Bluebell Railway Blog:
Please be aware that due to the historical nature of this page, some of the
links on it may be out of date.
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- Our CV Emergency Appeal continues to make great progress, thanks to all our donors; just one last push to reach our target.
The Bluebell Railway Trust's Trevor Swainson, running the fundraising campaign, appears in this BBC Sussex Video on Twitter, explaining how the appeal is going. After making the recording yesterday, Trevor collected another batch of cheques delivered to Sheffield Park station, so we can update you on the total given in the video, since the appeal has now raised £250,000.
- The portrait of No.65 preparing to haul the "Golden Arrow" Pullman dining service, below, was taken by Chris Rose on 6 October last year.
- Chris Rose's photo of 73082 'Camelot' creates a 1950's feel with matching carriages but it was actually 13 October 2018.
- Our latest Children's Storytime video is of Ruth Rowatt reading Crossing Time on the Blueberry Line.
- Operation Dynamo - 80 years ago today: 26 May 1940 saw the start of the Dunkirk evacuation, and Graham Muspratt describes in his Blog the part played by the Southern Railway in the movement of 180,982 of those troops away from the Kent coast, in which our late President played his part as most trains from Dover and Folkestone were routed via (and changed locos at) Redhill where Bernard Holden was stationed and from where the railway operation was coordinated.
- Our CV Emergency Appeal continues to make progress - please do help us raise the money we need to be able to re-open the railway once the lockdown is further lifted.
- Chris Rose provided some photos to keep us going through this difficult period. Here, No. 65 is setting off from Sheffield Park with the Golden Arrow Pullman train on 6 October 2019, and below on the very last day of services before the lockdown, 15 March 2020, we see the vintage shop display in the old W.H.Smith stand at Horsted Keynes.
- Paul Bromley spoke about the appeal on the Mid-morning Show on BBC Radio Surrey & BBC Radio Sussex yesterday and mentioned some of the people who have contributed. Since it was recorded, the appeal passed its half-way point.
- We cannot let up on the fund raising, since all £300,000 will be needed to enable the Railway to survive the lockdown and forthcoming re-opening phases. With this in mind, we would ask people to take a minute or so to Nominate the Bluebell Railway Trust for a Movement for Good award.
We have chance of being given £1,000 through this scheme run by Ecclesiastical, which is a financial services company originally set up to protect Anglican churches and church buildings against the risk of fire, but which is now one of the largest independent British-owned insurers, and much more.
If you would like to nominate the Railway at this link, the deadline is coming up this weekend (24 May). The Bluebell Railway Trust charity number is 292497 and the Charity Type is "Heritage Arts".
The more nominations we have the better our chance of receiving a grant.
- Our CV Emergency Appeal, has now raised over £155,000 towards our £300,000 target just two weeks after the updated appeal was launched.
- 60 years ago today Stroudley Terrier 'Stepney' brought our first two carriages into Horsted Keynes station from the direction of Ardingly, before heading down to our headquarters at Sheffield Park. We thus became the first preserved standard gauge line to run a steam train, although on that day only members could be carried.
The photo on the right, taken exactly ten years ago, shows the same locomotive hauling one of those carriages, Southern Railway Maunsell 6575 (photo by Richard Clark). Tony Sullivan took the photo below showing our late President, Bernard Holden MBE, flagging the special train into the platform.
Further photos below from our 50th anniversary celebrations, 10 years ago today, are by Richard Salmon and Derek Hayward, who also has a gallery from the day.
- We have added three special Bluebell Storytime videos to our YouTube Channel for children, particularly aimed at members of our Stepney Club:
You can find more details of our Stepney Club and various Children's activities and resources on the Children's Section of our website.
- ITV Meridian News have featured our Emergency Appeal, to which you can Donate here.
- Under normal circumstances, tomorrow would have been our first "Goods Train Day" of the year, with some of our vintage wagons running during the morning behind the locomotive that was also going to haul the Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea Train.
Derek Hayward's photo from 14 April 2007 shows our pair of LBSCR Stroudley Terriers with an appropriate pre-grouping goods set passing Kingscote's up distant signal in the down direction, whilst below, David Warwick's shows LBSCR E4 No. 32473 with the second train, and Derek's photo from the following day shows U-class No.1638 with the combined set of wagons.
- Our only income at present is through our online shop (which incidentally has an expanding range available). The intention is that the shop will be open for telephone orders between 9am and 12 noon every Monday & Thursday on 01825 720803 and the orders will be posted out that afternoon. Unfortunately, it is not possible to take off the Members' Discount through the website, so if members wish to take advantage of the discount, you will need to phone the shop, on the days and times mentioned above, with your membership number to hand.
- Our CV Emergency Appeal, has now raised over £90,000 towards our £300,000 target just a week after the updated appeal was launched.
- Chris White
We are very sorry to report that Chris White, a plc Director and Loco Driver, passed away last night after a short battle with cancer.
Chris was the driving force behind the completion of the extension to East Grinstead. He was key in achieving much on the project, not least organising the removal of roughly 100,000 tons of waste from the cutting at the lowest possible cost, but also the challenge posed by Railtrack's plans to sell the reserved station site at East Grinstead to Sainsburys for a petrol station.
Our condolences go to his partner and his family.
The photos show Chris driving 9F No. 92212, which was hired in at the time the extension was completed, (Mike Hopps) and below, during the naming ceremony for GBRf's 66739 'Bluebell Railway' just a couple of weeks after the extension opened, in March 2013 (Derek Hayward).
- The BBC have picked up on our Emergency Appeal, which following its wider launch has now raised £79,000.
- The Bulleid Society have just added a report, including some pictures taken earlier this year, showing stay fitting to the new syphons for No. 21C123 at South Devon Railway (Engineering). In addition, the update includes is a newspaper cutting about No. 96 'Normandy' after its arrival on the Bluebell.
- LBSCR 5-compartment third No. 328, known as 'Betty' after its former owner, has not featured on here recently. The photo below from 5 January 2020, also reflected on the updated web page for the carriage shows progress with re-panelling and undercoating the exterior, scumbling (grain-painting) of the interior, and in the foreground, under protective dust sheets, preparation of the roof timbers, jointed up from the narrower boards available these days, with channels routed out (with metal covers made) to hold the electrical wiring, and painted up to topcoat prior to final fixing. Work has also restarted over the last year or so on the doors for the carriage, a motley selection from a number of different sources, which will need a lot of work.
- A new web page is available for Carriage No. 35419 which acts as our East Grinstead Buffet, and there has been an update to the web page for Metropolitan Railway carriage No. 412.
- Steaming Through 60 update - The Bluebell Railway turns 60 years old on 7 August 2020.
We originally intended to hold three days of activities and displays from Friday 7 to Sunday 9 August but this event has now been postponed until next year.
However, we will instead be holding a virtual event to celebrate our big birthday.
Robert Hayward, chairman of the Bluebell Railway's Diamond Anniversary steering group, said: "The pragmatic decision not to hold the event as previously planned allows the Bluebell Railway to focus its efforts on reopening. We will be holding a virtual event this August and are currently working on various ideas for the event because we are still going to celebrate 60 years of operating as a heritage line."
He added: "New opportunities may be available to us in 2021 that are not possible now. Next year's event will be on a date to be agreed. I'm sure everyone will understand and appreciate the decision the railway has reached."
Read our full press release here, which includes information on how you can help us create the event.
- All events at the Bluebell Railway up until the end of August have either been cancelled or postponed. Events from September until the end of December are still under review.
- The fourth edition of
The Bluebell Times, our newsletter for members, staff and supporters is now available.
- Overhaul update on the FaceBook page for Schools-class 928 'Stowe'. The report is reproduced here, for those not on Facebook.
- Martin Lawrence's superb 2015 video: Sheffield Park to East Grinstead in 5 minutes is worth 5 minutes of anyone's time!
- Back in 1999, a radio programme called "Chuffed" was broadcast, about the Bluebell.
- David Cable's images from Jon Bowers' Charter with Q Class 30541 in early January 2016.
- 12 years ago, one of the highlights of our 10-11 May "Southern at War" weekend was flypasts from Spitfires. Derek Hayward's photo show these, and our Southern USA tank 30064 in its wartime guise.
In mid-March, we launched an Emergency Appeal via Virgin MoneyGiving. The informal target was £25,000, but we raised over double that in six weeks from 700 donors.
Now, we are expanding this appeal by launching a major appeal to members and supporters to raise the total to at least £300,000 including Gift Aid recovered.
This appeal will fund the immediate costs of re-opening the Railway. We will re-engage our volunteers and paid staff to ensure our Railway is fit to run but this will incur substantial costs with little revenue.
Our paid staff and volunteers have important skills to enable the Railway to operate. Not only are these skills required for regulatory and insurance reasons but also staff have developed detailed knowledge and experience that in many cases is irreplaceable.
It is within the Trust's charitable objects to ensure that vital heritage skills are preserved and through this appeal the Trust will fund the costs of achieving this until such time as the income from visitors is sufficient to do so once again.
We are extremely grateful to you for your generosity if you have already responded. However, if you have not yet been able to support the Bluebell Railway in these unprecedented times we would be very grateful if you would consider doing so. Details of how to donate are set out here. Any donation to support the Railway at this difficult time will be most genuinely appreciated.
Remember: if your donation is eligible for Gift Aid every £100 donated will be worth £125 to the project.
So please help us secure the future of the Railway, and donate now.
Full details of the Appeal are available here.
Thank you for your support.
- Ten years ago: Saturday 1 May 2010 saw the official re-launch into service of SECR P-class No. 178, as seen in Andrew Strongitharm's photo on the right.
To enable it to run for our planned 60th anniversary events this year, we had managed to extend its boiler certificate by a few months, but seeing it in steam again this year is sadly now not at all certain.
Derek Hayward's photos below. also from the relaunch day, show some of the restoration team with the loco at Horsted Keynes, and later the same day the loco to the north of Sloop Bridge double-heading with the C-class, which had been overhauled a couple of years earlier by the same volunteer team, the "Loco Works Working Group".
- During April 2020 there were 41,683 hits on this page from 20,664 unique visitors
Michael Toplis provides the tribute below to John, who died yesterday evening after a battle with cancer, just a few days before what would have been his 80th birthday. The photo is thanks to Mike Hopps.
John was a fireman at Three Bridges during the 1950s/early 1960s, and he brought to the Bluebell the relaxed, confident skills, which the true ex-professionals had. He also possessed an effortless, understated, very subtle sense of humour, which meant every turn with John was enjoyable. As well as occasional weekend rostered turns together, he and I spent more than a dozen mid-week holidays together and a day with John was always instructive, relaxed and rewarding experience. He was a natural teacher, which was notably illustrated when we worked together on the driving and firing experience courses, which the candidates never failed to enjoy.
When Clive Groome was obliged to use qualified help to assist with his Footplate Days and Ways courses, John was a natural to be employed as one of his assistants, and this relationship lasted many years, and continued also when Clive conducted courses on other railways up and down the country.
Following his railway career, John was an HGV driver, then for some years ran his own landscape gardening business before latterly working extensively with Matt Crawford on Bluebell permanent way tasks.
For a number of years John also made a big contribution to the running of the Lavender Line nearby at Isfield.
- We are pleased to be able to publish the first edition of our Preservation Standards Manual, which details how everything on and about our Railway should be presented. This is a major undertaking, and there are some sections yet to be fully completed, and it will probably always remain a work in progress as new research is still uncovering refinements.
- We are very sorry to report that John Scrace, a former loco man (as had been his father) and a renowned and hugely knowledgeable railway photographer, passed away peacefully on Friday 24 April at his care home in Balcombe, having been ill for some time. The photo on the right, courtesy of Pat O'Neill, shows John at Sheffield Park during a Nine Elms reunion in 2015. Until recently he had been providing help remotely on a monthly basis in support of the work of our photographic archive.
- Adrian Lee (Chief Signalmen's Inspector) conveys the sad news that Ken Deans (February 1933 to April 2020) passed away in his nursing home earlier this month. Adrian had spoken to him in February and he was a bit breathless but still as sharp as ever.
Ken was already an experienced signalman at K&ESR, so having passed for the original ('temporary') Kingscote Signal Box in July 1999, soon added SP and HK to his list. He gave up HK on account of the stairs when he was having joint trouble and wasn't sure about the 'new' Kingscote, but did do a conversion and passed with flying colours.
Joint replacement surgery and recuperation in 2018-19 meant that he had to take a break from signalling but was fully intending to return. Whilst the joints were 'running in' he had a stairlift fitted to ensure he could get upstairs at home without assistance. He called this his 'Mountain Railway'. Unfortunately he subsequently suffered a shoulder injury which prevented him raising his arm beyond horizontal. He then submitted his formal resignation in the latter part of 2019.
In these times his funeral will only be for his family but he had expressed the wish that when the time came, his ashes be placed in the firebox of an engine at the Bluebell - his preference would have been U-class 1638.
Our thoughts are particularly with his son John. There have been memories of Ken sent from railway friends all over the world. The first photo below is of Ken in SP Signalbox and the other is of him on his 80th birthday, when he chartered the GN Saloon. He may be gone, but certainly won't be forgotten.
Issue 3 of our Bluebell Times newsletter is now available. Amongst the articles is an important one from company chairman Chris Hunford who introduces the Railway's four-part strategy to ensure that not only can we survive through a lockdown of uncertain duration but will also be operationally ready to run when it is safe to do so. Part of that strategy is a targeted appeal to cover the unexpected costs of re-opening: as the members, staff and supporters of the railway, please look out for the launch of that appeal. The railway has come through tough times before: with your help, we can survive again to enable "Steam to flourish" through our sixtieth year and beyond.
- Update to the web page for Metropolitan Railway Brake Third carriage No. 387.
The Wednesday lineside gang (North) have provided a report from their last day of volunteering before the lockdown. The first photo below is by David Thair, taken during the lunch break on 18 March, and shows part of the Wednesday Gang (North) at Horsted House Farm Bridge. They picked up from where the South Gang left off the week before and were working north towards Vaux End on both sides of the line, in preparation for a Jon Bowers charter. Due to the extremely slippery conditions underfoot, progress was difficult. In the event, of course, the charter had to be cancelled due to closure of the Railway. Pictured from left to right are Peter Beynon, Paul Young, Mick Parker, Brian Kidman, Ian Aitken, Colin Morse and Alan Coomber.
Meanwhile, on the same day, a second WG(N) group was clearing up on the west side of Lindfield Wood. This area had received attention from the North Gang the previous week, including clearing fallen trees and generally tidying up after recent storm damage. The second photo, taken by Roger Hillman, shows the clear-up in progress.
You can listen online to this interview from the weekend on BBC Radio Sussex.
Our Communications Director Paul Bromley was discussing the latest on our Emergency Appeal and the new Bluebell Times newsletter.
There have also been interviews over the last few weeks on Brighton's Radio Reverb.
- Update to the web page for SECR Guard's van No. 719, with a better scan of the original photo, and including a photo (as seen here) of a model (made by the late Phil Coutanche about 50 years ago) of a similar van. This photo is provided by Trevor Coleman.
- Update to the web page for our 9F locomotive No. 92240, adding three photos by Mike Esau, and details of the fundraising towards its overhaul.
Please do support our emergency funding appeal.
- Two photos from Keith Leppard taken three years ago today recalling the visit to the Bluebell of the National Railway Museum's flagship locomotive, 'Flying Scotsman'.
- Update to the web page for our London & South Western Railway Adams "Radial Tank" Locomotive No. 488 adding more photos, in particular new ones with thanks to Barry Taylor taken over three decades ago.
- Carriage Working Notices, Lancing Set Cards and Vehicle Cards held in the Bluebell Railway's extensive and carefully managed Museum Archive have provided the answer to an apparent conundrum from previously published material which indicated that our Maunsell carriage No. 1365 was formed into a set of coaches used on services between Tunbridge Wells West, Oxted and London between 1944 and 1947, and also apparently saw use during the same period as an ambulance carriage. Information researched by Glen Woods shows that it was removed from its service on the Oxted lines only for a few months in 1945 during which time it performed its war service. In consequence the web page for the carriage has been updated.
- The Bulleid Society latest news includes a notice of postponement of their forthcoming AGM, in addion to news (if you missed it last monthy) of work commencing on the overhaul of 21C123 'Blackmoor Vale'.
- Taking the opportunity to highlight further photos by Fred Bailey taken from the Brighton Atlantic project's recent News Update.
Right: The final assembly and fitting of the fireman's seat in the cab has been completed, and Dave is clearly quite satisfied it is strong enough as he is seen trying it out whilst doing some intricate fitting to one of its parts.
Below: At the front of the tank Fred has fitted the two stainless steel strainers fitted over the two holes for the injector water feeds. All parts laser cut by MLFabcuts and TIG welded by Henry Mowforth. The design of the baffles and the internal supports left a clear way through the centre to get as easy an access possible within the tank. At the stage of drawing up the tank Fred also added a feature not present on the originals. A manhole in the bottom to allow those of us of a slightly fuller figure and in advancing years access to the inside. The tank filler is an oval of just 14" x 10". Hands up those that could not only drop through that hole, but be able to climb out afterwards!
- Update to the web page for Pullman Car 'Fingall' with an additional photo.
- The Mid Hants Railway have a news update about Bulleid Carriage 1456 which is owned by the Bluebell and has been on long-term loan to them since 2012. The 25-year free loan has enabled them to access National Lottery Heritage funding for its overhaul as part of their "Canadian Pacific project" training new apprentices and overhauling a second Bulleid carriage in addition to locomotive No. 35005.
- Bluebell 2020 Anniversary Wagon
For 2020 we have produced a Firework / Gunpowder wagon, quite appropriate for our 60th Anniversary Year. The wagon is unusual by having two running numbers, 1960 on one side and 2020 on the other.
This is a limited item from our friends at Dapol and there are only 115 available.
A little tongue in cheek maybe, but a fun way to celebrate our first 60 years,
the van is available to order online from our shop.
- Latest news on the Brighton Atlantic project from Fred Bailey, including the two photos below, showing some of the complexities of the beading and coal rails on the tender. All the fixings currently in place on the beading are temporary, and will be replaced by rivets. Full details and further photos are available here. Of course, along with everything else, all volunteer activities on the Bluebell, including on this project, are currently suspended.
- In our 60th Anniversary year it's interesting to look back to look back 30 years, when the Bluebelll was at the centre of Channel 4's 'Steam Sunday' on 23 September 1990:
Part 1 of 'Steam Sunday'.
Our 9F had returned to steam just a couple of weeks earlier, the first ex-Barry 9F to be restored to working order. Featuring Mike Read, Joe Brown and his daughter, Sam Brown, Jools Holland (playing the piano on board our GNR Directors' Saloon), John Hill, Miles Kington with Instant Sunshine, and David Shepherd.
Part 2 of the programme again featured Sam and Joe Brown, in the pouring rain, and a few minutes later, when the sun came out, Sally Thomsett, Dinah Sheridan, Bernard Cribbins, Gary Warren, Pete Waterman, John Hegley, George Hinchcliffe and Ray Towell from the NRM. Many of these are sadly no longer with us.
- Peter Evans' photo is another taken that day, showing the setting up for the filming.
- Peter Evans' photo shows the visit of the operational replica of Stephenson's Rocket, on 23 September 1990 for a major live Channel 4 feature as part of their 'Going Loco' season, during our 30th Anniversary year.
- In a parallel universe our annual Branch Line weekend started today, and it's great to see that Philip Bull has provided the best video coverage he was able, under the circumstances. Good to also see the Project 27 fundraising stand in evidence.
- New web page, using a photo provided by Peter Evans, for LMS Corridor Third No. 1272 which was used as volunteer dormitory accommodation at Sheffeild Park between 1971 and 1993.
- Updates to web pages for more carriages (with improved photos): Bulleid 2515, Mk.1 CK 16210 and RMBs 1818 and 1838.
- Tony Page provides this photo, taken on 13 October 2019, of LSWR B4 No. 96 'Normandy', seemingly attached to the tender from SR 'Battle of Britain' No. 34059 'Sir Archibald Sinclair'. The suggestion that this was for a trial of adapting 'Normandy' to run with a tender was needless to say, an April fool joke, although the information about the four ex-Schools-class/snowplough tenders which were acquired by the Bluebell in the 1990s was correct, with ADS70225 still remaining in its snowplough form, ADS70228 rebuilt to run with U-class 1638, ADS70227 going to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway with S15 No. 30830, and one went to Southern Locomotives Ltd. with parts used to construct a new tender for one of their Bulleids.
- There have been two major updates recently on the Project 27 Blog; having finished all the riveting to attach the new rear dragbox to the new frames, the team have attached the running plate brackets and are moving to the front of the locomotive, in preparation for fitting the cylinders, together with work on the hornguides, and earlier, of work on the new cylinder block, new piston rods, and refurbished brake rigging.
- During March 2020 there were 47,447 hits on this page from 24,228 unique visitors.
- Introducing an exciting new publication packed with news, quizzes, puzzles and games to keep you informed and entertained while the railway is closed.
The Bluebell Times is designed to fill the gap for anyone missing their steam train rides or visits to the Bluebell Railway.
It's a publication for all; railway staff working from home or in self-isolation, volunteers in all departments, members, supporters, visitors, friends, train enthusiasts and general readers. It's perfect for train-mad youngsters or anyone who wants a bit of light relief.
- We have a new web page for The Friends of Kingscote, who maintain Kingscote Station and its environs in good order. The Friends were formed in the late 1980s as a fund raising group, enabling the restoration work started in 1985 to continue.
- Are you looking for ways to keep the kids entertained at home?
Download and print a selection of our Stepney Club Magazines for fun actitivies and challenges. They are sure to keep the little ones (and perhaps big ones too) amused!
Visit our children's section to download.
- Update to the web page for Metropolitan Railway carriage No. 368.
- Photo: The cab of the Maunsell Q-class, Saturday 14 March. (John Sandys)
- There are 5 new notices on the BRPS Members' information page.
We start with the sad news that John Woods (right), Horsted Keynes Station Master, Guard, Rail Ale Train and Santa Special volunteer, passed away during the week. There are some tributes here.
The other four notices appear as a Joint message from our plc and Society:
- Explanation from Paul Bromley as to why the Spring edition of our Bluebell News magazine is available to download or read online, rather than in printed form. It is available here as a PDF.
- Message from Graham Aitken explaining his resignation as BRPS Chairman.
- Message from BRPS Vice Chairman Steve Bigg, who will be acting chairman for now.
- Message from BRPS General Secretary Gavin Bennett, concerning the postponement of the BRPS Extraordinary and Annual General Meetings.
- Even before the further restrictions on movement announced by the Prime Minister on Monday evening, the Bluebell had taken the decision to close down all volunteer activities on the line. I have a few photos in stock showing recent activities from the C&W Department and a report from the Atlantic Project, which I will share on here over the coming days. If other volunteers have recent photos and news reports from their areas, I would be delighted to share them also over the coming weeks.
- Dave Bowles has added a few pictures of E4 as BR No. 32473 in 2005 with 3 Bulleid coaches to his website.
The Bluebell Railway, along with many other businesses in the leisure and heritage sector, has been forced to close to visitors due to the current pandemic.
Coming after the early part of the year when trains are not running, our finances are already at their lowest ebb.
We are therefore urgently appealing for donations to help keep the essential services of the railway running at a time when, unexpectedly, we have no income. In spite of our large volunteer workforce, we are also one of the largest employers in Mid Sussex, and we have many ongoing costs and expenses which do not stop when we're not running trains.
Photo: The Maunsell Q-class makes a dramatic departure from Sheffield Park last Sunday, our last operational day, as it turned out, for some time to come. (Chris Rose)
Coronavirus Update 11am:
All train services scheduled for this weekend, including the Mother's Day Specials, have been cancelled.
Our Customer Services team will contact all customers who have booked tickets for these services.
- Update 4.30pm: Bluebell Railway is suspending its train services and will be closed until further notice.
We originally decided to stay open and run a minimal service this weekend with enhanced health protection measures in place, but the national and global situation with coronavirus means we will have to close.
Bluebell Railway plc chairman Chris Hunford said: "The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and visitors remains our priority."
"Some people have been calling up asking if we're open and saying they still intend to travel this weekend although several people have also called asking to defer their bookings. Taking all this into account and the latest Government advice, we have decided to suspend all services this weekend and the railway will close until further notice."
During the closure, there will be no trains running and the shop and catering outlets will not be open to visitors although the railway's online shop will continue to trade.
We are keeping the situation under constant review in the coming days and weeks and will assess the situation as it evolves.
Please see our full statement here.
- Chris Rose's photo shows a quiet Sheffield Park on Sunday, as the Q-class with its three Maunsell carriages prepares to leave with the 11.15 am departure.
- Latest Coronavirus Update: In common with some other Heritage Railways and visitor attractions outside London, we currently plan to remain open this coming weekend, but only offering a limited service, with one locomotive in steam, hauling two round trips from Sheffield Park to Kingscote (via Horsted Keynes) only, plus afternoon tea trains. This decision is in line with advice from Public Health England, and we have put special measures in place, as outlined here, including the trains being formed of compartment stock, so that each family will be isolated in their own compartment. East Grinstead Station will be closed. As has been the case for the last week, the situation is under constant review, and please check here before travelling to visit us.
Booking for future events and trains beyond this weekend has been suspended for the present. The Carriage Shop in Platform 1 at Horsted Keynes now joins the Bulleid Shop and our Museum on platform 2 at Sheffield Park in being closed.
Details of currently planned train times, and the opening hours of our facilities for this weekend, are available here.
- Three great videos covering the six Bulleid carriages running on the Mid Hants Railway this last weekend: on Saturday hauled by 30925 'Cheltenham' (video by Hils TheTrainLady), all of Saturday's different trains (by 04clemea) and hauled by S15 No. 506 on Sunday (from The Southerner). The four carriages which we loaned to them for Flying Scotsman's visit there are now, I understand, back to the Bluebell.
- Two further photos taken on Sunday by Chris Rose show the Standard 4 No. 75027 in the running shed at Sheffield Park, and the subway at Horsted Keynes.
- Recently returned to service at the Mid Hants Railway (although running temporarily with an incomplete interior) is Bulleid open third No. 1456, seen here at Ropley yesterday. The carriage is owned by the Bluebell Railway, but is on a 25-year loan to the Mid Hants, who have rebuilt it completely, with the help of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and PRISM. No. 1456 is one of the few surviving Bulleid carriages from the 1947 Bournemouth dining sets which had, in addition to the shallow window vents (like our 5768), the skirts partially covering the solebar.
It, and Mid Hants' own Bulleid brake 4211, were joined by our four operational Bulleid carriages (which provided additional seating capacity over the previous two weekends for the visit there of 'Flying Scotsman') and this weekend was the first occasion since the early 1990s on the Bluebell that a complete train formed of six Bulleid carriages has run. On Sunday they were hauled by LSWR S15 No. 506, as seen at Ropley below. The second photo shows our four carriages.
- Our Diamond Anniversary book "Bluebell Railway - Sixty Years of Progress" by Colin Tyson, editor of Bluebell News magazine, is now available in our shop, and to order online.
Some pictures showing the removal of the backhead fittings from 21C123 in preparation for its boiler removal, taken by John Fry, have been uploaded to the Bulleid Society's web site.
- An album from Thursday and Saturday: Springtime at Sheffield Park from John Sandys.
- Some great galleries of photos from Brian Dandridge covering various Bluebell events and locomotives over recent years.
- The Bluebell Railway has announced the appointment of Paul Lelew as Commercial and Marketing Director.
- Brian Lacey's photo shows SECR No. 65 ready to head north from Horsted Keynes on Saturday 29 February.
- Coronavirus Update: The Bluebell Railway continues to operate and is open to visitors.
The safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers is our priority and we will take all necessary precautions to ensure their continued welfare.
Read more in our statement realeased on 11 March.
- Trains are running this coming weekend to our Service Two (2-train) timetable with locomotives Nos. 80151 and 65 expected to be hauling the passenger serices. They should be joined by No. 30541 hauling the sold-out Golden Arrow Breakfast and Afternoon Tea Trains on Sunday. [Update Friday 13 March - 30541 replaces 65 on passenger services on Saturday]
- Colin Tomlins' photo, taken yesterday afternoon, shows the visiting Taff Vale Railway No. 85 being unloaded at Sheffield Park, in preparation for our forthcoming Branch Line Weekend taking place Friday 3 to Sunday 5 April.
No. 85 was built in 1899 by Neilson Reid. The Taff Vale Railway largely existed to enable coal mined in the area it served to be taken to Cardiff docks, and was taken over by the GWR in 1922.
The GWR's standardisation policy led to the locomotive's withdrawal from service in 1927, but fortunately for posterity, in 1929 it was bought by the Lambton, Hetton & Joicey Colliery in County Durham to again haul coal trains between the inland collieries and the coast. On nationalisation of the collieries in 1947 it became NCB No. 52, eventually entering preservation on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in 1970.
Rebuilt as far as feasible to its original TVR condition by a group of K&WVR volunteers in the 1990's, No. 85 gave good service there up to 2010. An ideal locomotive for the line, it was soon overhauled, returning to service in February 2016. It carries its original fully lined out Taff Vale Railway livery.
- Dan Ward's photo on the right shows TVR No. 85 being prepared for loading at Ingrow (K&WVR) this evening. It is one of two locomotives visiting for our 3-5 April Branch Line Weekend.
- Details of the thanksgiving service for the life or Klaus Marx are now available on the BRPS Members' information page.
- Peter Skuce visited us on Saturday 7 March to take photographs of and ride behind British Railways Standard 4MT 2-6-4T No. 80151, the results being in this photographic album/gallery. In addition he has updated his gallery dedicated to our carriage fleet, complete with interior shots.
- Peter Edwards' photo below show Maunsell Q-class No. 30541 approaching Town House Bridge with yesterday's sold-out Golden Arrow Afternoon Tea train. Note the presence at the rear of BR Mk.1 Open First carriage No. 3069 'Sapphire' which joined the train towards the end of last year.
The other photo (also from Peter) shows the newly installed higher level of ramp in SteamWorks! which will shortly allow access to the footplate of SECR C-class No. 592.
- Brian Lacey's photo on the right shows SECR O1-class No. 65 having detatched from its train at East Grinstead and commenced its run-round.
- Keith Duke provides a gallery from today, with the 01 and Standard 4 tank running. In addition, a small group of tractors (plus a Green Goddess and an Austin 7) met up at Sheffield Park before a road run. A quick trip to East Grinstead, both our station and the mainline one are covered along with couple of bus pictures taken there.
- People are already starting to book for our Christmas 2020 Golden Arrow Pullman Dining Trains!
Your evening will begin with a festive mulled wine and canapé reception prior to boarding your train. Once on board, sit back and relax in the nostalgic atmosphere and enjoy a delicious 3-course Christmas meal, all served by our attentive staff. Your journey will also include a half hour stop at Horsted Keynes Station to enjoy festive carol singing.
- John Sandys was also about today, and his photos are available here. Two of his photos below show No. 80151 with the first southbound train of the day, passing through Imberhorne Cutting (showing just how well nature has "greened" the cutting sides since the former rubbish tip was excavated a few years back) and No.65 arriving at East Grinstead with the second train of the day, formed of three 1930s' Southern Railway Maunsell carriages.
- Brian Lacey's photo from last Saturday shows No. 80151 departing southbound from Kingscote. This locomotive together with No. 65 are planned to be hauling services this coming weekend (timetable here), and the SR Q-class No. 30541 should be hauling the sold-out Golden Arrow Breakfast and Golden Arrow Afternoon Tea trains on Sunday.
- We are sorry to report that Klaus Marx has passed away. Klaus was one of the founder members, editor of Bluebell News for 35 years, and was our Archivist until 2008. He was a founder member of the former London Area Group and hosted their meetings at the school where he was Headmaster for many years. His magnum opus was his 2001 book detailing the definitive history of our line. [Update: Details of his thanksgiving service now available on the BRPS Members' information page.]
- The latest report from the Southern Electric Traction Group who are working towards returning the Bluebell-owned 4VEP electric unit 3417 to working order at Strawberry Hill. See also their previous report and funding appeal.
- Dave Bowles has added some more photos of our S15, taken 11 March 2015, to his website.
- Update with the positions in the 2019-20 Football Competition as of earlier this week. The competition is raising funds for the forthcoming overhaul of Southern Railway Maunsell Restaurant/Dining First No. 7864.
- The two photos below from James Young were taken on Tuesday, and show three of our four SR Bulleid designed carriages running on the Mid Hants Railway, where they are adding capacity during the visit by 'Flying Scotsman' to that line. Composite No. 5768 is seen behind BR 4MT 2-6-0 No. 76017 (No. 1464 was also in the same train), and Nos. 2526 & 1482 were hauled by Schools Class No. 30925 'Cheltenham'.
- Brian Lacey's photo from this Saturday shows No. 80151 arriving at Kingscote from the north.
- Great to see that we're top of the list on The Sunday Express' "very best spring days out".
- A reminder that we are running steam trains each weekend in March, and daily from 1 to 19 April. See our timetables here.
Tickets available in advance or on arrival.
- During February 2020 there were 42,524 hits from 22,659 unique visitors.
- The second train this weekend was formed of the SECR O1-class hauling the three SR Maunsell carriages, as seen in Brian's photo below, arriving at the same station, from the south.
- John Sandys' photo shows the token exchange as SECR No. 65 arrives at Horsted Keynes with the Maunsell carriage set. With quite a mixture of weather this morning including hail, sleet, snow, and glorious sunshine, more of John's photos from are available here.
- In preparation for planned photo charters the Wednesday Gang (South) has undertaken vegetation clearance work adjacent to the Eye Centre, south of East Grinstead, and also north of Horsted House Farm Bridge, where the team photo below was taken (by David Thair). Despite the abundance of rain, the gang has missed only one working Wednesday, but has had to take great care on the embankments, which have been extremely slippery. At the time of writing the gang has returned once again to Rock Cutting, which needs attention ideally before the season begins, and they expect to be at that location for several weeks.
- The other two photos below show recent work on Hastings-gauge Maunsell Brake No. 3687. The first of the trimmed quarter-pads, in reproduced green SR jazz-pattern moquette, have been temporarily fitted. The plywood floors of all six compartments have been lifted and painted on their undersides; the second photo shows the exposed sections of the underframe, which had been cleaned and painted 20 years ago, have now been treated to some further coats of paint.
- Brian Lacey's photo from Saturday shows No. 80151 being admired by some of our visitors at Horsted Keynes.
- SteamWorks!, our new accessible locomotive exhibition at Sheffield Park, has been given a runner-up award by the Heritage Railway Association in the outstanding visitor attraction category. The awards ceremony was held in Birmingham and Sam Bee (l) and Roger Kelly (r) are pictured below after being presented with the award.
- Some photos from this morning from John Sandys, including that below showing Bulleid brake No. 2526 loaded ready for transfer to the Mid Hants Railway, on loan to provide additional seating capacity for the period while 'Flying Scotsman' is visiting their line. The original plan had been for the four Bulleid carriages to go by rail, but with the line north of East Grinstead likely to be closed until the end of March following a landslip, the plan now is that two will go today and two tomorrow, by road. The carriages are due to return during the week commencing 16 March.
- More of Brian Lacey's photos from Saturday: here is No. 80151 arriving at Horsted Keynes with the 11am service from East Grinstead.
- On 15 February we hosted a photographic evening for Timeline Events, with the SECR O1 in steam, the Metropolitan carriages, and a dozen Edwardian re-enactors. Dave Bowles provides a superb gallery here.
- The photos below (again from Brian) show the S15 arriving at Horsted Keynes, and No. 65 passing through Horsted Keynes with the Wealden Rambler.
- Half term week has proved to be very popular with our visitors. Here, in Brian Lacey's photo from Saturday, we see No. 65 attracting attention as it passes through Horsted Keynes with the Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea train.
- Two more photos from Brian below, with the Southern Railway S15 at the head of six Southern Railway Maunsell and Bulleid carriages, and No. 80151 (with another Maunsell carriage leading) passing one of the four SR-pattern rail-built bracket signals at Horsted Keynes.
- John Harwood's video includes some great drone shots (complying with our drone use policy) of No. 80151 leaving East Grinstead across the viaduct yesterday during our hugely popular "Kids for a Quid" week which finishes tomorrow.
- We have three locomotives in steam this weekend. In addition to the two larger locomotives hauling the timetabled passenger services, we have the SECR O1 hauling an Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea service today and a Sussex Belle lunch train tomorrow.
- A reminder that rail access on the National Network via East Grinstead is currently provided by a bus replacement service from Lingfield due to a landslip to the north of East Grinstead. A bus from Three Bridges or Haywards Heath is a good alternative to access our line by public transport.
- Half term week (including our Kids for a Quid special offer) has been going well, although a couple of fallen trees have had to be removed from across the line before the services could run on a couple of days. Passenger numbers have been such that the planned 5-coach set has been strengthened by the addition of 1935-built Southern Railway Maunsell open third No. 1309, and the Q-class replaced with the larger S15 No. 847. The matching Southern olive-green liveried combination is seen here in a still from a video taken by John Sandys earlier today.
- Looking for an unusual present for someone who's got everything? There's been an update to the Brighton Atlantic Component Sponsorship list, with some additional parts looking for sponsors.
- In February 2008 we had the GWR Auto Tank No. 1450 as a visitor together with Auto Coach No. 178. Dave Bowles provides some photos by from a day with 1450.
- John Sandys' photos and videos from yesterday and today include the photo below showing BR 4MT No. 80151 at the head of 6-coach set of Southern Railway Maunsell and Bulleid carriages at East Grinstead.
- Keith Duke's photos from Monday when the Maunsell Q-class was on the 5-coach Mk.1 set, and is seen waiting to depart from Sheffield Park that day, below.
- An Infrastructure News report, from Bruce Healey, details track relaying work being done at Horsted House Farm Crossing, just north of Horsted Keynes.
Work started on relaying ten 60-foot track panels on Wednesday 5 February. This spot was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, the foot crossing needed replacing and secondly, the Temporary Speed Restriction (TSR) could be shortened. Whereas the recently completed relay in the cutting at Three Arch Bridge went extremely smoothly, this had a few challenges. In the area of the crossing, the formation was found to be unexpectedly wet and so the decision was taken to underlay this part of the line. A collapsed drain under the formation was found, so two cross drains were put in to replace the blocked one.
The first photo on the right shows the gap about to be closed. In the foreground is the extended ditch at the far end of which is the newly rediscovered catch-pit. The water in the ditch was previously seeping into the area of the formation. This view is looking north from the crossing. The second photo, below shows the relaid section of the line, looking south.
The work was completed, including tamping, in time for the first train scheduled to run over it today. You can read the full report here.
- Details of Roger Williams' Funeral are now available on BRPS Members' information page.
- A landslip north of East Grinstead means National Rail trains are unable to run between East Grinstead and Lingfield until further notice. A rail replacement bus service will be operating between these stations.
Passengers wishing to join us at our East Grinstead station via National Rail are advised to allow extra time for their journeys and check the National Rail website for regular updates. Alternatively there are regular bus services from Three Bridges to East Grinstead.
- John Sandys' photo shows No. 80151 being warmed through ready for services this weekend, when it will run alongside SR Q-class No. 30541 and SECR O1 No. 65.
The latter locomotive will be in charge of tomorrow's Valentines' Day Afternoon Tea train. It is seen below in another of John Sandys' photos, on today's shunt, where it was used due to the number of carriages being returned from over-winter maintenance at Horsted Keynes. It is attached to a 6-coach set of Southern Railway Maunsell and Bulleid carriages, which will be in daily use over half term week, prior to the four Bulleids going to the Mid Hants Railway to help out during their visit by 'Flying Scotsman'. Also below the Golden Arrow dining set is seen, which has also returned to Sheffield Park after its winter maintenance.
- Public train services re-start this weekend, with our new Service Two timetable, and two or three locomotives in steam each day over the coming half term week. Don't forget we have our fabulous Kids for a Quid special offer, which applies daily 15-23 February.
- Dates are now available for photographers to book our updated Lineside Photographic Permit courses, and an explanation of the changes is available here.
- Last Sunday's eNewsletter has a lot of interesting information about what's happening around the railway. You can subscribe to receive the Newsletter by email here.
- Dave Bowles' photos of our S15 No. 847 over the years. This year the locomotive will be used lightly, since it is to be withdrawn at some point due to the tyres now nearly being worn down such that they will soon need replacing, which will be done as part of its next overhaul.
- Alex Morley's photos below show recent progress on the exterior of Maunsell Hastings-line brake No. 3687. The refixing of the panelling on the east side was completed over the New Year, and the ends have also now been stripped for repainting. Also note the lowest roof board has been replaced. On the west side, the first green undercoat has been applied, and partly rubbed down. The lowest roof board has also been removed for replacement. In addition, the compartment floors are being lifted to give access to the underframe, to nip any corrosion in the bud and repaint it.
- SECR P-class No. 178 has recently had its boiler certificate extended, so it can continue in service through to our forthcoming 60th anniversary celebrations in August.
John Sandys' photos and videos from Saturday at Sheffield Park include this one showing No. 178 on a Footplate Taster Experience.
- An update on Operation Undercover Phase 4 (OP4) at Horsted Keynes, with thanks to Barry Luck, is now available on the Infrastructure News page. Two of the photos from that report are shown below.
With the fitting of the windows and doors to both floors of the Heritage Skills Centre (HSC), the building is now weather-proof, and we can progress with the interior fitting out starting with the trim shop and moquette store (second photo below). We are very grateful for the recent donation which is sufficient to purchase the necessary materials. The full report is available here.
- Track relaying updates:
A full report of the completion of the work at Three Arch Bridge to the south of Horsted Keynes is awaited, but Jon Goff's photo on the right (taken on 31 January) shows a line of dropped ballast ready for ploughing and tamping on the "extra" panels laid (in bullhead rail) at the north end of the relay, and also shows just how close the end of the job is to Horsted Keynes.
Horsted House Crossing Track Relay:
The next piece of track to be re-laid will be a short section that joins onto the November relay north of Leamland. It will be 200 yards long and extends the new track north of Horsted to about 50 yards past Horsted House Farm foot crossing. It will also take another 200 yards off the Temporary Speed Limit (TSR) that currently extends up to Vaux End. Jon Goff's short video was taken on a phone and is from the cab of the 09 running up to the crossing. It bounces around quite a bit anyway when running light engine and this amplifies the effects of the dipped joints etc., causing the camera shake but clearly shows up the difference between the new and the old track.
The crossing will also be fully renewed together with the eventual replacement of the styles with a kissing gate. This was due to start yesterday if the remaining required sleepers arrived as expected.
- John Sandys' Photos from today, with the Thursday Shunt taking place at Sheffield Park.
- Brian Lacey's photo below is another showing P-class No. 178 on Saturday's Footplate Taster.
- Brian Lacey's photo shows No. 178 on Saturday's Footplate Taster Experience. With the loco facing North and a low sun behind it, he was forced to be inventive, which seems to have worked rather well here!
- An update from January on the Project 27 Blogspot reporting recent work on P-class No. 27.
- Dave Bowles has added some pictures from the Sunday of the fondly-remembered Branch Line Weekend of 2007.
- John Sandys' photos and videos from Thusday and Saturday, including that showing No. 178 below, in a view that may be of interest to model-makers!
- We sadly have to report the death of one of the longest standing members of our Carriage & Wagon Department, Roger Williams, who died in hospital on Thursday last week. Roger had dedicated most of his 45 years on the Bluebell to leading the restoration and maintenance of our Southern "Bulleid" carriages, along with Mk.1 Corridor Composite No. 16210, probably the first Mk.1 in preservation to have had a full top-to-bottom structural, mechanical and internal overhaul, completed back in October 1991. The recent comprehensive overhaul and rebuild of Bulleid Composite No. 5768 was his crowning achievement, which has just been recognised by winning the Southern Railways Group's Denys Fletcher Award. Dave Clarke's photo below shows Roger fixing new steel panelling on Bulleid 5768 in the early stages of its recent overhaul.
[Update 14 Feb: Details of his funeral on 10 March are now available]
- During January 2020 there were 43,884 hits on this page, from 23,647 unique visitors.
- We can now confirm the full line-up for our 3-5 April Branch Line Weekend.
Ivatt Class 2 Tank Locomotive No. 41312 will be making a return visit, joining previously announced Taff Vale Railway Tank No. 85.
The following Bluebell engines will also be running: SECR H-class No. 263, O1-class No. 65, P-class No. 178, SR Q-class No. 30541 and BR 4MT tank No. 80151.
Pre-book your tickets now for an advance discount. Timetables will be available nearer the event.
Brian Lacey's photos right and below show the Ivatt tank, which is based at the Mid Hants Railway, on its last visit to the Bluebell, when it was hired during 2005-6 principally to undertake steam-worked spoil trains on the extension, at Sheffield Park on 18 August 2005.
Jonathan Horrocks' photo below shows TVR No. 85 on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway last June, hauling an array of vintage stock, led by three Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway carriages.
- The first three of this year's Murder Mystery Evening Pullman trains have already Sold Out, so if you're thinking of booking for later in the year, don't delay and take a look at the details now.
- Another of Brian Lacey's photo from last Saturday, with P-class 178 in use on the Footplate Tasters.
- Two further photos below from Brian Lacey. Firstly another of 178 from last Saturday, plus another from New Year's Eve, with No. 80151 passing though the former West Hoathly Station site.
Infrastructure News - Midweek update
from Bruce Healey and Brian Kidman reporting great progress with the track relaying at Three Arch Bridge, yesterday.
Bruce Healey's photo on the right was taken early on Wednesday morning. The new rail extends well beyond 3 Arch Bridge. By the bridge, our Signals & Telecoms (S&T) volunteers are working at a lineside cabinet. The S&T involvement is because this area is covered by track circuits connected to the Horsted Keynes signalbox, and the phone post at the bridge also needed to be moved.
The photo below, from Brian Kidman, shows a general view of the cutting looking south, with members of the Wednesday Gang (North) which has been working alongside Matt Crawford's track team for some weeks.
- We were saddened to hear of the death of Terry Jones, who played 'Toad' in Wind in the Willows, filmed on the Bluebell in October 1995. Many volunteers have fond memories of working alongside him (and other "Pythons") as he stole the C-class locomotive, and "crashed" it.
- We are also sorry to report that Jean Cook, ex-wife of Barry Cook, a former loco driver and pub owner (Fireman's Arms at Five Ash Down, now the Pig & Butcher), passed away last week.
Jean was very much part of the railway life in the early days, especially when they lived in Newick and she was involved in the Social sub-committee. Funeral details are available on the BRPS Member's Notices page.
- Three Arch relay: End of the second week.
Jon Goff's report covers the period 11-17 January 2020, the second week of the track relaying project through the very wet cutting at Three Arch (Nobles) Bridge.
The photo on the right taken from the top the bridge shows the preparation of the track bed north of Three Arch Bridge at the end of the second week. The northern end of the job is to be just before the piles of removed track panels in the distance. The bulldozer is pushing back some of the reusable ballast and is almost up to the point where the membrane will finish. The new second ditch is complete and ready for the drainage pipe. The laser is set up on the tripod to the right and angled to the correct gradient of the line. The two laser receivers on the dozer can be seen sitting on top of the masts at the front. The other important item in the photo is the blue cabin; our temporary lobby where the kettle resides!
On the other side of the bridge the track has been laid just past the half way point, with 16 of the 29 panels put down and most of the sleepers put out for the 17th panel. More details are in the full report (PDF). The straightness with which we've been able to lay the track was due to the use of our new (gifted) theodolite which we are very pleased with, and the smoothness is due to the use of our laser with the laser bulldozer. This makes tamping a lot easier as it is as good as main line standards.
- A video clip of the work carried out was filmed early last week by John Harwood using his drone in compliance with CAA and Bluebell regulations
- Steve Lee's photo below shows 80151 departing from Kingscote on New Year's Day.
- The second photo below is another of Brian Lacey's from this Saturday, with 178 on one of the Footplate Tasters.
- Brian Lacey visited Sheffield Park on Saturday to see P-class 178 in action on the Footplate Taster specials. The sunshine made a pleasant change, but the low angle of the sun wasn't so helpful when taking photographs! None the less, Brian took some nice shots which we'll also be using over the next few days. Right, as is traditional, the fire devil is in use to prevent the water column from freezing.
- The latest edition of our e-Newsletter was published yesterday.
- Mid-January OP4 Progress Report from Project Manager Barry Luck. His photo on the right, taken from that report, shows the almost complete back wall of the Heritage Skills Centre, taken from inside the new carriage shed. The gaps in both the ground-floor and first-floor walls are temporary ones to make it easier for material for construction of the internal partitions to be lifted into the now enclosed spaces.
Once the cladding on this side of the first floor is in place, the final two tracks (H- and J-road) can be laid (using second hand track on concrete sleepers, recovered during the next planned section of track relaying), and further carriages shunted into the new storage shed.
- A photo, taken by John Brodribb, showing the second thermic syphon for the new firebox for No. 21C123 'Blackmoor Vale' being working on at SDR Engineering has been added to the Bulleid Society's web site.
- Two more photos from New Year's Eve from Brian Lacey, showing 80151 pulling into platforms 4/5 at Horsted Keynes, and the SR Q-class arriving at the same station.
- Phil Horscroft's photo shows 80151 making a foggy departure from Sheffield Park on 30 December 2019
- Fancy a treat for half term? Our Kids for a Quid special offer applies daily 15-23 February.
- We have a Pie and Mash evening train on 9 October, and a
Curry Special on 30 October, in addition to our regular Fish and Chip and
Rail Ale evening specials.
- Pullman Brake Parlour Third Class Car No. 36 arrived at Sheffield Park on Tuesday 14 January, where it was unloaded and later transferred over to the carriage running shed behind the museum. It will go up to Horsted Keynes when the track renewal is completed, although work to put it into service is not expected to start until after Car 54 enters service.
The carriage was purchased privately for use on the Bluebell, delivery being delayed until after the Christmas season when the carriage had been in use at the Colne Valley Railway. Before entering service on the Bluebell it requires at a minimum rewiring (from 240V AC to 24V DC), provision of steam heat, fitting luggage racks (actually hat racks), and re-instatement of the missing partition, which it is believed is still in existence, as well as some mechanical and bodywork maintenance. The existing non-Pullman seating was retained by the Colne Valley Railway as we will fit original Pullman-type seating in due course.
The two photos below, by David Jones, show the carriage arriving at the Bluebell, and the bare interior (it had originally been stripped internally when used as a cinema coach on the Bulmers' "Cider Train"). It carried the name 'Morella' and was painted green, red and white whilst in Bulmers' ownership, until 1986, and 'Hermione' after it went to the Colne Valley Railway in 1988 (along with 'Aquila', moving there in part-exchange for 'Gwen' which went to VSOE).
Car 36 had been built in 1926 by the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co Ltd of Smethwick, and entered service in July of that year on the "Southern Belle" between London Victoria and Brighton, initially with 54 seats in a 2+2 arrangement. After electrification of the Brighton line, and replacement by the "Brighton Belle" electric units, Car 36 continued to be used on the central division of the Southern Railway (by now with 42 seats in the more normal 2+1 arrangement) until withdrawn from service for the duration of the war.
In 1946, now as Second Class 'Car No. 194', it was allocated to the "Golden Arrow" running between Victoria and Dover, complete with arrows and "Golden Arrow / Fleche d'Or" insignia painted on the
bodysides (soon after, instead painted boards held on with clips were used to give greater flexibility). From 4 May 1947 the second class cars were removed from the "Golden Arrow", and reverting to 'Car No. 36' it served on the "Devon Belle" (alongside the Bluebell's Car 54 and 'Fingall').
When the new cars for the "Golden Arrow" were introduced in 1951, Car 36 was one of the older cars sent to the Pullman Works at Preston Park to be modified to run with them, receiving aluminium panelling on the bodyside, and the oval "cathedral" lavatory lights (windows) were replaced by the rectangular type as fitted to the 1951 cars. It then ran regularly on the "Golden Arrow", and subsequently on other Southern services, and was on the "Bournemouth Belle" at the time it was withdrawn in 1967. One of its lavatory compartments was converted into a guard's compartment and so, like Car 54, it has the heavier guard's doors at one end.
- Infrastructure News update - further to last Wednesday's photos from Bruce Healey showing the first 100 yards relaid, another update shows progress over the following two days, with thanks to Jon Goff. The photo on the right shows work in the cutting now at full swing, and the report describes the scene in detail.
- Compilation of mobile phone video footage from Martin Lawrence, giving an overview of 2019 on the Bluebell.
- John Sandys' photos from yesterday, including P-class No. 178 on Footplate Taster duties at Sheffield Park, as also seen in his photos below.
- Brian Lacey's photo shows the Maunsell Q-class as it emerges from the tunnel on New Year's Eve.
- Two dates have just been released for our Full Steam Ahead experience, which gives participants the chance to fire and drive Standard Tank No. 80151 as part of a full day on the Railway.
- Two photos below, taken by Richard Salmon today:
The SECR C-class is in the paint shop at Horsted Keynes where Heritage Painting are undertaking a repaint to prepare the locomotive for display in SteamWorks! at Sheffield Park, where the tender and locomotive will be split to enable public access to the footplate, including access via wheelchairs. The footplate is much lower than that on No. 75027, so providing ramped access at much lower cost and complexity than if the Standard 4 had been used for this purpose.
Representing an investment of around £15,000 by its owning group, the Howlden Trust, here we see newly forged and machined drawhooks for the Great Northern Railway Directors' Saloon. Since the main cost was for the die-blocks for stamping the forgings, making spares at the same time was very cost effective.
- John Sandys' photo shows SECR P-class No. 178 at Sheffield Park on Footplate Taster duties yesterday, with the driver and fireman taking a close interest in the steam reverser.
You can see more of John's photos from Sunday, here.
- Branch Line Weekend (3-5 April 2020): We are very pleased to announce the first visiting locomotive will be Taff Vale Railway 0-6-2 Tank No. 85, thanks to the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. Another guest is currently still to be confirmed.
This photo, by Phil 62005, shows TVR No. 85 setting off from Keighley, with vintage L&YR carriages, on 6 August 2017 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0). You can also view this video of the locomotive in action in 2017 by David Roy Ball.
- Back to home territory with two more of Brian Lacey's photos below, taken on Saturday 28 December. Firstly the token exchange from the Q-class at Horsted Keynes, and second the Standard tank passes the former West Hoathly station site.
- Brian Lacey's photo from Saturday 28 December shows the Q-class arriving at Horsted Keynes whilst No. 80151 waits to depart southbound.
- Reminder that, although we are not running any services now until 15 February, weekends will see a locomotive steaming around Sheffield Park for our popular "Footplate Taster" experiences. Note that this weekend these only take place tomorrow, Sunday. There are still places available for a few more participants over coming weeks - book up online!
- Philip Bull's great video from 30/31 December.
- Photos from Dave Bowles, showing the Santa Special trains on 23 December, when the sun came out!
- More old photos of our locos online:
- Phil Horscroft's photo below shows the Q-class in the mist at Horsted House Bridge on Monday 30 December, and Steve Lee's taken on Wednesday 1 January shows 80151 in the cutting south of Three Arch Bridge.
Note, in Steve's photo, the rails and sleepers in the cess ready for the relaying exercise which is now under way in this particularly damp cutting; a second drainage ditch is to be provided along with cross-drains and geotextile and impervious membranes laid under the formation, which is being completely dug out and renewed.
1 January 2020: Happy New Year!
2020 is the 60th year of steam operation on our preserved line.
We were the very first standard gauge heritage line to operate
steam-hauled services, and we are celebrating with a very full
programme of special events throughout the year.
- Steve Lee's photo shows No. 30541, the Maunsell Q-class, northbound at Milepost 10 today (see the "location map" to discover where that is!). Lighting conditions were not the best for photography! This was the last day of services until 15 February as we take our customary break at this time of year, which enables us to undertake major engineering works on our line.
- During December 2019 there were 44,085 hits on this page, from 23,028 unique visitors.
- On Monday Sussex was shrouded in mist in the morning. Although the sun broke through later, the conditions enabled some atmospheric shots to be taken in the morning.
Robert Else's photo below shows No. 80151 as it waits at Horsted Keynes for the arrival of the second up train, slowly being engulfed in steam.
Phil Horscroft's photo shows the same locomotive at Horsted House Bridge.
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