Operation Undercover is our big push to get as much as we can of our locomotive and carriage fleets undercover. As Phase 1 of the project, several of the team were involved in the extension of the Carriage Works at Horsted Keynes, which was completed in 2001 - Photos here and here - Opening ceremony.
Phase 2, completed in early 2004, was the relatively minor project to finish the north end of the existing Locomotive Running Shed, extended by one bay, and brickwork and roof completed at that end. This was funded partly from money already raised over many years for the purpose, by new donations given specifically for this latest work, and by a contribution from the Bluebell Railway Trust. Photo during construction
What might be termed "Phase 2A" was the completion of the west side brickwork and windows of the locomotive running shed, at Sheffield Park. This was not actually an Operation Undercover project as such, being funded by the Shed wall fund and the Bluebell Railway Trust. This was completed in early 2006 - photos here and here.
The Woodpax site formed the basis for Phase 3 of Operation Undercover, which provides covered accomodation for up to 17 carriages, a new museum building, a new loco washout pit, the repair and reconstuction of the platform buildings and canopy, provision of toilets on platform 2, and the shell of a building for new loco staff facilities, all at Sheffield Park.
As outlined by the Carriage Fleet Overview I wrote for
Bluebell News back in 1995,
for the long term preservation of our carriage fleet, we need to get
all our coaching stock under cover when not actually in use. In
addition, many of our locomotives live outside, a particular problem
due to the dangers of frost damage in the winter. We therefore also
need to increase the shed space available for locomotives. To
achieve these aims, it was proposed to construct two new buildings,
one in the down yard at Horsted Keynes and one at Sheffield Park, and
to complete the enlargement of the locomotive running shed, as well
as finishing the loco shed wall. The opportunity
arose to purchase land at Sheffield Park from part of the "Woodpax"
site which has been crucial for the success of this part of the project, which has been part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The railway itself had no funds available to support the purchase of
the land, so the Society undertook to raise the purchase price
from the membership. To that end, pledges were initially solicited
from working members and those we could contact rapidly over the
Internet. This resulted in a massive kick-start to the fund-raising,
with £126,000 promised within three days, confirming that the
project was viable. The letter posted to
the membership at large appealed for pledges for the remaining
money for the land purchase, plus the ongoing fund-raising which will
be required to achieve the Bluebell's contribution (at least 25%) to
a possible HLF grant. The land purchase can be included in this 25%,
so, with the project initially expected to cost several million pounds, to
start with we set ourselves a target of £400,000. However,
most importantly in the short term, we needed to reach £320,000
in just two months for the land purchase! The superb response
ensured that we were able to secure the site in March 2003.
We built a carriage storage and display
building at Sheffield Park, behind platform 2, able to hold the
Pullman set, two other operational carriage sets and a major new Museum display. Rail access is through the use of the Pump-house
siding as a headshunt. The scheme also includeed a new loco washout pit, and new lavatories, and an extension to the canopy on platform 2 to restore the canopy to its original length. The shell of an above-workshop building for new loco staff facilities was included since the old ones were on the site required for the new pit. Details are here.
The total project cost was £3.9 million, of which £2.875 million was covered by a grant from the heritage Lottery Fund, awarded in March 2008, with the remainder funded with the money raised to purchase the Woodpax land, other donations, the value of volunteer labour and materials committed to the project, and a grant from the Bluebell Railway Trust.
Construction was completed during 2010, with fitting out of the museum and the Carriage Shed completed during 2011. News reports and photos from the project are available below.
Having completed the HLF-funded Phase 3, we have moved back to Horsted Keynes for a carriage works extension and storage shed.
More details of, and the latest news from, Operation Undercover Phase 4 are available here.