Blog: What's New at the Bluebell Railway?
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- The latest Chairman’s Update may now be downloaded or viewed as a pdf. [Link now corrected]
- Two superb portraits of Q-class No. 30541, contributed by Jemima White, taken on 27 December 2022, show the Southern Railway locomotive (with cables/lighting rigged for the Steamlights service), on one of its last days in service before withdrawal pending its next overhaul.
- Flying Scotsman at the Bluebell
The world’s most famous steam locomotive will be returning to the Bluebell Railway this summer.
Flying Scotsman, which is celebrating its 100th Birthday this year, will be running non-stop return services between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead for seven days, 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 during its visit, 30 August – 3 September. Tickets for footplate visits are available to book online, along with travel on our other trains on these days.
- Congratulations to our locomotive workshop team, who were awarded a Runners Up certificate of the Coiley Award for Steam Locomotive Engineering at the Heritage Railway Association’s Annual Awards on Saturday, for the overhaul of LB&SCR Terrier No. 72 ‘Fenchurch’, and to the Bluebell Railway Goods Division, for their Runners Up award for SR Bulleid Open Wagon No. 12058 in the Morgan Award for Rolling Stock Preservation. The two youthful Bluebell teams, celebrating together, and their projects, are seen below.
DINOSAURS AT THE BLUEBELL RAILWAY!
We are looking forward to welcoming Bronwen The Brontosaurus, Loki The Velociraptor and more of their dinosaur friends to The Bluebell Railway on April 1st & 2nd. It’s not an April Fools and they are spectacular to see in person! You might even see some baby dinosaurs on the trains so keep a look out at our other stations too throughout that weekend!
The dinosaurs will be at the Railway during our “Kids For A Quid” travel offer over that weekend, so why not mix the power of steam and dinosaurs at The Bluebell Railway and come meet Bronwen, Loki and others in person!
You can book travel tickets in advance, complete with our Kids for a Quid special offer.
- The March 2023 edition of Bluebell Times includes:
– Working in partnership with “The Southern Six”
– What’s it like to work on the Golden Arrow dining service?
– Progress on our multiple units – diesel and electric
– Our Bulleid carriages run on the mainline for the first time in forty years
– A decade of running to East Grinstead
– John Betjeman’s Metro-land – 50 year’s on
– New museum acquisitions – and photos
– And much, much more
- This week’s Chairman’s Update is now available to download as a pdf.
- A gallery of his photos featuring ‘Fenchurch’ on our half-term service trains is now available from David Cable.
4 March – further updates
- The latest Chairman’s Weekly Update is available to download as a pdf.
- Over the course of the Goods Division’s working week in February, in addition to nearly completing Bulleid Wagon 12058, and some work on the SR “Pillbox” brake van, SR 8-plank open wagon No. 37786 received planking repairs and a repaint.
The work on 37786 is reported in this news report (pdf download). [N.B. link now corrected]
- John Sandys has now created a flickr album with his photos from today.
- In 2021 an approach was made to the Railway, by an individual we have known a long time, to purchase the two body sections of SER Drawing Room Car 33 (later Pullman Car ‘Constance’). The BRPS’s Rolling Stock Sub-Committee having concluded that its restoration (in the very long term) to anything more than static use was most unlikely, the Society and plc agreed that the vehicle should be sold. The body sections, in storage at the Bluebell for over a quarter of a century, left the Bluebell last weekend, and the new owner plans to invest a significant sum of money in it to restore the body structure and its interior.
- Another weekend of Victorian locomotives – John Sandys’ two photos, taken this morning, show ‘Fenchurch’ ready with the first train of the day from Sheffield Park, and the SECR O1-class in steam on shed in preparation for hauling the Golden Arrow Luncheon Train (tickets for which are now available to book for May, June and July).
- This weekend we are running trains between Sheffield Park & Horsted Keynes on both Saturday & Sunday.
Remember that any child between 3-15 years can travel for just £1 with any fare-paying adult on our services over the weekend, so why not bring the whole family down for a day of railway fun at The Bluebell Railway!
You can turn up on the day or book tickets in advance.
- Graham Parker’s photo from 17 February shows ‘Fenchurch’ running round its train at Sheffield Park.
- Over 50 years ago the BBC filmed sections of John Betjeman’s famous “Metroland” film at Horsted Keynes on the Bluebell Railway, and using our Metropolitan carriages,. It was shown again, on BBC4, on the 50th anniversary of its first transmission, and is now available on iPlayer in the UK for the next 27 days.
You can read more about the filming in this article discussing it with the director of the Metroland Film, Edward Mirzoeff.
- Our Model Railway Weekend will be back again on Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd July.
Celebrating all things from the world of model railways, the Bluebell will play host to a number of layouts, stands and exhibitions at both Sheffield Park & Horsted Keynes. A busy timetable for our full-size trains will be in operation too, so join us for a fun weekend of all things miniature.
Find advance tickets and more information here.
- John Sandys’ photo below shows ‘Fenchurch’ about to extract its carriage set from Sheffield Park Carriage Shed on Saturday morning.
- “The Southern Six” is the alliance of Southern preserved railways, and the photo below shows representatives of those railways who met at the Bluebell on Monday. The group spent the day working collectively on a number of areas of common interest. The group aims to meet every two months, to provide a strong and much-needed platform for discussion and support whilst meeting the current demands that our industry faces. You can read more about it in our Press Release.
- Our 2023 Road meets Rail event will be taking place 20 – 21 May at Horsted Keynes Station. Last year it was a fabulous event on our calendar, and we are really pleased to welcome it back.
Step back in time for a weekend of steam-powered demonstrations and vintage fairground fun! Traction engines, road rollers, steam wagons, showman’s engines, crane engines and more… bringing Horsted Keynes station to life with recreations of a bygone age.
It’s steam at its best; both on and off the rails!
Tickets are available now, so join us for this year’s Road meets Rail event!
- A new Chairman’s Weekly Update is available to download as a PDF.
- John Sandys provides a gallery of photos he took today, including that on the right, showing Fenchurch having just collected the stock for the first train of the day from the carriage shed at Sheffield Park.
- An update with the latest news on 34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair’s overhaul is available on the Bulleid Society’s web site. The photos below, thanks to John Fry, show further work on the ashpan, and the tender, which is being worked on in the maintenance shed. There are further photos covering other recent aspects of the work in the update.
- On this day in 1923, No. 1472 (4472 and later 60103) subsequently named ‘Flying Scotsman’, entered passenger service, becoming a flagship loco of the London & North Eastern Railway.
100 years later, the world’s most famous steam locomotive will be visiting the Bluebell Railway this summer, running non-stop return services between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead for seven days between 23 and 29 August. All seats must be pre-booked in advance, and will be on sale soon.
To celebrate the centenary the National Railway Museum have released a special episode of Curator with a Camera, in which Anthony Coulls explores this iconic engine’s fascinating engineering secrets and finds out what it’s like to drive.
- Paul Furlong’s photo shows ‘Flying Scotsman’ climbing Freshfield Bank with the opening Breakfast Special of its 2017 visit to the Bluebell Railway.
- In the run-up to our Branch Line Gala in April, and the visit of ‘Flying Scotsman’, why not book your place on one of our half-day Lineside Photography Safety Courses, which are a pre-requisite if you wish to gain access to our lineside to take photographs away from the station platforms.
- Seen in the photo below taken on Wednesday, Stroudley Brake No. 949 has emerged gleaming in its first coat of varnish after a week in the paintshop, and now awaits lifting in the jacking area to complete work on the underside of the carriage.
- Whilst 949 was occupying the paintshop, Dave our painter has put the first topcoat on our “heritage” Mk.1 TSO No. 4754. Beyond it can be seen Metropolitan carriage No. 394 which is to have some repairs to a few split teak panels, and has had its doorlocks stripped off in preparation for fitting brand new locks.
- Two wagons left the workshop on Tuesday, after a successful working week for the The Bluebell Railway Goods Division – three wagons in a couple of weeks must be a record for outshoppings.
SR 8-plank No. 37786 has simply had a rapid 1-week repaint (and three rotten planks replaced with good plank sections salvaged after the re-planking of the SR Engineer’s Wagon). The lettering would ideally have been re-done into the later SR style it would actually have carried, but the contract for a forthcoming filming assignment required it to remain as it was, and in any case there wasn’t really enough time to re-letter it properly. The wagon will require a more major overhaul in some years time, so it can be dealt with then.
SR Bulleid 5-plank wagon No. 12058 still awaits the tare lettering, but is otherwise essentially now finished, after its long-running rebuild from a departmental shunting wagon conversion. In its “unpainted English hardwood” finish, as originally outshopped when new, it will turn a few heads!
- Maunsell Q-class No. 30541 has, 8 years into its 10-year boiler certificate, been removed from service with firebox problems. Having had its cylinders re-bored and steam pipes and piston rods replaced early in 2022, it is mechanically fairly sound, and consideration might be given to the possibility of a rapid boiler repair and new ticket, although it would also receive new tyres and a new tender tank, so available finance will determine what’s possible.
- The first photo below, from Tony Sullivan, shows today’s arrival – a ballast tamper to finish off the engineering work at Vaux End. There is also enough good reclaimed ballast from the Vaux End job to enable the relaying with improved drainage of a short “wet” section north of the tunnel, for which rails and sleepers are already to hand, but no ballast.
- The second photo shows that Pullman Car 54 has made it into the paint shop at Horsted Keynes, so the end of this expensive and painstakingly time-consuming project is also in sight. It will be worth it! There’s still a month’s work fitting out the remainder of the interior, and getting the doors and droplights to fit (now it’s finally down on its bogies and the body can finally sit level), which will be done alongside the undercoating.
- Graham Parker’s photo from Friday shows ‘Fenchurch’ crossing the River Ouse Bridge with its train.
- Steam trains will be running once again this coming weekend between Sheffield Park & Horsted Keynes, featuring No. 72 ‘Fenchurch’.
The public service trains will run to this timetable. In addition, the SECR O1-class will be hauling the lunchtime Pullman Dining Train.
Our fantastic “Kids For A Quid” travel offer will also be in place once again, children between 3-15 years can travel for just £1 with any fare-paying adult.
With the Bluebell Railway Museum, and Steamworks interactive locomotive exhibition also open, why not come and visit us this weekend! Buy your tickets on the day, or in advance.
- The overhaul of SECR H-class No. 263 started late last year. It is planned that it should receive a rapid turn-around in view of the generally good condition of the boiler, and recent significant mechanical work. It does require new crown girders and tubes, new tyres and new springs. It is also expected that we will need to fit a new cylinder block. The work is to be funded by a grant from the Bluebell Railway Trust, in part thanks to a bequest left by Ray Tanner specifically for work on this locomotive.
A new web page has been created to cover reports of the work on the locomotive as it progresses.
The photos below, from Tom James and Andy Kelly, show the chassis with the cab, tanks and boiler removed, and the boiler being prepared for its repair.
- Update to the Bulleid Society web site, with news of progress on the boiler of 34059 ‘Sir Archibald Sinclair’. This photo, one of several in the update by Colin Tomlins, shows most of the small tubes, and all the flue tubes, in place.
- Peter Skuce provides a gallery of photos from Saturday and an update to his photos of interiors and exteriors of Bluebell carriages.
- Update to the web page for LSWR corridor third No. 494 with a new photo, as seen below – the former camping coach, which to this day remains stored for eventual restoration, was hauled by ‘Fenchurch’ as part of the Bluebell Railway’s 25th Anniversary Cavalcade (13 July 1985).
- David Cable’s photo was taken yesterday under dark skies, and shows ‘Fenchurch’ with its train at Three Arch Bridge.
- The closing date for memberships for the 2023/24 500+ club is 28 February. This club is to support the restoration and maintenance of the Bluebell locomotive No. 34059 ‘Sir Archibald Sinclair’, and you can also win prizes. Full details are on The Bulleid Society website.
- Work started on the overhaul of 9F 92240 under the auspices of the “Awake the Giant” project last Saturday (11 February). With a great turnout of 9 volunteers, the day started with a safety briefing from engineering lead Martin Payne, and progress was made preparing the tender for a full repaint. If you would like to help in the next working party please contact Andy Taylor via email or the Facebook Group.
The first photo below shows progress patching the tender with primer, and the second, shows that on Thursday Martin cut a safe-access hole into the water space from the coal space. This will be welded back in once work inside the water space is completed.
18 February – Further news updates
- The Chairman’s Weekly Update is available to download as a PDF.
New page created to provide an archive of these Updates.
- It’s now easier to make donations via the Bluebell Railway Trust towards the BR Standard Class 2 tank 84030 project, thanks to the Trust’s online portals for one-off and monthly donations, with the ability to Gift Aid the donations also available. Full details here.
- Another of Brian Dandridge’s atmospheric photos from Tuesday morning, as Stroudley Terrier ‘Fenchurch’ enters Sheffield Park.
‘Fenchurch’ is scheduled to be hauling our trains between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes this weekend, and the SECR O1-class is due to be hauling Golden Arrow Luncheon trains.
- Heritage Boiler Steam Services Ltd have published a Facebook update, which includes photos of work on Schools-class Stowe’s boiler:
928 Safety valve pads being manufactured, 928 Manifold pad under way, 928 Backhead riveted, a second of 928 Backhead, and a third of the backhead riveting, and a video of a rivet being fitted to the backhead.
- Spread the love (and the cash)!
The Bluebell Trust has just received the latest payment of £318.72 from EasyFundraising, taking the total raised so far through them to £30,325.78 – from just 447 supporters – just think what we could raise with more supporters.
If you’d like to sign up and help us raise far more, just in commission donations when you surf and shop, please take a look at this information.
Sadly, whilst on the topic of shopping charity programmes, we do have to report that Amazon are closing their SMILE Charity programme.
- Major update to the news page for the restoration of our Southern Railway Bulleid 5-plank open wagon No. 12058.
To illustrate the present state of the work, Jack Gregory’s photo taken on Tuesday, during the The Bluebell Railway Goods Division‘s working week, shows Laurie Anderson triming the bolts securing the door capping. The wagon’s overhaul is essentially now finished except for final painting and lettering. You can find out more about this unique hard-wood planked wagon here.
Matt Lander’s photo below from Friday shows the “rapid repaint” being undertaken this week, which is Southern 8-plank wagon 37786 which returned to service in 2005. It has had 3 rotten planks replaced by second-hand planks from 62002, and this work will keep it running for several more years before it needs more major work.
- The Branch Line Gala timetable is now available. Advance ticket sales here. Tickets may also be purchased on the day, but you’ll miss out on the advance purchase discount.
We can now announce that the visiting L&Y “Pug” No. 19 will be appearing in its LMS guise No. 11243, as seen in the photo. It’s the first time that any “Pug” has carried this livery since the 1940s.
See full details of the Branch Line Gala, which runs from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 April.
- Photos and video from John Sandys taken today.
Our shop’s latest exclusive model is this Turners of Lewes/Sheffield Park Sawmill Private Owner Wagon produced for us by Dapol. Turners timber yard and sawmill occupied the site behind our station, with sidings roughly where we now have our Carriage Shed. Albert Turner & Sons transferred their sawmill from Nutley to Sheffield Park in 1896. By 1904 the yard was putting out 50 trucks of timber each week, on 2-3 special trains! By 1914 the traffic had fallen, but was still the most valuable timber account on the LBSCR. Traffic increased again to ship out 8-10 wagons each day in the post-World War 1 period. After the 1926 General Strike, timber started to be moved more by road, and by the 1950s the condition of the sidings (maintenance of which was the responsibility of the Sheffield Park Estate) was such that traffic ended in March 1950 (when the daily Lewes-Kingscote goods service was also withdrawn). One of the very last consignments was a wagon-load of barrel staves, going to Burton-on-Trent to make beer barrels. Turners yard continued to operate alongside the newly preserved Bluebell Railway, and timber offcuts were readily provided for lighting up our locomotives. The Turners’ logo, as reproduced on the wagon, featured in their advertising board behind our station platform.
- The early morning mist and the steam heat escaping from the carriages contributes to the atmosphere in Brian Dandridge’s shot from yesterday morning.
- There’s an update to the web page for Bulleid Brake Third No. 4035, the underframe of which is still on the Bluebell. Until the move on Tuesday of three of our Bulleid carriages (1464, 1482 and 2526, along with Mk.1 No. 1818) over the main line from Carnforth to Hull, research suggests that No. 4035 was probably the last such vehicle to have run over the national network, in the early 1980s, as part of a Chipmans Chemicals weedkiller train.
- In addition, the web page for LSWR/SR carriage No. 320 has been edited adding additional information, with thanks to Colin Watts and bloodandcustard.com.
- 73082 ‘Camelot’ has returned from its visit to the Great Central Railway.
- For the remainder of Half Term week, we have four more days of our steam trains (an intensive service between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes – download timetable here), the fantastic Ice Skating in our locomotive shed, and our Kids for a Quid special offer, daily until Sunday.
- Later on yesterday the sun came out and it turned into a glorious day. The photos below are from Nick Gilliam (‘Fenchurch’ passes Town Place Farm with the 1.30 service from Horsted Keynes) and David Cable (near Monteswood).
- Brian Dandridge’s photo was taken on Sunday, showing ‘Fenchurch’ with the three pre-grouping Southern-liveried carriages.
- Video from Saturday from TheSoutherner
- Fenchurch’s return to service continues to go well, and it’s planned to be hauling the trains all this week. This photo gallery from Keith Duke features ‘Fenchurch’ today. Keith also has this Facebook video of ‘Fenchurch’ attacking Freshfield Bank – you need to be a member of the Unofficial Bluebell Railway Fb group to view it. Bear in mind that the loco can’t do much until it’s out of the speed restriction at the foot of the bank where the track hasn’t yet been replaced (note the piles of sleepers ready for that work at some point in the future).
- Overhauled Engineer’s wagon outshopped
Just over 2 years separates the photos below. It seems a long time since work started in December 2020, although you might want to get your sunglasses out for this one!
The wagon gang’s first contribution to 100 years of the Southern Railway, SR 20 Ton Engineer’s Wagon ED 62002 is complete. The team are dead chuffed with the results, all the hours needle gunning, crawling on the floor and painting have been worth it as you can see comparing it to the pre-restoration image, with the faded paintwork dating back to its initial overhaul in 2002, and the floor that had rotted out 5 years previously. This time round we’ve used a very durable (and moderately expensive) hardwood floor!
Engineer’s wagons were painted in this vivid “Orange Oxide” colour, which was carefully researched when Alan Blackburn and Gerry Bixley originally overhauled the wagon in 2002.
The Goods Division wish to thank you for all the support you’ve given throughout this project and long may that support continue in the future now their first full restoration has made it out of the door, today.
Both photos below by Jack Gregory – 13 February 2023 vs 5 December 2020.
- ‘Fenchurch’ and the SECR O1 No. 65 were running yesterday. This portrait of our oldest locomotive on its first day in public service since overhaul, is by Neil Munro-Thomson.
- Photos of the trains running yesterday, from Luke Govus, from Neil Munro-Thomson, and John Sandys, and this video from Dan Gosling.
- Don’t forget that our steam trains (an intensive service between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes only due to engineering works north of Horsted Keynes), the Ice Skating and our Kids for a Quid special offer all continue every day until Sunday 19 February.
- The February 2023 edition of Bluebell Times, published yesterday, includes:
– Don’t get an electric shock – the juice is costing us a fortune
– ‘Fenchurch’ and Bulleid wagon are both in line for top annual awards
– Three visitors announced for Branch Line Gala
– What happens when a train breaks down along the line
– The Bluebell and Southern Railways Archive is soon to open to the public for researchers to visit in person
– Progress on the line’s diesels – and Sir Archie is reunited with its boiler
– Carriage shop donates to the Maunsell Restaurant Car and Horsted Keynes renovation
– And much, much more
- By chance yesterday Tom and I chose to use the same excellent photo by James Cummins of ‘Camelot’ on the GCR, so since I’m presenting Tom’s Bluebell Times cover here, I’ve changed yesterday’s photo to another of James’ from the same photo charter.
- Our half-term services, featuring the public debut of LBSCR Stroudley Terrier No.72 72 ‘Fenchurch’ following its recent overhaul and return to its original 1872 livery, start today, to this intensive timetable, running all half term week until Sunday 19th. If you’re bringing young kids, don’t forget they travel for just £1.
- The two photos below show recent progress in the carriage works. Dave Clarke’s photo shows Mk.1 Brake Composite No. 21246, which has had just a couple of weeks in the paint shop for attention to some cracks in its filler, and patch painting, and as seen here, a coat of varnish on the affected section of the west side of the coach. The second photo shows that the lettering and lining of LBSCR Stroudley Brake No. 949 is progressing rapidly. This coach is about to move into the paint shop for a week for varnishing.
- James Cummins’ photo shows our Standard 5, No. 73082 ‘Camelot’, on 31 January at Rabbit Bridge on the Great Central Railway during a photo charter.
- Another week, and the second of Paul Churchman’s weekly Chairman’s Updates has been released.
- The Carriage Shop at Horsted Keynes station is open this weekend and additional days next week, since the railway is re-opening for Half Term services, and with trains terminating at Horsted Keynes, there should be plenty of visitors about:
- Saturday 11th February 11am to 4pm
- Sunday 12th February 9.30am to 3.30pm
- Monday 13th February 10am to 4pm
- Tuesday 14th February 10am to 4pm
- Thursday 16th February 10am to 4pm
- Friday 17th February 10am to 4pm
- Saturday 18th February 11am to 4pm
- Sunday 12th February 9.30am to 3.30pm
It currently holds a wide selection of second-hand books, model railway items, Thomas the Tank Engine toys, bound magazines, old timetables, DVDs and many other railway and transport related items in stock. Sales for these items help support projects across the Bluebell Railway.
- Our Ice Skating rink is open from Friday 10 to Sunday 19 February! Come down to Sheffield Park Station for a 45-minute skate session, with each session starting on the hour.
Our “Kids For A Quid” travel offer will also be running from 11 to 19 February, so why not combine the two and visit us this half term!
PLEASE NOTE: Trains will be operating between Sheffield Park & Horsted Keynes only during this event.
Reduced travel fares apply, and a special shuttle service using one of our oldest steam locomotives and Edwardian carriages will be running – download the special shuttle timetable.
You can book for the skating (choose a time slot), for train tickets (choose an all-day time-slot), or choose both if you’d like combined skating and train ride tickets – BOOK TICKETS HERE.
- We are pleased to report that we have been shortlisted in two categories in the Heritage Railway Association’s Annual Awards:
- LB&SCR Terrier No. 72 ‘Fenchurch’ is one of four finalists for the Coiley Award for Steam Locomotive Engineering.
- SR Bulleid Open Wagon No. 12058 is one of just three Carriage & Wagon projects in contention for the Morgan Award for Rolling Stock Preservation.
The award winners will be announced on 11 March.
- The 1305 Oxted Thumper Gang is now on Instagram (Thumpstagram!)
- Tickets are now on sale for our 21-23 April Branch Line Gala, for which the third visitor has also been announced – Hunslet No. 15 ‘Hastings’.
This unique locomotive will be joining our home fleet and the other two previously announced visiting locomotives: L&Y Pug No. 19 and L&Y A-class No. 52322. ‘Hastings’ is the oldest surviving standard gauge 0-6-0 Hunslet in the UK – our thanks are extended to Mike Hart O.B.E and The Kent & East Sussex Railway for allowing this locomotive to take part in this event.
- Following the announcements made at the end of last week, the first of Paul Churchman’s weekly Chairman’s Updates
has been released.
- Sheffield Park station, our Museum and Atlantic project all featured in the news story on BBC South-East News this evening (12 minutes in, available until 6.57pm tomorrow) and on BBC Sussex radio in news headlines this morning (and in more detail in two different reports at 2:07:35 and 3:10:24 into Allison Ferns’ programme – available for the next 29 days). The story was built around the Mallinson family remembering Graham and his legacy, following the recent verdict from the Shoreham Airshow Inquest, but is also thought to be the first time BBC cameras have been inside either our Museum or Atlantic House, and included interviews with both Tony Mallinson and David Jones. There’s also a feature on the BBC website.
- Photos and videos from John Sandys today featuring the SECR O1 with the first of our run of sold-out “Steam Footplate Taster Experience” days this year. John’s photo below shows the 1896-built locomotive at Sheffield Park today.
- The second photo below, thanks to Andy Kelly, shows a trial fitting (without the ashpan) in our loco works on Monday of the boiler of our Bulleid “Battle of Britain” class Pacific No. 34059 ‘Sir Archibald Sinclair’.
- Luke Arnold’s photo of ‘Fenchurch’ with three SR-liveried pre-grouping carriages, taken when he was signalman at Horsted Keynes on Sunday, shows a crew-familiarisation run in preparation for our half-term services – yes, this is the superb train that awaits you if you come down for a ride! A newly overhauled 150-year-old locomotive and three centenarian carriages.
- We re-start our public train services over half-term week, 11-19 February, and then are running at weekends through to the end of March. Because of engineering works these services are only operating between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes.
Over half term we have our Kids for a Quid discount offer.
Between 10 and 19 February we have Ice Skating at Sheffield Park station. Enjoy the sights and sounds of steam whilst you skate upon the ice within our engine shed. Sessions can be booked throughout the day, with sessions lasting 45 minutes on the ice. See more information, timings and tickets.
- A major update, with new maps, has been made to the page showing the historic track layout, and how it evolved, at the former West Hoathly Station.
- This photo (I think from Tim Crump) illustrates the fantastic progress on the major embankment repair, drainage renewal and re-grading which has been taking place at Vaux End, a mile north of Horsted Keynes. All 520 yards of rebuilt formation has now got ballast back down, compacted, and as seen here, the curves are now being set out (the yellow line marking the sleeper ends). There will be a mammoth report to add to the infrastructure news pages soon!
- A couple of videos from the GCR Winter Steam Gala:
Ashley Smith’s, and Daniel Gosling’s video in which ‘Camelot’ features from 14 minutes in.
- We are looking for waiting staff to serve on our prestigious Steam-hauled ‘Golden Arrow’ Pullman dining trains.
Our Silver Service waiting team are an integral part of what makes our guests’ luxury day special, and we are currently recruiting new team members. You will be well presented and a naturally courteous communicator.
For more information and to apply, visit our Job Vacancies page.
We also have other catering vacancies, and are also recruiting for senior engineering posts in our Locomotive Workshop.
- The Bluebell Railway Goods Division, having prepared a 5-year plan, have published their agreed Wagon Works Plan for 2023. To support this planned programme of work, please consider donating via the Trust – details here, buying something from the Goods Division Shop, or joining the gang as a volunteer – contact by messaging on Facebook or Instagram. SR Engineers’ Wagon ED 62002, seen here, is almost ready to be outshopped, after a heavy-intermediate overhaul.
- BBC Radio Sussex broadcast an interview with Roy Watts about Oxted DEMU 1305 this evening at 5.43pm. You can catch it on BBC Sounds at 3:43:20 into the programme (available for the next 28 days).
- A further four days of Steam Footplate Tasters with SECR O1-class No. 65 on 5, 8, 9 & 10 February have been announced today.
- ‘Camelot’ on tour!
Nick Gilliam’s photo shows 73082 ‘Camelot’ at the GCR Gala this weekend, as it passes Kinchley Lane with the 11.40 minerals from Loughborough on Saturday.
Nick’s photo below shows 73156 double heading with 73082 passing Woodthorpe with the 1.45 from Loughborough that day.
- See also a gallery of photos from the Great Central this weekend from Keith Duke.
- On 26 January the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society Chairman, Paul Churchman, announced some changes to the Bluebell Railway plc board and on 27 January released a statement from Geoff Mee.
- Pie & Mash Supper Trains – this March
A perfect way to keep warm in the colder months of the year – our Pie & Mash supper trains return on 3, 10, 17 & 31 March.
Tickets are available to Book now!
- If you have not already seen it in the January edition of Bluebell Times, the Rolling Stock Committee is currently consulting on the option of setting up a Southern Railway Coach Group through a survey, as a way of increasing interest in the restoration and maintenance in rolling stock designed by the Southern Railway and its constituent companies on the railway.
You can download/read the article here. The survey remains open until the 13th February and can be completed by following this link.
- The latest news update on the BR Standard 2MT project to construct No. 84030 is now available.
This photo shows the new right-hand side tank which has been constructed off-site.
- FIRE AND ICE
A day out with a difference at The Bluebell Railway this half term as Ice Skating returns to Sheffield Park station, from the 10th to the 19th of February.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of steam whilst you skate upon the ice within our engine shed. Sessions can be booked throughout the day, with sessions lasting 45 minutes on the ice.
See more information, timings and tickets.
Don’t miss out and book today!
- Oxted DEMU 1305 ran up to Horsted Keynes today, as seen on the right in Laurie Anderson’s photo of it at Rock Cutting where it stopped for a check that all was well.
Matthew Cousins’ photo below shows it on arrival at Horsted Keynes, where it will receive a body overhaul over the next couple of years. Please do consider donating to this project.
- Two days of Steam Footplate Tasters with SECR O1-class No. 65 on 3 & 4 February have been announced today and are selling fast!
- The second photo below shows the Bluebell-owned main-line VEP unit 3417 was fitted with some original VEP curtains on Tuesday. These curtains had been rescued when stripped from the units when it was decided to dispense with curtains in the units many years ago. We came across them last week when clearing out old stores at the Bluebell, and couldn’t think of a better use for them!
- The second of three visitors for the 21-23 April Branch Line Gala is Lancashire & Yorkshire A-class No. 52322 from the East Lancs Railway, which will join L&Y “Pug” No. 19 and the Bluebell fleet, bringing a flavour of the North to our Railway!
A third and final guest will soon be announced and tickets and the gala timetable will also be made available shortly. This photo shows the A-class at the Yorkshire Dales Railway last October.
- Dates now available for Lineside Photographers’ Safety Courses – Our half-day course will provide you with the essential safety training you need so you can access areas of the railway normally out of bounds and get your fabulous lineside shots.
- Our popular Diesel Footplate Taster Experience is back for 2023! Featuring our resident BR Class 09 No. D4106, this experience puts you in the driving seat: a unique and very special opportunity being offered by the railway. See the dates, costs and booking info here.
- All our current Steam Footplate Tasters planned with LBSCR A1 “Terrier” Tank No. 72 ‘Fenchurch’ have SOLD OUT, but more dates will be released soon.
- An update with many other photos covering the latest news on 34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair’s overhaul is available on the Bulleid Society’s web site.
The boiler is now moving rapidly towards completion, and has been rolled over to give access to the interior of the firebox and syphons to allow for more stays to be finished. The flue and smoke tubes are seen alongside, in John Fry’s photo, and awaiting fitting, with the ends of the tubes being cleaned prior to insertion into the tubeplates.
Details of how you can support the restoration and maintenance of 34059, and win prizes, by joining the 500+ club are on The Bulleid Society website, since memberships for the 2023/24 club are now available.
- Oxted DEMU 1305 has been started and made some moves around the loco yard, as seen in Martin Lawrence’s video, here.
- Tony Sullivan’s photo shows 5MT No.73082 ‘Camelot’ departing for the Great Central’s Winter Steam Gala, as Oxted DEMU No. 1305 arrives at Sheffield Park this morning. The two low loaders, which brought the 2-car “Thumper” unit (latterly 207202 ‘Brighton Royal Pavilion’) in to the Bluebell, later returned northwards with ‘Camelot’ and its tender.
- 1305 is now owned by the Bluebell Railway, and is mechanically in operational condition. The interior and bodywork require attention, which the newly formed 1305 Oxted Thumper Gang, which includes people with experience of maintaining such units in their main-line days, plan to undertake over the next couple of years without calling on the services of the Bluebell’s C&W department. Over the coming days a full Bluebell Railway web page will be prepared for the unit, but there’s now a new Multiple Unit stock list, covering the most important details and history of the two Bluebell-owned units. See also the Railway’s Press Release (16 January 2023) about the project.
To donate towards the costs of getting this 1962-built unit up and running on the Bluebell, please use the link buttons here, and choose “Oxted DEMU 1305” from the drop-down menu.
As a unit which was designed for and operated on the lines through Oxted from London to East Grinstead, it is local to our area and an important part of the historical story of the railways of Mid-Sussex.
The intention is that the unit will provide an economical means to provide earlier morning and later evening services than is possible using steam locomotives, to enable people arriving via East Grinstead to have a longer day at the Railway.
- The photos below, by Tony Sullivan and James Cummings, show the two parts of the unit re-connected at Sheffield Park. Once it’s been inspected and passed fit to travel on Bluebell metals, it will be transferred to Horsted Keynes up yard.
We’re pleased to announce the new Bluebell Railway Trust web pages, to help keep Bluebell Members and supporters up to date with what’s going on, provide information about projects and current fundraising, and useful resources such as the information about leaving Gifts in Wills to the Railway, via the Trust.
This latter initiative, launched in the Winter issue of Bluebell News and on the Trust’s web pages, includes details of how, working with an online portal, LawEasier from local solicitors Mayo Wynne Baxter, Bluebell supporters can obtain a 25% discount on their online legal services.
To find out more, simply visit the new Gifts in Wills page.
- As seen in the photo on the right, our 150-year-old LBSCR Terrier 72 ‘Fenchurch’ was out today, hauling an 85 ton test train consisting of three pre-grouping bogie coaches with no difficulty. It ran 4 return trips between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes, as a test for future services. It runs like a sewing machine, sounds great, and hardly uses any coal and water! It’s previously run successful loaded tests to East Grinstead.
- Details of most of our Special Events for 2023 are now available (there’s a possible diesel-themed [update 26 January: or steam] event being planned for October too).
The first event is the
Ice Skating, which will be on offer at Sheffield Park Station between 10 and 19 February. [Note change to previously announced dates]
Other event dates are:
- 21-23 April: Branch Line Gala,
- 30 April: Toy & Rail Collectors Fair,
- 20-21 May: Road Meets Rail,
- 9-11 June: Summer Gala,
- 1-2 July: Model Railway Weekend,
- 22-23 July: Steam Fair,
- 30 July: Toy & Rail Collectors Fair,
- 5-6 August: Teddy Bear’s Picnic,
- 23 August to 3 September: Visit of ‘Flying Scotsman’,
- 22-24 September: Beer Festival,
- 13-29 October: Ice Skating,
- 18-29 October: Autumn Tints.
- David Cable’s photo here shows ‘Wightwick Hall’ at the head of one of our Pullman Dining services in December.
- Our next Pullman service is our
Valentines Day (14 February) Pullman Dining Train and further Golden Arrow Pullman Trains in 2023 and Murder Mystery evenings are also available to book now.
- The two photos below from David Cable, taken in the snow in December, show the SECR O1-class locomotive hauling a Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes Santa Special service and 80151 with an East Grinstead to Horsted Keynes Santa Special. More of David’s December 2022 photos are in his gallery on SmugMug.
- The January 2023 edition of Bluebell Times includes:
– Dates confirmed for the volunteer workshops – sign up now!
– Take 5 with the Railway’s safety team
– Time for a Southern Railway Coach Group? Read the proposal from the Rolling Stock Committee and take their survey
– A round-up of the best pictures of the Railway in the snow
– News about our namesake locomotive No. 73133
– Farewell to the museum’s long-standing curator
– And much, much more
- Nick Dearden’s 2022 video, shot mainly at the Bluebell, with a few local main line steam trains as well.
- The final SteamLights services of the season ran on Sunday evening. This video shows the earlier of the two trains that evening, setting off from Horsted Keynes on the return trip behind the SR Q-class locomotive.
- The Winter Edition of our house journal, Bluebell News, should now be in the post to BRPS Members.
- Happy New Year
2023 sees some important centenaries!
- The Southern Railway came into existence on 1 January 1923, with the “grouping” of the three main companies running trains to the South of London. Today’s entry therefore showcases a number of significant events taking place this year which are relevant to the Centenary.
2023 will see the return to service after a thorough restoration of SR Maunsell “Hastings-line” brake third No. 3687 (as seen in Alex Morley’s photo on the right).
The Bluebell Railway Goods Division are well advanced on the heavy intermediate overhaul and re-planking of SR Engineers’ Wagon DS62002 (below left, Jack Gregory’s photo) and the reconstruction from scrap condition of SR Bulleid-era 5-plank goods wagon No. 12058 (seen in the snow on 11 December 2022 in Laurie Anderson’s photo). It is also hoped to do work during the year on a number of other “grouping” era wagons, and present a goods train of the era for special events.
- On the Locomotive side, the Southern Railway is currently represented by Maunsell Q-class No. 541, which with a bit of luck could see a return to SR livery in recognition of the centenary. It is seen in Tony Sullivan’s photo on the left setting off from Sheffield Park Station with a Santa Special service on 22 December 2022.
Southern Railway Bulleid Pacific 34059 “Sir Archibald Sinclair” is hoped to re-enter service later this year too.
- 2023 is also the centenary of the K-type Pullman, a very long-lived design, and the first Pullman to feature a separate steel underframe – the Bluebell’s Car 54, built by Claytons in Lincoln, was one of the first three of the type. It is coming to the end of a thorough overhaul in our workshops, and is seen there below left.
- Visiting the Bluebell later this year is the famous 1923-built locomotive “Flying Scotsman”, which will be drawing the crowds to our line in August, on loan from the National Railway Museum. The photo below shows it on its previous visit, in April 2017 (photo by David Long).
- During the first three months of 2023 we are undertaking a major repair to the track formation at Vaux End, which has prevented us running short-wheelbase vehicles north of Horsted Keynes for some time. The work to stabilise the embankment there will correct faults dating back to Southern Railway days, but will mean that we can only operate trains between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes for that period. Our next public steam train service are daily in half-term week, from 11 February, and then at weekends until the end of March.
Earlier updates are in the Archive here
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