News from the Bluebell Railway   17 March 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
Under the Bridge!
All Eyes Are on Us
NEP Report: Ready, Set, Go!
A Cut(ting) Above
A Historic Arrival
Enough Locos for the Festival?!
GN Saloon Update
Opening Festival: Press & Photography Notice
Cutting the Ribbon, Making the Connection
At Last They Are Here!
Don't be Sheepish: Bo Peep Is Herding Volunteers
Bulleid Shop Update
Baxter's Ready for a Close-Up
New Bus Services to Sheffield Park Station Announced
No. 33103 "Swordfish" Goes Swimmingly
Enjoy These Latest Photos!
A Trip Down Memory Line: Three Views of the Cutting
A History of East Grinstead Station, Part 1

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



Bluebell Railway: the connection to East Grinstead is made, 8 March, 2013.
Bluebell Railway: the connection to East Grinstead is made, 8 March, 2013.
A ride from Imberhorne Lane to East Grinstead.
A ride from Imberhorne Lane to East Grinstead, by John Sandys.

Northern Extension Project Progress  


   Just Giving  


50th Anniversary Appeal  


Bluebell Railway Trust  




Bluebell Railway, 3 March, 2013.
Bluebell Railway on 3 March, 2013.


The Bluebell Railway on 24 Feb, 2013.
The Bluebell Railway on 24 Feb, 2013.
Carriage & Wagon Updates
& Societies

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

A selection East Grinstead-related photos from the John J. Smith Collection:
Photo 1 ; Photo 2  ; Photo 3 ;
Photo 4 ; Photo 5  ; Photo 6

JJS EG Photo
Station Facilities

Bluebell Railway's The Giants of Steam 2007.
Bluebell Railway's The Giants of Steam 2007.

Under the Bridge!  

Under the Bridge
No. 92212 pauses at Hill Place Farm access bridge prior to a ceremony captured by Mike Hopps (see below), before proceeding north to East Grinstead. By Steve Fairweather. For photos of this event by John Sandys, click here .


All Eyes Are on Us


By the time the next edition of this eNewsletter publishes, the great day will have arrived, and trains will be running to a regular timetable service into and out of East Grinstead.

This will be the culmination of almost 40 years of work, albeit in stages, by a virtual volunteer effort.
As I write, the first loco has run through to Sheffield Park off the main network, and the very first steam locomotive has arrived from the south as we begin the series of training trips.

In terms of symbolism, historians will note that the opening event comes just after 15 March--not only our late president's birthday but also, of course, back in 1958 the very last British Rail trains worked the line. Not to be deterred, the our Railway began its journey on 13 March, 1988, when the very first panel was laid just north of Leamland Bridge.
There is still much work to be done before we open, so bear with the teams if it's not all complete--trust me, it soon will be.

Yes, we have had setbacks and disappointments--such as the weather and the loss of visiting locomotive No. 70000 "Britannia"--but that won't stop us putting on a great show.

All eyes are focusing on us, from all over the world. Indeed I have a message of congratulations from member Nicholas Pryor from the depths of Patagonia as he tours South America!
There are many people to thank for their hard work over the years. I am not sure if people realise that what they physically can see is just a fraction of the overall. Count those involved from the very beginning, and you have a veritable army of members who have made the extension possible. It is a shame not all will be there on 23 March. 
We must enjoy the next few weeks but also we need to keep an eye on the future, as there are many key areas to address. Will we ever do a project of this magnitude again? I'm not even going to get a pound out of my pocket to say we won't ... of course we will!
My thanks to everyone across the broad spectrum of the Railway who have made all this possible, you deserve all the credit you receive. Enjoy!
By Roy Watts, Chairman, Bluebell Railway Preservation Society

Some video of the 16 March loco journey through the extension:


NEP Report: Ready, Set, Go!


We are now in T-1, with less than a week before the first public trains are due at East Grinstead. Since the last update we have been frantically waiting the arrival of our tamper which was not only late but could not start work until it had been repaired. This has caused a knock-on effect with getting the track ready for traffic at line speed, crew training, and, of course, final safety verification, which cannot take place until everything is complete.

Having said that we were able to run three test trains at reduced speed over the extension on 16 March. The only people on board were the construction team who had the honour of being carried on the first steam-hauled train through Imberhorne cutting for more than 55 years--a momentous event for all concerned and something of a surprise to some Sainsbury's customers!

At East Grinstead the inter-station pathway and disabled car parking area are nearing completion, while customer facilities are coming together nicely ready for opening. The catering coach was craned into place on 10 March during a blizzard after Sainsbury's closed, another challenge that went exactly to plan!

So, this is my final Northern Extension Project (NEP) report before opening and, yes, I can confirm that 23 March will happen. It's been a tight run with the weather throwing anything it can at, but everyone now simply takes that in their stride.

We've got quite a bit of clearing up, the cutting upside top surface has to be made good, and there are numerous other drainage jobs, but this work will carry on during the coming weeks with a planned final completion and shut down of the project in early May. Meantime during the festival and Easter, the NEP construction team will remain on site and on duty.

By Chris White, Infrastructure Director


A Cut(ting) Above


An incredible and gratifying day for me on 16 March--through the cutting in 60 seconds (that's half a million pounds for every 10 seconds!), a team photo at Imberhorne (below, "posterised" by Mike Hopps), and three cheers for Matt Crawford at East Grinstead.

The sight of old and young flocking from Sainsbury's car park to see steam entering the station made the day--this is what the extension project is all about!

By John Walls, NEP Volunteer

Mike Hopps NEP Poster



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

A Historic Arrival 

66712 Arrives
No. 66712 is seen at Sheffield Park on 7 March, after her historic journey down the Bluebell Line from East Grinstead. Photo by Andrew Strongitharm.


Enough Locos for the Festival?!


It was back in the early autumn when things started going awry--broken stays in No. 1638, and no choice but to unwrap the firebox and replace them, which took until early February. 

That postponed routine work on other locos, B473 in particular. Then in the last week of last year No. 92212 sprung a leak just inside the firehole door, which turned out to be cracks in the copper plate. The winter months were spent fixing this, with copper welding and new stays, and it was completed just in time for some pre-opening trial running on the new line.
In late autumn No. 592 was clearly suffering from mechanical wear, and we were about to restrict its load to three carriages when it became obvious that it would not continue working for much longer unless the cylinders were repaired.

There was a degree of doubt about how to go about it, but having got the cylinders out, it was clear that liners in the bores and false valve faces were required.  This work is almost complete, the liners having arrived a few days ago, but the loco won't run until late in April.
Then a few weeks ago external influences threw another spanner--all the locos started leaking stays. Looking for a common factor we found that the river water had become slightly acid, so now the locos are being dosed with sodium carbonate to restore the correct alkalinity in the boiler water. This solution may have a detrimental effect by encouraging priming, so as yet we do not know how many days each loco will run between washouts on the new line.
All this extra work delayed No. 847's boiler, so whereas last summer we were confident it would run on opening day, now it won't be finished until July
And then there's the locos visiting for the event. We had gone a long way arranging all the necessary preparations for two of them, only for both to be cancelled owing to external influences (flats on the tender wheels and a collision on another heritage railway). With the national shortage of working steam locos, and our event being only a week before Easter, there was no realistic chance of finding another loco to hire.
So a week-and-a-bit before the opening, the locos that run will be all ours--trains hauled by No. 1638, No. 92212, B473/No. 323, and No. 263/No. 178. Stepney will do brake van rides, and Captain Baxter will be shunting carriages. 

There is no spare capacity for anything to go wrong ...
By Lewis Nodes, Director, Locos & Rolling Stock


GN Saloon Update


The Great Northern (GN) Saloon will ask a £10 supplement for passengers using the seats in the Saloon during the opening weekend.

This supplement is valid only for a half trip of the line (Sheffield Park to East Grinstead or East Grinstead to Sheffield Park only), and it entitles passengers to a glass of Bucks Fizz, a special East Grinstead Opening Cupcake, Unlimited Tea or Coffee, and a piece of one of the other various other cakes on offer. Only 17 people can travel in the saloon on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Other passengers are entitled to use the GN vestibules, limited to five per vestibule.


"Just a note from us all at the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway who have been following your endeavours from 'up north.' Many congratulations on the magnificent achievement in reaching East Grinstead. We know what hard physical work, background planning, and fundraising has gone into this wonderful project. We will be thinking of you on 23 March and will raise a glass or two to wish the whole team well."--Martin S Miller, General Manager, WyvernRail PLC
Opening Festival: Press & Photography Notice


Photographers who have attended the safety courses at Sheffield Park will know that there are certain sections of the Railway that are out of bounds, such as West Hoathly tunnel.
With the opening of the extension to East Grinstead, the restricted area now includes the line north of Kingscote through to East Grinstead. There is no direct access to the line apart from the nominated emergency points or off the platform edge.

During the three-week gala, the line will be regularly patrolled by members of the Permanent Way teams and anybody on found on Railway property outside of permitted areas, unless under supervision, will be asked to leave immediately.  
Likewise, people will naturally want to take advantage of public areas along the line, but please note that both the road leading to Sainsburys Car Park, the car park itself, and the Imberhorn waste transfer station are all private property, so do not cause a nuisance or put yourself or our Railway in an embarrassing position if asked to leave.

It is very important we respect our neighbours and their property during the opening weeks, and it would be a great pity if after all the hard work, were ruined by a minority acting irresponsibly.

Remember, many fields are now planted with crops, while others have animals, and they need to get used to new sounds!
There are three public parking areas close to East Grinstead station that are clearly marked, but there is no public parking close to the Bluebell Railway station, and Sainsburys are employing marshalls over the opening weekend.   
All press or similar enquiries should be referred to the General Office at Sheffield Park so they can be assigned to a team member.


Cutting the Ribbon, Making the Connection  

EG Opening
Tim Baker's photo shows the other major event at East Grinstead recently, as the new National Rail/Southern station was officially opened. Chris White, Tim Baker, and Customer Service Team members Caroline Collins and Lesley-Anne Liddell represented the Railway at the ceremony. Seen cutting the ribbon is Mid-Sussex MP Nicholas Soames, in the company of Liz Bennett, mayor of East Grinstead; Chris Burchell, Southern's Managing Director; and Mark Ruddy, Network Rail's Sussex Route Manager. Note the new sign pointing to the Bluebell Railway, visible through the window and marked in this photo with a red arrow!


At Last They Are Here!


The photo below, taken by Fred Bailey, shows delivery of the Atlantic driving wheels . When seen "in the flesh," they look huge; 6 feet 9 inches over the flanges.

So, when will the chassis be wheeled? At this time there isn't an honest answer other than, "Once we are satisfied that we have completed all the work between the frames, which is best carried out while we still have reasonable access."

One thing we do not have in Atlantic House is a pit, although even that would be of limited help. Like a lot of locomotives, there is more engineering between the frames than on the outside.

Atlantic House will be open with a sales stand, and the chance to get a closer look and discuss progress, during the extension opening festival: 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, and 31 March and 1 April.

Atlantic Wheelsets


Coverage on the opening of the new East Grinstead Network Rail train station from the East Grinstead Courier and Observer

Don't Be Sheepish: Bo Peep Is Herding Volunteers


Over the Easter Bank holiday the Railway plans an event for children on board trains similar to the Santa Specials, during which Little Bo Peep will give out Easter gifts.

Likely the Bo Peep Specials will consist of one coach used for the passengers on a service train. The passengers will start from either Sheffield Park or East Grinstead. There will be a 45-minute layover at Sheffield Park and a 20-minute layover at East Grinstead.

To run these specials, three volunteers per day are needed. If you can spare a day during the Bank Holiday weekend to help, contact Simon Brown .



Bulleid Shop Update 


The Bulleid Shop will be open during the East Grinstead festival weekend and every day during the following week.

It also hopes to be open during the week of 1 to 5 April, subject to staffing.

It has recently received several large collections of books and railway ephemera, which along with all the usual lines, should give a good opportunity for enthusiasts to find something of interest.

The Bullied Society thanks to all those who have supported us and looks forward to welcoming visitors after their journey from East Grinstead.



East Gristead Mayor Liz Bennett's 6 March " View from East Court " column in the East Grinstead Courier and Observer includes her reflections on the recent Track Trek.  Also, click here for Leader Norman Watson's view. 

Bluebell on Film: Baxter's Ready for a Close-Up      

Baxter in Character
More filming at the Railway. This time it's Baxter in "full makeup," with Horsted Keynes becoming Dublin for the day. No word on whether more stout than ale was served at the King George V Bar & Buffet!



New Bus Services to Sheffield Park Station Announced 


Service 769  

Following extensive consultation about improving public transport links to the Railway, Compass Bus will be introducing a new Sunday and Public Holiday bus service to Sheffield Park Station and Sheffield Park and Garden, from 29 March through to the end of October.   

The new service will leave Brighton Station at 0940, then call at all the usual stops via Hassocks Stone Pound (1024); Burgess Hill Church Road (1011); Haywards Heath Perrymount Road (1025); Sheffield Park Station (1045); and Sheffield Park, and Garden (1050). 

The bus will then provide a service between Haywards Heath Perrymount Road and Sheffield Park Station and Sheffield Park and Garden, with departures at 1240, 1355, 1510, and 1615.  

The return service for Haywards Heath Perrymount Road will depart Sheffield Park and Garden at 1155, 1310, 1425, and 1540 (five minutes later at Sheffield Park Station) with a final service at 1645 calling at all the usual stops to Brighton Station (arriving 1755).  

Service 270

On Saturdays Metrobus 270 provides an hourly service to and from Horsted Keynes Station from Brighton, Hassocks, Burgess Hill, and Haywards Heath.  

Service 121

Also on Saturdays the existing Compass Bus service from Lewes will be extended from Sheffield Park Station to and from Sheffield Park and Garden.


Highlights of Bachmann's plans for the next 18 months, announced recently, are an 00 model of an LBSCR E4 0-6-2T, including one representing the Railway's own preserved B473, and a three-coach SECR Birdcage set.  

No. 33103 "Swordfish" Goes Swimmingly, Training & Train Running      



This photo by Martin Lawrence sees No. 33103 with the Queen Mary brake van and three ballast hoppers at East Grinstead.

Visiting "Crompton" BRCW type 3 diesel loco No. 33103--crewed by Driver Paul Russell and Second Man Tom Simcock--worked the tamper to Kingscote on 7 March in order to get both machines past Horsted Keynes in the same path. Filming activity--a Muppet Production--meant the loco berthed overnight in Kingscote down siding, while the tamper worked through directly to East Grinstead, to berth in the cripple road.

Fortunately Photographer Chris Livings caught this significant move on camera, when ready to depart at Sheffield Park and passing West Hoathly.

On 8 March, Driver Stuart Marks and Second Man Tom Simcock took No. 33103 and three ballast hoppers through to East Grinstead for an ongoing series of ballast drops as required in the cutting.

Both drivers were delighted to be driving a 33, having been enthusiasts for them since their youth. They are among the Railway's steam drivers who have received in-house training for driving the diesel loco. The power in reserve and the qualities of the brake, together with cab layout and visibility, have been praised. But unlike the 1960s, our drivers will be returning to steam!

These pictures taken at Tonbridge by Timothy Saunders in 1961 see a brand new and very smart "Crompton" next to No. 31592, the very C class brought to the Bluebell Railway the by the Wainwright C Preservation Society. How smart that early diesel livery was! A "Crompton" in such a livery would fit into a "1960s transition event," with steam and diesel sharing the duties.

In this photo , a brand new "Crompton" No. 6564 poses alongside C class No. 31592 at Tonbridge loco shed in 1961. No. 6564 was to become No. 33046, withdrawn in 1998, put into store at Eastleigh. C class No. 31592 is still going strong on the Bluebell Railway!

By Neil Cameron

Martin Lawrence's video shows No.33103 pulling the East Grinstead buffet/shop coach, plus the Golden Arrow and Wealden Rambler.
Martin Lawrence's video shows No. 33103 pulling the East Grinstead buffet/shop coach, plus see the Golden Arrow and Wealden Rambler.

Enjoy These Latest Photos! 


Martin Lawrence's gallery from 20 to 23 Feb. includes photos of the H-class. His "new meets old" portrait shows No. 33103 "Swordfish" and Queen Mary on a driver training and gauging run on 4 March.

John Sandys' set from 7 March at Sheffield Park, showing good progress on the Platform 1 canopy extension.

A superb photo from Simon Lathwell (also below) taken on 5 March shows No. 323 shunting the Maunsell stock into the carriage shed.
Keith Duke's gallery from 4 March.

No. 323


From Brian and Christine Thompson, "3650," and all the Blackcupboard Gang at Didcot--To the chairman, officers, staff, and volunteers of the Bluebell Railway. May we congratulate you on your efforts in finally reaching East Grinstead and connecting with the national railway network. You have all worked tremendously hard for many years to achieve this momentous occasion. Good luck in the future, and may you increase the number of visitors to the Railway.  

A Trip Down Memory Line: Three Views of the Cutting     


This photograph shows the view north from a slightly elevated position, close to the southern end of Imberhorne Cutting on 15 Jan., 2011.

It is now 10 Dec., 2011 after the departure of the last waste train. This is the view from the same location as the above photograph (but from a lower elevation) and shows quite a transformation, with the new cutting taking shape at the centre of the photograph and clay capping piled high to the left. The large sandstone roadway strip to the right is soon to be back-filled with waste and then capped with clay.

This is the view on 6 March, 2013. It is no longer possible to be at exactly the same location as for the above photo, so this view was taken about 50 yards further south, from Imberhorne Lane bridge. The sandstone strip has been back-filled and capped. The geotextile covering can also be seen. The track extends through the cutting and is within a few feet of the track from Kingscote.






By Steve Fairweather


Steve's updated photo history of the Northern Extension Project will be on sale during the opening festival--Eds.


A History of East Grinstead Station, Part 1      


East Grinstead station opened on 9 July, 1855 at the end of a six-mile long branch from Three Bridges. The line was authorised in 1853 and built by an independent company to a terminus sited to the west of the London Road.

The London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) worked the line from the first, acquiring the company in 1878. Extension eastwards was authorised in 1862 to the East Grinstead, Groombridge, & Tunbridge Wells Railway. The Brighton acquired this company in 1864, although the opening did not take place until 1 Oct., 1866.

This extension required a new "through" station, sited to the east of the original and at a lower level, to permit the line to pass under London Road at the east end. The original terminus became the "top" goods yard.

Further south, though within East Grinstead's "sphere of influence," the Brighton took over in 1864 the independently constructed Lewes & Uckfield Railway and, that same year, obtained powers for the Lewes & Uckfield Junction Railway which avoided Lewes tunnel. It was from Culver Junction on the former line that the Lewes & East Grinstead Railway was independently promoted in 1877.

Together with the authorised branch from Horsted Keynes to the main line at Haywards Heath, it passed to the LBSCR the following year. Built by the Brighton's favoured contractor Joseph Firbank, the line opened throughout on 1 Aug., 1882.

The additional traffic this route brought required an enlarged East Grinstead station. But because the Brighton did not wish to pay the asking price for the timber yard adjacent to the existing one, the new two-level station was sited 300 yards or so to the west.

Although opened concurrently with the L&EGR line, it was not fully operational until 15 Oct., 1883. The second station closed on that same date. The Surrey & Sussex Junction Railway had been authorised in 1865 to run between South Croydon and Tunbridge Wells, the LBSCR being named as the working company.

Following disputes with the South Eastern, which contended this arrangement broke the 1864 agreement between the two not to encroach on one another's "territory," and irregularities over purchase of land, the Duke of Richmond was brought in to arbitrate.

His decision was made known on 22 March, 1869 when, among other things, he decided the Brighton should take over the project, an Act authorising this being passed in June that year. There was, however, a proviso: having been awarded £500,000 to recompense the financial loss the Brighton had faced to this point, the company was now obliged to complete the line under a penalty of £50 per day.

With the cost of construction put at between £1.5 and £2 million, the directors felt the route would not cover its working expenses and, in the 1870 Parliamentary session, sought authority to abandon. They were refused.

This induced them to pay to the limit of the penalty which had been set at £32,250. As a result the powers lapsed, though not before some bridges and earthworks, including the tunnels at Oxted, Riddlesdown, and Limpsfield, had been completed.

By Jeremy Clarke

East Grinstead1
East Grinstead's 1865 station was built to enable through-running Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells West.



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, now from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead!

John Walls
Trustee, Bluebell Railway Preservation Society