Bluebell Railway
Building the
The Bluebell Railway's Northern Extension
Excavation of spoil from the south side of Imberhorne Lane Bridge
(June 2005 to December 2006)

This compilation of photographs illustrates the progress of the works undertaken over a period of 18 months to extract spoil from within the cutting to the south of Imberhorne Lane bridge, and remove it by rail, to Horsted Keynes. The work was just one phase of the Bluebell Railway's Northern Extension project to extend the line from Kingscote to East Grinstead.

As a point of interest the Bluebell Railway was excavating the same spoil that had already once before been excavated from another closed railway line over 30 years previously. The spoil originally came from the widening of the former railway cutting in East Grinstead following closure of the line between Three Bridges and Tunbridge Wells, when during the 1970s the "Beeching Way" town-centre by-pass for the A22 trunk road was built along the corridor of the closed railway. The excavated spoil was disposed of at Imberhorne Lane on either side of the bridge.


6th June 2005
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The first day of spoil extraction from the cutting to the south of Imberhorne Lane bridge. At Kingscote Station, Ivatt Class 2MT No. 41312 prepares to propel the first of the many engineer's trains to Imberhorne Lane for the purpose of removing excavated spoil.
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Ivatt Class 2MT No. 41312 at Imberhorne Lane after propelling the train up the extension. Other steam locomotives that were regularly rostered for this duty included LBSCR class E4 No. 32473, LSWR class B4 No. 96 "Normandy", and SECR class O1 No. 65. During the late summer of 2006, the duty was transferred to a hired-in class 08 diesel locomotive No. D3023. Most trains were formed using a mixture of 'grampus' and 'turbot' wagons.
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The very first bucket of excavated spoil is loaded. This scene was to become a regular twice daily weekday occurrence over the next 18 months. The spoil was taken to two sites at Horsted Keynes. Initially it was used to extend the high embankment at the end of the Ardingly Siding, then the remaining spoil was dumped in an area known as the 'triangle' in-between where the Sheffield Park and Ardingly lines diverge.

15th June 2005
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Within days sufficient spoil had been excavated allowing two additional track panels (each 60 feet in length) to be laid. The day for the most part was particularly wet, but nonetheless as the picture shows the work was successfully completed by a team of dedicated working volunteers.
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As so often happens when working on a heritage railway, after struggling in wet weather conditions for most of the day to complete a job, as soon as you finish the sun miraculously appears through the clouds. So it was this particular day, and the picture shows the two new track panels finally in place.
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This picture shows the clay face to be fairly shallow. Everyone involved with the project knew however that the spoil depth was going to get a lot deeper as the excavations approached the bridge.

16th July 2005
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The race was on to reach the prized objective. Within a month a trackbed marker had been dug towards the bridge, exposing the top of the southern portal to daylight for the first time for over 30 years. A survey revealed that the bridge was still sound and had not suffered any damage after being effectively buried for so many years.
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A closer view showing the top of the newly exposed southern portal of Imberhorne Lane bridge.

21st September 2005
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Mud, mud, glorious mud!  Another day and another spoil train routinely waits for yet more excavated spoil to be loaded.
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The ever increasing exposed bridge as seen from the top of the embankment. By this time it was estimated that about two-thirds of the spoil had been removed from the cutting.
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From the same position at the top of the embankment, looking this time looking south towards Kingscote. Normally it would take 30 to 40 minutes to load a train with spoil.
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Throughout the busy summer period, many visitors coming to the Bluebell Railway were surprised and inquisitive about the twice daily spoil trains passing through Kingscote and Horsted Keynes stations. This picture depicts a laden spoil train arriving into the Kingscote loop platform where it would have been held until the adjacent passenger train had departed and cleared the block section. Passenger trains were always afforded priority.

22nd December 2005
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The view looking south over the parapet of Imberhorne Lane bridge down onto a deserted work site on a cold winter's morning shortly before Christmas.

25th March 2006
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It's the weekend so normal spoil excavation activity had been temporarily interrupted for a couple of days. As a result of the regular weekday trains the unwanted spoil at Imberhorne Lane was gradually diminishing.
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Another view from within the work site looking towards Imberhorne Lane bridge. Working on site that day was one of the Bluebell's volunteer lineside clearance gangs whom had been requested to dispose of some dug out vegetation that was littering the site.

19th April 2006
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View from the top of the embankment looking down towards the exposed southern portal.
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A lull in spoil train operations facilitated the lifting of the four most northerly track panels and relaying them onto a new bed of ballast. One week after the date of this photograph, two additional 60 foot track panels were laid directly onto the muddy unballasted trackbed thereby taking the railhead another 120 feet closer to East Grinstead. The photo shows the PW work in progress. Note how the built-up loading dock has already been relocated to the bridge side of the site access ramp in readiness for the extended track.

9th May 2006
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View towards Imberhorne Lane bridge showing the new track panels laid the previous month. Spoil excavation had at this time been temporarily suspended as the new extended embankment at the end of the Ardingly Siding had been completed, but the railway was still awaiting the necessary approvals to commence dumping spoil into the 'triangle' at Horsted Keynes.

29th August 2006
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By this date, approval had been received permitting the relandcscaping of the Horsted Keynes 'triangle'. As part of the preparatory activities in readiness to re-start spoil excavation the following month, SECR class O1 No. 65 propels an engineer's train through Kingscote destined for the northern extension returning the digger back to Imberhorne Lane.

28th September 2006
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View from the Brake Van towards Imberhorne Lane bridge as yet another train is loaded with spoil. The project was back on track and being actively progressed. However spoil trains were still being regularly worked by steam locomotives, and on that day SECR class O1 No. 65 had been rostered for that duty.

3rd October 2006
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Class 08 diesel locomotive No. D3023 which had been hired in from Peak Rail some months previously specifically to work engineering trains on the northern extension, was finally making regular journeys to Imberhorne Lane.

7th November 2006
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View from the Brake Van of the now rapidly changing scene towards Imberhorne Lane bridge. Compared to September's photograph, there was a considerable difference to both embankments and also the spoil height above the trackbed had been lowered. For the first time it was possible to visualise the completed excavation.

5th December 2006

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View towards Imberhorne Lane bridge from within the water logged work site the morning after another night of heavy rain. There had already been on previous days a couple of spoil slippages due to the heavy rainfall.
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The almost emptied cutting seen from above the parapet of Imberhorne Lane bridge reveals the surface of the original trackbed for the first time. That day should have been the last spoil train working needed to remove the excavated spoil from the south side of the bridge. However due to the time lost in having to clear up as a result of the recent heavy rains, there was still enough outstanding spoil to justify running at least one further spoil train.

12th December 2006

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The completely emptied cutting as seen from the western side of Imberhorne Lane bridge.
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An alternative view of the now empty cutting from above the parapet of Imberhorne Lane bridge. Between June 2005 and December 2006 spoil trains operated on 240 days. It is estimated that in excess of 32,000 tons of spoil was finally removed from the cutting south of Imberhorne Lane Bridge and taken by train to Horsted Keynes.

Other webpages related to the Bluebell Railway's Northern Extension:

Extension Background - Extending the Bluebell Railway

The Bluebell Railway's Extension - Latest Progress towards East Grinstead

Interactive map of progress on the East Grinstead Extension

Bluebell Railway Preservation Society - Land Purchase Fund

My own Fotopic Gallery - Extension to East Grinstead

Dave Clarke's Fotopic Gallery - Imberhorne Lane & Ardingly

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