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The Bluebell Railway's Extension:
Progress towards East Grinstead

Archive 1 (October 2000-Feb 2001)

Extension Project archives: 2012 through to re-opening - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2006-7 - 2004-5 - 2003 - 2002 - April - Dec 2001 - Oct 2000 - Feb 2001 - April 2000

Latest News page

21 February 2001 - Clearance work at Hazelden Farm

North from Hazelden The photos left and below from Nigel Longdon were taken towards the end of last Saturday (17 Feb) whilst the rest of us were enjoying the Winter Steam-up. Over the last few weeks we have made a fair amount of progress. The east fence line has been cleared from Imberhorne Lane to the cattle creep at Hazelden Farm, and work has now started on clearance of the fence line back northwards from the cattle creep.

Some attention has also been paid to the drainage in this area. The simple act of clearing out some of the surviving concrete lined open drainage channels on the west side near the cattle creep, and also clearing a ditch on the west side of the trackbed which feeds them, has brought significant improvements. The previously very wet area is starting to show signs of drying out - the recent spell of reasonably dry weather has helped!

Looking south from Hazelden As ever, we would be able to make more rapid progress given more volunteers. We have already had a couple of enquiries from prospective volunteers as a result of this web page. Anyone else interested in lending a hand, please make contact through Nigel Longdon by e-mail.


12 February 2001 - Clearance and renewal of fencing

Although photographically there is nothing new to report, the Wednesday and Saturday teams are making steady progress with trackbed, bank/embankment and fence line clearance.

The east fence line from Imberhorne Lane to the cattle creep at Hazeldean Farm has been cleared and part re-fenced; it is hoped that the remainder of the re-fencing of this section will be completed over the next two working Sundays by the fencing team.

Progress on these works is steady, however, it would be much greater if more volunteer labour was available. No skills are required, just a willingness to help get the job done as soon as possible to meet the desire to have track laid to the tip by July 2001. Age is no barrier - our younger volunteers are in their 20s, the eldest is 70+. You do need suitable attire - wellingtons with steel toe caps are recommended at the moment as conditions are quite muddy at present (working boots with steel toe caps will do), old clothes, plus a pair of (gardening type) gloves.

If you are interested please contact:
Nigel Longdon by e-mail.

If you cannot make either of these days but are interested in assisting the (not every) Sunday fencing team contact Nigel (as above) and he'll put you in contact with them.

We also need some assistance with the maintenance of our plant equipment - JCB, diesel dumpers, compressor, Land Rover etc. If you have experience in this area please drop Nigel an e-mail (as above).

In summary there is a lot of work still to be completed which does not need particular skills and the more volunteers we have the quicker the work will get done.

31 January 2001 - The Telephone System for the extension

The following from Geoff Harris, one of our S&T Engineers, explains what's going on in the new relay room at Kingscote in preparation for the final stage of the extension:

Telephone Exchange Cabinets The telephone - that one piece of technology that enables us to communicate in plain speech - is now an indispensable part of the infrastructure of the Bluebell Railway. The telephones dotted around Kingscote station currently are served from the Horsted Keynes exchange. The various SPTs (Signal Post Telephones) to be found north of the Kingscote up distant are served by the SPT concentrator in the temporary Kingscote South box.

It was planned, some years ago, that Kingscote station would get its own telephone exchange linked to the exchanges at Horsted Keynes and Sheffield Park, which would serve Kingscote's own needs and those of East Grinstead station. At the same time, it was also planned for two concentrators, one to serve the Kingscote area and the other would serve the East Grinstead area.

The equipment you can see in the picture below consists of three main units:

1) The two blue/grey cabinets (also in the photo on the left) are the actual telephone exchange, both having come from the Mid Hants Railway. The unit nearest the wall was sadly found to be in a bad state of decay when it came out of storage, however the old Sheffield Park exchange, was an identical unit so we merely swapped over the internal workings. The other unit was in a better condition, requiring some restoration. Currently these two units are being prepared for cabling up.

Kingscote relay room

2) The brown unit started life as a Post Office standard `PABX 5' (Private Automatic Branch Exchange) used in a small office premises in South London. It has been stripped down, internally rewired so that it can supply the additional facilities / services to the new telephone exchange. It is the first unit to be powered up from the new power plant, enabling the installation and testing of its independent control and tone relay set and the telephone exchange's engineers ringback circuit. Currently it is being cabled to the MDF (Main Distribution Frame), having a relay set mounting frame made for it and modifications are being made for an Exchange Line Relay Set.

3) The final unit behind the PABX 5, which is almost obscured by the 5's back panel, is destined to become the SPT concentrator. This unit is a specialised AD9000 obtained from British Airports Authority, Heathrow, where it performed a very similar function to what is required of it on the railway. This unit will require some intricate wiring work, which has not been started yet.

Those four cabinets will keep us busy for some time. In fact, the task is not dissimilar to restoring a "Barry wreck", although fortunately in this case we do have most of the parts required.

That however, is not all the story. Both the Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes exchanges will need junction relay sets built and wired in to allow calls from those exchanges to reach Kingscote. The Horsted Keynes sets are already ready, waiting for connection to Kingscote, and one of the two required at Sheffield Park is similarly already waiting for connection. The other set is awaiting modification.

A major factor to getting Kingscote exchange into service is the cable laying activities that will run north to East Grinstead and south to Sharpthorne tunnel. The cabling activity will include the connection of Kingscote exchange to the other two exchanges.

The Telecomm team is looking forward to the day when we make it to East Grinstead. As you can see we have a lot of work, and would welcome any volunteer with some minimal telecoms switching experience to join us in these ventures. Anyone interested in working to restore and maintain Strowger systems should contact Paul Baker via Sheffield Park.


1 December 2000: More photos from the working week

Keepers to Hazeldean The good news is that from Keepers (where the pond was) there is now an unobstructed view north (photo left) for about 450 metres - almost to the south end of the tip. Much of the trackbed has been "skimmed" which will hopefully enable it to drain. However it is in no way ready for track to be laid! Much of the original bed is damaged and will need work to make it fit for ballast to be laid. Some parts still need to be skimmed, but they are essentially clear as they had been in regular farm use.

Looking south to Hazelden This photo (right) is taken looking south from Imberhorn Lane towards Hazelden. There is still much tree cutting and fence line clearance to be done. Drainage also requires a lot of work. In the words of BR "we are getting there".


20 November 2000: Progress at the end of last week

Keepers Pond Drained The objectives set for the working week have not been fully met, primarily due to the preceding weeks of inclement weather. The ground is saturated and we have had difficulty using our normal plant (JCB and dumper). We have so far removed about 25 meters of infill from the trackbed adjacent to Ash Lea Farm. This has been sorted - scrap metal into one pile, anything combustible on the fire. Wednesday saw a significant amount of scrap removed, however, working on top of the bank was becoming increasingly difficult due to the deteriorating condition of the ground.

Water draining through Keepers pond Therefore on Thursday and Friday it was decided to try working on the cutting at Keepers. Most of the water had drained from the pond (left) but a significant amount was still flowing through it running off adjacent fields (right).

Keepers 15th Nov am These two photos show Keepers cutting. Left: before clearance, on the Wednesday morning, 15th November 2000. Right: the following afternoon, after clearance.

Keepers 16 Nov pm

Skimmin Keepers Left: John Millam skimming the surface clear at Keepers cutting. It really does look impressive to see the original trackbed and west side drainage ditch (working); it will be even better with some more tree clearance on the cutting sides.


14 November 2000: First Photos

Scrap in cuttingThese pictures illustrate the progress over the first weekend of our working week on the trackbed clearance. They were taken yesterday, and show the situation before John Millam started work with his heavy machinery. These two show the scrap and rubbish discarded in the cutting which includes all sorts of old agricultural machinery. Note the waterlogged cutting to the left.

Scrap in cutting

Water draining from the pond The other two are toward the "pond" at Keepers; one showing the water flowing from the pond and the other is of the actual pond. Note also the tree clearance already achieved.

Priorities for this week are to remove the scrap etc., dig a drainage ditch to connect up to that already started (which runs parallel to the field belonging to Ash Lea Farm) so that the pond can be drained, and then to scrape off the muck from the top of the trackbed.

The pond at Keepers

We must reiterate that access to the trackbed is not permissible simply because:
a) we have fences and drains to install and repair;
b) people will not know the position of boundaries and trespass will not be taken lightly especially as we have neighbours we must respect;
c) the land whilst being cleared is very wet and boggy and needs draining;
d) with clearance work going on there is a lot of dangerous equipment being used and Health and Safety demands we operate a safe environment.
Any unauthorised persons will be asked to leave by the nearest exit.

We do intend (as per a member's suggestion) to run some escorted tours (for a small donation) in the New Year when the trackbed is a little clearer.


13 November 2000: Work Underway

Saturday November 11th saw the start of our first working week on the extension for over 6 years! To record this monumental occasion and due to the renewed interest in the extension project since the land purchase was completed, Jim Turtle has decided to photograph the works and the entire route with a digital camera, the results of which will be available on this page.

News Release: 30 October 2000

Northern Extension. (Kingscote to East Grinstead)

On behalf of Graham Flight, Chairman of the Bluebell PLC, myself, as Chairman of the Preservation Society, and extensions Director Jim Turtle, I am pleased to be able to confirm that the Bluebell Railway has completed the purchase of the last two pieces of land between Kingscote and East Grinstead in private ownership.

There are two remaining tracts of land not in private ownership for which negotiations are at an advanced stage.

This means that Bluebell owns the Trackbed immediately north of Kingscote to the land north of the viaduct.

Extensions Director Jim Turtle will begin planning the works and infrastructure required immediately. Line clearance and fencing operations have already begun and can progress northwards in earnest.

Please note that access to the trackbed is not permissible under any circumstances.

The Bluebell Railway can at last begin the final push northwards and achieve its principal objective... a terminus at East Grinstead.

A full story detailing the history of the extension will appear in the Christmas edition of Bluebell News.

Roy Watts
Chairman, BRPS.

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