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

* 12 March: Fish & Chips Special
* 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 January 2016 compilation, by Martin Lawrence.
A fascinating steam journey in the heart of diamond country: The Diamond Express of South Africa. 

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 .
The Somerset and Dorset Heritage Railway has announced  that steam trains will return to Midsomer Norton station 50 years after it closed during a commemorative event on March 5 and 6, 2016.

The Horsham Model Railway Club  has been given use of a shop unit in Swan Walk, Horsham, during half term week.

From 15 Feb till 21 Feb., 2016, the club will be showing off model layouts and selling some second-hand models. Club members--of which several are members of the Bluebell Railway--will be on hand to chat about model railways. In fact, the club will be doing some promotion for the Bluebell Railway, with leaflets on hand for visitors to its "pop-up" club shop.

Hours of operation will be Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 01403 258143.

By Peter Reed, Chairman, Horsham Model Railway Club
The Independent has t his profile of the last of the Pullman dining trains, the Great Western's Paddington-to-Penzance service.

* Full Name: "'Charlie', the Last British Railways Shunting Horse, at Work with His Driver at Newmarket"
* Artist: R. Tetley

* Date painted: 1965-1985

* Medium: Oil on board, 25.4 x 39.7 cm

* Collection:  National Railway Museum


This work depicts a large bay and white Clydesdale-type horse with a handler holding the reins. The horse is walking alongside a railway track and hauling a horse box numbered E96312. 


Click on the BBC image to see a larger version. 

The Guardian listens to the 10 best pieces of music inspired by trains: " Bruckner and Dvořák loved them, Wagner hated them, and Mendelssohn found a trip on a free-wheeling locomotive 'agony for the nerves' ..." 

Writes Tony Hillman: "The search facility for the archival photographs keeps statistics of what searches are made.

"Here are images from the top six locations searched for, from the John J. Smith and Alan Postlethwaite collections."

"Steam Railways of Britain, 1960-1962," by Cam Camwell.
A cute story about one of the most important employees for any railway station, the mousing cat. At Huddersfield, Felix has been promoted to "Senior Pest Controller" complete with a high vis uniform and (one assumes) a raise in pay/treats. 
The Railway on 7 Feb., 2016, by Joe Light Railway.

Photo by Ben Brooksbank (29 July, 1961): View northward, towards Gloucester and the North on the ex-Midland Birmingham-Bristol main line, with the ex-GW main line passing on the right--eschewing the station: the signals for the Up GW line seen at Danger include the Distants for Standish Junction Box ... MORE .
From The Argus: " Network Rail have submitted plans to convert disused storage space at Brighton station into a dazzling new restaurant space." Read about the plans for the former goods yard here
"Southern Electric: You Are the Motorman" from the 1930s--lots of semaphore signals in the South London area!
For lovers of old industrial locos, the Living Museum of the North at Beamish will host the first steaming of a replica "Samson" in April 2016. " The new-build loco forms a flagship project at Beamish's developing Regional Heritage Engineering Centre and is destined to be used on the 2ft gauge industrial rail system being progressively developed around Beamish's colliery area."
"Flying Scotsman" storms over Shap summit on 6 Feb., 2016.

Read about the "Flying Scotsman's" visit to Carlisle here

Plus, National Railway Museum Head Curator Andrew McLean has investigated the links between the stories train and the Harry Potter series.  
"Camelot" on 6 Feb., 2016, by MKT Transport Video.


Work on the scenery/elephant van No. 4601, which is currently undergoing restoration in the carriage works courtesy of a Museum Resilience Fund provided by Arts Council England (ACE), is progressing apace. The project started in April last year, and we have just two years to complete it.

The van suffered somewhat as a store for the S&T Department, sitting in the elements since 1981. After it was identified as the most suitable candidate for a play carriage, the cable drums it contained were removed and it was shunted into the work area of the carriage shed.

After stripping components, apart from the floor, the metal frame was grit-blasted down the yard. Once back in the shed, the old double-planked floor was removed and the lower thick floorboards replaced with new softwood ones, painted for protection. The side planking was originally a mixture of hardwood and softwood boards, but it is being completely replaced with hardwood (utile) planks, apart from some original hardwood ones which span the whole length between the double doors on each side, which have been repaired as it is nearly impossible to obtain timber of this length now.

Where long boards have been replaced with new, two boards have been half-lapped to make boards of the correct length. The use of hardwood for the exterior should mean that the van will last a good few years before having to have any attention as it will be living outside

The side planking is trial-fitted and then removed section by section to allow the painting to top coat of the outer faces and edges. The sections are then reassembled on the van for the final time. New sidelight frames are being produced and fitted as well.

The roof has posed the biggest challenge, and we haven't tackled anything quite like this before in the C&W. The original mild steel roof sheets were cut into pieces and removed prior to grit-blasting and have been replaced by zintec sheets which had to be
cut and rolled by a contractor due to their size. Originally, these sheets were riveted together with cover straps above and below the sheet joins ...

Read the rest of Sheina Foulkes' report, and see all the photos, here .

The Kids for a Quid programme is running through half-term and during other school holidays. Check the details here

John Sandys' photo--taken on 4 Feb., 2016-- shows the C class in steam after getting some attention in the Loco Works. For more from this album, click here .

For those who have not already caught up with progress to rebuild BR class 2 2-6-2 No. 78059--which will be numbered 84030 when finished, taking the next number in the sequence of its class--as a tank engine, John Jesson and Tony Sullivan have published the latest newsletter as a PDF document ...

"Our present efforts are focussed on getting the loco' onto its coupled wheels. All the wheel sets are seen uncovered in the image below following their safe removal onto custom made timbers and set to minimise trapped water. They are being painted progressively.

"The horn block liners have returned from Grinding Services in Ossett with their face and side liners ground. Grinding the grease grooves was, as anticipated, difficult, but completed successfully with a custom-built guide for an angle grinder and Cubitron disc. The liners are currently being fitted to the horn blocks for dimensional checks and shimming.

"All the coupled wheel axleboxes have been overhauled. The bearings were removed and have been built up to suit the wheel-set journals, which were machined at Swindon before the works closed. Fresh white metal has been applied to the journal bearings and thrust faces. The boxes are ready to be machined as soon as the target dimensions have been confirmed ... "

Click here to read the full update.

This photo shows the riveting completed on the frame stretchers below the cab. The riveting has also been completed on the front drag-box and buffer beam.
Southern at War will return to the Railway on 14 and 15 May, 2016. Always a popular event, re-live last year's weekend with these photos by Martin Fuge Photography. 

Fred Bailey's photograph shows, delivered from Premier Patterns, the casting for double Ramsbottom Safety Valves.

Writes Fred, "All Brighton Atlantics had these to the end of their lives with, I think, with one H1 an exception. Unlike the GNR/LNER locomotives, they were not fitted with Ross Pop Valves. Our casting is for the twin Ramsbottom type with all of the critical working parts produced to the original designs."

The Brighton Atlantic project has made lots more progress besides, although, as Fred explains, some of the work is difficult to photograph! Nevertheless, there are some photographs and fine explanations to be found here .

2016 will see not only the long awaited completion of Haywards Heath's newly modernised station area but also the 175th Anniversary of the arrival of the railway into the town.

To celebrate this milestone a number of special events will take place in Haywards Heath from 17-18 Sept., 2016.
On the Saturday, Town Day will take place in Victoria Park, including special events, stands, a fun fair, and a firework display. On the Sunday, events move to the station itself, where there will be a grand procession of Victorian-dressed townsfolk, from Victoria Park to the station. A plaque and other items also will be unveiled, and the 1875-built Stepney will be on hand.

Plus, enjoy:
  • Horse and carriage rides
  • Children's train station adventures
  • Marching bands
  • Films in Victoria Park
  • And much more!
For more details, visit Haywards Heath Live .
Sheffield Park and other National Trust gardens designed by Capability Brown will celebrate the 300th anniversary of his birth by planting hundreds of trees. 

 A horse tram at the Derby Castle terminus in 1972, by Dr. Neil Clifton.

A distinctive tourist attraction, the Isle of Man's Douglas Bay Horse Tramway --opened in 1876--ran along the seafront promenade for approximately 1.6 miles from Victoria Pier, adjacent to the Sea Terminal, to Derby Castle, the southern terminus of the Manx Electric Railway, where workshops and sheds were located.

However, in January 2016, Douglas Borough Council confirmed that the financially troubled tramway had run for the last time in September 2015. Read the official press release here .

A petition has been launched by Friends of Douglas Bay Horse Tramway to reinstate the historical service and this January 2016 report explains that it had reached nearly 4,000 signatures.
Writes Neil Cameron, "The Douglas Council wishes to develop the promenade for road traffic, removing of one line of the tramway and operating the trams over a shorter route.  However, the cost of relocating a (presumably smaller) depot is not balanced against the expected return from the sale and development of the existing tramcar depot and stables.  

"The Manx Electric and Isle of Man Steam Railway are operated on behalf of the Manx Government, so perhaps the Goverment could consider bridging the funding gap?

"However, offers in the cars and the horses are being sought by Douglas Council already. There is a rest home for the old tram horses, as the tramway was only open for the holiday season, and the horses often took part in ploughing events during their seasonal rest. I understand the horses are Clydesdales, as were some of Britain's railway shunting horses .   Cartage and van work also once was undertaken by railway horses."

Adds Neil, "The last shunting horses worked at Newmarket, shunting out and tripping prepared and ordered horseboxes to the shunting yard, the signalman keeping watch. This traffic disappeared as a result of the Beeching Report and because of the ready supply of road competition from new road vehicles laid out as horseboxes.

More historically notable videos exist of railway horses, courtesy of British Pathé: " Heavy Going " (1946) and " Flu Epidemic Among Railway Horses " (1949).
With 2016 expected to be a busy year,  the Railway is currently advertising a variety of casual catering vacancies.

See all the photos at this link.

Amid the justifiable enthusiastic welcome to the new signalbox at Kingscote which, undoubtedly, will attract much attention from those with an interest in signalling for its uniqueness in the heritage sector--as well as for the fantastic standard of the execution--more than a few Bluebell signalmen will quietly mourn the passing of the old box.

It may have been a "temporary" arrangement, but it was one that nonetheless lasted for 22 years! Not only that, its unique charms from the signalman's point of view were definitely appreciated.  It was warm and cosy in winter, cool and airy in summer, and a haven for those who enjoyed wildlife.  

The bird feeders hanging from the eaves at either end attracted many varieties of feathered visitors, including woodpeckers and birds of prey. There were the deer in the woods (which sometimes crossed the line, causing anxious moments when trains were about). There was no more tranquil setting to enjoy a quiet read in between the far from arduous duty of attending to signalling trains.

Yes, there were downsides too-a walk along the cess after dark could be hazardous as various creatures were wont to leave unseen scrapes in the cinder path, risking a twisted ankle for the unsuspecting. Also, the luxury of running water only arrived within recent memory.  Before that it had to be fetched from the station in an authentic but rather unwieldy galvanised water carrier, and then it had to be boiled before consumption. Careful planning also was needed to schedule "personal breaks" such that no disruption to the trains was incurred through signalman absence from duty because a walk back to the station was necessary (not forgetting to take the key when working out of hours! Visitors were a rarity too--but not all signalmen considered this to be a problem!

Finally, the decommissioning of the old box has seen the demise of the only remaining mechanically worked points on main running lines controlled from signalboxes on the entirety of the Bluebell Railway, which some purists lament.

Myself and my colleagues are, of course, excited to be entrusted with the use and care of the fantastic new signalbox, which will be much commented upon in enthusiast circles I'm sure.  But let's share a few photos of the 'old job' before it fades from memory. All were taken during the last days prior to decommissioning ...

By Chas Melton

(Re-published from Kent Online, 4 Feb., 2016) Engineers working on designs to fix the sea wall at Dover have been investigating the history of the Victorian railway line.

Network Rail and its contractors Costain are conducting investigations into the wall and structure supporting the railway. The Southern Railway which existed from 1923 to 1947 did not keep many documents on the work it undertook at the site on Shakespeare Beach in 1927.

Engineers have been investigating the structure itself, with bore holes and trenches, and combing local newspaper archives and online videos for information.

Steve Kilby, senior programme manager for Network Rail, said: "We are the sixth company to own this stretch of railway since it was built in the 1840s, and the record-keeping of some of our predecessors means we are still finding out how this stretch of railway was built ... MORE

Adds Neil Cameron, "During the 1980s, while working at Dover Ferry Sidings, I heard a story of an experienced head shunter from the 1950s at Dover Town Yard who used to emphasise a discussion point by hitting the ground with the shaft of his shunting pole. On one occasion the pole disappeared into the ground, much to the consternation of all who saw it happen!

"And around 1980, a sink hole, caused by a stream that ran under the ferry sidings, led to a 350hp shunting pilot falling in. You could see where the wall had been demolished and later rebuilt to give a road crane access to site. Both these incidents occurred on made-up ground."

To read about the history of Dover rail, click here . Images on this site show the lengthy stretch of railway that ran over the tidal bay on wooden trestles, heading towards the tunnel. It is easy to see how a winter storm could cause difficulties to this stretch of line.

By John Sandys.

John Sandys (2 Feb., 2016): The Q class with a Kingscote signalling test train.

John Sandys (6 Feb., 2016): Services have resumed after signalling work, and John was there to capture it in photos and video.  

Julian Heinemann  (10 Jan., 2016): "Camelot" over the washout pit.
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