Getting Traction with Track Trek 2017

Those of you who have travelled on the Bluebell Railway recently will have noticed there are a small number of sections of the line where the journey is a little uneven. This is due to track wear and to eliminate these, the Railway wishes to accelerate its programme of track renewal.  

In October, the Railway will be launching its "Tr(ack) Action" or Traction Appeal to raise funds to do just that. In addition to improving passenger comfort, the renewed track will reduce maintenance costs on the locos and carriages.

Part of the appeal will include our annual Track Trek sponsored walk, which will be held on 18 Nov., 2017, with the aim of raising £15,000 to buy one replacement 60-foot track panel. 

The Trek will be along the entire length of the line between East Grinstead and Sheffield Park stations, covering a distance of 11 miles. With trains running most weekends and daily until the end of October, there are not many opportunities to walk the entire length of the Railway, and at the same time raise lots of money through sponsorship for this very important appeal.  

This is a chance not only for supporters to see the track from a different perspective, including the tunnel but also to see first-hand the track renewal works taking place during the middle part of November between Horsted Keynes and Sheffield Park. Members of our Infrastructure Team will be there to explain what is entailed in replacing the track.

The Track Trek starts from East Grinstead between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. with registration and safety briefings at East Grinstead from 8:30 a.m. Parking here will be in any of the town's Pay and Display car parks. 

Alternatively, you can park your car for free at Sheffield Park station in order to catch a complimentary bus to East Grinstead in time to start from there before 10 a.m. Registration and safety briefings at Sheffield Park will take place between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. before the bus ride to East Grinstead. For trekkers starting at East Grinstead, a complimentary bus service will operate to take you back to your original starting point from Sheffield Park.

Last year more than 300 people registered for Track Trek, and we are expecting numbers to be high again, so it is best to secure your place by emailing with your name, address, phone number, email address, the number of people taking part, and whether you require the bus to East Grinstead in the morning or at the end of the Trek.  

At registration trekkers will be expected to show sponsorship to the value of at least £25 per person or £40 for each family group (maximum two adults and three children aged 7 to 16 inclusive).   All trekkers will receive a certificate after completing the Trek. Trekkers who raise more than £100 in sponsorship will receive a commemorative medal.
We look forward to seeing you. We have to reserve the right to cancel or postpone the event at short notice, so please check the website or with us the week before--but don't assume we are put off by bad weather, as we were not last year! If you take part, I will be sure to be at Sheffield Park to welcome you back.

By Roger Kelly, Funding Director

Elephant Play Van Now Open!

  Horsted Keynes Station Master David Morgan takes delivery of the Key to the Elephant Play Van door. Photos courtesy of Paul Cripps and Sheina Foulkes.
The Railway's Elephant Play Van attraction opened on 5 Aug., 2017, at Horsted Keynes. Positioned into the dock by "Captain Baxter" and whistled in by the passing service trains, this ceremony showed the culmination of 24 months of hard work and preparation by volunteers and staff in the Carriage and Wagon Department.

The major portion of funding for the project of nearly £90,000 was secured in March 2015 following a successful application to the Arts Council England Museum Resilience Fund, with the balance provided by the Bluebell Railway Trust. Representatives from Arts Council England and the Bluebell Railway were in attendance. Brief speeches were made by Bluebell Railway Preservation Society Chairman Graham Aitken and by Roy Watts on behalf of the Bluebell Railway Trust. 
The official ribbon-cutting was performed by Michael Cooke, ACE Relationship Manager for the project. A clap of thunder and sudden downpour of rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of all involved, and in fact was declared a blessing by Michael! 
The history of the van is worthy of comment ... 
Scenery Van No. 4601 was built in Lancing in 1949 to carry scenery and props for theatre productions which used to be toured around the country in specially formed trains. Our van with its large end doors and high roof profile was one of three of these, adapted to carry circus elephants, and it was used by Billy Smart's circus in the 1950s. As these events moved from town to town there could be up to nine elephants on the move at any one time, three to a van. 
When theatre and circus traffic dwindled, the van was used instead for transporting mail and parcels, and when it was withdrawn in 1980, it was the last survivor of its type. It was obtained for use on the Bluebell Railway as a signalling equipment store and workshop, and it was until a couple of years ago completely loaded with large cable drums. 
Recognising the need for entertainment for our younger visitors to Horsted Keynes station, the idea of a children's play area was born. Financial support was sought from Arts Council England, and our success in securing this prompted selection of No. 4601 as a suitable candidate.  The plan was that the van would first be fully restored and then fitted out with play equipment, so the project had two distinct parts.  We had two years to complete the work.
The van was emptied and brought into the Carriage & Wagon works where it was thoroughly surveyed before being dismantling. The most challenging aspect proved to be the steel roof. It needed to be replaced, and the sheets had to be cut and rolled to shape by an outside company.  Some of the planking was repaired and reused, but much of it was replaced with new. The floor was completely replaced. New doors were constructed for the sides and ends, and the completed vehicle was painted inside and out in an historically correct livery. 
The result is an accurate rebuild of the original vehicle with a large interior space available to create a suitable play area for our young visitors. 
After consulting with three design companies, we decided to design and fit out the play area ourselves, using the expertise we have in the department thanks to volunteers and staff from diverse backgrounds.  First, we had to insulate the van, then line it with boards. The inner roof took the form of sky-printed Foamex sheets adorned with various aircraft and other flying objects.  The sides were again covered with Foamex, printed with images such as Bruegel's Children's Games. 
The interior was designed to give a "serious" end, finished to look like the original van interior, with a huge image of elephants leaving an elephant van through the massive end doors.  Walking through the van, the interior becomes a lively play area ending with a circus ring at the other end to provide a safe area for very young children. 
The majority of the play content was designed and built by volunteers, with the mechanical models fitted to the wall on the east side being supplied by a local craftsman. Some features have been incorporated for the comfort and enjoyment of our visitors, such as air conditioning and a sound system. 
By Roger Garman, Communications Director
The Railway has raised an impressive £22,000 plus through EasyFundraising . Many thanks to those people who already support us in this way. If you don't yet, please sign up to support us when you shop online: it costs you nothing! The money raised is currently going to the Keep Up the Pressure Appeal  to help fund the overhaul of some of our locomotives' boilers. 
Making Tracks on OP4

(On 7 Aug., 2017, the first track was laid in the Horsted Keynes OP4 carriage shed.)

Using some of track recovered from Freshfield Bank in June, a start has been made on F and G roads. 

The panels are not yet drilled and fishplated, and there is of course ballasting to be done for roads H and J.  Work on the points to connect to OP4 continues alongside the Ardingly spur although the project is still awaiting delivery of some parts. 

(Update for 14 Aug., 2017, with thanks to Jon Goff.)

Following excavation and levelling last week, work on the tramway being installed adjacent to the maintenance road in OP4 moved on today with the laying out of the track. It was also coupled up and straightened out. The second photo shows a lot of jacks in place to bring it up to the correct height and to get it level.

The remainder of this week will be spent getting it exactly level and packing under the sleepers so that the jacks can be removed. A lot of shuttering has to be made up to produce a three-inch flangeway inside the running edge, putting in drainage from the flangeway to the installed drainage system, as any water used for cleaning will invariably end up in the flangeway. It will then all be concreted in.

Notice the low blockwork wall to the right which will act as the east side shuttering and also form a good base for the curtain wall when it is installed.

The rails used came from the pile of second-hand flat bottom short sections used for temporary short panels through the cutting when laying the extension. They are too short and in too poor a condition for use on our running line, but fine for track to accommodate bogies, etc. during maintenance.

The sleepers (47 of them) are just about our entire stock of thin concrete sleepers, old and second-hand and a good way of using up the odds and ends without spending money. As the rails were odd sizes that were going to be cut down (but didn't get cut), we ended up with a final length of 31.296 m or 102' 8". Hopefully the tramway will be useable next week.

"Steam Through the Ages" at the Bluebell Railway in September

On 23 and 24 Sept., 2017, travel through 100 years of history in one day! This new event will bring different eras from history to life with a different decade recreated at each station.

Sheffield Park will depict the Victorian Era, during which the railway that became the Bluebell Line got its start. Horsted Keynes will give a flavour of life during the war years of the 1940s, while Kingscote will be a groovy place to be with the 1960s taking centre stage. At East Grinstead enjoy '80s music and have your picture taken with "stars" of the day.

Travel tickets are valid all day so hop on and off the trains to explore each station as much as you like throughout the day.

At Sheffield Park
  • Victorian Music Hall
  • Live Band
  • Victorian Tea room
  • Barrel Organ
At Horsted Keynes
  • Children's Craft Activities
  • Street market traders, "Spivs," and Jiving Jim Dandy
  • Sussex Home Guard
  • Vehicle and military displays
  • Live Bands, including the Victory Vs
  • Animal Encounters
At Kingscote
  • Vintage bus
  • Giant Games
  • 1960s Burger Bar and Milk Bar
  • Vehicle display
At East Grinstead
  • Photograph yourself with "stars" of the 80s
Learn more here .

Nine Elms Diary Extracts Published

Bluebell Railway Director and Trustee Neil Glaskin sends us notice of a new book by Railway Driver Clive Groome: 

" These are extracts from the diaries I kept between 1965 and the end of steam in 1967. They detail the story of the final years of British steam from the inside, to give the reader a taste of what those days were really like. The people, the engines and the places we travelled, the excitement and the problems that we faced every day. It was a great life and when it all came to an end I, and many other engine men, were bereft."

Learn more at Amazon . Or click here to view the flyer .  

The 2018 Golden Arrow Murder Mystery details and dates are now available .
Sand, Sea, Sun, & Fun

Derek Hayward was on hand on 19 Aug., 2017, to take photos at the Bluebell Railway Seaside Weekend, held at Horsted Keynes station. As you can see, the sun was out, the buckets were plentiful, and fun was had by children of all ages!

To See a "C" Again!


In the online newsletter I was pleased to see the Bluebell Railway now has C class numberplate No. 31592 in the museum.

I bought this from BR when the three remaining 'C's--nos. 31721, 31592, and 31280--were renumbered as works shunters at Ashford (No. 31592 became DS239). I was also able to buy No. 31280's plate.

I was about 13 at the time, and they cost me 11 shillings each (a lot of pocket money in those days). Both were delivered by BR Road Services lorry wrapped up in a piece of sacking.

I eventually exchanged No. 31592's numberplate with the late Alan Eddowes (a collector from Hove) for a Canterbury South seatback sign. I often wondered where it ended up, now I can look at it once again!

Brian Hart, Uckfield

Just Dropped In

The 73082 Camelot Locomotive Society have been working on repairing the north end doors and drop-board of the Covered Carriage Truck (CCT) No. 2531S . This 14 Aug., 2017, photo shows David Rhydderch repairing the north end drop board. More photos can be found here

Some late summer and autumn dates for your event diary. All event listings can be found here :
From the Railway Archive
John J. Smith is again travelling through Wales, specifically the railways around Dinowic, in this selection curated by Tony Hillman ...

Photo Gallery  
John Sandys (7 Aug., 2017): " A busy day today with plenty of holiday makers enjoying themselves. The 09 was busy on the Monday shunt and City of Wells began its journey home."

Dave Bowles (6 Aug., 2017): Featuring the H class, S15, and the Q class.

John Sandys (14 Aug., 2017): "A beautiful summer's day saw the 01 on the second set in place of the H class looking splendid in the brilliant sunshine, with the S15 on the other set. The sun brought out the crowds, with barely a spare seat to be had on the second train from East Grinstead, with many passengers joining the train there."

Steve Cockram (17 Aug., 2017): "Another look at the stunning veteran South Eastern & Chatham Railway O class No. 65 in the period surroundings of Sheffield Park station as she prepares to depart with her train on the Bluebell Railway."
Martin Lawrence (30 July, 2017):   "Ruth with No. 65 at East Grinstead" from Martin's July 2017 collection.

Derek Hayward (8 July, 2017): "The Elephant Van in the dock at Horsted Keynes a couple of days before it was opened for public access." From Derek's 2017 collection .

Thank you for reading our eNewsletter. It's because of you-- our members, volunteers, visitors, and supporters --that the Railway continues its success. Please continue to support us by passing this issue onto your friends, family, and/or colleagues by , or encourage others to sign up for the twice-monthly eNewsletter at this link .

If you ever have a question, comment, or contribution, don't hesitate to get in touch with me at
this email address .

John Walls
Editor-in-Chief, eNewsletter
Bluebell Railway


The Bluebell Railway has introduced a new online ticketing option. Currently, tickets for the Santa Specials and the Hallowe'en Scream Train are available, but more choices--including day tickets--will be added soon.  Learn more at .
Nick Dearden offers this wonderful round-up of the Bluebell Railway Summer 2017, " with seven steam locomotives working hard in the sunshine and the rain."  

Roy Watts notes that his photo of old and new Southern electric stock side-by-side, taken at East Grinstead on 19 Aug., 2017, is "not strictly Bluebell Railway, but it shows change at our neighbour's and what the future might bring!"

The Bluebell Railway XI v Scaynes Hill CC cricket match has been re-scheduled for 2 Sept., 2017.

Once again, the Railway's team will be captained by Stuart Marks of the Loco Department. 

We are still looking for a few players! All cricketers of any experience and skill, with a connection to the Railway, are welcome to play.

Contact John Walls for more information.

From the Imperial War Museum Archive: The Production of Locomotives, 1945

newly-built locomotive leaves the erection shop of a large locomotive works somewhere in Britain to be tested. According to the original caption, the "track consists of different gauges because the plant builds locomotives for railways all over the world".

No. 34092 "City of Wells" visits the Bluebell Railway in July 2017, by "VehicularBrit".

Railway & Heritage News Briefs

The Lunatic Express : how Kenya's colonial railway compares to new China-built line ...

A Yorkshire rail journey evokes holiday memories ...

Clarity is being sought by Cumbria's business leaders over the future of the Lakes railway line, which links Oxenholme with Windermere ...

Fawley refinery bids farewell  to final locomotive almost a year after rail deliveries cease ...

The Great Central Railway is being restored through Notts with construction expected to be completed in Autumn later this year ...

Negotiations between North Somerset Railway CIC and Railway Paths Ltd are progressing well towards the vision of a shared future for the 'Colliers Way' cyclepath between Radstock and Great Elm ...

Your Painting: Express Freight
Full Title: Express Freight (British Railways poster art)
Artist: Barber
Collection: National Railway Museum
Date: 1950
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 76.5 x 61.1 cm

From the Film Archive: Single Line Working

A BTF film made for training purposes for British Railways!

For aficionados, this film is a gem, with glimpses of Charlton Road viaduct and scenes which are never usually shown on other Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR) related footage. The two named stations in the video were actually Shepton Mallet (Averton Hammer) and Binegar (Boiland) both S&DJR stations.

All this film was shot on the S&DJR with every person a genuine employee of the railway.

The content is a must for all who work on preserved lines as there is a plethora of solid working practice shown, as well as being a fantastic historical record of how things were done "back then" and now.

Bringing them home: An extraordinary colour photo shows British Expeditionary Force members recently rescued from Dunkirk on board a Southern Railway carriage filling up their canteens (Royston Leonard/mediadrumworld). For more colour photos from "The Miracle" like these, click here .

Do you have a something to sell? We are looking for stall holders for our 1940s themed market on 23-24 Sept., 2017. Please contact for more information.
The Railway on 11 Aug., 2017, by "TheSoutherner".


@NeilofSussex  * Aug 12 @OfficialBHAFC we're getting ready @bluebellrailway for the big match #BHAFC

@richardj154d  * Aug 10 
Had a great day with the Nine Elms retirement do yesterday, great food, great beer and of course great company, looking forward to next year.

@dothillrunner * Aug 10 @bluebellrailway is great. Staff lovely, trains great and the Sun's even trying to come out




Bluebell Railway
Sheffield Park Station
East Sussex
Near Uckfield, TN22 3QL