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21 January: Preparations north of Three Arch Bridge - Jon Goff - 16 January 2020
  • News Update 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.

    Three Arch relay - Week 2 - Report 17 January 2020 (PDF)

    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.

80151 departs from Kingscote - Steve Lee - 1 January 2020 178 on Footplate Taster - Brian Lacey - 18 January 2020

20 January:
178 at Sheffield Park - Brian Lacey - 18 January 2020 178 and fire devil at Sheffield Park - Brian Lacey - 18 January 2020
  • 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.

  • News Update The latest edition of our e-Newsletter was published yesterday.
    HSC rear wall from inside the carriage shed - Barry Luck - 17 January 2020
  • News Update 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.

  • News Update 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.

80151 pulls into platforms 4/5 at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 31 December 2019 Q-class arrives at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 31 December 2019

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16 January: Foggy departure from Sheffield Park - Phil Horscroft - 30 December 2019
  • 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 being unloaded at Sheffield Park - David Jones - 14 January 2020 Interior of Car 36 as delivered - David Jones - 14 January 2020
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.

13 January: Work in the cutting at full swing - Jon Goff - 10 January 2020
  • News Update 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.

178 in steam at Sheffield Park - John Sandys - 12 January 2020 178 in steam at Sheffield Park - John Sandys - 12 January 2020

11 January: Q-class emerges from the tunnel - Brian Lacey - 31 December 2019
  • 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.

C-class in the Paint Shop - Richard Salmon - 11 January 2020 New drawhooks for the GN Saloon - Richard Salmon - 11 January 2020

10 January: Blackmoor Vale back in the loco shed - John Sandys - 5 January 2020
  • John Sandys' photo from 5 January shows Blackmoor Vale back in the loco shed at Sheffield Park.

  • Tickets are now on sale for our 3-5 April Branch Line Weekend - Book online for big discounts on advance purchases. Two-day and three-day tickets are also available, again giving a good discount.

  • Another archive photo on the Internet, this time a colour photo from 1967 showing our B4 'Normandy' in industrial service at Southampton, then named 'Corral Queen'.

  • News Update Infrastructure News update with thanks to Bruce Healey, with photos, including the first below, showing the first six track panels relaid during the first week of the winter maintenance period. The remaining section of track to be renewed, leading up to Three Arch Bridge, is in a cutting rather than on an embankment, which therefore requires much more work, including provision of greatly improved drainage.

    The update also covers work on two areas of OP4 (Operation Undercover Phase 4) at Horsted Keynes, and John Sandys' photos from yesterday include this one below showing progress with the ground floor windows and doors of the Heritage Skills Centre.

First six panels - Bruce Healey - 8 January 2020 OP4 Heritage Skills Centre - John Sandys - 9 January 2020

6 January: 178 at Sheffield Park on Footplate Taster duties - John Sandys - 5 January 2020
  • 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.

    TVR No.85 at Keighley - 6 August 2017 - Phil 62005 - CC BY-SA 4.0

  • 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.

Token exchange - Brian Lacey - 28 December 2019 80151 at West Hoathly - Brian Lacey - 28 December 2019

4 January: Q-class and 80151 at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 28 December 2019
  • 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.

Q-class at Horsted House Bridge - Phil Horscroft - 30 December 2019 80151 in the cutting south of Three Arch Bridge - Steve Lee - 1 January 2020

1 January 2020: Happy New Year!

Celebrating 60 years


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.

Q-class northbound at Milepost 10 - Steve Lee - 1 January 2020

  • 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.

80151 waits at Horsted Keynes - Robert Else - 30 December 2019 80151 at Horsted House Bridge - Phil Horscroft - 30 December 2019

31 December 2019:
80151 at Town House Bridge - Peter Edwards - 29 December 2019
  • Peter Edwards' photo shows Standard 4 Tank No.80151 passing the former Town House Bridge with the 11.05am train from Horsted Keynes on Sunday.

  • Since Christmas we have been running a two-train service providing 5 round trips each day, using 7 Southern Railway (Maunsell and Bulleid) and 5 BR Mk.1 carriages. These services continue today and tomorrow. We are then next running services for Half Term, 15-23 February, to our improved 2-train Service 2 timetable. Between January 2 and mid-February our permanent way team are renewing a quarter of a mile of track just south of Horsted Keynes, which includes digging out the entire formation and laying new drainage, in addition to ballast, sleepers and rail, as part of our ongoing decade-long major track-renewal programme.

  • We are pleased to launch our new Filming at the Bluebell Railway website, aimed specifically at film producers and location scouts, which has been created by Mike Hopps.

  • Brian Lacey's photos below from Saturday show the SR Maunsell Q-class at West Hoathly with SR carriages, as it emerges from the tunnel with the 11.02 northbound service from Horsted Keynes, and secondly No.80151 runs into platforms 4 & 5 at Horsted Keynes with the 1pm service from East Grinstead.

Q-class at West Hoathly with SR carriages - Brian Lacey - 28 December 2019 80151 arrives at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 28 December 2019

24 December:
'Camelot' at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 14 December 2019
  • Brian Lacey's photo shows 'Camelot' running round the Santa Special train which it had brought down from East Grinstead, at Horsted Keynes on 14 December.

  • Our Santa Specials have finished for another year! Thank you to all our visitors who came and enjoyed our various Christmas services. For this year's Santa Specials we:
    • Ran 60 Santa Special trains
    • Welcomed 18,500 passengers
    • Handed out 11,700 mince pies
    • Wrapped and gifted 5,300 presents
    • We have also cooked around 2,000 Christmas dinners for our Christmas dining services!
    We hope everyone had a fantastic time.
    Please note we are also running trains between Christmas and New Year.
    Merry Christmas!

  • Jonathan Barnes' video of the Santa Specials from a couple of weeks ago.

  • Four photos of our S15 (SR 847, BR 30847) from the 1960s when matched with a 6-wheel tender for use on the Central Section of Southern Region: at Redhill on 2 June 1962, a second photo and a third, plus this one at Barry Scrapyard

  • David Burch has been appointed Finance Director.

  • The two photos below show recent progress on the overhaul of Pullman Car 54 at Horsted Keynes, with the structural element of the rebuild of the body essentially now complete, and the wiring progressing in advance of the internal ceilings going up. The photos, taken on 14 December, show the exterior of the southern saloon and brake van end, and the inner ceiling of the northern saloon, which is formed of flexible ply on a timber sub-structure.

West side, south end of Car 54 - Richard Salmon - 14 December 2019 Ceiling in northern saloon of Car 54 - Richard Salmon - 14 December 2019

23 December:
3069 laid for Golden Arrow service - Richard Salmon - 18 December 2019

21 December:
Q and 'Camelot' at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 14 December 2019
  • Brian Lacey's photo taken a week ago shows 'Camelot' ready to depart for East Grinstead, whilst the Q-class has just drawn alongside with its own Santa Special from Sheffield Park.

  • Important Update: In spite of the flooding in Sussex yesterday, we are still running all our Santa Services, but with some changes to two of the six services each day over the coming four days - details here.

  • The web page for the North London Tank has been updated and much improved with some additional photos.

  • The web page for LBSCR First-class carriage 7598 has been updated.

  • In early December 2019 over a period of about a week LBSCR Stroudley Terrier No.672 'Fenchurch' entered the Locomotive Works at Sheffield Park, was dismantled to remove the boiler for assessment, and the remainder of the locomotive reassembled for a return to public display in the locomotive shed (as seen in Richard Salmon's photo below, taken on Wednesday). The aim is to have it running for its 150th anniversary in 2022.

  • A pair of Mk3 sleeping coaches, from the Caledonian Sleeper, have arrived to replace the two life-expired pre-BR sleeping coaches at Sheffield Park. 10690 and 10693 were delivered to us from Wembley Inter City Depot on Thursday, "top-n-tailed" by 66725 'Sunderland' and 66701. Dave Wilson's photo below shows 66701 backing the pair into the sidings at Horsted Keynes. Another of Dave's photos shows the ensemble passing through West Hoathly. The class 66s carry the evidence of their main work at this time of year, on leaf-busting duties.

'Fenchurch' minus its boiler - Richard Salmon - 18 December 2019 The two Mk3 SLEPs are shunted at Horsted Keynes - Dave Wilson - 19 December 2019

20 December:
Q-class at Horsted Keynes - Alan Jenkins - 14 December 2019
  • Alan Jenkins' photo from last Saturday shows the Maunsell Q-class sitting at Horsted Keynes waiting to return its train of Santa Special passengers to Sheffield Park.

  • Two recent articles published in our e-Newsletter are Ian White's The Brighton Bogie First: "Is it a Stroudley?" and Richard Salmon's Hightlights of 2019 around the Carriage & Wagon Department.

    The full 15 December edition of the e-Newsletter is available here and includes much more information, including a review of the year across the railway from interim Chairman, Chris Hunford, the appointment of David Burch as our new Finance Director, plans and preparations for the next two major civil engineering projects, and much more.

  • Neil Munro-Thomson provides a series of pictures taken over the past couple of weekends at Horsted Keynes in the winter sunshine whilst on his Santa Special duties, which give a flavour of the festivities without being intrusive.

  • Two of Brian Lacey's photos below from last Saturday at Horsted Keynes show Scaynes Hill Community Choir, which were on hand during the afternoon, entertaining passengers with Christmas songs and carols, and 80151 being admired by the visitors.

Scaynes Hill Community Choir at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 14 December 2019 80151 at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 14 December 2019

10 December:
80151 and the Golden Arrow at Horsted Keynes - Paul Furlong - 7 December 2019
  • We are now well into the Santa Special season, with the Q-class, 'Camelot' and 80151 hauling the three trains. On Saturday evening, 80151 was on the Golden Arrow dining train, and is seen here pausing in platform 2 at Horsted Keynes whilst the annual carol service was taking place on platforms 4 and 5 (photograph by Paul Furlong).

  • The first carriage behind 80151 in Paul's photo is the freshly overhauled 1950s "Ocean Liner Express" Open First No.3069, which has had an illustrious past, having been overhauled for use as a standby spare for the VSOE's Pullman train, and subsequently used on the reincarnated Ocean Liner Express run by VSOE for Cunard in the 1990s, then on the "Regency Rail" excursion train (the predecessor of the "Northern Belle"), and Riviera Train's "Royal Scot" service. It is now marketed as 'Sapphire' on the Bluebell, and the carriage's full history is included on the new web page for the carriage.

    Its presence on the Bluebell enables us to save the huge amount of shunting which has hitherto been required when 3064 ('Ashdown') was shunted between our Golden Arrow and Wealden Rambler sets. The seating capacity it provides on the Golden Arrow is required until such time as we can increase the Golden Arrow to four Pullmans, which is in progress, with Car No.54 (which will have a brake van and wheelchair access) currently being overhauled at Horsted Keynes, and Car No.36, which it is planned will shortly arrive on the Bluebell following its purchase by one of our members. The LMS six-wheeled brake will continue in the train (for which it provides additional catering facilities) until such time as we have a second operational Pullman kitchen car.

  • It is with sadness that we have to report the death on 3 December of volunteer and long-serving member of the Bluebell, and many of its supporting societies, of Ray Tanner. The funeral arrangements are available via the BRPS Members' information page.

  • John Sandys' photos from last Thursday.

  • The photos below, by Steve Lee, show two from the Santa Specials run on Saturday 7th December 2019. BR Standard 4 tank No.80151 drifts downhill north of Lindfield Wood with the 11.45 train (Set X), returning to Sheffield Park. Then the Southern Railway Q-class No.30541 brings Set Z up to Horsted Keynes, with plenty of steam to spare trying not to get ahead of time.

80151 approaching Lindfield Wood - Steve Lee - 7 December 2019 Q-class with Santa Special - Steve Lee - 7 December 2019

2 December:
Empty caoching stock behind 'Camelot' at Waterworks - Peter Edwards - 30 November 2019
  • Peter Edwards' photo shows the first train of the 2019 "Santa" season, on Saturday, in this case comprised of the empty coaching stock which will form the first Santa departure southwards from East Grinstead, behind No.73082 'Camelot' passing Waterworks. 80151 is attached to the rear, and will be dropped off at Horsted Keynes to collect the carriages for the third of the three trains running each day of our Santa season. Saturday will prove to be the quietest day of the entire season, with all other dates already at least 90% sold, but tickets do still remain available on some Santa Specials over the next few weeks.

  • Listen again to Paul Bromley, our new Communications Director, interviewed on 107 Meridian FM on 28 November.

  • Photos from John Sandys taken on Saturday, the first day of the Santa Specials, and from last Thursday showing preparations for them, at Sheffield Park, Horsted Keynes, and East Grinstead.

  • Join us for our annual Christmas Carol Service at Horsted Keynes Station on Saturday 7 December. Did you know that Horsted Keynes Station was used as the station in the TV series Downton Abbey?
    The station will be open from 6:15pm for the carol service serving mulled wine, hot drinks and a variety of Christmas snacks. Bluebell Band will be performing a variety of traditional Christmas carols during the evening. There will also be an engine in attendance, traditional lighting of the candles, and a chance to meet the Railway's new Chaplain. Entry to the platform and carol service is FREE.

  • Chris Eden-Green presents one of his provocative "Gauge the Issue" videos on the subject of The Conditions Of Carriage(s) discussing the issue of carriage preservation on our heritage lines.

  • During November 2019 there were 41,443 hits on this page, from 22,501 unique visitors.

  • Brian Lacey's two photos below show the Q-class running around after arriving at Horsted Keynes with the first Santa Train on Saturday, and 80151 whistling and about to set off with the return trip the second of the Sheffield Park based Santa Trains.

Q-class at Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 30 November 2019 80151 ready to set off from Horsted Keynes - Brian Lacey - 30 November 2019

Older updates are in the What's New Archive
or the 2018, the 2017, the 2016, the 2015, the 2014, the 2013, the 2012, the 2011, the 2010, the 2009, the 2008, the 2007, the 2006, the 2005, the 2004, the 2003, the 2002, the 2001, the 2000, the 1999 and the 1997-8 "What was new" archive pages.

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