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2013-14 Archive

December 2014: Operation Undercover Phase 4

Proposed shed - with roof only - Matthew Cousins Following the highly successful Cash for Cover appeal, focus is now on planning the carriage shed construction. Initial work will be directed at clearing the site, a mammoth task in itself. Existing sheds, offices and storage all have to be relocated and some temporary facilities provided. Important though the new shed is, it's equally important the day to day business of repairing and maintaining our carriage fleet is able to carry on unhindered.

All this is likely to take some months meaning it will be well into 2015 before the construction phase gets under way. Meantime there is much to do behind the scenes to award contracts and mobilise internal resources to carry out enabling work. The timely effort to commence foundation work this Autumn has given the project a useful kick start when some early knowledge of ground conditions were captured and will help the tendering process.

In case any readers wonder why we are not ready to start construction now, it was in fact a conscious decision of the September steering group meeting to wait the funding appeal outcome before attempting to plan the project any further. Sufficient funds needed to be in the bank to justify mobilisation against a plan that would deliver something tangible, as it happens the results were all that we could wish for and a shed will emerge in due course to match the appeal objective.

A fuller report will appear in the next Bluebell News.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director
4 December 2014

16 October 2014: Opening of the first part of the "Above Workshop Facility"

New Loco Lobby - Mike Hopps - 16 October 2014 View of Loco workshop - Mike Hopps - 16 October 2014

View of Loco yard - Mike Hopps - 16 October 2014 Mike Hopps' photos illustrate the opening of the new loco lobby which took place on Thursday 16 October. The structure of the "Above Workshop Facility" had been completed as the final part of the HLF-funded Operation Undercover Phase 3 project at Sheffield Park, but the fit-out had to await the availability of funding.

The first phase of the fit-out has included the loco department facilities; toilets, showers and the new lobby. It also provides these views, one over the locomotive workshop, where the boiler of the Maunsell Q-class is seen, along with the SECR H-class which is currently receiving a few new stays and its annual boiler exam, and a fine view over the loco yard. The second phase will eventually cover the fit-out of offices and a classroom.

The photo below shows the assembled members of the department, with Chairmen Roy Watts MBE and Dick Fearn, and special guest Chris Green.

Opening of the new Loco Lobby - Mike Hopps - 16 October 2014

22 March 2014: New No.23 points at Horsted Keynes

The new points and re-aligned approach to platforms at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 22 March 2014

Brian Lacey's photo on the right shows the completed work, with the new points and the re-aligned and improved approach to platforms 2 and 4 at Horsted Keynes.

On Sunday 2 March the final work was done by the Alf Brown Gang to complete the replacement Horsted Keynes Down Advance Starter, as seen in Robert Hayward's photo below. The work to replace the No.23B points at Horsted Keynes is also seen, as of Wednesday evening, 5 March (photo from Alan Dengate). The following weekend, whilst trains ran over the new point, it was clipped and padlocked, and as a consequence trains passed through platforms 2 and 3 at Horsted Keynes.

Finally we see the U-class No.1638 with the first service to run over the new No.23B points at Horsted Keynes on 8 March (Richard Salmon). The new point was fully commissioned over the next week.

Click on any photo for an enlargement.

Horsted Down Advance Starter - Robert Hayward 2 March 2014, and No.23B points - Alan Dengate 5 March 2014 U-class with the first service over the new No.23B points at Horsted Keynes - Richard Salmon - 8 March 2014

24 February 2014: Freshfield Bank relaying and new points at Horsted Keynes

Tracklaying on Freshfield Bank - Pat Plane - 22 January 2014 Ballast wagons on trackwork - Mike Hopps - 31 January 2014

Work preparing the new points, as the H-class departs from Horsted Keynes - Patrick Plane - 17 February 2014 The first big job of the year, relaying a quarter of a mile of plain line on Freshfield Bank, was successfully completed on time and handed back to the operators ready for the February half term service. This has used all-new (bought-in) rail and stone, along with concrete sleepers from stock, and has enabled this long running temporary speed restriction to be lifted. Like so many line side tasks these days, the weather once again did its best to make for 'mission impossible' but it goes without saying that deadlines still had to be met and with the usual perseverance from Matt and his team, all went to plan.

Attention has now turned to the final preparation for renewal of Horsted Keynes 23 points in early March. This piece of fairly complex point-work has been prefabricated complete with signalling attachments and will be lifted into place in 3 sections with minimum disruption to traffic. It has been possible to use materials left over from the NEP project which has shaved some £15,000 off the cost of this work, although these are flat bottom and not usually deployed within station limits they are out of sight of the platform ends and so in the circumstances dispensation was granted for their use. Once completed all temporary speed restrictions will have been removed from the single line and Infrastructure will have done its bit towards the 2014 time keeping initiative.

With these two big track work jobs out of the way, a period of more routine tasks will follow before the winter possessions in November.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

The first photo above was taken on 22 January and shows the amount of plant etc. needed for the quarter of a mile of track-relaying on Freshfield Bank. Before this photo was taken, the old track was removed, the formation completely excavated down to bare earth, geo-textile fabric laid, and the whole formation sub-ballasted and levelled. A pre-assembled 30-foot track panel is seen been brought down to the site ready for laying once the track alignment has been checked. After the photo was taken, all the temporary 30 foot rails were removed and replaced by brand new 60 foot rail and the two ends of the railway rejoined. (Pat Plane)

The second photo above shows the 09 with the ballast wagons being loaded from the track-side stockpile, on 31 January. With the top-ballasting done, the track was tamped the following week, whilst the volunteers, staff and contractors moved to Horsted Keynes to work on No.23 points, which are the ones right at the South end of the station. (Mike Hopps)

Patrick Plane's photo to the right, taken on 17 February, illustrates the work which is well advanced in pre-assembling the new points at Horsted Keynes, as the H-class departs for Sheffield Park.

Yoshi Hashida's photo below shows the visiting LMS Black 5 No.45231 with its train climbing the newly re-laid section of Freshfield Bank on Sunday 16 February.

Black 5 No.45231 with its train climbing Freshfield Bank - Yoshi Hashida - 16 February 2014

12 January 2014: Weather, Trees and Slips

Slip near tunnel - 31 December 2013 Not surprisingly the main focus of attention through December and into this year has been weather related. Numerous trees have come down all over the line, several losses of power supply impacting on signalling, roofs damaged, and flooding all of which have resulted in resources moving from one crisis to another. Notably the big show stopper, literally, has been the two slips just south of the tunnel which closed the line between Horsted and East Grinstead just before Christmas.

This could not have happened at a more inconvenient time, not only did it impact on the train service but disrupted preparatory work for the forthcoming Freshfield Bank relaying programme. This resulted in some rapid rescheduling and diversion of resources to address the slips and reopen the line to traffic as No.1 priority whilst still maintaining the relaying programme.

Slip site - Pat Plane - 3 January 2014 A first look at these slips is likely to prompt a "what's all the fuss about" reaction, the volumes of material involved are not great and can be dealt with reasonably easily. A closer inspection will however reveal a number of more worrying concerns, the slips are in fact secondary slips which have occurred along a much bigger slip which in turn follows the downside boundary fence and clearly occurred many years ago. There are different soil strata present and water is flowing off the adjacent fields between these exposed strata causing movement. Consider this slip area as a whole which extends some 100m along the cutting side, which is covered with very tall weak rooted trees, and the continuous volumes of surface water flowing down the cutting face and we have a very high risk of further slips occurring, not to mention the risk to those working on the site or passing trains.

The approach has therefore been twofold, first to stabilise the area making it safe for the passage of trains and secondly to buy time so a design solution can be prepared and finances put in place to effect a permanent repair. The stabilisation work has included large scale felling of trees that were at risk of collapse from further surface water or embankment movement.

Meantime the relaying of Freshfield Bank remains on schedule to commence Monday 13 January, crucial deliveries of stone and rail have been delivered and pre-assembled rail panels are in the process of being ferried to site ready placing in position once the old formation is made good with new drainage and stone.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

The photos below show:

  • Preparations, which started back in October for the changing of No.23 points at the south end of Horsted Keynes, have included moving the S&T location cabinet to prepare for a small re-alignment of the track, and new drainage put in place (David Chappell).
  • GBRF's No.66737 'Lesia', brought 20 full wagons of ballast in for the forthcoming engineering work, both for the Horsted Keynes pointwork and renewal of track on Freshfield Bank, and is seen leaving with its empty train at Horsted Keynes, photographed by Andrew Strongitharm, early in the morning on 22nd December.

Work at No.23 points - David Chappell - 12 Oct 2013 66737 at Horsted Keynes - Andrew Strongitharm - 22 Dec 2013

19 November 2013: Sheffield Park platforms - Horsted Keynes Signalbox - Friends of HK
Works on the North end of the platform at Sheffield Park - Martin Lawrence - 15 Nov 2013 It has been a period of changing priorities over the last few weeks. Relaying 23 points at Horsted Keynes has been moved to January for operating reasons resulting in a shift of resources to Sheffield Park platform repairs. In reality these repairs have turned into something more significant. Excavation work revealed lots of "quick fixes" that have required more serious long term attention. The opportunity has also been taken to incorporate canopy and platform drainage pipes, new gas pipes, services duct routes through the platform and ducts which enable the Golden Arrow shore line cables to be hidden under the surface. All in all a general tidy up and much needed passenger safety improvements. (Photo from Martin Lawrence)

Meantime the fairly major repairs to the structure of Horsted Keynes signal box are nearing completion. This is another of those "simple" jobs that has turned out to be something rather more serious and taken a lot longer than planned but the results are looking good. Completion of the roof repairs which involves the acquisition of matching tiles followed by completion of painting will leave the structure well prepared for the winter and indeed years to come. And yes, before I receive any more emails reminding me, we do know this is a listed structure and all the repairs have been undertaken with this in mind using appropriate materials.

Finally talking of Horsted Keynes I would be interested in hearing from anyone who is interested in being part of a Friends of Hossted Keynes group. FOHK does not roll off the tongue but no doubt someone will come up with an acronym that does. Basically we have successful "friends" organisations at Sheffield Park and Kingscote who help with Infrastructure jobs but we could do with one at HK. The idea is the group would undertake general repairs, maintenance and decorating tasks within their comfort zone and help give the station some TLC. Anyone interested please contact me.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

The photos below show:

  • 2nd October - the arrival at Horsted Keynes of the replacement bridge spans for Sheriff Mill Viaduct (Martin Lawrence). These have been obtained now because they were available, and are very suitable for our long-term purposes, and not because we are in a position to go charging off Westwards immediately! There's a lot of other work to do, and fundrising for vital and urgent projects like Keep Up The Pressure, before we can think about raising the funds to start major work on the Ardingly Branch.
  • Horsted Keynes signalbox with scaffolding (Derek Hayward - 22 September).
  • Taken on the overnight shift, around midnight on 19th September: work in progress adding steel lining to part of the tunnel roof to prevent the build-up of icicles in the winter (Pat Plane).

Ex-M50 bridge sections arrive - Martin Lawrence - 2 Oct 2013 Horsted signalbox with scaffolding - Derek Hayward - 22 Sept 2013 Overnight work in the tunnel - Pat Plane - 19 Sept 2013

15 September 2013: Tunnel ice prevention - First incoming steam special - Planning at Kingscote
Work continues on the tunnel ice prevention project which is expected to complete this month. The recent noticeable drop in temperature means even worse conditions in the tunnel itself with cold winds making their presence felt which in turn increases the need for 'warm up' breaks. Because of the unusual nature of this task it is being recorded by the same film crew that produced the extension DVDs so look out for release of 'Inside the Tunnel'. Tornado on Bluebell metals at East Grinstead - John Sandys - 10 September 2013

The arrival on 10th Septmeber of the first steam hauled special from the main line with the famous Tornado in charge (photo by John Sandys, showing Tornado easing on Bluebell metals at East Grinstead) has of course been a further significant milestone for the Bluebell, following the opening of the extension back in March. What may be less obvious is the preparatory work that has progressed quietly in the background for some weeks to enable this to happen both on Network Rail and Bluebell. Special route clearance was required between South Croydon and East Grinstead with numerous speed restrictions to lessen the impact of its 22 ton axle loads on structures. Platform and bridge clearances had to be compared against the locomotives dimensions and our own Bridge Engineer had to undertake a special exercise to confirm that the loco could run on the Bluebell, and through which platforms etc. So the message is when a special like this runs it involves considerable preparatory work and liaison between departments to make sure everything runs smoothly and of course safely.

Meantime planning is also underway on another outstanding NEP action, resolution of the Kingscote issues following its end of use as a terminus. This is proving quite complicated to close out for a number of reasons but meantime it is recognised the situation facing our customers and staff is not acceptable long term as it is both confusing and difficult to administer. We still plan to finalise the crucial sale of tickets and refreshments along with use of the picnic area by the end of this year but this is heavily dependant on agreeing a way forward with all stakeholders.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

29 August 2013: Work starts on ice shield in the Tunnel

As with all major projects, on the Northern Extension Project (NEP) it is taking time to close out the final actions, but the end is just about in sight now. The two big outstanding tasks, finishing off the cutting surface and getting the water column operational in time for Autumn Tints are looking good. Steelwork delivered for tunnel ice shield - David Chappell - 19 July 2013

Meanwhile a great deal of time and effort is focussed on fitting ice prevention measures in the tunnel to make sure any really cold weather does not in future prevent trains operating over the whole railway. Having opened the extended railway it would not look good if we cannot run trains in and out of East Grinstead. (David Chappell's photo shows the structural steelwork supports for the ice shield, which were delivered in July).

There are four main areas where heavy water penetration can cause ice build up on the rail head and tunnel fabric. To prevent this happening 5m sections of curved corrugated sheeting are being fitted to the roof in order to deflect water away from the track. Sounds simple but in order to ensure the solution is both safe and fit for purpose, the metalwork being used to support the sheeting is substantial to say the least. Each supporting bracket is secured by 4 stainless steel bolts that are grouted into the brickwork to a depth of 0.4m. and so far 40 brackets have been fitted.

The work commences each evening after the train service finishes and continues through the night until around 0500 each morning. Long tiring shifts in a cold, wet, hostile environment. The team is made up of 3 contract staff and 2 or 3 volunteers, led of course by Manager Matt Crawford, so it goes to prove the Infrastructure gang are not just good at building railways but will take on all sorts of challenges.

After that job is completed around the end of September we must get on with renewal of No.23 points at Hortsed Keyens before the Santa service commences, and after that, well the list goes on and on.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

5 June 2013: Completing work on the extension
33103 passes the Wednesday gang near Ingwersons - Martin Lawrence - 26  June 2013 Work on closing outstanding NEP jobs continues with the recent dry weather helping us make good progress on clearing away the residual capping material from the cutting site. This is being achieved by means of a regular diesel hauled rake of wagons moving the spoil to other sites on the railway where embankment strengthening is required (as seen in Martin Lawrence's photo on the right). Once this is finished the remaining cutting surface can then be levelled off and grassed. What has proved to be the most challenging part of the whole extension project can then be considered finally complete.

At East Grinstead station the ticket office canopy is complete and the water tank is now safely planted on the newly completed brickwork (see John Sandys' photos below). It just remains for the water column and associated plumbing to be installed. New close board fencing is being installed between gates 1 and 2 which replaces the dilapidated chain link fence and also discourages onlookers from standing in Firbank Way to watch the trains and putting themselves at risk from road traffic in the process. This together with the new main gate 'Bluebell Railway' entrance sign and other finishing touches helps bring together the whole station appearance for approaching visitors.

There are lots more jobs to cross off the completion list but overall good progress is being made. Meantime focus is turning towards other jobs further south including ice prevention measures in the tunnel before winter returns and relaying No.23 points at Horsted Keynes. For those who may not be aware of the significance of these points, they control the south end throat to the station and currently have a 5mph speed restriction imposed over them pending renewal. Apart from being in a difficult place for drivers to recover from when travelling north, there is a impact on train timings which needs rectifying. Because of the critical role of these points, trains cannot arrive or depart from the station southwards without them, the planning process involves preassembly on site with a short possession to lift out the old fit the new without disruption to trains, a new approach for us and if successful then it will be developed for other similar renewals.

Chris White, Infrastructure Director

Water Tower externally completed - John Sandys - 31 August 2013 New canopy and gold painted lettering at the entrance to East Grinstead - John Sandys - 15 July 2013
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