The Railway's Special Events page  includes dates for this year:

* 19-20 March: Branch Line Weekend, including the visit of LNWR Coal Tank No.1054
* 25-28 March: Bo Peep Easter Specials
* 15-17 April: Diesel Weekend
* 30 April: Toy & Rail Collectors Fair
* 14-15 May: Southern at War
* 25-26 June: Model Railway Weekend
* 2-3 July: Food Festival 
* 10 July: Songs of Praise
* 30-31 July: Toy & Rail Collectors Fair
* 6-7 August: Seaside Weekend
* 13-14 August: Vintage Transport Weekend
* 28-30 October: Giants of Steam
Bluebell Railway Service 2 on New Years Day 2016, by "Bluebell-Railway Hawks".

The Valentine's Day Golden Arrow luncheon special is now fully booked, but there's still time to book your place on the afternoon Wealden Rambler .

The next Fish and Chip Train is now on 12 March, 2016, departing at 6:30 p.m. View details here

Join us on Good Friday and Easter Saturday, Sunday, and Monday when Little Bo Peep will be travelling on the 10 a.m., 12:15 p.m., and 2:45 p.m. service from Sheffield Park and the 10:55 a.m., 1:15 p.m., and 3:45 p.m. (this latter train runs Saturday and Sunday only) from East Grinstead.

Bo Peep will be on board the 1913 Observation Carriage, where she will meet all children on board and present them with an Easter Gift. Adults won't be left out; they will all receive an Easter treat from Bo Peep's helpers too.

Seats must be booked in advance by phoning 01825 720800 or by calling into the Travel Centre at East Grinstead station or the Sales and Information Office at Sheffield Park.

More information can be found here .
SE&CR H class No. 263 departing Sheffield park on 1 Jan., 2016, by "kinetic_rail".
In 2016, the Railway is offering two new season tickets: Off-Peak Season Tickets and Rail Gala Season Tickets. More information here

Tony Hillman has taken a look back at archive photo orders from 2015 and chosen the six most popular orders. To order these or any other archive image, click the link below.  

9Fs are the subject of this "Steam Locos in Profile".

Our readers might enjoy this American exploration of Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood, based on Ashdown Forest in the heart of beautiful Sussex. National Public Radio's Ari Shapiro visits Ashdown with Kathryn Aalto , author of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh .  
John Harwood's 21 Jan., 2016 video has a Hosted Keynes shed update and testing of the Kingscote North signal box points operation.
In the Edenderry area of Portadown, Ulster, a public art mural recalls steam days , when Portadown was know as "The Crewe of Ireland". 

"Portadown was a steam-age focus for routes across Ireland, such as the Belfast-Dublin main line and those that were closed during the 50s and 60s, including the Armagh, Cavan, and Clones in 1957 and Dungannon, Omagh, Strabane, and Derry/Londonderry in 1965.

"The station was replaced about 1970 and the original demolished. Studies and campaign groups now exist to re-open railways to Armagh and Dungannon respectively"--Neil Cameron. 

Photo by Ben Brooskbank. Pines Express' Relief nearing Shoscombe & Single Hill Halt (View NE, towards Bath on the Somerset & Dorset line to Bournemouth. The 10:20 Liverpool (Lime St.) to Bournemouth West is following 25 minutes behind the main train, headed by LMS Fowler 7F 2-8-0 No. 53807 piloting SR Bulleid Light Pacific No. 34040 'Crewkerne' (built 9/46 as 21C140, rebuilt 10/60, withdrawn 7/67).
Tony Deller, the Bulleid Society's Technical Advisor, has died aged 75. Read about Tony's remarkable life in rail and steam preservation here . "God bless; safe onward journey". 

* Full Name: London-Brighton South Coast at Night
* Artist: By Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis
* Medium: Oil on board, 24.3 x 34.2 cm (estimated)
* Collection: Museum of Island Railway History

Click on the BBC image for a larger version.

Writes Neil Cameron: "The loco is one of the four categories of DE Marsh -designed 4-4-2 tank locos, designated  I1 to I4, for the LB&SCR. Here's a fine model of the successful I3 class . They had a 6 foot 9 inch driving wheel, being a tank engine version of the LB&SCR B4 4-4-0 .

"The I3 was a successful test bed for superheating in the UK, and all examples were eventually superheated. To meet a Southern Railway gauging requirement, chimney, steam dome, and cab roof height were lowered."
Congratulations to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway Magazine, which has won the Heritage Railway Association's Best Magazine Award for 2016.

" Let's Imagine: A Branch Line Railway with John Betjeman ": First transmitted in 1963, poet John Betjeman examines the Evercreech Junction to Burnham-on-Sea railway in Somerset, providing a unique profile of a working steam branch line railway.

Writes Neil Cameron: "This route via Glastonbury had been the main route of the line prior to the Bath extension being built. The expenditure caused the railway company to fold and lease the S&D Joint to the Midland Railway and London and South Western Railway."

Somerset & Dorset Days.

Looking stylish in its blue livery, Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway Carriage no. 4 will carry passengers for the first time since 1930 on 5 March, 2016, at a steam gala to mark 50 years since the closure of the S&D.

"Somerset & Dorset Days, Part II," with Ivo Peters.
Brixton Buzz remembers the Terrier class tank engine named after that part of London, and its related LB&SCR locos, such as "Stepney" and "Brighton". 

John Sandys' photo shows signalling work taking place at Kingscote on 19 Jan., 2016.  Because of this work, no public trains are operating until 6 Feb., 2016. 
Derek Hayward's photo from 24 Jan., 2016, shows that Kingscote North now has control of the signals. The Loop Platform northbound starter is shown in "off" position.
Signalling at Kingscote has been out of use since 11 Jan., 2016 to allow Signals & Telecommunications (S&T) volunteers to change the control of the Kingscote area from the temporary signal box at the south end of the loop to the station signal box.
The project was started almost four years ago when parts of the Westinghouse "L" style miniature lever frame were recovered from Devon and donated by the Dartmouth Steam Railway. Since then a small team of S&T staff have worked on collecting, restoring, and building the new lever frame.
Not so obvious is the less glamorous but equally important work behind the scenes--the design of the scheme and circuits that operate the signalling and telephone systems; installing thousands of electrical connections; preparing paper work to support safety-critical systems; and planning the commissioning, testing the circuits, and producing certification.
The commissioning period is now two thirds of the way through, with a built-in contingency for recovering a substantial amount of redundant material. This is a real achievement for the staff who have given up their time during the coldest period of the year.

View page 5 onwards of Derek Hayward's detailed Kingscote gallery for photos and descriptions that accompany this report.
To the casual observer little has changed outside the signal box, but in fact much has been altered. Every signal telephone has been rerouted to the new telephone concentrator (switch board), additional emergency phone plug in points have been installed and tested, and dial phones reassigned. The signals and points that were worked mechanically have been fitted with machines, cabled and connected to the new signal box. Additional track circuits have been installed, and along with all the remaining track circuits, diverted to the new relay room and signal box.
Along with the dormant signals installed during the East Grinstead extension, two additional signals have been brought into work. One is for access to the Down siding at the East Grinstead end of the loop platform and the other provides access into the Up siding. Although the points and signals have been fully tested into the Up siding, these will be left out of work as the track requires much attention before it can be used by traffic.
The siding exit signal has been converted from a position light signal into a mechanical disc, much more in keeping with the 1955 era. In future, the token exchange will take place at the north end of the station. When trains pass, station staff will confirm the presence of a tail lamp by operating one of two "train arrived complete" (TAC) plungers. The East Grinstead token will be worked as before except that the "no signalman instrument" has been removed and will eventually be installed at East Grinstead for incoming NR traffic (this is why, at present, there are patches on the signalman's diagram).
The episode of Michael Portillo's TV show Great British Railway Journeys featuring the Bluebell Railway was aired on 26 Jan., 2016 on BBC2, for those with access to iPlayer.

The Bluebell Railway and GB Railfreight (GBRf) are proud to announce the details of their forthcoming jointly organised Diesel Gala on Friday to Sunday, 15 to 17 April, 2016. This builds on previous successful diesel events at the Railway, becoming in 2016 a fully fledged multi-loco Diesel Gala.
GBRf is celebrating 15 years of operation in 2016, and this is the first of several events in which money GBRf raises will be donated to charity.
Locomotives will be drawn from a selection regularly used by GBRf. It is planned (subject to availability on the day) to use examples from classes 20, 47, 66, 73/1, and 73/9. Rolling stock will be a mix of the Bluebell Railway's own coaches and a 4-TC unit kindly provided by London Underground Ltd. An intensive three-train service for all three days are planned, with evening beer trains on the Friday and Saturday.
The Railway's resident Class 09 is expected to be making additional brake van trips for a small additional charge, and each day raffle tickets will be sold for a cab ride on a selected afternoon service from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead.
A selection of sales stands also will be in attendance, including a special GBRf stand where limited edition 15th anniversary memorabilia will be available to purchase.
Tickets will be available soon on the Bluebell Railway's website to pre-purchase, and a full timetable and loco diagrams will be published closer to the event.
Paul Taylor, GBRf Business Manager, says, "It's a privilege to work with one of the country's premier heritage lines, and we are looking forward to jointly running this event with the Bluebell Railway. We have enjoyed a special relationship with the Railway since operating spoil and ballast trains in connection with their recent East Grinstead extension, and it will be a pleasure to run a gala event that will raise money for both the Railway and our nominated charities."
Says Roger Garman, Bluebell Railway's Communications Director, "indeed GBRf is no newcomer to Bluebell Railway metals, and we are pleased to be working with them to deliver this year's Diesel Gala. The event provides us with an opportunity to utilise an array of diesel motive power the scale of which is unprecedented for us. We look forward to a very successful event and wish GBRf a great year supporting their chosen charity." 

This photo from the BBC story about the Dover-Folkestone line shows how damage to the sea wall has impacted the railway.
Following recent storms that saw the rail line sea wall collapse between Dover and Folkestone, with subsequent closing of the line for repairs, Network Rail needed to convert part of the up line into a siding to allow rebuilding works to progress.

Following a meeting, Network Rail realised it didn't have any derailers to hand to protect fouling of the line. [A derailer is a gradiated inside rail, like within a point, which can send a vehicle off the tracks into a safe place--Eds.] A quick call to our Railway's Permanent Way Manager Matt Crawford saved the day because we have some stored at Horsted Keynes yard. Network Rail will pick them up in early February.

By Colin Tyson

Adds Neil Cameron: "The current damage is localised at Dover near the Shakespeare Tunnel.  It's interesting to note that the railway linking the Dover end of Shakespeare Tunnel and Archcliffe Fort once was entirely supported on piled wood supports, the tidal sea rushing in around them. Subsequently, the land was reclaimed and retained by the sea wall, now damaged by the high tide. The damage is much greater than it looks, but the sea walls west of Shakespeare Tunnel are not reported to be damaged. In 1915 a huge earthslip occurred at Folkestone Warren, which blocked the line into the 1920s. The Dover-Folkestone line was known as the most expensive to maintain in BR days."
The Argus reminisces about Brighton as a pioneering nineteenth-century railway town, home to a resort station and a loco works that built Stroudley-designed engines.  

E4 takes its steam test on 21 Jan., 2016 (photo by John Sandys).

2016 has seen a quiet start to the year for the Loco Department due to the railway being closed for the commissioning of the new Kingscote signalbox. This downtime has enabled the Works to focus on maintaining the running fleet, with quite a few jobs being ticked off the list. These include the last niggling items on No. 73082 "Camelot," such as the blowdown valve, steam brake lubricating oil pots, and a sticky handbrake, which all required some attention. The Q class has received some attention to the steam reverser with new tappets and steam valve installed, and the C class has received a spruce up from our mid-week volunteers. 

Both the H class and S15 have been withdrawn from traffic for the annual boiler exam, and while out of service both will receive some attention to their valves and pistons along with some other maintenance items. When complete our boiler inspector will attend site, witness an out-of-service exam and then an in-service exam (steam test) and issue another boiler certificate valid for 12 months. This is all part of the process for ensuring our boilers are inspected and managed over the course of their 10-year operational period.

Inside the Works, the E4 recently had a full piston and valve exam including the fitting of new slide valves and the replacement of 16 boiler stays. The loco is now complete, has undergone a test run, and is available for traffic. 

All the wheels for Standard class 4 tank No. 80151 have been sent to the South Devon Railway for new tyres to be fitted, and work is progressing on the chassis and boiler. The frame stretchers and drag box have been removed from the chassis, and new platework is being fabricated to replace these worn out areas. All the pistons and valves have been removed and the cylinders will be re-bored in due course. On the boiler, the removal of stays, platework, and lap seam fastenings has begun so we can remove the firebox door plate. The usual areas of wasted platework have been discovered. They will be replaced along with inner firebox lap seams. 

Schools class No. 928's boiler is progressing well at the north end of the Works, with the final stays being removed ready for complete removal of the inner firebox. This work will allow the new backhead to be fitted and fully riveted in place. Once complete the inner firebox will be re-fitted and all new stays installed. To the casual observer it may look like slow progress, but with hundreds of stays to cut and then unscrew from the inner and outer firebox's, it's a time-consuming process. In the yard, work on the chassis continues with the fitting of new platework to the cab.

Our off-site repair of boilers continues, albeit at a slow pace, with 80% of No. 34059's inner firebox removed, the barrel extension removed, and new platework to the outer firebox welded in. The new inner firebox material has been delivered.

With the start of the operational season only one week away, tenders are being filled and final polishing is happening, ready for the first train on the 6 Feb., 2016. Q class No. 30541 will visit the Mid-Hants Railway for its gala, so I encourage you to support the Mid-Hants and visit our friends to see the Q class in another setting. 

Finally, thanks to all who have contributed to the fund for purchase of boiler tools and equipment. With your generosity, we have purchased two Asquith Universal Portable Radial Drills, along with other boiler related tooling. Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing you in 2016!

By Chris Hunford, Locomotive Director 
Tony Hillman has added a page to the Bluebell Railway Museum's website describing the Accessible Steam Heritage (ASH) Project and the Heritage Lottery Funding the Railway seeks.

"Richborough: The Gantries," by John Lavery. Four Richborough paintings by Lavery can be found here .
From 1916 to 1919 Richborough's Q Port in southeast Kent became key to the British Expeditionary Force's logistical support during the escalation of World War I, with conventional port-to-port transportation capacity having become saturated.

Q Port was made operational principally by building, operating, and servicing a fleet of more than 240 barges. Sufficient steam tugs were collected in order to navigate--in "trains" of these sea craft--to and from destination ports. Later on, they travelled inland via a variety of navigable rivers to tranship to trench railways in northern France. Dover had initially hosted barge operations, but they came into their own when expanded at Richborough.

Onsite production and stockpiling shortened supply lines and, together with a compound for marshalling and arranging transport of soldiers enroute to France, Q Port took pressure off Longmoor Camp. The new Inland Water Transport section of the Royal Engineers flourished, and many civilian lightermen were recruited. A new jetty was constructed, nearly a mile in length.

Dredging and excavation further enlarged the port, and its rail capacity also increased. "By 1918, it had become a large and well-equipped seaport, of 2,000 acres, complete with all services and capable of handling 30,000 tons of traffic per week.

"Buildings, yards and workshops were constructed to increase the supply of barges and other small vessels needed in the theatre of war. The River Stour was diverted by cutting a new channel to render possible 2,300 ft of new wharf for the cross-channel barge service, in which, at the end of the war, 242 barges were employed, including 10 of 1,000 ton capacity. On 10 Feb., 1918 a cross-channel ferry service, approved early in 1917, was brought into operation between Richborough and Calais with a supplementary service from Southampton to Dieppe.

"These ferries were invaluable for the transport, and eventual return, of locomotives, rolling stock, heavy guns, tanks and hospital trains. In all some sixty miles of standard gauge railway were laid at Richborough".

Major, later Colonel, OVS Bulleid was involved in all matters to do with both the railway and in the welding of new steel barges built on site near

Meanwhile, the Col. Stephens Railway Museum has a fascinating article about the Richborough Port and the "lost hope" of the East Kent Light Railway. The article includes a map of the port in 1918.  

By Neil Cameron

(From Mid-Sussex Times , 25 Jan., 2016) Steam train fans have the chance to commemorate the Queen's 90th year with a special trip from East Grinstead to Oxford and Worcester.

On Saturday March 12, the Cathedrals Express steam locomotive 6201 Princess Elizabeth, named after the young Princess in 1933, will be at the head of the train (from London) as it makes its way to Oxford and Worcester for a fabulous day trip.

The journey sees 'Lizzie', as she is affectionately named, return to the tracks after a major three-year refurbishment.

It will be the first in a series of special celebratory excursions with this famous locomotive, to various destinations across the country, as the nation prepares to mark The Queen's 90th birthday on April 21.

The special charter will depart, diesel hauled, from East Grinstead at approximately 8.15am, heading up to London where 'Lizzie' will join the train.

From here it will make its way out along The Thames Valley, calling first at Oxford, where passengers can spend the afternoon. They will have several hours to explore the "city of dreaming spires". Those staying on the train will arrive in Worcester at approximately 2.40pm. Passengers will re-join The Cathedrals Express at 4.40pm (or 6.10pm from Oxford) for the journey home ... READ MORE .

It's been 50 years since the Oxford Engine Shed closed. Learn about it here .
Thank you for reading our eNewsletter. Don't forget to pass it along to friends, family, and colleagues to let them know all the activities and opportunities--for young and old alike--that the Bluebell Railway offers. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have Railway news to share or if you have a question or comment.
John Walls
Editor-in-Chief, eNewsletter
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Bluebell Railway | j.walls1@btinternet.com | http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk
Sheffield Park Station
East Sussex
Near Uckfield, TN22 3QL