News from the Bluebell Railway   17 February 2013

Recreating the golden age of steam for passengers of all ages, the Bluebell Railway has a large collection of vintage locomotives, carriages, and equipment and holds many special events throughout the year.
Floreat Vapor: Let Steam Flourish! The Bluebell eNewsletter is sponsored by the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society
In This Issue
The Final Push!
East Grinstead Festival Special Events
STOP PRESS: Festival Ticket Bulletin
Welcome to the Big Fish
Final Preparations Made for Track Trek
The BBC Covers the Opening Date News
Should Beeching Way Be Renamed in Honour of the Bluebell Railway?
Volunteer for the Bluebell Railway: Find Out More Days
A History of the Three Bridges Loco Shed, 1848-1964
Brighton Atlantic Update: Small Steps Mean Major Progress
GNR Saloon: Gearing Up for the Festival
Update on SER Drawing Room Car 33 "Constance"
Enjoy These Latest Photos!
A Trip Down Memory Line

Bluebell Railway Website


Sales & Information  


Timetable & Fares  


Google map  




Disabled Access  


Frequently Asked Questions  


Gift Vouchers  



The Bluebell Railway by Nicholas Williams of Fun O Vision Films 
The Bluebell Railway by Nicholas Williams of Fun O Vision Films (

Bluebell Shop  


Bluebell Museum & Archive  

Bluebell Railway Extension Appeal 2012 - Funding for the Finish
Bluebell Railway Extension Appeal 2012: Funding for the Finish.

Locomotive Roster  


Trains & Events  


Train Formations  


Line Map & Gradient Profile  


Local Accomodation List  


Walkscene "Railway Children" Walks  


Lineside Photographers
Track Safety



Waterloo Steam Sunset, 1965 until 1967.
Waterloo Steam Sunset, 1965 until 1967.
The SECR  H Class No. 263 on 26 Jan.
The SECR H Class No. 263 on 26 Jan., 2013, by Philip Bull.

Northern Extension Project Progress  


   Just Giving  


50th Anniversary Appeal  


Bluebell Railway Trust  




The Bachmann SECR C Class model.
The Bachmann SECR C Class model.


Bluebell Railway scenes on 2 Feb., 2013, by Philip Bull.
Bluebell Railway scenes on 2 Feb., 2013, by Philip Bull.
Carriage & Wagon Updates
& Societies

Order prints online from the Bluebell Railway Archive's
John J. Smith or Colin Hogg collections.

A selection C Class loco photos from the John J. Smith Collection:
Photo 1 ; Photo 2 ; Photo 3 ;
Photo 4 ; Photo 5 ; Photo 6

JJS C Class
Station Facilities

Bluebell Railway - Arrival of No.33103
The arrival of No. 33103 "Swordfish" at Sheffield Park, by Martin Lawrence.

The Final Push!  

The Final Push: progress on the Bluebell Railway's extension to East Grinstead - Feb 2013  
Nicholas Owen presents a short video describing the Northern Extension Project situation in mid-February 2013, with only a few weeks to go before the opening of the extension to East Grinstead. The last bit of track still needs to be laid, but other preparations are well in hand. The Railway still needs about £100,000 to complete the project, so all donations are appreciated .    


East Grinstead Festival Special Events


As part of our opening festival, we have a number of special tours organised in local towns, villages, and other attractions.
On 26/03/2013 , East Grinstead Town Promotions Manager Simon Kerr will conduct guided tours of the historic High Street, which has one of the longest rows of 14th century timber framed buildings in the UK. The almshouse of Sackville College was where James Mason Neale wrote the famous Christmas Carol "Good King Wenceslas" when he was college warden.

Other notable buildings include the town's old lock-up, St. Swithun's Church, and the new town museum. The tours connect with the 11:00 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. train services from Sheffield Park
On 02/04/2013 , our friends at The National Trust Garden, Sheffield Park have kindly agreed to give two guided tours of this famous garden laid out in the 18th century by Capability Brown.

Enjoy a stroll around the lakes and view the spring colours while your informative guide tells you about the unusual trees and plants. The tours will connect with the 10:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. trains from East Grinstead, with a courtesy bus to the garden from Sheffield Park station. The tours are free but normal admission charges will apply to the garden for non-National Trust members.
On 06/04/2013 free vintage buses will operate from Horsted Keynes station to Horsted Keynes village and Chelwood Gate. Stop off in Horsted Keynes and follow our guides down to the historic village Norman Church, unusual in being built in the shape of a cross with a central tower.

The former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is buried in St Giles' churchyard as his country house--"Birch Grove"--is within the local parish and is, of course, the hamlet after which the Railway's E4 locomotive is named.

Special guided tours of the Church and Churchyard have been organised for Railway passengers. Catch either the 11:00 a.m., 12:15 p.m., or 1:30 p.m. trains from Sheffield Park, or the 10:45 a.m., noon, or 1:15 p.m. service from East Grinstead for the connecting vintage buses at Horsted Keynes station

For the 07/04/2013 Service of Thanksgiving, a special train will depart from Sheffield Park at 6:00 p.m. for East Grinstead, calling at Horsted Keynes at 6:17 p.m. A shuttle bus service will operate from our station at East Grinstead to the High Street and St Swithun's. The train will return following the service.
To reserve your place on any of these special guided tours, contact our Customer Service Team at 01825 720800, and don't forget, if you buy your Bluebell Bonus tickets in advance, you can save up to £2.50 off of each adult train ticket for the day!
By Tim Baker, Commercial Director 



STOP PRESS: Festival Ticket Bulletin


23 March, 2013
  • 9:45 a.m. from East Grinstead--all seats now booked; however, there will be two non-reservable carriages for those who turn up on the day.
  • 9:30 a.m. Breakfast "Grinstead Belle" Breakfast is sold out. There's an extra train on 24 March; however, only two tables of two are left and 12 tables of four!
  • 10:05 a.m. from Sheffield Park. The first service train still has some seats available
Imberhorne Limited Gala Pullman (five course meal with firework display and jazz band). Two tables of two and 10 tables of four are left.
Bookings are now open for "The Blue Belle" special on 28/03/2013 departing Horsted Keynes at 1:10 p.m. This train is hauled by two Class 73 Electro Diesels and will be busy with passengers from the UK Railtour special excursion from London Victoria. To guarantee a place on this train, you can reserve a seat at £2.50 per person.
Spaces are also available on the following:
  • 24/03/2013 23:00:00 Officers Special in the Observation Car (26 places remain).
  • 25/03/2013 23:00:00 Guided tours of East Grinstead High Street.
  • 01/04/2013 23:00:00 Guided tours of Sheffield Park garden.
  • 05/04/2013 23:00:00 Guided tours of St Giles Church, Horsted Keynes.
Also, bookings now open for the Bo Peep Specials on Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Day, and Bank Holiday Monday 



For full details of the East Grinstead Festival--23 March to 7 April--can be found here .

Welcome to the Big Fish 

Swordfish Arriving
John Sandys nicely captured the arrival of No. 33103 "Swordfish," who will help the Railway complete the remaining tasks on the Northern Extension Project.




Final Preparations Made for Track Trek  


The Track Trek has captured the imagination of the Northern Extension Project volunteer force, which is earnestly laying both Terram sheeting and--as far as possible--track, to make the interior of the cutting as accessible as possible. On site yesterday, heavy plant was continuing in operation clearing material away from the centre of the cutting.

The Trek has now closed to further participants, with numbers approaching 800. Even with the final push, we have had to amend the plans, so that the Trek is now one way, from East Grinstead to Kingscote. A shuttle bus service will operate between East Grinstead and Kingscote.

Nigel Longdon explains that "all trekkers will have to walk between the rails for almost the whole route, which is in effect a four-foot wide corridor--to have people walking in opposite directions would be impractical."

We hope this necessary change will not dampen enthusiasm, and indeed reports are coming in of great efforts to secure sponsorship. East Grinstead Mayor Liz Bennett's JustGiving page exceeded £1,000 on 15 Feb., with Deborah Salmon and Martin Widdowson following at or near £500.

The organizers were also e-mailed by a gentleman who will be bringing £400 in sponsorship. However much is raised, we thank you for your efforts, and we hope you can put your feet up and ride the route in a train very soon!



The BBC Covers the Opening Date News


(From BBC Sussex) "The opening date for an extension to a volunteer steam railway in Sussex has been announced.

"The Bluebell Railway will open its extended track, from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, on 23 March.

"The project has cost £3.5m with workers having to remove almost 100,000 tonnes of domestic waste from the Imberhorne cutting.

"Chairman of the Bluebell Railway Trust [should be "Preservation Society"--Eds] Roy Watts said tickets had sold out for the first journey ...

"... Mr Watts said: 'When you think it [the Railway] is a predominantly volunteer organisation, which is supported by 50-odd permanent paid staff, I think it is a phenomenal achievement.

"It is one of those things when you look at the enormity of the project and people think, 'you'll never do that,' and yet here we are literally on the cusp of proving them all wrong.

"I just hope all the members are proud of what we've all done.'"

For the full story, click here .


See also this story from The Argus . One or two typos in it (!), but it's positive coverage that situates our Railway in a national context, as an environmentally conscious, economically viable transportation option.



Should Beeching Way Be Renamed in Honour of the Bluebell Railway?


(From This Is Sussex ) "The Bluebell Railway comes to East Grinstead in five weeks, and it has already been suggested a local road be renamed in its honour.

"Mark Fretten, of Gilham Lane in Forest Row, has come up with the idea of renaming Beeching Way (the A22) Bluebell Way.

"He said: 'Here's an idea for East Grinstead as a town to celebrate the achievement of those who have worked so hard and are about to put it back on the map.

"'How about, from 23 March, Beeching Way is renamed Bluebell Way-- recognising those who have brought the railway back to life for the town, rather than continuing to recognise those who all but killed it off?'"

For the complete story, click here


Bookmark this Special Events page for a full listing of 2013 events, as so far known. In addition to the two-week East Grinstead opening festivities, there's the return of "Giants of Steam" in October, a new Edwardian event in June, and a Model Railway weekend. 

Volunteer for the Bluebell Railway: Find Out More Days    


Whether you are male or female, are skilled or with no previous experience, can offer a day a month or more, why not find out what volunteering on the Bluebell Railway entails.
Find Out More Days in 2013 are on the first Sunday of every month until November: 3 March; 7 April; 5 May; 2 June; 7 July; 4 Aug.; 1 Sept.; 6 Oct.; 3 Nov.

The meeting time is 10.30 a.m. in the classroom at Sheffield Park Station. More information can be found here .

Dave Clarke's photo below shows the participants in the Volunteer Recruitment "Find Out More Day" on 3 Feb. at the Carriage & Wagon Department.




A History of the Three Bridges Loco Shed, 1848-1964    


Enjoy this collection of local motive power social history--courtesy of Paul Edwards' Brighton Motive Power Depots and Sussex Motive Power Depots websites--gathered from within the depot ...

"Three Bridges locomotive shed was opened in July 1848 by the L.B.S.C.R. (Shed Code 3-B).

"On 27 Jan., 1964, the steam shed was closed and the steam depot became a Mixed Traction depot. The Mixed Traction depot was closed in April 1969 along with Eastbourne M.T. & Feltham depots.

"With electrification arriving at Three Bridges in c1932, this created a new motorman's depot at Three Bridges (E.M.U.T.)" ... more .

Three Bridges 1

Three Bridges 2



Brighton Atlantic Update: Small Steps Mean Major Progress  


Fred Bailey supplies this update and photos on the Brighton Atlantic project ...

"As it is some time since we have updated our web pages I thought I ought to offer a few words of explanation. We have been steadily working on the project despite the lack of wheels.

"As to these items, there have been a few production problems with them, which have delayed their completion, but we think that these are now resolved, and hopefully they should soon be finished and delivered.

"It is only the shrinking in of the crankpins with their keys and the final seal welding that needs to be done to finish the job in its entirety" ... more .

The photo below shows the rear cylinder cover bolted to the cylinder and inner lagging plates being trial-fitted.

Brighton Atlantic Cylinders


The Railway has been featured recently on a couple of TV programs: Dancing on the Edge and The Genius of Invention

GNR Saloon: Gearing Up for the Festival

The GNR Directors' Saloon has been in the shed at Horsted Keynes for some much needed TLC over the winter, following mechanical work on the bogie pins that saw the coach lifted on the electric jacks in December.

Some minor external timberwork repairs are ongoing, in preparation for the coach's revarnish, which unfortunately has had to be delayed until summer.

However, most of the work has concentrated on the electrical system, with the fans in the saloons being overhauled (for the first time in 45 years of preservation), additional switches fitted in the kitchen, and a significant enhancement of the coach's "mains shore line" (i.e., the 240-volt wiring and sockets for use when berthed in a shed).

The most obvious work may actually be the re-commissioning of the klaxons at each end of the vehicle, intended for use when the coach is being propelled.

These were removed some years ago for refurbishment, and the re-wiring had to await the lifting of the coach off its bogies.

One of the originals was sadly lost when the firm undertaking its overhaul lost their premises in a fire, but we've been able to procure an appropriate replacement, and both are now tested and working, so visitors and staff may again experience the traditional "last train of the day" symphony.

It is hoped the GNR Saloon will be in public service on the first weekend of the East Grinstead Opening Festival.

By Richard Salmon, Carriage & Wagon Department

GNR Saloon  












Update on SER Drawing Room Car 33 "Constance"   

In 1891 the South Eastern Railway (SER) assembled at Ashford Works six 'Gilbert Cars,' built at Troy, NY, USA, to form the "Hastings Car Train."

These six cars were rebuilt in 1896, and in fact were then advertised to the press as brand-new for the second time!

The rebuilding included enclosing the vestibules at the ends of the coaches and the fitting of gangway connectors and Stones Electric Lighting in place of the original accumulator system ... more .

For more Carriage & Wagon news, click here .

Car 33


Professional Engineering magazine has a nice write-up about the Bluebell Railway in its latest edition

Enjoy These Latest Photos! 


Cameron Smith's photo shows the E4 arriving at Horsted Keynes on 6 Jan (also below).

A set by John Sandys showing Swordfish arriving to help out on the Northern Extension Project.

Martin Lawrence's gallery of the Class 33's arrival and some H Class No. 263 footplate photos .

David Haggar's galleries from the Branch Line Weekend and 50th Anniversary Gala in 2010.

John Sandys' portrait of the H-class, preparing to leave Horsted Keynes with the noon ex-Kingscote service, from 10 Feb.



A Trip Down Memory Line:
A 1929 "Southern Belle"
to Brighton


Southern Steam - Victoria c1929
Southern Steam: Victoria Station, c1929.

Thanks to information kindly offered in response to the last eNewsletter, we can offer more history regarding the above, fascinating Southern Steam video.


From Jeremy Clarke ...

"The engine, as originally stated, is Lord Nelson Class No. 859 'Lord Hood.' This loco was unique in the class because it was turned out of Eastleigh in 1929 with driving wheels of 6 feet 3 inch diameter against the standard 6 feet 7 inches.

"Maunsell would have apparently preferred to save costs by using '15'-type 6 feet wheels but this would have incurred considerable alteration to the frame. The second point to note is that the engine is still without smoke deflectors.

"As regards the station itself, as can be seen in the video it is signalled with electrically powered, three-position upper quadrant semaphores supplied by the General Railway Signal Company of Rochester, NY, USA and installed in 1916.  


"The lever frame was also of American manufacture but was never received, being lost when the ship carrying it was torpedoed during World War I and sank. A second frame was manufactured, modified in 1939 when colour light signals superseded the semaphores.

"The second Pullman train shown is not the Kentish Belle but the ex-LBSCR's "Southern Belle." The engine--'N15' No. 796 'Sir Dodinas le Savage'--was one of the final batch of 14 (numbers 793 to 806) built at Eastleigh for the Brighton section in 1926-1927.

"These locos were given Ashford-type, 6-wheel, 3,500-gallon tenders that, because the intermediate drawbar differed in height of those from Eastleigh, required the engine's rear beam to be modified also. Interchange of the types was thus impossible and the 14 retained these tenders to the end.

("Incidentally, if a bogie-tendered 'Arthur' found itself on the Brighton line, it could only proceed if the tender held not more than 2.5 tons of coal and 3,000 gallons of water.)

"One other point can be made. The name 'Kentish Belle' was not adopted for this Victoria-Margate-Ramsgate working until 1951. The SECR had introduced a Pullman train, the Thanet Pullman Limited, in July 1921, although it ran only on summer Sundays. It continued in Southern days in one form or another until mid-1939 and was reintroduced after World War II as the 'Thanet Belle' from May 1948."   


Southern Belle  








Related Links

  • The Southern Belle enjoys her 21st anniversary celebrations at Brighton in 1929.
  • Golden Arrow 1930s footage ; home movie style throughout the journey.
  • Dover Marine (later Dover Western Docks), the station of the Golden Arrow and Night Ferry prior to loading. Read the history and see the photos of this station in steam days and the SECR War Memorial. Imagine the intense activity here in steam days, in peace and during two world wars.
  • The same area as it looks today , now a cruise terminal with all tracks and the 1960s unsightly platform extension removed. 

Southern Belle Poster  





















Thank you as ever for your support of the Railway. Don't forget to share this eNewsletter with friends, colleagues, and family, through social media and e-mail. See you trackside!

John Walls
Trustee, Bluebell Railway Preservation Society