Operation Undercover Phase 4 (OP4)
at Horsted Keynes
Operation Undercover is our big push to get as much as we can of our locomotive and carriage fleets undercover. The Bluebell is renowned for its diverse collection of historic carriages and wagons. However, one of the major issues facing the Railway is the rapid weather-induced deterioration of much of its running fleet, as well as the vehicles stored outside awaiting restoration to their former glory, simply for the want of adequate covered storage accommodation.
As ‘Heritage Railway’ magazine observed in the April 2008 edition: “… For decades the standard of carriage restoration at the Bluebell has been a benchmark for the movement; it seems incredible that the magnificent carriage fleet has by necessity been left to stand out of doors…”
Quite simply, if more of our priceless fleet could be stored under cover, the carriages and wagons would survive much longer between repaints or renovation, thus freeing up capacity to restore more of our rare or unique vehicles to running condition. The new Sheffield Park Carriage Shed (built as Operation Undercover phase 3) greatly assists in this regard, but there is still an urgent need for more weather-proof storage facilities.
With this challenge in mind, back in 2008 a group of volunteers at the C&W Dept. drew up some plans for a new parts storage shed and a large extension to the existing C&W works, with the main objective of providing much-needed additional covered storage for approximately 20 carriages.
Matthew Cousins’ sketch shows the design of the main shed, with 4 tracks in the storage part to the right, and just one road (the maintenance/pit road) in the other part of the extension. The two sections on the left are the existing carriage shed/works.
News from Operation Undercover Phase 4:
- 17 February 2022: Kerbs and drainage prepared for parking area; Trackwork display.
- February 2022: Article about Origins and fundraising for OP4, pages 16-17 of the February 2022 Bluebell Times (pdf download).
- January 2022: The Heritage Skills Centre is signed off for use – and the carriage trimming team are first to move in (article in January 2022 Bluebell Times pages 20-21 – pdf download).
- August 2021: Fitting out the Heritage Skills Centre (article in August 2021 Bluebell Times pages 7-8 – pdf download).
- 4 August 2021: J-road connected and stock enters last part of the storage shed.
- July 2020: Contractors have been working on the exterior cladding at the north end of the shed.
- 7 February 2020: Windows and doors now fitted to both floors of the Heritage Skills Centre, and volunteers preparing to fit out the trim shop.
- 16 January 2020: Tramway inside the maintenance area extended, and ground floor windows and doors fitted to the fully-clad Heritage Skills Centre, which also now has a first floor.
- 18 August 2019: great progress on the walls of the Heritage Skills Centre, and on trackwork in the yard.
- 3 July 2019: The first layer of cladding has now been fixed to the carriage shed, and floor slab poured in the ground floor of the Heritage Skills Centre .
- 25 June 2019: D road reconnected.
- 21 June 2019: OP4 trackwork, with planned design, and progress on the three way point.
- 31 May 2019: The walls are now being prepared for cladding, following the successful fundraising appeal last Autumn.
- 22 May 2019: The contract for the cladding of the shed has been let.
- 4 April 2019: Volunteer bricklayers progress the bottom part of the shed wall.
- 20 March 2019: Before the cladding can be erected, there is a lot of preparatory work required, principally the completion of the dwarf wall all around the shed and Heritage Skills Centre (HSC) and the ground floor of the HSC.
- OP4 May to September 2018 – New trackwork in the yard and construction of the framework of the Heritage Skills Centre.
- The archive of OP4 news from 2011 to May 2018 is available here.
Photos from the main construction phase of the project are also well covered in Dave Clarke’s photo album of the project. Derek Hayward also provides coverage as part of his C&W Department Gallery.
Background information about all the phases of “Operation Undercover”, providing covered accommodation for our rolling stock, is available here.