BLUEBELL RAILWAY PRESS RELEASES
Updated: 13th March 2023
FLYING SCOTSMAN RETURNS TO THE BLUEBELL RAILWAY!
13th March 2023
Extra dates and more services added for Flying Scotsman’s trip to ‘fly south’ to the Bluebell Railway this August in its centenary year.
Tickets are now on sale for the visit by the world-famous locomotive Flying Scotsman to the Bluebell Railway this summer.
It was originally scheduled to be at the Sussex attraction in August 2022. Now the Bluebell Railway and its caretakers the National Railway Museum can announce the 2023 visit has been extended.
The Flying Scotsman will be running non-stop return services between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead for seven days from 23 – 29 August. All tickets must be pre-booked.
Visitors will also be able to see the locomotive on static display at Sheffield Park from 30 August – 3 September. Tickets for footplate viewings will be available to book online.
Tickets are now on sale at www.bluebell-railway.com/flying-scotsman-2023/
Bluebell Railway chairman Paul Churchman said: “After a lot of work on the part of The Bluebell Railway, and the locomotive’s caretakers, The NRM we are thrilled to confirm the world-famous Flying Scotsman is to visit us once again, notably in its centenary year.
The visit to the Bluebell Railway will be one of the chances to see the famous engine during its centenary year. We look forward to seeing you later in the year, if not before.”
Flying Scotsman last visited the Bluebell Railway in 2017. The visit was a huge success, with people travelling from far and wide to glimpse the famous loco on Bluebell rails. As you would expect we have some exciting plans for this year’s visit, Flying Scotsman will be running on regular services and special dining trains. We will be looking for extra volunteers across the railway in pretty much nearly all roles and departments to cover the increase in visitor numbers expected.
Flying Scotsman was the first locomotive of the newly formed London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and entered service in February 1923. The locomotive (previously numbered 1472) was renumbered 4472 in 1924 and given the name ‘Flying Scotsman’ after the daily 10.00 London to Edinburgh rail service.
It was numbered No. 60103 after British Railways was formed and rail travel was nationalised in 1948. The locomotive would be withdrawn from BR service in 1963, before being saved by Alan Pegler and embarking on its new life in preservation.
The locomotive underwent an overhaul in April 2022, prior to the locomotive’s centenary celebrations in 2023. As part of the overhaul, Riley & Son (E) Ltd restored the locomotive to the same standard as the last overhaul in 2016, with work focusing on the boiler and the required retube and recertification. There will not be any changes to the locomotive’s livery, numbering, or chimney configuration. The visit to the Bluebell Railway will be one of the limited chances to see the famous engine during its centenary year.
The Flying Scotsman will be running non-stop return services between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead for seven days from 23 – 29 August. All seats must be pre-booked in advance.
Visitors will also be able to see the locomotive on static display at Sheffield Park from 30 August – 3 September. Tickets for footplate viewings will be available to book online.
Tickets are on sale now: www.bluebell-railway.com/flying-scotsman-2023/
This rare visit is an opportunity for all staff to enjoy and make this the stand-out event of 2023 for our visitors at The Bluebell Railway.
As ever for more information, please visit www.bluebell-railway.com, our social media channels or sign up for our newsletter here.
Paul Churchman – Chairman
For more details, please contact PR@bluebell-railway.com
New Infrastructure Director for The Bluebell Railway
1st March 2023
The board of the Bluebell Railway has co-opted Tony Astor to be Infrastructure Director.
Tony replaces Barry Luck who has stood down after three years in the role. Barry had indicated when he took on the Infrastructure Director’s position in 2020 that he wished to serve for no more than three years.
Tony spent nearly 40 years in the airport business with almost 20 years in BAA culminating at senior management level at Heathrow. He had many varied roles but for much of my time in BAA he concentrated on jet fuel infrastructure projects which included major contract negotiations and the development of new jet fuel related facilities at Heathrow Terminal 5.
In 2008 he set up his own airport consultancy business and worked at a number of high-profile airports in the Middle East, focusing on the development of jet fuel infrastructure.
Following partial retirement in 2019, he became a volunteer project manager at the Bluebell Railway, initially in the Carriage & Wagon department before moving to Infrastructure to oversee the power upgrade project at Horsted Keynes station.
Tony said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to join the board of the Bluebell Railway. Many businesses are facing unprecedented challenges at the moment, and I hope to be able to bring my business experience in project management and infrastructure development to ensure the Railway’s projects are delivered in the most cost effective and timely manner.
“Knowing that the volunteers are the backbone of the Railway, I am looking forward to helping them achieve great results as we deliver the future works programme.”
Bluebell Railway plc chairman Paul Churchman said: “We welcome Tony Astor to the board and know he will work tirelessly to build on the great work of Barry Luck in delivering a range of complex infrastructure projects across the Railway. We thank Barry for his service since 2020 and wish him well as he continues with his various volunteer roles at the Bluebell Railway.”
Tony took up his post on 1 March.
'THE SOUTHERN SIX'- ALLIANCE OF SOUTHERN PRESERVED RAILWAYS
28th February 2023
Yesterday, we saw a very special meeting at The Bluebell Railway between various leading members from six preserved railways based in the South of England.
“The Southern Six” are promoting cooperation and solidarity between their different railways to become a strong and united group. At a time of economic change and ever-increasing demands on the heritage industry, the idea of this alliance is to generate solutions and put those ideas into action. As a collective, the alliance hopes to adopt a uniform approach where, as a group, it can produce the best possible results for all parties concerned.
The first meeting was very positive and produced much thought and discussion on how to move forward; with ideas shared and the intention formed to create strategies to cope with various areas of need for this year and beyond for each railway within the alliance.
The group will meet every two months. This is a positive step forward in utilising the skills, communication, and resources of all the railways involved. It will provide a strong and much-needed platform for discussion and support whilst meeting the current demands that our industry faces.
The group will consist of:
The Bluebell Railway, The Kent & East Sussex Railway, The Mid Hants Railway, The Spa Valley Railway, The Isle of Wight Steam Railway & The Swanage Railway
Photographed here at Sheffield Park after the first meeting (L to R)
Robert Patterson (Swanage Railway) Jonnie Pay (Spa Valley Railway) Steve Backhouse (Isle of Wight Steam Railway) Lisa Boyle (Bluebell Railway) Chris Knibbs (Bluebell Railway) Robin Coombes (Kent & East Sussex Railway)
Amanda Squires (The Mid Hants Railway) was, unfortunately, unable to attend the first meeting due to work commitments.
The Bluebell Railway Acquires Heritage Southern Region DEMU
16th January 2023
The Bluebell Railway is pleased to announce the purchase of former Southern Region DEMU No. 1305, which will become part of the Bluebell Railway fleet. No. 1305 has been owned and cared for by the Coulsdon Old Vehicle & Engineering Society, whose dedicated team have themselves worked hard to restore this unit to working order before being purchased by The Bluebell Railway. The unit will move to the railway in due course.
This class of unit, introduced in 1962 after the success of the Hastings and Hampshire units, was built for use on the Southern Region, specifically for use along the Oxted Line to East Grinstead and Tunbridge Wells West. Built as No. 1305, its allocation in BR days was at St Leonards and Eastleigh, ending its days at Selhurst, before being passed into preservation. Amongst its many passenger duties, this class of DEMU used to regularly work out of London Bridge or London Victoria to East Grinstead passenger services and may well have ventured on to Imberhorne Viaduct prior to Bluebell ownership.
Paul Russell, Locomotive Engineering Director
“I am pleased that we have been able to acquire this DEMU which completes another part of the jigsaw that will allow us to depict the Southern Region scene in the sixties and seventies and these units were synonymous with commuter services to and from East Grinstead. It will form a useful and economic means of bringing passengers to our railway earlier than is currently possible and allowing them to spend a full day exploring the line and experiencing the sight and sound of steam and for some the nostalgia of the daily commute.”
DEMU No. 1305 is unique in being the very first and currently only Bluebell-owned passenger hauling diesel on The Bluebell Railway, with all other diesel locomotives based on the railway being privately owned. 1305 will be restored and maintained by the 1305 Thumper Group (running in a similar structure to that of the very successful Bluebell Railway Goods Division) saving time and personnel being taken away from the Bluebell Railway Carriage & Wagon department.
A date for the unit’s arrival at The Bluebell Railway is still being finalised with all parties concerned. A donations page is being created by The Bluebell Railway Trust and will be made available soon for those interested in donating to the group.
To find out more about 1305 and if you wish to get involved, contact Ben Wetherall at firstname.lastname@example.org or please visit the 1305 Oxted Thumper Gang Facebook Page
For further information, please contact The Bluebell Railway PR team at email@example.com or contact us on 01825 720800.
Bluebell Railway Gives Away Compartments On Its Spectacular SteamLights Service To Special Guests.
17th November 2022
As we approach the season of goodwill, the Bluebell Railway has marked the occasion by giving away selected compartments on the very special SteamLights service which began running on Friday 11th November 2022 and will run through to Sunday 8th January 2023.
SteamLights is a very special after dark experience at the famous heritage railway in Sussex. After an atmospheric lighting-up ceremony, passengers get on board the extraordinary steam train of lights which then sparkles its way through the Sussex countryside passing beautiful line side displays full of colour and light.
“We were pleased to be in a position to offer some space on Sunday 13th of November and Friday 18th of November to individuals and families who might not be in a position to otherwise enjoy our fabulous SteamLights train.
Working with West Sussex County Council representatives, Ukrainian refugee hosts from local villages and a wonderful charity called Reaching Families which empowers families of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, we have filled three trains. To be able to see the pleasure and excitement of those children and adults and to give them such a wonderful start to the festive period has been an absolute honour”.
Lisa Boyle, Chief Operating Officer , The Bluebell Railway
The railway has given away 77 compartments seating either 6 or 8 people, tables for 4 people and various spaces in the wheelchair accessible carriage on three specific services with a value well in excess of £12,000.
During such difficult times with rising costs affecting all businesses and individuals, the railway is setting an example of how a local business can make the most of opportunities to support the Sussex community.
Adult and child residents of local West Sussex residential homes and approximately 70 Ukrainian refugees currently residing in the villages of Horsted Keynes, Highbrook, Newick and Chailey were among the invited guests. All free spaces were quickly booked up, and, unsurprisingly, demand outstripped supply.
“SteamLights is a beautiful. magical experience lighting up the night sky, lifting spirits and brightening hearts. We are extremely grateful to the Bluebell Railway for inviting many local Ukrainian families who are sheltering from the extreme horrors of war to enjoy this amazing event. The evening was very special for them and they loved every minute. Thank you so much for your kindness and hospitality.”
Kay Yeowart MBE, Host
For the general public, discover the magic for yourself. There are still some spaces left to book on the SteamLights service which begins and ends at Sheffield Park Station located between Haywards Heath and Uckfield. Find out more about SteamLights and how to book, click here.
BLUEBELL RAILWAY APPOINTS FIRST DIRECTOR OF PEOPLE SERVICES
1st November 2022
The Bluebell Railway has appointed Chris Barber as its first Director of People Services.
Chris comes from a railway family – his grandfather was a signalman on the East Coast Main Line and his father worked on the engineering side of signalling. He has a background in Human Resources and is currently Head of Business Change for Thales UK.
He brings experience at Director level of transactional HR including recruitment and selection, policy, discipline and grievance procedures. He has applied HR skills including change management, organisational design and development, learning and development, succession planning and talent management.
He has been HR director, director of music and latterly chairman of the Musical Museum at Brentford in London. Chris has a passion for the heritage movement generally and steam in particular – for many years he was involved in the preservation and running of the Burrell Scenic Steam Road Loco “Dragon”.
Chris said: “Just like any organisation, the people at the Bluebell Railway are vital to its future success. We have a dedicated team of paid staff and volunteers who make the Railway such a great place for people to work at and visit.
“I want to build on this by looking at the life cycle for paid staff and volunteers to ensure this is fully aligned to the strategic business and preservation aims of the Railway. I look forward to liaising with – and listening to – people in all parts of the organisation to consider improvements to make the Railway an even better place to work and visit”
Bluebell Railway plc chairman Geoff Mee said: “Chris Barber’s appointment reflects the importance we place as a business on our people. The Bluebell Railway relies on the dedication of its paid staff and volunteers to provide our passengers with a first-rate experience. This new addition to the board indicates our recognition of the work of all our people. I am sure Chris’s experience will help us all in our efforts to continue to be the premier heritage railway in the UK.”
BLUEBELL RAILWAY APPOINTS NEW FINANCE DIRECTOR
1st November 2022
The Bluebell Railway has appointed Steve Trigg as its new finance director.
Steve has been a finance director for various companies covering different sectors including housebuilding, recruitment, oil and gas, and most recently mergers and acquisitions. He is now semi-retired.
He grew up around railways as his father was a rail enthusiast and he spent many hours at GWR’s Didcot centre.
Steve said: “The Bluebell Railway, like all other businesses, is in a difficult financial position because of the general economic situation. I look forward to meeting the staff and volunteers to see how we can best work together to tackle the economic headwinds and put the Railway on a firmer financial footing.”
Steve replaces David Burch who has stood down from the board because of work commitments.
Bluebell Railway plc chairman Geoff Mee said: “We thank David for steering us through the difficult phase of the pandemic and ensuring our survival. He provided us with a path towards better times. We know Steve will build on his work and see us through to a more prosperous railway even though we face more economic challenges in the short-term.”
The appointment was confirmed at the Bluebell Railway’s board meeting on 27 October.
Bluebell Railway Welcomes Council Funding Over East Grinstead Housing Access
3rd October 2022
The Bluebell Railway has welcomed a council payment for allowing access to the new housing development at East Grinstead.
Mid Sussex District Council has agreed a one-off payment of £692,500 to the Railway that will enable the creation of a new Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) at Hill Place Farm in East Grinstead.
Councillor Robert Salisbury, MSDC Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “Natural England has advised the council that one of the best ways to protect Ashdown Forest from increasing visitor numbers is to provide alternative areas for people to visit. That’s why, whenever developers want to build new homes within 7km of Ashdown Forest, they are required to provide Suitable Alternative Natural Green space or funding towards the improvement of an existing one. “The new SANG at Hill Place Farm is a wonderful place for local people to relax, exercise and enjoy the natural surroundings. It’s fantastic for people to have such beautiful green spaces right on our doorstep, and it will only get better over the years as more improvements are made. “We’re grateful to the Bluebell Railway for supporting public access throughout the SANG site and I hope this funding helps the railway in its efforts to switch to more sustainable energy sources. The Bluebell Railway is one of the foremost tourist attractions in our District and plays a vital role in preserving our heritage. “The council has provided funding to the Bluebell Railway in advance, so they aren’t required to wait for developer funding to come through and are able to progress immediately with their plans to improve the railway. The council will then retain the financial contributions made by developers until the advance has been repaid.” Geoff Mee, chairman of Bluebell Railway plc, said: “We have always prided ourselves on looking after the environment along the line in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We will use this money to improve our environmental credentials by placing solar panels on top of some of our buildings in order to reduce our rapidly increasing business energy costs.”
In Mid Sussex, developers seeking to build new homes within 7km of Ashdown Forest must pay towards the creation and maintenance of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces. Those developer payments will then gradually repay the council’s investment in the Hill Place Farm SANG. The policy, which is supported by Natural England, helps residents to access green spaces that are close to their homes and protects Ashdown Forest from excessive visitor numbers, which could affect the protected bird species that nest in the forest. The new SANG, which is just off Turners Hill Road in East Grinstead, has been provided by
Developers Taylor Wimpey and Vistry as part of plans for 200 new homes at Hill Place Farm. The SANG is divided into two parts, with the Bluebell Railway line running through the middle of the site. Mid Sussex District Council is providing the Bluebell Railway with a funding advance of £692,500 to provide safe access to the SANG and to support the development of the line. Visitors will be able to access all areas of the SANG by using a tunnel underneath the Bluebell Railway to cross the line. The Hill Place Farm SANG features grassland habitats, natural woodlands, and benefits from stunning views of the historic Imberhorne Lane viaduct. The SANG has been enhanced by a programme of planting that, will complement the existing natural environment as it matures and a new walking route around the edge of the site makes it easier for people of all abilities to enjoy the space.