Trekked Out for the Track

The annual Track Trek took place on 18 November 2017, and for the second year running, a walk along the entire line was on offer covering 11 miles.

Martin Lawrence: "Cllr Julie Mockford, the Mayor of East Grinstead, leads the 2017 Track Trek away from East Grinstead station."

The weather turned out to be slightly drier than last year, although for some walkers and our marshals the rain did arrive around lunchtime. Fortunately, this year it was more of a light intermittent rain than the heavy rain experienced at times last year.
Like last year, the walk started at East Grinstead station with the 210 walkers setting off between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Again this year both of the Railway's chairmen--Dick Fearn and Graham Aitken--and Vice Chairman Stephen Bigg walked the line along with the East Grinstead Mayor Councillor Julie Mockford.

The first Trekkers arrived at Sheffield Park just after 12:45 p.m., with the final group arriving by 4:15 p.m. Throughout the day the Railway's catering outlets and the Sheffield Park shop did brisk business courtesy of the walkers.

This year all of the money raised is being put into the Tr(ack) Action Appeal that is being used to support the cost of relaying sections of the track between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes.

To date the total sponsorship money raised stands at £13,500, which is a fantastic achievement from everyone who took part in the Trek. The walkers were again given a first-hand opportunity to see where their money is being spent as they passed Poleay Bridge while track renewal works were taking place following works to the bridge itself.

A huge part of the success of the Track Trek is the continued support by the army of volunteer marshals who line the trackside. Along with marshals on the day, there is also a small team of volunteers who undertake the registration and administration of the Trek, plus help with the setting up that takes two days to complete.

This year 52 volunteers helped in some way with the event, including 42 of them acting as marshals. These volunteers come from many departments, including Locomotive, Carriage & Wagon, Operations, Retail, and Infrastructure, to name but a few.

Roger Kelly, the Bluebell Railway's Funding Director, expressed his sincere thanks to not only the 210 walkers who helped to raise £13,500 for the Tr(ack) Action Appeal but also the volunteers who helped make this year's Track Trek such a wonderful success.

The BRPS Chairman's Sponsorship Page is still open, should you wish to contribute to the Trek.
Railway Webmaster Richard Salmon has created a " Not the Track Trek " fundraising page to support the Track Action Appeal: "I couldn't do Track Trek 2017; however, I am walking a 26km section of the District Line on 25 November 2017."  
Nos. 34059 & 21C123: Pressing On With the Fireboxes

There are six new inner fireboxes under construction at the Engineering section of the South Devon Railway (SDRE) for Bulleid Light Pacifics. Steel was chosen by Oliver Bulleid for Pacific class fireboxes for a number of reasons: copper was more expensive and was in relatively short supply and steel firebox repairs involving welding could be undertaken at motive power depots.

The 700-ton Shaw press and the boiler from No. 34059 at SDRE (both photos by John Fry).
The decision to replace the inner fireboxes of a number of Light Pacifics gave the South Devon Railway an opportunity to start a production line for these items, with many of the firebox components being pressed using the 700-ton Shaw press, previously owned by Pridhams, whose business had been taken over by the South Devon Railway.

The major steel inner firebox pressings are the back head and the combustion chamber and throat plate and the two thermic syphons. The combustion chamber and throat plate were, in Southern days, a single pressing, and, until recently, Pridhams supplied this item as a number of separate pressings welded together to give the final plate.

Discussions with SDRE suggested that it might be possible to revert to the Southern
practice and produce the combustion chamber and throat plate as a single pressing. The Shaw press at SDRE is capable of such a job, and, after a search for a supplier to produce the dies, an initial 3D printing of the male and female dies was created, with a final product formed in plastic.

The combustion chamber and throat plate pressings.
To produce the pressing, the steel plate is heated to red heat--approximately 800 degrees celsius--placed between the dies in the press and the resulting combustion chamber and throat plate is pressed within four minutes. Examples of the pressings
are seen in the photographs. The final product is oversize to enable it to be used for both the lightweight Pacifics and the Merchant Navy class.

To enable the inner firebox to be fabricated,  the tube plate and back head are aligned and tack welded together in a suitable frame and checked for alignment using a laser. The sides and the pressing of the tube plate and the combustion chamber and the crown plate are then added, before the alignment is rechecked and the final welding takes place. Apertures for the two thermic syphons are cut into the crown, combustion chamber, and throat plate to enable the syphons to be welded in place. 

The first inner firebox of the production run is for No. 34059. This is now in the final welding stage before marking-out is started for the stays. The inner firebox will be inserted into the outer wrapper, and then the foundation channel--which is already welded to the inner firebox--will be welded to the outer wrapper, with additional temporary support for the complete firebox being steel studs between the two firebox items. The drilling and reaming of the 2,000-plus stay holes will be undertaken at the Bluebell Railway.

Meanwhile, components for the new inner firebox for No. 21C123 have been pressed to
enable work to be started on this item.

By John Fry, Chairman, The Bulleid Society
Track Action Appeal 2017
The Tr(ack) Action Appeal is designed to help the Railway accelerate its programme of track renewal, to improve passenger comfort and reduce maintenance costs on locomotives and carriages.

The target for the Appeal is £250,000 to replace more than half a mile of track north of Freshfield Halt. If the target is met, the work will take place in February 2018. If the Appeal exceeds its target, any surplus will be used for further track maintenance work.

To make a donation to the Traction Appeal, please ...

    ▪    Send a cheque payable to The Bluebell Railway Trust at Sheffield Park Station, East
         Sussex, TN22 3QL using this Gift Aid form
    ▪    Or donate online via BT MyDonate
    ▪    More information about giving to this appeal can be  found here

60th Anniversary of Bluebell Line Closure Events Planned

2018 will mark the 60th anniversary of the closure of the Bluebell Line by British Railways and its eventual and glorious rebirth as the Bluebell Railway, the first ex-mainline standard gauge railway to run passenger trains.

This is a very significant occasion in the history of the Bluebell Line, marking the end of one era and, significantly, the beginning of a new one. In recognition, a special "Sulky Service" timetable will be running for part of February and March, culminating in line closure-themed events over the weekend of 17 and 18 March.

The name "Sulky Service" was given to the last train service operated by British Railways in 1958 between Lewes and East Grinstead. The trains ran at times that were inconvenient to those wishing to travel on the line or connect with onward services.

On 16 March the Railway will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the last train service from East Grinstead to Lewes. We will be working with schools on a local history project and recreating the historic journey of that last train. This journey will be for invited guests only, and it will include people who travelled on that final train 60 years ago or were connected with the line during that period.

Perhaps you have memories of the closure of the East Grinstead-to-Lewes line that you would like to share? We would love to hear from anyone who may have travelled on the last train back or who has a tale to tell relating to it. Please, do get in touch! If you have information to share, contact Interpretation and Education Development Manager Ruth Rowatt at .

On 17 and 18 March, we will be inviting the public to experience elements of 1958 and explore what that year means to the Railway. A visit to the Railway on that weekend will include opportunities to take tea in 50s style, take mini guided tours in areas not usually open to the public, and, if you were born in 1958, travel at 1958 prices--equivalent to 20p per ticket, but shillings not required!

Further details of this event will appear on the Railway's website in the New Year, or look for updates in this eNewsletter or the Railway's social media sites.

Closing the Gap

The work at Poleay Bridge is all but complete after many days of intensive activity by the Infrastructure Team over the last three weeks. 

By close of play on 21 November 2017, the last load of new ballast was laid around and under the new panels to establish the correct levels either side of the bridge. The tamper then made two passes across the new formation to correct the previous settlement and to adjust any small amount of misalignment.

The final touches are now being put to the new decking and wooden handrails on the eastern side, and the metal handrails on the western side also are being renewed with new brackets fitted and the iron uprights getting a new coat of paint. 

All in all, it was a very successful job completed in time for trains to run again on the weekend. Full marks to Matt and the team for a job well done in time for trains to steam into the Santa Season.

By Michael Hopps

Cutting timbers to support new the decking.

Fitting the new decking timbers on the eastern side.

Top Brass trekking at Poleay Bridge.

Time for a picture to mark the event.

The Horsted Keynes Carol Service with the Bluebell Railway Band takes place on 2 Dec., 2017 at 7:30 p.m. Free entry at Horsted Keynes, or £5 for a pre-booked return train from East Grinstead (leaves at 6 p.m.; returns 8:55 p.m.) More details here .
FOSP Update: An Unexpected Visitor!

Beginning the excavation for the first column support (photo: L.J. Bee).
Well, talk about the power of the press! In a previous eNewsletter, I wrote of our intention to excavate the ground in front of the restaurant, so that we could cast the necessary concrete foundation pads for the four decorative columns that will support the new structure. 

As I mentioned, we had received contact via the editor from none other than the architect of the original Bessemer Arms building. He advised us that he was certain the foundations for the canopy columns had been installed at the time of the original construction, so we shouldn't need to do the initial works we had scheduled (and imagine our embarrassment, had we procured the materials, dug down, and "clanged" our shovels on the unexpected concrete!). 

Indeed, the gentleman came to visit us one Wednesday when we were working, and we had a very pleasant discourse. His memory of the building going up was very clear, 30-odd years after the event! Notwithstanding this unexpected information, we judged it prudent to examine the state of the foundations, so we opened the ground in each of the four column locations and dug down to inspect the concrete, conducting test drillings to confirm the depth.  All was found to be satisfactory, so the ground was reinstated until we were ready to cast the support bases upon which the columns will sit.

The column support base in situ, just after casting (photo: R. Lowe).
Meanwhile, the usual happy band of Friends of Sheffield Park (FOSP) volunteers has been continuing to focus on preparatory works. All the 112 valance boards are now painted and ready, as are the main structural timbers that will form the main part of the canopy (some seriously hefty pieces of wood). We have just taken delivery of the rafters too, and these will be the next items to paint. 

Our strategy has been to pre-paint everything we can--at least to first-gloss coat--in order to minimise the amount of finish painting we will have do do on site once the structure is built. Many cans of expensive paint already have been consumed.

On the planning side, we have been in consultation with affected parties, and especially with the Railway's new Infrastructure Director, bringing him up to speed. Contractors for the main part of the build have been selected, and we have a work schedule that will see rapid progress as soon as Christmas running is over.

Breaking news ... On 22 November 2017, we broke ground and cast the first of the column supports onto the extant foundations. Thus, I can state definitively that the construction phase has begun!

By Charles Melton

Two Arrows "Fly" to the Museum

Tony Hillman informs us that the Railway has added two arrows to the Museum display ...

The Silver Arrow

In May 1963, British United Airways (BUA) began a twice-daily rail-air-rail service between London Victoria and Paris Gare du Nord. The service was a joint operation between BUA and the British and French railways which was marketed as the "Silver Arrow" in the UK and as "Flèche d'argent" in France.

At Victoria Station, where BUA check-in facilities were available, passengers boarded a train to Gatwick Airport where they transferred to a BUA aircraft, which flew them to Le Touquet Airport. At Le Touquet a train was waiting to take them to Paris Gare du Nord station. The entire journey took five hours.

The service ran until 1994 when it was withdrawn on the opening of the Channel Tunnel. The finger board on display would have been used at Victoria to show passengers the correct platform from which to depart.

The Golden Arrow

Engines hauling the Golden Arrow Pullman service carried arrows on their sides. The long arrow displayed would have been attached to the sides of an unmodified Bulleid Pacific class similar to the Railway's "Blackmore Vale".

Shorter arrows were attached to the smoke deflectors of rebuilt Bulleid Pacifics similar to the Railway's "Sir Archibald Sinclair".

From the Hornby Blog : "In this edition we wanted to take a closer look at the simply marvellous re-livery that was achieved on the H class [at the Bluebell Railway] by the team at Heritage Painting. We sat down with Ian Hewitt who headed up the project to ask him a few questions ..." The photo shows  Teriann, a  Heritage Painting Senior Apprentice, hard at work. 
Birmingham Bound

Chris Kapolka's photo from 22 November 2017, shows the H class on its way to Birmingham, on the M40 near Aynho. It forms the centrepiece of the Hornby stand at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition (see below).

Safe & Sound at the NEC

Graham Muspratt announces via a Twitter photo that the H class is "safe and looking great" at the NEC in Birmingham on 24 November 2017.

From the Archive
Writes Tony Hillman: "As has been recorded previously, the Museum now has on display the original smokebox numberplate from our Schools class 'Stowe'. Here are some pictures by John J. Smith of 'Stowe' and other Schools class engines."

No. 5768: Upholstery Update

A John Fry photo essay update on the Coach No. 5768 project, from the Bulleid Society blog , includes this image of the first-class compartment with re-covered arm rests on the luggage rack awaiting fitting.

New for 2018: Footplate Taster Days

It's a perfect Christmas gift for any steam buff! (Or why not treat yourself?!)

On selected dates in January and February 2018 you can visit Sheffield Park Station and enjoy a "turn" on the footplate of P class "Bluebell".

Included in the £150 package:
  • An individual one-hour "footplate taster" with one of the Railway's experienced drivers.
  • Depending on the time of your visit, enjoy either a full English breakfast or a two-course lunch in the Bessemer Arms.
  • A discount voucher for a Family Ticket for a visit to the Bluebell Railway for a date of your choice in 2018
  • A gift pack from the Bluebell Shop
  • A year's membership of in the Preservation Society.
  • A certificate upon completion
For more information and to book, click here .

Santa Specials: Appeal for Volunteers

This invitation is open to all BRPS Members, particularly those who have considered becoming a volunteer before but haven't got round to it yet, as well as volunteers from other departments who would like to try something different.

The role of stewards on the Santa Specials is to serve refreshments and look after our visitors during the train journey to and from Horsted Keynes whilst being a friendly face of the Bluebell Railway. Once our visitors have arrived at Horsted Keynes, we will need further volunteers to help with the attractions provided there.

If you would like to volunteer or have any questions, please email Roger Sanderson or Julia Pique .

Some winter dates for your event diary. All event listings can be found here :
Photo Gallery  
John Sandys (23 November 2017): "Photos and video showing the tamper at the now completed Poleay bridge; the 09 shunting; Kingscote Station with the scaffolding gone and new glazing in; and a look at Christmas decorations in the Bessemer arms."

Martin Lawrence continues to add to his November gallery.
John Sandys (14 & 16 November 2017): "A few photos around the Railway, including the latest progress at Poleay Bridge."
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


Sammy B Videography plans a Heritage Railway-themed video Advent Calendar, with footage from our Railway and others.

Railway & Heritage News Briefs
New book: Railways and the Raj by Christian Wolmar--blood on the tracks ...

Locomotion No. 1 , the historic pub near Newton Aycliffe that played major role in Britain's railway past, is up for sale ...

A record number of film crews have visited Snowdon Mountain Railway this year to capture stunning views of the iconic North Wales destination ... 
Self-powered train could replace old Island Line locomotives ...

A train once used to deliver supplies on the Western Front during World War I has been fully restored and now calls south-east Queensland home ...

It may seem amazing today but, for a century, roughly from the 1850s to the 1950s, Leicester had seven railway stations within the city boundary. Today, there's just one, London Road ...

Why a Huddersfield businessman has bought his own train ...
Your Painting: Stafford Station

Full Title: London Midland Electrification, Stafford Station
Artist: John Greene
Date: 1963
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 82.1 x 127.9 cm
Collection: National Railway Museum

Started your Christmas shopping yet? Don't forget that Railway gift vouchers are available for most services. They make ideal stocking stuffers for your Railway-loving friends and relations!  
From the Getty Archive: At Work

Workers of a locomotive-repair factory, circa 1940.

From the Glossary of Railway Terms ...

Sand Drag
A pile of sand placed at the end of a track to absorb the energy of a train overrunning the end of the track. Sometimes the same function is performed by a hydraulic buffer or other energy absorbing device.

Martin Lawrence: "My latest video is a selection of clips starting with the 'mega shunt' at Horsted Keynes in order to arrange the stock to go in the new carriage shed. This is followed by clips from Track Trek 2017 (see if you spot yourself or your friends). Finally, H class No. 263 can be seen out in the sunshine at Sheffield Park as it is readied for its travels."

From the Huntley Film Archive: Victoria Station and a Boat Train, 1930

Exterior of Victoria station, London. Panning shot showing Grosvenor Hotel. Clock showing time of 10.55 am. Advertising sign outside station details routes available. Boat Train to Continent via Dover Calais, Dover Ostende Folkestone. Brief and unclear shot of underground sign. Taxi approaches station entrance. Steam train leaving covered platform entering sun ...

Website Gems: BR Standard Steam Stock (Mk. 1) Corridor Second (SK) No. 25871 (aka the Carriage Shop)

Built in 1962 as an SK (Corridor Second), No. 25871 was one of 12 coaches modified in 1989 to form a "Travelling College" train, which was intended to carry parties of school children around the country on educational tours.

The venture was commercially unsuccessful, and the Railway subsequently bought all 12 vehicles. Having been converted into a dormitory, it was stripped of the bunk beds which were fitted to it, and it has since been used as our "Carriage Shop" at Horsted Keynes ... MORE

Kingscote Comings & Goings

This video from John Harwood shows what's been going on at Kingscote during the last couple of weeks. With the repairs and reglazing of the canopy complete, the scaffolding is down. Slewing of the track in the sidings and a shunt has released Bulleid carriage No. 1481, which will be stored in the new shed at Horsted Keynes ...

A submission by reader and Member Mike Etheridge: Cleaning steam trains for the BR in 1953.

"Presumably 'Camelot' has this attention on the Bluebell Railway!" says Mike.




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