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Memories of the Bluebell Line

A 1956 visit to the sawmill at Sheffield Park

by Daniel Wilson.

With a friend interested in "pre-war England" I went for a trip on the "grudge service" provided by BR in 1956. He wanted to explore the sawmill at Sheffield Park (just like him to know there was even one there) so we bought returns from East Grinstead on a Saturday. I took a plate camera ! (bought in 1904 by an uncle killed in WW1).

Sheffield Park Platform 2, 1950s - Bluebell Railway archive The train was provided whole from Norwood Junction and shuttled between EG Low Level (dank, mossy and the 1882 building obviously in the grip of extensive rot) and Lewes with the minimum of connection usefulness. It consisted of a very ordinary C class 0-6-0 tender engine and three nice 1890s Brighton coaches that were still very common then on the Cuckoo line - much like the IoW ones today.

None of the stations, except Horsted Keynes which had the electric service, were by then manned, but apart from Kingscote which was not mentioned in the Act of Parliament and had already become a private house and was missed out, they were all in reasonable shape, at least as far as S Park where we detrained, in the WW2 jargon. I nipped out quickly and got a shot of the train going over the junction.

The sawmill was then a fairly agricultural affair and still had a siding into it. The machinery proved uninteresting (we had been touring watermills in the West Country, some of which were sawmills) but they had a wonderful scratch light truck made from an Austin Heavy 12 car of about 1930 with a second trailing axle.

Sheffield Park was then controlled from a ground frame on the down platform which had replaced the levers in the (extant) signalbox. We took some more pictures and then it was time to return; this time we broke the journey at Horsted Keynes and had a wander round the amazing 5-platform junction with sparrows cheeping and a 2-HAL set performing its empty ballet to and from Haywards Heath once an hour. We were strongly aware we were living in historic times and even feared something a lot worse than Beeching.

Return to Bluebell Home Page, to the Timetable or to Special Events
Personal Recollections of the Bluebell Line: Daniel Wilson - Martin J.N. Payne - Martin Ternouth - Early Bluebell Days: Mike South
Biography: Frederick Hutchings - 50 years with the LBSCR, SR & BR

History of the Bluebell:- L&EGR - Early Days 1 - Early Days 2 - Early Days 3 - Early Days 4 - Kingscote Station - Fenchurch
Track Layouts through the years: Horsted Keynes - West Hoathly - Kingscote. More to come later!
Map showing how the line relates to other railways in the locality.
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Last updated 25 June 2018 by Richard Salmon.