BRANCH LINE GALA WEEKEND

Get ready for the return of one of our most popular events of the year at The Bluebell Railway, welcoming back for 2024 our Branch Line Gala Weekend! This event is a must for all fans of branch line railways, providing a chance to see unique, smaller locomotives in live action between May 10th and 12th 2024.

 

Not just that, we’ll be hosting a range of distinctive visiting guest engines for the event, along with an assortment of special trains for your enjoyment. What’s more, you’ll appreciate an extensive timetable throughout the three-day gala, featuring exciting double header trains and freight trains that offer a glimpse into the transport history of the railways.

 

Don’t miss out on this wonderful celebration of everything associated with branch lines, coming in May 2024 at The Bluebell Railway!


BRANCH LINE GALA 2024  ADMISSION PRICES


ADVANCE ADMISSION AND ON THE DAY PRICES ARE NOW AVAILABLE AND CAN BE FOUND HERE


TO PURCHASE YOUR ADVANCE TICKETS FOR THE BRANCH LINE GALA WEEKEND, PLEASE CLICK ON THE BUTTON BELOW.


VISITING LOCOMOTIVES


GWR Manor No.7812 'Erlestoke Manor'

With Thanks From The Erlestoke Manor Fund & The Severn Valley Railway

The Bluebell Railway is delighted to welcome 7812 Erlestoke Manor as the first guest visitor to the 2024 branch line gala weekend. This extremely popular and versatile locomotive is one of several Great Western Manor class locomotives to survive into preservation. Entering service in January 1939, this locomotive would be used on a variety of passenger and freight workings across the Great Western network. It was not uncommon, however, to see Manors run on Southern Region metals, usually seen on inter-regional workings between Reading, Redhill and Tonbridge, which makes 7812 an ideal candidate for a gala visitor to The Bluebell Railway. In the late 1960s, 7812 was moved to the Cambrian coast area where it would end its working life under British Railways, being withdrawn from Shrewsbury shed on the 6th of November 1965.

7812 was then moved to the infamous Barry scrap yard in South Wales, where in 1974 the locomotive was purchased by The Erlestoke Manor Fund and consequently moved to its current home, the Severn Valley Railway. The restoration was quick and by 1979 the locomotive returned to working order. From this point, the locomotive would serve the Severn Valley Railway well during its running, in 2016 7812 achieved 100,000 miles in preservation. Withdrawn from traffic in 2017 the locomotive returned to working order in early 2023. Having spent time on loan at the West Somerset railway during the summer season, 7812 returned to the Severn Valley railway for their Christmas specials.

We are extremely grateful to welcome this locomotive to this year’s branch line gala. We must thank the Severn Valley Railway and The Erlestoke Manor Fund for allowing this locomotive to take part and travel to the Bluebell Railway for this weekend’s gala.

GWR Collett Pannier No 1369

With Thanks From The SDR Association & The South Devon Railway

Joining 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’ is Great Western Collett Pannier Tank No.1369. Built in 1934, this unique and diminutive Tank Engine is an ideal choice to take part in this year’s branch line gala. With its short wheelbase, this locomotive was ideal for working the branch lines of Devon and Cornwall and was also ideal for working trains on the Weymouth Quay tramway system. When displaced by diesels in 1961, a handful of the locomotive’s class was reallocated to Wadebridge shed to work the Wenford China clay branch in Cornwall. 1369 was the last of the class to be withdrawn in November 1964. It would become the sole survivor of the class.

When the locomotive was withdrawn from BR service in 1964, the locomotive was purchased by the South Devon Railway and moved to Buckfastleigh in 1965. Despite the initial steaming of the locomotive, it would take a long time for 1369 to be steamed again on the South Devon Railway. This would be achieved in 1996, with the engine eventually being taken out of service for overhaul in May 2017. The locomotive would return to traffic in 2019, which eventually would see the locomotive be loaned out to the Gwili railway in Wales between February 2022 and January 2023.

We are very grateful to the South Devon Railway and the South Devon Railway Association for allowing 1369 to join us at The Bluebell Railway for the 2024 branch line gala weekend.

GWR Kerr Stuart Pannier No 7714

With Thanks From The SVR Pannier Fund & The Severn Valley Railway

Our third visitor to the 2024 branch line gala weekend is yet another locomotive from the Severn Valley Railway. Pannier tank number 7714 was built in 1930 by Kerr Stuart at Stoke-on-Trent. Being based around the Birkenhead area when the railways were nationalised in 1948 it would remain in this part of the western region and so December 1958 when the locomotive was transferred to Wales to Wrexham where would then remain until being withdrawn from service from BR in January 1959.

 

7714 would then transfer over to the industrial sector where the locomotive was sold to the National Coal Board and used at the Penallta Colliery near Rhymney in South Wales. Unfortunately, due to the tight curves of the track the locomotive proved unsuitable and mostly acted as a spare engine during its spell with the NCB. When the loco was sold to the NCB, 7714 had completed a total of 520,259 miles in service with the Great Western Railway and British Railways respectively.

 

The locomotive would pass into preservation in 1973 and was bought by the Severn Valley Railway. 7714 would make its debut in preservation in 1992 after a long and extensive overhaul. After withdrawal from service in 2009, 7714 would undertake a new overhaul and in 2016 the locomotive would return once again to preserved line services on the Severn Valley Railway.

 

We must thank the SVR Pannier Tank Fund and the Severn Valley Railway for allowing 7714 to join 7812 and 1369 for a western-flavoured theme for this year’s branch line gala weekend at The Bluebell Railway.


HOME FLEET LOCOMOTIVES


The current list shown is from the 2023 gala. Home locomotive allocations for the 2024 gala will be made available when the gala timetable is published. (All locomotives are subject to locomotive availability).


BR STANDARD 4MT TANK ENGINE NO 80151

The 4MT tank locomotives were closely linked to the last years of the Bluebell line, and although the last Brighton-built locomotive, 80154, escaped preservation, the Bluebell now plays host to three other members of the class, all one-time residents of Barry scrapyard. 80151 arrived from another preservation site in 1998 and returned to steam after the completion of its overhaul in the Bluebell’s workshops in October 2001. Additional boiler work during early 2011 saw its operational period extended to May 2012.

Its latest overhaul, which cost over half a million pounds saw, along with routine heavy maintenance and boiler work undertaken in-house, new tyres fitted to the driving wheels.


STROUDLEY A1 TERRIER NO. 72 “FENCHURCH”

A very popular locomotive which has recently returned to service during the February half term in 2023, Fenchurch stars in its first gala since overhaul.

Stroudley’s famous Terriers survived for decades after more modern designs had been scrapped, working on lightly laid Branch lines. ‘Fenchurch’ was sold to the Newhaven Harbour Company, being light enough to cross a bridge within the docks. It came back into Southern Railway ownership, and continued to work at Newhaven for many years. It came to the Bluebell in 1964, having been for a number of years a celebrity as the oldest locomotive working on British Railways.

In early December 2019 ‘Fenchurch’ entered the Locomotive works, 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. Completed in November 2022, an intensive period of running in and testing followed. It is now painted in its original Stroudley Golden Ochre livery.


SECR STIRLING 0-6-0 O1 No.65

Built at Ashford as an “O” class locomotive, it received a rebuild to class “O1” in 1908, and ran on until finally withdrawn in 1961. In 1963 it was obtained by the late Mr Lewis-Evans and kept at Ashford Steam Centre until its closure. Thereafter its location was something of a mystery until it was brought to the Bluebell Railway for overhaul, and was returned to steam for the centenary of the amalgamation of the SER and the LCDR in August 1999.

0-6-0s were the commonest locomotives in this country, and the Bluebell now hosts a sequence of three unique survivors of this type, demonstrating their development through the first half of the 20th century, from the O1 through the SECR C-class to Maunsell’s Q-class built by the Southern Railway.

The Bluebell’s spare O1/H boiler was overhauled at The Flour Mill workshop, and has now been fitted in place of its previous boiler during the recent overhaul, which took place at Sheffield Park. This engine has put in sterling work since its return in 2017 and is a welcomed addition to the gala weekend.


CUSTOMER INFORMATION

Discounts:

  • Proof of discount eligibility will be required to be shown on the day of travel.
  • Heritage Railway reciprocal discounts are available for this event – please select BRPS Member rate tickets
  • We regret TOC discounts are not applicable to this event

Tickets:

  • Children under 3yrs (and babies) travel for free and don’t need a ticket
  • Tickets are valid for the date specified on the ticket only
  • Advance tickets are valid for 3rd class travel only – first class upgrades are available on the day from the station booking office (subject to availability)
  • For any reasons for changing any Bluebell booking, you will be required to pay a £10.00 surcharge if you wish to change/amend your booking.

Food and drink:

  • Bessemer Arms and platform kiosk at Sheffield Park Station
  • George V Buffet at Horsted Keynes Station
  • Wellhouse at Kinsgcote Station
  • Grinsteade Buffet at East Grinstead Station

Facilities:

  • There are toilets at each of our stations.
  • There are toilets on some of our trains – please ask station staff for advice on which trains these are available.
  • Baby changing facilities are available at each of our stations, but not on our trains

Parking:

  • Sheffield Park Station – free parking at the station
  • Horsted Keynes Station – free parking at the station
  • Kingscote – NO parking is available at this station
  • East Grinstead – free blue badge parking (5 spaces). Public parking in East Grinstead

Accessibility:

  • We are pleased to offer a specially adapted area for wheelchair users on some services during this event. Please call our Customer Service Team on 01825 720800 for further information.
  • If you or a member of your party have mobility issues and would like to travel during this event, please call our Customer Service Team on 01825 720800 who will be happy to discuss your requirements with you
  • Accessible toilets are available at each station, but we regret we have no “Changing Places” toilets, or accessible toilets on our trains

Dogs:

  • We are pleased to welcome dogs to this event (no ticket required) – please keep them on a lead and don’t allow them on the seats

Prams/Pushchairs/Buggies:

  • Prams/pushchairs/buggies are welcome during this event.
  • Foldable/collapsible prams/pushchairs/buggies can be taken into the carriages and stowed by your seat
  • Non folding/collapsible prams/pushchairs/buggies can be left in the care of the station staff at the departure station

Photos kindly supplied by Dave Bowles, James Corben, James Cummins, Mike Huckfield and Mick Medley.