has arrived this afternoon. This means we are already well and truly past the total we raised in the original DDD back in March, which was itself a fantastic achievement.

So, can we do it (again)? Please donate here!

Cattle Creep Collaboration

John Sisley's photograph shows the new railings on the cattle creep at Hazelden. It's a good example of everyone working together on the Extension. Our contractors, L & W, helped us to bore the holes and plant the rails (which extend 8ft below ground level). The Infrastructure/NEP team drilled all the holes in the rails, then cut, threaded and fitted the tube work. Finally, the Friends of Kingscote did the painting, and have been clearing vegetation from the brickwork below, since the NEP team are now busy at East Grinstead.

Trackwork on the extension - John Sandys - 1 Nov 2012 John Sandys' photo on the right shows tracklaying in progress north of the cutting last week, with good progress being maintained in spite of the weather yet again changing for the worse.

The view from East Grinstead

In a recent article in the East Grinstead Courier and Observer, East Grinstead's Tourism officer Simon Kerr said:
"It's been a long hard slog, and as we have watched the endless efforts undertaken by the Bluebell Railway, first to acquire the land, then to obtain permission to turn the old track bed back into a working railway, and last the enormous task of raising enough capital to enable this work to take place, we all must have wondered - will they ever pull it off?

I'm just so delighted that everything now seems to have slotted into place.

We have a new platform to greet the first trains up the line into East Grinstead. The basic footprint is there to receive and welcome visitors and this will expand and improve further. There is the truly magnificent Hill Place Viaduct, whose restored red brick arches are sure to become something of an icon for those wishing to photograph the trains and carriages high atop the bridgework.

East Grinstead has kept the faith while all this has taken place, and I know that those in charge of the Bluebell Railway have always been impressed by the warm welcome and support.

All this means that a big game change is going to happen to East Grinstead's tourism.

It won't happen overnight, and we still have lots of things to do before the town will be able to draw the maximum benefits from the expected revenue stream that new visitors will bring.

So please don't think that everything is done and dusted; this is more Phase One of a longer project.

Being a terminus for the Bluebell Railway brings fresh challenges. What sort of events will we want to hold here to attract the Bluebell passengers?

How can we best ensure that those arriving here bridge the somewhat dull gap between the Station Quarter and the medieval and Tudor delights of our High Street?

I'm sure we will rise to these challenges and the town will benefit from its association with the Bluebell Railway. For me 2013 can't come soon enough - mind you, I think I'll need a holiday by the end of it!"

Track Trek postponed again:
We regret to report that the Track Trek has again had to be postponed due to the continuing wet weather. Where track has still to be laid, the ground is very muddy, and there is no prospect of it drying out sufficiently in the next two weeks for a Trek to take place safely. The hope is now to set a firm date fairly soon, probably for February by which time the track will be in place throughout, and all registered participants will be contacted with details once confirmed.
25 October 2012: Let's Talk About the Weather! and DDD125

About Funding for the Finish - DDD125 - our new Double Donations Dash

Fits and starts seems to be the best way of describing progress in Imberhorne Cutting since the last update.

One day we are using machines to pull people out of the deep mud, where they have become stuck; the next day, real progress is being made.

It's easy to fall into the British habit of talking about the weather, but it's fair to say everyone involved anxiously watches the forecasts and prays for it to stay dry, but without much luck. This is our biggest enemy just now. John Sandys' photos below shows the muddy scene at the northern end of the cutting on 23rd October, and just 2 days later when it had dried out enough for work to resume.

North end of the cutting - John Sandys - 23 October 2012 Work in the cutting - John Sandys - 25 October 2012

Trackbed advancing from the north - John Sandys - 23 October 2012 That aside, overall things continue to move forward, albeit slowly. We are now experts in ingenious track drainage systems to cope with water flows from places we never expected to see water, but on the plus side, this is good future proofing. It's unlikely we will ever have waterlogged track north of Kingscote!

Good progress also has been made with pulling in the signal and telegraph cables, including a hefty power cable that goes all the way up to Imberhorne Lane Bridge.

These cables are crucial because they have to be terminated and tested, which is a time-consuming task. Now they are all in place, S&T can forge on without further hold-ups - they don't mind the rain!

On the viaduct, really fast progress is being made on brickwork repairs, and the opportunity is being taken while the scaffolding is in place to make good pointing-in of the upper walls. This too can continue in the rain, thank goodness!

Lastly and most significantly, track laying into the north end of the cutting is well under way this week (as seen on John Sandys' photo on the right, taken on 23 October - with the photo above showing that the trackbed preparation had extended under the bridge just 2 days later),.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

Postscript: Horsted Keynes: Turntable rather than triangle
The re-grading of the approaches to Imberhorne Cutting has used up much of the capping material from the tip, so there is now insufficient remaining to construct an embankment to form a turning triangle at Horsted Keynes. In any case, site surveys have shown that the track curvature on such a triangle would be too tight for larger engines, so it appears that any future turning facility will involve the installation of a turntable.

DDD125 - our new Double Donations Dash

Between 20th October and 6th November 2012 donations made for the Bluebell Railway's Northern Extension Project will again be matched pound for pound by major supporters of the Railway.

If you are eligible for Gift Aid as well, this will turn a 10 donation into 22.50 for the Project.

As part of Funding for the Finish, this is our last fundraising push of 2012, and we need it to be a success to complete the Extension, with a target date for opening of Spring 2013.

Gift-Aid it! The target is to raise £125,000, through online donations and donations made by cheque, to release the £125,000 offered as match funding. Any money raised beyond the £125,000 will be used for the Extension project, but will not attract match funding.

For larger donations, to cut costs for the Railway, it is best to send the donation by cheque using the Gift Aid form, available to download in PDF (Acrobat) format.

Donate online Alternatively, donating online through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the Railway and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it's the most efficient way to donate smaller sums - we raise more, whilst saving everyone time and effort.

6 October 2012: Rain Doesn't Dampen Steady Work

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Down home repeater signal - Stephen Fairweather Although the returning period of wet weather brought the cutting work to an almost standstill, good progress has been made elsewhere on track work, drainage, and installation of signalling equipment.

There also has been quite a bit of less visible progress on tasks such as surveying, culvert inspections, fencing, and bridge repairs, which are all vital to the project.

On the viaduct, the south arch is now suitably dressed with some elaborate scaffolding, so a more detailed survey of the work required to repair the brickworks has now been completed by Dick Beckwith, our civil engineering professional.

Armed with a list of the work to be completed and method statement, another team has commenced work on repairing the brickwork. It may be a bit draughty up there, but at least it's reasonably dry, so this job should be completed before winter sets in.

Meantime, spare a thought for the core team of volunteers who are on site day after day doing excellent work whatever the weather. They really do deserve great credit for their dedication.

Apart from a small number of contract staff, these volunteers undertake the majority of work on the site, under the leadership of Matt Crawford, the Railway's Infrastructure Manager.

The photo on the left by Stephen Fairweather is of KC53 R, the down home repeater signal at mile post 16.

       Chris White, Infrastructure Director

Opening date update: Due to the weather, the confirmation of a firm opening date has been deferred. However all planning is still being done on the basis of a March 2013 opening.

Stop Press (27 September):
It is with regret that the Bluebell Railway has decided to postpone the Track Trek scheduled for this Sunday 30th September until Sunday 18th November.

The reason is simply the amount of rain that has fallen in the past five days. The Trek was due to be, and will be, over the Bluebell's Northern Extension between Kingscote and East Grinstead. At present the work site in the cutting is completely waterlogged and unsuitable for walkers; thus the decision to postpone until November.

If you have registered to take part, please let us know if you're unable to do so on the 18th November. If we do not hear from you we will automatically register you for that day.

Trekkers who have been collecting sponsorship and who cannot make the new date should decide for themselves whether to return any money collected, or if they and their sponsors are willing make a donation to the Railway. If this is their decision then please send a cheque payable to the Bluebell Railway Trust plus sponsorship form to Roger Kelly, Funding Director at Sheffield Park station.

Thank you for your support. We hope we will see you in November when, despite it being late autumn, the weather should be kinder to us.

P.S. Contrary to a report in the railway press the meeting of the Extension Steering Board to be held on 4th October will not decide whether the extension "can be opened up for public services in 2013", but is to decide whether the extension will definitely be ready for March 2013 or whether the opening might be set for June 2013. At present all planning is based on a March 23rd opening.

24 September 2012: Progress on many fronts, and first incoming charter planned

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Track Trek - 30 September - Join in: Download Participation Form (pdf) - Sponsor the Mayor, Liz Bennett, who is joining us on the walk
Track Trek Video (designed to be viewed after the 2012 Appeal Video at the top of this page)

Aerial photo - 14 Sept 2012 Site work now continues along three main streams which are broadly earthworks, track and signalling, all of which are continuing to make good progress thanks to the dry weather (at least up until yesterday!).

Reinstatement of the track on its new formation northwards from Kingscote is now at mile post 16, which is its current required limit. Drainage and cable ducts are installed over the same section and the new Kingscote Down Distant signal has been planted, with only two more signalling location cases left to install in this section. Some 3 miles of signalling cables have now to be installed, in the new ducts. Repairs to a major embankment slip south of Imberhorne Lane bridge have been completed as have repairs to a damaged cattle creep bridge wall.

The cutting itself is beginning to take shape with the new track bed formation visible some distance into the cutting from both bridges, with more progress made since the aerial photo was taken 10 days ago.

The same three works streams will shortly move north of the accommodation bridge where the site is being prepared for installation of cable ducts and drainage followed by the track which will gradually wind its way southwards through the cutting towards the 16 mp.

Scaffold has now been erected under the south arch of the viaduct in readiness for some detailed repairs to the south arch which are required, the scaffold itself a rather elaborate structure which is necessary to achieve a safe working platform and is is more complicated than the repairs themselves, as seen in the picture below.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director
South end of the viaduct - 14 Sept 2012

UK Railtours plans the first London-to-Bluebell through train since the 1960s

We can confirm, subject to there being no major challenges in the final stages of work, that UK Railtours will be running the first through train from London Victoria to the Bluebell Railway on 28 March 2013 (a few days after the planned opening of the extension).

In recognition of the tremendous support which GB Railfreight have given to the extension project, removing about 90,000 tons of rubbish on their "waste by rail" trains, one of their Class 66 locos (which will be hauling the train) will be specially named at Horsted Keynes, to mark the completion of the mammoth task and the arrival of the first train from London for half a century.

Prices have not yet been announced and bookings are not yet open, but please note this train is being promoted by UK Railtours, and not the Bluebell.

Track Trek - Join in: Download Participation Form (pdf) - Sponsor the Mayor, Liz Bennett, who is joining us on the walk
Track Trek Video (designed to be viewed after the 2012 Appeal Video at the top of this page)

28 August 2012: Progress with tracklaying and earthworks at the cutting

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Track being laid northwards towards Imberhorne Lane - John Sandys - 16 Aug 2012 Everyone working on the extension project over the last few weeks has been doing their best to maximise the continuing mainly dry weather. This means hopping form one job to another as waterlogged material is excavated and then allowed to dry out, so then some other job is progressed before going back and moving it into position. Keeping the plant operating to maximum efficiency is vital; this is the most expensive part of the operation just now.

Earthworks north of the accommodation bridge are now complete at the new gradient, which continues southwards into the cutting up to the 290 chain marker. This is stabilised and ready to accept drainage and track. South of Imberhorne Lane bridge the profiling is also complete, stabilised and with track reinstated up to the 16-Mile Post, again at the new gradient. John Sandys' photo on the right shows the start of the tracklaying (which, as seen in his photo below taken today has now progressed further, and has also since been aligned very nicely).

Kingscote signal post 53 (Down Home) is now planted and looks very smart - (see Steve Fairweather's photo below and details in the previous report), and has also now been joined by three location cases. Cable ducts are beginning to be installed northwards from here to the new KC signal 53R (Down Home Repeater/Distant), which is yet to be planted, near Mile Post 16. Further signalling equipment cases are being rolled out at present.

Whilst having all these jobs going on at the same time may seem complicated, it does work and excellent progress is being made. We are not yet back on the original time line, but we are catching up quite fast. It remains a matter of continuing dry weather and of course, funding, having said that, next Spring for the opening still looks good.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

Kingscote Down home - Steve Fairweather - August 2012 Track being laid northwards towards Imberhorne Lane - John Sandys - 28 Aug 2012

Track Trek - Join in: Download Participation Form (pdf) - Sponsor the Mayor, Liz Bennett, who is joining us on the walk
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10 August 2012: Extension progress - Trackbed being prepared for tracklaying - Kingscote Down Home Signal installed

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Ballast being laid northwards towards Imberhorne Lane - John Sandys - 9 Aug 2012

Trackbed being prepared for tracklaying

South of Imberhorne Lane Bridge, following re-grading of the approach gradient, John Sandy's photo taken yesterday shows the preparation of the trackbed and initial ballasting progressing northwards from the southern railhead.

The sub-base is prepared on a camber, and then layers of impervious membrane and terram provide the drainage into a french drain constructed at the edge of the formation. The initial ballast layer is then seen being added.

Final ballasting of the track will await the completion of tracklaying, since it will be cheapest to bring it in by train rather than road.

Kingscote Down Home Signal installed

Kingscote Down Home being erected - Alan Grove - 8 August 2012 Kingscote Down Home being erected - Alan Grove - 8 August 2012 Kingscote Down Home being erected - Alan Grove - 8 August 2012 Kingscote Down Home being erected - Alan Grove - 8 August 2012

Kingscote Down Home erected - Alan Grove - 8 August 2012 Signal KC53 (Kingscote Down Home) was erected on Wednesday 8th August, although the subsidiary signal for the route into the Up Sidings has yet to be fitted. These photos, taken by Alan Grove as the work progressed, have descriptions from Mike Sargeant.

The first photo above shows the main signal structure after it had be erected.

The next shows the junction indicator being installed onto the main structure.

Brian Hymas is seen positioning the signal head on the main structure.

The last above shows the new signal being sighted by Brian Hymas and Dave Devlin.

On the right is the completed signal together with its number plate; the subsidiary (calling on) signal is still to be fitted.

Because of a national shortage of electric signal motors for semiphore signals, we are concentrating our scarce supply of such equipment on station areas, and since Kingscote represents the 1950s, it was felt that it was best to concentrate the more modern signalling equipment (bearing in mind that the Southern Railway installed its first colour light signals in the 1920s) on the extension to the north of Kingscote.

This location is also the transition point for the immunisation from the main-line electrification at East Grinstead, with opto-isolators, and a change from 50V to 650V electrical supplies.

Track Trek - Join in: Download Participation Form (pdf) - Sponsor the Mayor, Liz Bennett, who is joining us on the walk
Track Trek Video (designed to be viewed after the 2012 Appeal Video at the top of this page)

5 August 2012: Extension progress - Signalling North of Kingscote

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The photos below show arrival of the Kingscote Down Home signal post, which came by road to West Hoathly, and was then delivered to site on a Wickham trailer by our S&T Department. Photos from Andrew Strongitharm.

The signal which will be mounted on it is a BR(S) pattern, and will incorporate divergent route indicators for the two platform routes available for down trains into Kingscote. The location is just to the north of the "narrow" section of trackbed.

Kingscote Down home loaded at West Hoathly - Andrew Strongitharm - 31 July 2012 Kingscote Down home post on site - Andrew Strongitharm - 31 July 2012

Track Trek - Join in: Download Participation Form (pdf) - Sponsor the Mayor, Liz Bennett, who is joining us on the walk
Track Trek Video (designed to be viewed after the 2012 Appeal Video at the top of this page)

2 August 2012: Extension progress and Billingshurst Signalbox for East Grinstead?

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Looking north from the cutting - Stephen Fairweather Thankfully the last couple of weeks have seen a gratifying return to work by plant in the cutting. This has been mainly at the north end, with the new formation gradually taking shape as it approaches the occupation bridge from a point 280 metres within the cutting.

This is the first stage of the carefully phased sequence of work which is intended to avoid moving material further than necessary and also to ensure the stockpiled capping material remains safe and is not disturbed unnecessarily.

Stephen Fairweather's photo on the right shows the occupation bridge (at the north end of the cutting) in a view looking north from within the cutting, with the re-graded cutting floor dropping down to the bridge.

Meanwhile north of the bridge track has been lifted ready to re-profile this section to its new 1:60 gradient as it approaches the bridge. Whilst the work being undertaken may appear disjointed to the casual observer, we are moving between different jobs to allow redistributed material to dry out for a while before continuing thus helping to catch up on lost time.

John Sandys' photo below shows this section, looking south from the occupation bridge, where the formation has been raised, and an access road built to enable the capping material to be brought down to track level for use to the north of the bridge. John's second photo shows the new gradient being built up, approaching the cutting from the north towards the occupation bridge.

Looking south into the cutting - John Sandys - 31 July 2012 Work to raise the trackbed north of the cutting - John Sandys - 31 July 2012

Once these two interdependent stages of profiling are complete and meet up under the occupation bridge, drainage and service ducts will be installed and then track laying to the new single line alignment will proceed from north to south, under the occupation bridge and into the cutting. The eventual meeting up the two rail-heads will be somewhere south of Imberhorne Bridge as construction of the railway through the cutting is planned to proceed north to south.

South of Imberhorne Lane bridge, there remains some re-profiling to complete once the ground has dried out sufficiently, but this is not urgent in the grand scheme of things. Further down, the single line north of Kingscote is being tidied up with various signalling related installation work continuing to plan following which the track northwards will gradually be reinstated.

Billingshurst signalbox As we had to bring in a tamper to address some general maintenance problems on the running line, the opportunity has been taken to give Kingscote North a quick initial tamp through and the result is a really nice piece of railway.

The project plan has now been updated to take account of the lost time and subject to no more serious set-backs we shall still meet the EIS deadline of March 2013. Some tasks have been reprogrammed to run in parallel rather than sequentially as originally intended but unfortunately we have incurred some unavoidable costs against standing time for plant.

It's too early to say if any of these factors this will impact in the forthcoming Track-Trek date but watch this space, if we look like being unable to proceed on 30 September it may have to move into October.

Lastly a bit about Billingshurst signalbox. The offer of this historic structure has been taken up by the trustees with a view to planting at East Grinstead. The idea is to provide a safe and suitable location which also helps make the station look more authentic. There are no plans to use this as a working signal box, the intent remains to eventually control the East Grinstead area from the Kingcote North box and in any case the lever frame is not of sufficient size to be of any use on the Bluebell. It will simply be a pure preservation project and don't expect to see it on site for a while, the agreement is in principal only and there is quite a lot to thrash out before anything visual happens.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

Track Trek - Join in: Download Participation Form (pdf) - Sponsor the Mayor, Liz Bennett, who is joining us on the walk
Track Trek Video (designed to be viewed after the 2012 Appeal Video at the top of this page)

19 July 2012: Track Trek 30 September - Mayor of East Grinstead is joining in to help us

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Track Trek poster
On Sunday 30th September, the Bluebell Railway will be holding a sponsored walk - the Track Trek - over our newly-laid track, to raise funds for the Northern Extension Project.

The walk is a round trip of approximately four miles. Walking on a railway track is essentially level but very rough ground and stout footwear will be required. Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times. All children under 16 years old must be accompanied and the Trek is not considered suitable for children under seven years of age, unless they are carried.

It will be possible to start from either end. Walkers may start from the Bluebell Railway's East Grinstead platform between 10:30 and 2pm or from Kingscote Station between 11:30 and 1:45pm. Walkers from Kingscote will be expected to park at Horsted Keynes Station and travel by train to Kingscote. As no parking is available at Kingscote, participants may be dropped off there. Walkers from East Grinstead should use the Southern station car park or come by train. One return complimentary trip from Horsted Keynes to Kingscote will allowed for registered walkers.

Track Trek medal Registration and safety briefings will commence at 10:15 at East Grinstead and Horsted Keynes, and 10:45 at Kingscote. At registration, walkers will be expected to show sponsorship to the value of at least £20 per person or £30 for each family group. Walkers who raise £100 or more in sponsorship will receive a commemorative medal. If you need more sponsorship forms please print more copies. Complimentary tea and coffee will be available to registered walkers, and further refreshments will also be available.

This likely to be a one-off event as it may not be possible to repeat it once the Northern Extension opens for service. Numbers are expected to be high.
To book your place complete the bottom left-hand section of the form (download the PDF) and send it to the Railway (Track Trek, Sheffield Park Station, East Sussex, TN22 3QL) or e-mail the details of your name, address, number in your party plus which end you wish to start from and at what time to track.trek(at)

This is a chance not only for supporters to see the track and the route through the Imberhorne cutting and over the viaduct but also to raise money by getting sponsorship from friends, family and work colleagues. All sponsorship money will go to the NEP, since East Grinstead Town Council is supporting the Trek by paying the costs of staging the event up to £1,000.

We look forward to seeing you in September, but please check on this website, or with us, the week before, as exceptional circumstances could require us to cancel or postpone the event at short notice.

Roger Kelly, Funding Director

Track Trek - Join in: Download Participation Form (pdf) - Sponsor the Mayor, Liz Bennett, who is joining us on the walk
Track Trek Video (designed to be viewed after the 2012 Appeal Video at the top of this page)

29 June 2012: Water tower funded by Mid Sussex District Council and Extension Progress

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£25,000 for Water Tower at East Grinstead

Artists impression of Water Tower at East Grinstead - Matthew Cousins Mid Sussex District Council have announced a grant of £25,000 which will substantially cover the building costs of the Railway's water tower at East Grinstead station.

The new tower will ensure that locomotives running round at the station will have adequate provision for the return journey, and of course it will also be available for visiting steam locomotives from the main line.

Right: the water tower as it might look, from a wonderful painting by Bluebell member and artist Matthew Cousins.

The water tower will be built to look suitably in-period, but it also will accommodate the modern drive towards sustainable development, in that it will use rainwater collected from the viaduct and platform, which will be pumped into the holding tank at the top.

The holding tank itself was generously donated free to the Railway, a gift worth many thousand of pounds in itself.

Councillor John de Mierre, Mid Sussex District Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, says, "The Bluebell Railway has a special place in the hearts of many Mid Sussex residents, and it is a big draw when it comes to attracting visitors to the area. I am delighted that we have been able to offer financial support to a project that, once completed, will deliver a big boost to Mid Sussex tourism."

On behalf of the Railway, Roger Kelly says, "This grant shows that local government believes in the need for the Railway to complete the Northern Extension Project, and it brings the total support provided by MSDC to £100,000 since 2009. It is important for the Bluebell to show local government is right behind it and East Grinstead businesses. This grant certainly does that."

John Walls, Trustee, Fundraising & Communications

Trackwork at Kingscote set for completion this week

Track relaying north of Kingscote - John Sandys - 26 June 2012 The main focus of attention since the last update has been towards completion of the Kingscote North works, which continue to make steady progress towards the end of June programme date.

The remaining point work for the down siding has now been delivered and is being installed (as seen on the right hand side of John Sandy's photo, taken on Tuesday) thus completing the "heavy ironwork" installation.

Looking north from Kingscote, the single line is now reconnected with the new throat following the revised design alignment. The whole area looks a bit like a demolition site just now, but this will change once the clear up train has collected all the surplus material, the final stone is laid, and the tamper has run over the track a few times.

On the crucial signalling installation side of things, progress remains good with more equipment and cables appearing on site each week. Taking into account that the entire Signalling and Telecommunications (S&T) team are volunteers and the job is, to say the least, technically quite demanding with equally demanding time scales, we should count ourselves lucky to have this valuable resource committed to the project.

Most of what the S&T team does is hidden from public view, apart for the visible signals of course, but it is absolutely essential for the safe operation of the railway.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

This video from John Harwood shows an engine's eye view of the new running-line points and re-laid track recently completed at the north end of Kingscote Station in preparation for the opening of the extension next year.

Work on cutting moving forward

John Sandys' photo illustrates that the reprofiling of the cutting is picking up speed with the better weather, as seen in this photo taken yesterday from the north end.

Looking the other way we see the track lifted from the cutting stacked up on the siding, which will become, after removal of the point and realignment, the running line.

Work at the north end of the Imberhorne cutting - John Sandys - 28 June 2012 The track beyond the north end of the Imberhorne cutting - John Sandys - 28 June 2012

19 June 2012: Extension News roundup, and new Funding for the Finish appeal video

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2012 Appeal Video Our new Funding for the Finish appeal video is now available; it explains very well just what is left to do, so we hope you will Donate to our appeal!

Chris White supplies the following update to work around the extension:

It is pleasing to report that good progress has been made at Kingscote North with the engine run round facility returned to operational use as planned on Friday 1 June. A great credit to the large volunteer workforce who have supported Matt Crawford in all weathers to get the job done on time. The new throat joining the platform roads to the East Grinstead single line section has been constructed on newly made up earthworks and has been designed as an equal 'Y' layout using new S&C rated in excess of our 25mph limit in order to provide a smooth transition and hopefully track longevity on what will become in future a very busy and hardworking part of the railway.

There is still some remaining work required to complete the track-work, which is scheduled to finish by the end of June. By this time the track-bed northwards to Imberhorne Lane bridge should be ready to reinstate the track itself so the team will progressively move northwards relaying, so the railhead will be back just south of the bridge sometime in July.

Meantime the S&T team are now well advanced on site having planted equipment cases and point operating machines as well as undertaking preparatory work in the relay room and signal box at Kingscote. Next will be a big session of cable pulling to provide all the necessary links to control the signalling and operational telecommunications systems required to control the north end of the station with completion scheduled for the end of this year. This timing is essential to enable crew training and familiarisation to commence over the section under actual operating and fully signalled conditions.

Turning to the cutting itself, we now have the final design firmed up following several rather complicated bouts of site surveys and optioneering. If money was no object the solution would be easy but as always we are seeking the best possible safe design at minimal cost. Throughout June and July (weather and funds permitting) the final cutting shape will begin to emerge as materials are repositioned on site.

(Chris supplied this information over a week ago, so apologies for the time it's taken to put it up here).

5 June 2012: Kingscote run-round re-instated

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New point completed north of Kingscote - Steve Fairweather - 1 June 2012 At 6.30pm on Friday 1st June 2012 the last screw was installed on the new point north of Kingscote and the run-round loop was returned for operational use. In fact the U-class locomotive was "borrowed" from the evening's Rail Ale train to test the new track. There's still work to be done (ballasting and tamping the line, work on the sidings and the S&T can now connect the point motors). However it is a great credit to the Infrastructure team who have worked in extremes of weather to have completed the main line track on time (just!). It may appear to be a simple job of renewing the track and three points, but there's also been so much other work that is hidden, particularly the installation of ducting and associated manholes, plus the improvement works to the formation.

Steve Fairweather's photo shows the new north-end point, with its gentle curves. The track-work done here was required before the opening throughout of the extension next year, and being completed now it gives the S&T time to complete all the signalling work required.

Latest Extension Photos

Work seen looking south from Imberhorne Lane - John Sandys - 31 May 2012 John Sandys' photos show work in progress to further build up the level of the trackbed south of Imberhorne Lane Bridge, using material now being brought down from the stockpile of capping material above the cutting. John also has two videos showing the work in making up the gradient south of Imberhorne Lane Bridge and transporting the inert spoil from the stockpile.
Removing some of the stockpile north of Imberhorne Lane - John Sandys - 31 May 2012 Work south Imberhorne Lane - John Sandys - 31 May 2012

30 May 2012: Funding for the Finish: Target now £570,000

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It was announced at the BRPS AGM that further fundraising in the last couple of months has reduced the remaining sum required to complete the Northern Extension to £570,000. Thanks to the "Chairmen's Challenge" over £3,000 was raised at the AGM, with donations of £1,100, challenge funding of £500 each from our two Chairmen, plus Gift Aid, with £211 profit from the sale of refreshments and £235 from the retiring collection.

Extension Progress

Track relaying north of Kingscote - Pat Plane - 11 May 2012 Report from Chris White: "Earth works have now resumed south of Imberhorne Lane bridge profiling the track formation to its new gradient. Once completed, drainage works will be required before reinstatement of the single line up to the bridge. This work will continue through June with progress being dependant on weather.

"Meantime, the exposed sandstone cutting face will have been marked with new datum points throughout, to enable the cutting itself to be profiled to its new gradient. Work on this stage will also commence in June, again subject to dry weather conditions.

"At Kingscote North good progress continues to be made, with the locomotive run round facility due to be handed back to the Operations Manager on 1 June as planned. There will be residual work required to complete the track remodelling, following which the S&T will move in to begin their tasks ready for through working to East Grinstead next Spring."

Patrick Plane's photo on the right shows the extent of the work being undertaken to the north of Kingscote, as of 11 May. The formation has now been widened and the ballast base spread, ready for laying in the track and the new "Y" point.
John Sandys' photo below shows progress as of 24 May. John's second photo below, taken the same day, shows the regraded trackbed, with a drainage ditch being dug, south of Imberhorne Lane.

Track relaid north of Kingscote - John Sandys - 24 May 2012 Regraded trackbed, with ditch being dug, south of Imberhorne Lane - John Sandys - 24 May 2012

10 May 2012: Lorna completes the London Marathon, raising £6,500 for the NEP

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Lorna running in the London Marathon Lorna Webb writes:
Adam Fink and I completed the marathon in five hours and 21 minutes. I have to say, this one was very tough. The weather had been forecast to be cold, so I wore running tights, but it turned into a scorcher! There are showers along the route, and I walked through one of them just to get the maximum cooling effect!

The high point of the first half was overtaking my purple floppy hatted Womble nemesis from my previous two outings at about seven miles. I did a little 'Tim Henman punch.' Just over halfway my injured right calf muscle tore again. I took some ibuprofen and was able to do a sort of hobbling run from then on. I was determined to finish and not to let that Womble catch me!

About 2.5 miles from the finish I caught up with Adam, who was suffering from his shin splint injury and had been walking for a while. He managed to grit his teeth and we ran together from there to the finish, which we crossed hand in hand! I overtook (amongst others) two Wombles, three hockey players, Bagpuss, the Eiffel tower, a bottle of beer, and two separated halves of a camel that had overtaken me earlier. And I beat Ed Balls!

Thank you all again for your support; when the going got tough, it really helped.

The photos below show Lorna in her "Bluebell" running gear, at the East Grinstead Open Day the day before the run (photo: Adam Fink) and with Adam after they completed the marathon.

Lorna at East Grinstead - Adam Fink - 21 April 2012 Lorna and Adam after completing the London Marathon

Lorna's fundraising total so far is £5,742, or something over £200 per mile, and when gift aid is added it will be worth about £6,700 to the Railway. Lorna's not closing the donation page just yet, so if you've not yet done so, please consider sponsoring her here, or see the main appeal site for other ways to support the Northern Extension Project.

Vep comes off the viaduct - Tony Sullivan - 21 April 2012

Open Days at East Grinstead

Over the weekend of 21-22 April we held our last East Grinstead open days before the planned opening throughout of the Extension next year. For the rest of 2012 the site will be busy with preparations for the opening, in particular the signalling and the construction of various facilities.

Tony Sullivan's photo on the right shows our Vep unit No.3417 "Gordon Pettit" coming off the viaduct on the Saturday, when, following problems with the controls at the south end, the Class 73 Electro-diesel was moved to haul the set from that end. The problems were resolved later, and the Vep led on the Sunday.

The photos below from Chris Dadson show Roy Watts being interviewed at East Grinstead on the Sunday. A new video appeal is in preparation, for Funding for the Finish.

The next photo, from Daniel Coffey, shows No.66014, which purely by coincidence was "over the fence" on the national network, carrying out weekend engineering duties on the East Grinstead line on the Sunday.

Roy being interviewed - Chris Dadson - 22 April 2012 66014 at East Grinstead - Daniel Coffey - 22 April 2012

We ran trips over the viaduct to the tip every 30 minutes over both days. The well filled trains contained both enthusiasts and local families. Our fundraisers (including the former Mayor of East Grinstead, Ginnie Waddingham, who had driven a digger as part of the launch of the removal of the rubbish tip back in November 2008) were busy (and successfully) raising money with "Fiver to the Finish" certificates.

The two photos below are from Mike Hopps and Nathan Gibson, again showing 73204 at the head of the Vep unit on the Saturday.

73204 at East Grinstead with the Vep - Mike Hopps - 21 April 2012 73204 with the Vep - Nathan Gibson - 21 April 2012

Drainage work and new barrow crossing at Kingscote - Patrick Plane - 20 April 2012

Extension Progress

The recent wet weather has, needless to say, put us behind in terms of work re-profiling the cutting, but this has to be weighed against the superb weather towards the end of last year, which was the really critical and expensive phase of the operation, when the last of the Waste by Rail trains ran. The weather has not deterred our track gangs working at the North end of Kingscote, where progress on re-laying the point-work has continued, as Chris White explains:
Progress on the NEP at Imberhorne Lane can best be described as slow due to the continuing rain and increasingly wet ground surfaces. Despite this, the eastern (down side) cutting face is now exposed throughout its length, enabling stability checks to take place on the original sandstone material and datum points to be installed.

It has also been possible to transfer some of the residual waste onto the south end sandstone shelf above the cutting, which is another job done. However, in the grand scheme, we remain behind schedule and when things improve, there will be a lot of catching up to do.

Meanwhile, work at Kingscote North is also progressing slowly and extra "Brownie points" must be awarded to the undeterred volunteer Permanent Way team that continue to support Matt Crawford with his tight works delivery schedule. The lack of run-round facilities is placing a heavy operational burden on the Locomotive Department, making the programmed end of May on-time restoration of these facilities absolutely crucial for all.

Patrick Plane's photo on the right shows the nearly-completed re-instatement of the barrow crossing, and the new track drainage being installed, at the north end of Kingscote, as of 20 April. John Sandys' photos below shows how much the work had moved on by 1 May, and then the 7th May.
Track re-laying progress at Kingscote - John Sandys - 1 May 2012 Track re-laying progress at Kingscote - John Sandys - 7 May 2012

16 April 2012: Steady Progress on the NEP

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Trackwork North of Kingscote - Derek Hayward - 15 April 2012 At Kingscote, steady progress has been made, with the down siding points being partially installed just before Easter. Work then moved north of the run round facility to prepare for relaying the plain line section between the new throat and the up advance starting signal post.

This approach enabled the run round facility to be retained through the busy Easter period but still kept the job moving. Site activity will then start to intensify as both lines north of Kingscote platform return to full engineers' possession until the end of May.

Derek Hayward's 15 April photo at Kingscote shows the re-laid pointwork on the right, and the remaining area to be re-laid beyond.

Less obvious is the ancillary work, to continue installation of cable routes and equipment cabinet bases ready for the S&T team to move in when the PW men move out. Provision of underground cable routes for all electrical, signalling, and telecommunications cables is now the norm on all Railway projects; it not only looks better to hide the cables but also, and more importantly, it makes life very difficult for prospective thieves!

Meanwhile, at Imberhorne Lane, progress continues profiling the track bed south of the road bridge. It is anticipated this will be complete, and the railway reinstated to a point just short of the bridge, by the end of May. Unfortunately, last week's bad weather caused a stoppage on site, as continued operation of the yellow plant would have undone all the good work achieved so far.

Whether you are keener on gardening or NEP progress will no doubt influence your prayers for more or less rain next week!

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

Next book sale:

N.B. Update: Book Sale at Kingscote 21-22 April will not now take place. There will be a book sale in aid of the NEP at Kingscote Station 21 and 22 April, organized by John Sisley. A few of the more valuable books are also available through his Amazon Marketplace page.

Open Days at East Grinstead

On 21 & 22 April we have our East Grinstead Open Days with shuttle trains over the Hill Place Viaduct to Imberhorne North with our 4VEP unit number 3417 "Gordon Pettitt" hauled by a Class 73 electro diesel locomotive. This is the only opportunity to ride the extension this year, as the final engineering works ramp up towards next year's re-opening of the fully extended line.

Lorna running - Adam Fink

Last week before the Marathon...

Bluebell volunteer Lorna Webb is running in the London Marathon on Sunday 22 April to raise money towards our £600,000 Funding for the Finish campaign. She currently has over £3,000 towards her personal target; if you can help, please donate via JustGiving.

Lorna writes, "Thanks so much to everyone who has sponsored me so far; I have been amazed by your support.

"Easter Sunday was my last long run (18 miles) before the marathon itself. In marathon training you don't run the whole distance before the event. My training distance peaked at 21 miles on 1 April, and, yes, I felt like an April Fool heading off for a four-and-a-half-hour run at eight in the morning!

"Training is split between long runs on Sundays and shorter but faster midweek runs. I have done a lot of my midweek training on Forest Way, the old trackbed from East Grinstead to Tunbridge Wells West. There are some interesting railway items along the way. The station houses at Hartfield and Withyham are still there, as are a lot of bridges similar to the ones on our line and even an old milepost (40 3/4) almost buried in vegetation.

"On my long runs I pass quite close to Kingscote, and I often hear the steam whistles, which is great. I am now enjoying what is known as "the taper," a two-week period of reduced mileage to allow me to rebuild my reserves for the big day. It is brilliant to know the Railway is behind me (as one contributor has said) every sleeper of the way!"

We wish Lorna well with her forthcoming marathon run! Please consider sponsoring her here.

Photo thanks to Adam Fink

2 April 2012:

About Funding for the Finish - Donate

DDD Raises £200,000 in Seven Days

It has been an incredible week. By Monday afternoon, after three days of the Double Donations Dash, you had raised about £15,000, which in itself was a fantastic response, and meant we thought we might make the £40,000 total.

However, we had not yet heard from the office about cheques received that day. This was because they were still counting them, and we ended up with around £16,000 in cheques on Monday alone, as you may have seen elsewhere on the website.

We were all stunned, and immediately started searching for more sponsors.

The donations kept flooding in, especially by cheque, and we secured a further £20,000 in sponsor funding. Including this funding, gift aid, and donations to DDD via JustGiving and other sources, the grand total raised was a shade more than £200,000.

This exceeded our wildest expectations, and it shows how great the desire is amongst our supporters to complete the extension to East Grinstead.

Below Roy Watts and Roger Kelly say a special "thank you," and Chris White gives an update on the recent work at both Kingscote and Imberhorne, which has been substantial.

John Walls, Trustee, Fundraising

Northern Extension Project Update

Work commenced on schedule on 19 March to profile the cutting south of Imberhorne Lane bridge and this is continuing on-plan and on-programme.

Once this work is completed to our satisfaction, then drainage and cable routes will be installed and finally the track reinstated to its new approach gradient up to Imberhorne Lane bridge.

Meanwhile, work has commenced at Kingscote North on constructing the new track and points. This is a major project in itself and a quite complex job to get everything in its correct position and properly aligned to provide access to and from East Grinstead. This work will go on until at least the end of May.

As Project Director, I wish to echo the words of Roy Watts and Roger Kelly and thank all who donated over the last week. When deep in the cutting, it is heartening to know so many of you out there know of us and are behind us. Well done to you all!

Chris White
To hear Roy Watts speaking on BBC Radio Sussex on Friday morning about the success of the Double Donations Dash: listen on iPlayer at 1hr 27 into the programme, and there's also a report on the BBC web site.

Thank You for Your Overwhelming Support

The outstanding success of the Double Donations Dash (DDD) has exceeded our most ambitious expectations. On behalf of the Society Trustees and the Board of Directors, we wish to thank all who contributed.

Donations ranged from £2 to £2,000, and all were equally welcome. We know that in these austere times many people have given all that they can afford. We also wish to thank the individuals who provided the matching funding that galvanised this huge amount of support for the Northern Extension Project.

Your collective generosity via the DDD and other donations has seen the Funding Gap for the NEP fall from £800,000 to £600,000 in little over a month. This is still a steep hill to climb but nothing like the mountain we faced just two years ago.

We will be doing all we can to raise the amount we need from various sources, but it is likely most will come from the public.

Our "Fiver for the Finish" collectors will be riding the trains during the summer to obtain donations from our visitors.

Lorna Webb is running the London Marathon for us and needs lots of donations at say 50p/mile (£13.20) to to achieve her target of £5,000.

In the autumn, safety issues permitting, we hope to have a sponsored walk (aka the Track Trek) from Kingscote to East Grinstead and back. The East Grinstead Town Council has already agreed to provide £1,000 toward the cost of organising the event, the fifth consecutive year it has made a financial contribution to the NEP.

Through the council's action, and donations to the DDD, we know the community is behind us. With your continued support there is no reason why we will, in 50 weeks, achieve the dream the Bluebell Railway has had for 50 years.

Thank you all!

Roy Watts, BRPS Chairman
Roger Kelly, Funding Director

27 March 2012: Double Donations Dash - Target exceeded already - but we're not stopping there!
Donate online or download the appeal leaflet

Due to the fantastic generosity of our donors we already have surpassed our revised target of £50,000 for matching funding for this week. Further donations are still very welcome, and although they will therefore not be matched, are still needed as we endeavour to raise the full total of £800,000 we need to complete the Northern Extension Project.

We have approached another sponsor to see if donations already made over the target can be matched and will hear on Friday. Further unmatched donations may be made via the various means described on the main appeal web site, or you may wish to support Lorna Webb, one of our volunteers who is running the London Marathon to raise funds for the Northern Extension Project.

24 March 2012: Double Donations Dash - and the start of the 2012 Extension work programme.

Double Donations Dash - This week!

Donate online or download the appeal leaflet

Between now and 30th March 2012 donations made for the Northern Extension Project will be matched pound for pound by major supporters of the Railway.

If you are eligible for Gift Aid as well, this will turn a £10 donation into £22.50 for the Extension Project.

Stop Press: As a result of the generosity of our sponsors a further £10,000 of match funding has become available and so the target has been increased! This is excellent news and shows the belief that we will complete the project early next year.

The target is now to raise £50,000 through online donations and donations made by cheque - to release the £50,000 offered as match funding. Any money raised beyond the £50,000 will still be used for the Extension project, but will not attract match funding.

To download a Double Donations Dash form to be sent with your cheque, to arrive on or before 30th March click here. This is a PDF form, which you can then open using a free viewer such as Acrobat Reader.

Alternatively you can donate online via

2012 Works started

Work has commenced to profile the trackbed south of Imberhorne Lane Bridge to align with the cutting entrance. This preparatory work influences the eventual final shape of the cutting and thus contributes to the overall design. There is no firm date as yet for work to commence within the cutting itself although progress on the project will now be continuous through the summer subject to available funds. Design development is progressing well and is expected to be finalised in April, following which the track vertical and horizontal alignment through the cutting will start to take shape.

Two weeks' work has also commenced to replace the points and realign the trackwork to the north of Kingscote station. As a result this weekend's train operation will involve a change of loco at Kingscote, as the work on the track involves the temporary removal of the run-round facility.

27 February 2012: The final year: Funding for the Finish.

A New Phase: News from the Northern Extension Project

We know many of you have been waiting for the latest news on our plans to steam through to East Grinstead. Despite the site being closed over winter, a lot of planning activity has been done - this series of articles from our eNewsletter updates everyone on where we are now.

First, the good news. We have effectively met our 1 April deadline for waste clearance. Further waste trains are unlikely, and even if a relatively small amount of waste still needs to be moved, we have plans in place. Both undertaking this work and also raising the funding required by the deadline has been a magnificent effort by staff, volunteers, and other donors. However, we cannot let up, as there is much more to be done.

Work on the ground will recommence in earnest in the last week of March, at Kingscote and Imberhorne Road Bridge. Both track and signalling at Kingscote will require changes. The existing point is adequate to allow locomotives to reverse and to proceed at low speed; however, its curvature is too steep for normal running. This point will be replaced. In tandem with this work, the track on the north side of the gate will need to be realigned.

Timing of this phase is crucial because the current engine run-round facility will be lost during the work, and we want to give the S&T team maximum time to address the new signalling arrangements. Our proximity to the electrified line at East Grinstead introduces some new features, including AC track circuits and immunisation, adding complexity to this work.

At the cutting itself, designs for the final cutting shape are still being developed. The most important of these deals with the large volumes of capping material that have to be processed. Several options are emerging, each of which has differing cost and time implications that have to be balanced against ensuring a safe and fit-for-purpose solution. All the options involve re-engineering the cutting and re-profiling the track bed south of the road bridge. Once this is done service and drainage ducts can be installed followed by the track itself that should be in place by the end of the summer.

Once track is in place, the remaining capping material can be moved south to Horsted Keynes for construction of the turning facility. This is likely to involve the use of a hired-in train similar to the one used for waste removal to undertake the work quickly and efficiently. Before we finally open, a number of other tasks need to be done, including repairs to the occupation bridge and underside of the viaduct south arch; construction of customer facilities at the station site and an inter-station walkway; and administrative work on safety, staff training, and operational plans.

We plan to hand over to the Operations Department on 18 March 2013. However, this date is only achievable if the last remaining funding is available on the same timescale. The total estimated cost of the works is £800,000, comprising an average spend of approximately £80,000 per month over the next 10 months. We have planned hoping our supporters will make a final effort for one last "big give" to see the Railway's most significant long-term objective come to fruition.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

Northern Extension Project Funding Update

In order to finish the Northern Extension Project (NEP), we need to cover the remaining funding gap of approximately £800,000 and see the NEP paid for by the time scheduled services to East Grinstead start in the spring of 2013.

To raise this money, the Railway is launching the "Funding for the Finish" campaign. The campaign's progress will be reported on this website, through the eNewsletter, and in the Bluebell News magazine.

We have a number of events planned - or in an embryonic state - over the next 12 months. The first of these is the Double Donations Dash. Half a dozen individual sponsors have promised up to £40,000, if that amount can be matched by online, cash, and cheque donations made between 24 and 30 March.

Also, Tenner for the Tip has been replaced by a new initiative - Fiver for the Finish - and our stalwart band of collectors will continue to seek donations from the public travelling on our trains. "Fiver for the Finish" will also be available in the shop and online at the shop's website. So if you have never purchased a Tenner for the Tip Certificate - or want one more for your collection - you have a limited amount of time to buy one!

Later in the year there will be events for our supporters to gather contributions from outside the Railway - watch this space!

We will of course continue to try get support from business and government at every level, but in these difficult economic times, it is likely that the support of individual donors - who wish to see our long term dream of a connection to East Grinstead come true - will make it happen.

We have achieved so much in the last three decades of NEP and there's now only a small proportion of the overall cost still required to complete the project. We will do it!

Roger Kelly, Funding Director

Double Donations Dash details finalised

The NEP Double Donations Dash - 24 to 30 March - will use a special page on the Just Giving website. This is a well-established way of giving and has proved very successful so far; there is even a facility for donors to leave a message! We will shortly update our existing page with our new funding requirement.

Those of you who gave to the Christmas Challenge will know that it proved so popular with the many charities taking part that the "Big Give" website experienced problems. This new challenge is unique to the Railway, so we expect it to go smoothly. There is no rush to donate by a specific time; donations can be made anytime between 24 to 30 March. You also can send us a cheque arriving (or post dated) during the "give week."

We will provide daily updates on the Just Giving page with the grand total raised. Finally, a big thank you to our sponsors for making this happen and for giving us a chance to take a big chunk out of the NEP funding gap.

John Walls, Trustee, Fundraising

Marathoner to Go the Distance for NEP

Bluebell Railway Preservation Society member Lorna Webb is taking part in the London Marathon on 22 April, to raise funds for the Northern Extension Project (NEP).

Lorna says she first visited the Bluebell as a child and has continued to visit ever since. "I even took my (now) husband there for our second date," she says. "Luckily he likes steam railways too!"

Webb, who lives in East Grinstead, says she can't wait to see steam engines at the platform there. "I have been volunteer fundraising for about a year now, promoting Tenner for the Tip on East Grinstead open days, but I wanted to do more," she explains.

A keen runner, she applies for the London Marathon every year. "I have run in the marathon before, but always for big charities, so when I got a ballot place this year, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to support the Railway on our final push into East Grinstead."

On early training runs, whilst the last dig was on, Webb planned a route that went past the tip, so she could check progress "... and have a bit of a breather after running up Turners Hill Road!" she adds.

Her training was interrupted by a calf injury, but she's now recovered. "There is still a lot of running to be done, in the rain, the wind, and whatever else the weather can throw at me, so please keep me motivated by supporting my fundraising efforts!" Click here to support Lorna!

Webb is also getting together a Bluebell Railway team for the East Grinstead leg of the MSDC Sussex Living Marathon - a 10-mile run on 5 May. Anyone who wants to take part and represent the Railway should contact the eNewsletter editor, who will pass your interest along.

Goodbye Tenner for the Tip

In January 2009 "Tenner for the Tip" was launched. Some thought that it wouldn't work, but by the end of 2011 in excess of £230,000 had been raised, primarily by a stalwart team of on-train promoters.

The promoters were supported by the shop, the on-line community, East Grinstead open days, and stands at external events. They are very grateful to Customer Services for providing administrative support.

The money raised equates to almost 10 days of Waste by Rail - a magnificent achievement. The on-train promoters each had different ways of encouraging our visitors to part with some loose change if they could not afford to give 10 pounds. Stickers for the children also encouraged donations.

Nigel Longdon in action - Steve Fairweather Gifts came in all amounts, but my personal experiences included two separate £50 donations - one from a German lady who, to my reaction that it was "a lot of money" replied, "But I love steam trains!"

Since further WBR trains are unlikely, it was decided to continue with the on-train fundraising, but with a fresh message. Towards the end of March a new scheme called "Fiver for the Finish" will be launched as part of the Funding for the Finish Campaign.

So there will be the opportunity to donate to obtain a new certificate design and the team of on-train promoters are getting ready to ply their trade. Sadly, Peter Forrestier-Smith, one of our regulars, has had to withdraw due to illness. We wish him an early return to good health. If anyone would like to join the team, contact me, and I will forward your name to our roster clerk.

In this photo Nigel Longdon relieves Ken Measures of £10. Note the blurred hand showing how quick the transaction takes place! (Photo by Steve Fairweather.)

Nigel Longdon

splash The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service
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