Going Undercover at Horsted Keynes

A milestone event for Operation Undercover (OP4) occurred on 30 Nov., 2017, when the first carriages were moved into the new shed at Horsted Keynes.

Conceived in 2008, a fundraising campaign for OP4 was launched in 2014 after the completion of the Northern Extension Project. In a matter of weeks, £350,000 was raised, and since then donations and grants from the Bluebell Railway Trust have generated a further £200,000.

With initial funding in place, site clearance for OP4 was carried out in 2015 before construction work started in 2016. As of November 2017, the roof work was complete to cover not only four new storage roads but also the existing maintenance road, where previously all tasks had been undertaken in the open air. Track for two of the four storage roads has been laid and works undertaken also have included a revised lay out of the point and track work in the Horsted Keynes downyard.

The project's objective is to provide covered accommodation for the array of historic carriages awaiting their turn in the restoration queue. At present their only protection from the elements have been tarpaulins. OP4 will provide cover for around 24 carriages in all, and the first three of these were shunted under cover at a ceremony attended by various Bluebell Railway officers and staff, as well as several financial sponsors of the project.

The first carriages placed "undercover" were LB&SCR Director's Saloon No. 60; Maunsell corridor brake composite No. 6575; and Bulleid semi-open brake third No. 4279.

In his remarks Bluebell Railway PLC Chairman Dick Fearn stated that this is a key event for the OP4 project, and it reflects an accomplishing of the will of the Railway, and those individuals who sponsored the project, to better preserve and protect these priceless assets that the Railway are very fortunate to possess.

However, this milestone is not the end of the project, but it is "the end of the beginning". There are still further phases to complete, and these include external and internal walls and doors, plus further improvements to the maintenance area. The immediate focus is now on completing a Heritage Skills Centre as a key part of the project. This phase will include offices, workshops, and a training area to ensure the skills of carriage and wagon restoration are preserved for future generations.

Further donations are very welcome and can be made to the Bluebell Railway Trust
The opening of new Carriage Shed at Horsted Keynes, by John Sandys.  
The opening of the new Carriage Shed at Horsted Keynes, by John Sandys.  
Nick Dearden's video of the opening of the OP4 shed


PLC Chairman Dick Fearn (right) and outgoing Funding Director Roger Kelly were on hand to welcome the first carriages to the new accommodation. Photo by John Sandys.
The LB&SCR Directors' Saloon nicely undercover, as shot by Martin Lawrence on 30 Nov., 2017.


John Sandys' photo shows the first carriages dry and cosy inside OP4.

Mike Hopps' photo shows the carriages about to break ribbon.
Hail to the Pioneers

This photo by Mike Hopps shows the "OP4 Pioneers" at the ceremony marking the first carriages moved into the shed: from left, Steve Bigg, Peter Chaston, Dave Deeks (in front), Larry Lamb, Pam Baisden, Alan Baisden, Paul Cripps, and John Knight.

Writes Steve Bigg: "The original idea for the covered maintenance road and carriage storage shed we see today has its origins over the winter of 2007-2008, when Larry Lamb and Dave Deeks came up with an embryonic idea, and subsequently encouraged the other individuals seen in the photo to join them to form the 'pioneering' project group. This group spent many hours identifying potential options, and Larry as a professional surveyor did all the initial surveying work as a volunteer.

"The group drew up draft plans based on the best apparent option, and through a formal presentation sought permission from the Society Trustees and PLC Board to take the idea forward. With the support and guidance of Roy Watts and Lewis Nodes, the group was subsequently given authority to develop the proposal through to planning application stage, with the proviso that all costs incurred would have to be met from fundraising activity at the Horsted Keynes site only, so as not to conflict with the Northern Extension Project fundraising campaign which was then in full swing.

"The group spent the next three-and-a-half years developing the plans with invaluable professional input from BRPS Member Jim Hatfield, as well as fundraising at Horsted Keynes. With the invaluable assistance from the Trust, in the form of match-funding for a significant proportion of the target, a total of just less than £40,000 was raised to cover the progressive costs.

"In the autumn of 2011, planning permission was received, and at that stage the project was handed over to the PLC with no residual costs for subsequent development to the next stage."

Infrastructure Update: Continuing the OP4 Project, or "Digging at Dingley Dell"

Looking into the valley behind the Salt Yard with the OP4 shed on the left (photo by Mike Hopps).
Now that the Poleay Bridge work has been finished, attention has turned to other matters that need to be put in hand to continue work on the OP4 project.

The Infrastructure Team is literally digging in to some necessary work in preparation for the new roadway up from the Salt Yard to what will be an area designated for the Carriage & Wagon Department offices, Trim Shop, and Heritage Skills Centre, which will be adjacent to the new shed. 

OP4's footprint extends almost to the edge of the valley area that bounds the Salt Yard, so the ground will have to be made up to provide access and a firm foundation for the new building. Before that work can happen there is a lot of work to be done stabilising the embankment and building up the ground in layers to support the new roadway. 

There is a stream running into a culvert at the bottom of the valley, and in addition to repairs to the existing headwall, a short length of the stream will be protected by a new culvert as the work proceeds. 

A number of trees already have been removed, allowing access to plant, and the existing large stockpile of soil on site is being used for infill. The ground is being made up with dry soil, hardcore, and plastic mesh, with each layer compacted. 

The existing wet clay at the bottom has been removed and spread to dry out, reducing the possibility of later settlement. Piling will be required nearer to OP4, and this will be incorporated with a purpose-built retaining wall to support the new roadway.

By Mike Hopps

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.

Currently, the appeal total stands at £123,500 (thank you to all who have donated so far!)

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

Bluebell Railway Wins Sussex Leisure & Tourism Award

On 30 Nov., 2017, more than 400 hundred people attended an event held at The Grand Hotel in Brighton for the 29th Annual Sussex Business Awards. Among those present were the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP for Brighton Kemptown. 

Hundreds of applicants had been whittled down to a shortlist of just 40 finalists covering 17 categories, which included Small Business of the Year, International Business of the Year, Best Customer Service, and Innovation in Business. Compère for the evening was comedian and author Ian Moore.

The Bluebell Railway was one of three applicants short-listed in the Leisure and Tourism category, sponsored by Heart FM, the other two being Sea Life Brighton and Newhaven Fort. The Bluebell Railway were voted winners.

A team from the Railway attended the event. The award was received by General Manager Gordon Owen, who gave an acceptance speech acknowledging the commitment and hard work of the Railway's volunteers and staff. He was joined on stage by BRPS Vice Chairman Steve Bigg and James Funnell, a working volunteer and member of the Commercial Department.

Mike Herd, Executive Director of the Sussex Innovation Centre and Chairman of the judges, commented, "This year was a record year, and with the amount of entries received, the judging process proved a difficult task. The exceptional quality of the entries really shined through and many worthy winners were chosen."

Railway Communications Director Roger Garman added, "We are both honoured and privileged to receive this recognition of the effort and commitment that our staff and volunteers put in to making our Railway a key tourist attraction in Sussex and one of which we can all be proud. Our thanks are extended to all involved with the Sussex Business Awards and in particular Heart FM as sponsor of the Leisure and Tourism award."

Bluebell Railway Takes Home Heritage Awards

The Railway won two awards at the National Railway Heritage Awards Ceremony in London on 6 Dec., 2017. The Railway took home the Siemens Signalling Award for the Horsted Keynes signal box and signalling project, jointly this year with North Yorkshire Moors Railway for its work on signalling between Goathland and New Bridge.

Mark Wild, Managing Director of London Underground, presented the award to Charles Hudson MBE, Bill Dyer, and James Young, representing the Bluebell Railway. This is the second year in a row that the Bluebell Railway has won the award (the Kingscote signalling project was the winner in 2016). 

In their comments, the judges noted that, "the project is an outstanding example of how to both preserve the essential features and character of a heritage railway whilst upgrading it to meet the current operational needs of a successful enterprise. Given that the primary function of the signal box is to maintain the safety of the trains operating on the railway, it is especially pleasing that this has been achieved by utilising a combination of heritage equipment, including unique and authentic block and token instruments". They also commended the "immense amount of highly skilled work behind the resignalling of Horsted Keynes station." 

Stiff competition for the Stagecoach Volunteers Award meant that the Friends of Sheffield Park, represented by Roy Summers and Dennis Mathews, were awarded a Highly Commended Certificate for the restored LB&SCR entrance porch at Sheffield Park. 

Commenting on the porch, one judge reported that "the overall effect is splendid and creates an entrance that is in perfect harmony with the building." The overall category winner was the Yarrows Heritage Trust for its restoration of Thrumster Station on the long closed line between Wick and Lybster in northern Scotland. 

Looking for that perfect Christmas Gift for the train lover in your life? Check out the Railway's Gifts & Experiences website page!
Opportunities at the Bluebell Railway

The Railway has posted several paid and volunteer job announcements that can be read in full at this link :
  • Volunteer Data Protection Officer
  • Volunteer to support the Railway's social media activity for the 60th anniversary
  • Kitchen Porter
  • Volunteer to support the Finance and Administration Department
  • Catering Front-of-House Team Leader
Contact Lisa Boyle on or 01825 724884 for an application form or for further information.
Saddle Up!

The Railway confirms that it has booked a visitor for the Branch Line Gala on 18-20 May, 2018: ex-Port Talbot Railway & Docks Company Hudswell Clarke saddle tank GWR No. 813 ...

The Port Talbot Railway & Docks Company was incorporated in 1894 to acquire and extend the existing docks at Port Talbot and to build new railways inland to open up access to the coal producing Llynvi and Garw valleys.

For shunting and trip working a stud of nine 0-6-0 saddle tank locomotives was acquired between 1898 and 1901. The first three (PTR 2, 3, and 15) were supplied by Robert Stephenson & Co. in 1898, followed by a further six of almost identical design (PTR 22 to 26), built by Hudswell Clarke & Co. of Leeds in 1900 to 1901.

All Santa Specials are fully booked for this year, but some more seats might be added and/or returns become available, so keep checking this Railway's event page for the latest.
Bluebells at Lea Bridge Station

Life Member Keith Foster sent us the following photo: "Just by chance, on 24 Nov., 2017, I was out photographing the intended new track preparation for the 'Meridian Water Line', and what should I come across in the otherwise unguarded station? Despite the customary weekend blockade along the section, the No. 66739 "Bluebell Railway" freightliner was hauling ballast trucks for the project. This was a very pleasant surprise in my own neighbourhood!"

Website Gems: Update to SER/SR No. 5546 Composite

A steam-hauled electric prototype! SER/SR No. 5546 is a "composite" in more ways than one. It was constructed at Ashford in 1924 from parts of three South Eastern Railway (SER) six-wheel coaches. Only two numbers are listed for these SER coaches, since these were the ones officially recorded in the Southern Railway (SR) carriage registers.

However, examination of the body indicates that parts of three coaches were used. It thus, for many years, was the only preserved coach of SER origin, although more bodies have been recovered for preservation since.

The body was mounted on a new underframe (taking works order 3521/26, actually two brand-new shorter underframes joined to achieve the required length) as a prototype for conversions of steam stock to electric haulage, receiving diagram No. 319. Once the 1925/1926 conversion programme was completed, the SR found they had this perfectly servicable carriage on their hands, and on 13 April, 1927, it entered service as a steam hauled 1st/3rd composite No. 5546 ...

No. 5546 painted for filming work in the 1980s. Photo by Chris Ward.

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."

Bruce Healey has brought our attention to the proposed demolition of the Redhill Loco Shed, an original London & Brighton Railway building. For those interested in reading about this piece of architectural history and efforts to preserve it, more information can be found here .
Remembrance of Silver Arrows Past

Responding to last issue's notice from Tony Hillman that the Museum now has on display a Silver Arrow marker from the storied Paris-to-Victoria, train-plane-train link, Volunteer Carriage Cleaner Roger James sent us this memory:

"I used the Silver Arrow service from Paris to Gatwick just 50 years ago, returning from our honeymoon. My spouse and I only went as far as Gatwick as we were setting up house at Haywards Heath (and we are still in the same house!)

"SNCF ran the service using a two-car diesel unit constructed from ribbed stainless steel. SNCF were very keen on this construction at the time. There was a buffet trolley service in the train.
"Where the Le Tourquet branch left the main line, there was a small signal box and a colour light signal protecting the main line. Although the branch was lifted when the service was discontinued, the signal remained for many years.

"As the branch had to cross a road to access the airport, there were traffic lights that were controlled by a policeman from a small relay box. As far as I can remember, the line just ended and we walked over to the steps to board the plane." [Roger believes the plane was a Vickers Viscount--The Eds.]
Photo Gallery  
John Sandys (29 Nov., 2017): "A 'mega-shunt today to remove stock from the Loco Shed to prepare it for the Ash Project, and work continuing at the Horsted Keynes OP4 project."

Nick Burgess (2 Dec., 2017): "A few photos from the first weekend of Santa Specials on the Bluebell Railway taken at Horsted Keynes station."

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


PLEASE NOTE: The eNewsletter is going on its Christmas holiday. The next issue will be published on 12 Jan., 2018. See you in the New Year!
Great video from Mike Anton: A footplate trip on the Q class from Horsted Keynes to East Grinstead.

Railway & Heritage News Briefs
Remembering the Lewisham rail crash of 1957 ...

Scotland's worst rail disaster remembered with Castlecary village memorial ...

Tees Valley Mayor says new Stockton and Darlington Railway status is "boost for economy" ...

Rail enthusiasts are steaming ahead with plans to overhaul a historic engine. Project 62 is a restoration campaign focusing on two US Army Transportation Corps-designed steam locos ... 
Darlington Brick Train celebrates its 20th anniversary (from June 2017) ...  
The "Beeching Axe" is back in the news, with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling saying some lost railways could be reopened. The East Anglian Daily Times looks back to the day the planned cuts rocked East Anglia ...

Britain's most beautiful coastal train journeys ...

Southeastern celebrates Ashford Station's 175th birthday with a ceremony to mark the station's rich history ...

A supporter of the North Norfolk Railway (NNR) has purchased a large share in 76084, which ensures the Standard 4 will stay at the line between Holt and Sheringham for the foreseeable future ...

Arrangements have been made between Beaver Sports (Yorkshire) Ltd and Locomotive Diesels Ltd that transfers ownership of class 55 Deltics No. 55022 "Royal Scots Grey" (D9000) and No. 55016 "Gordon Highlander" (D9016) to the latter company ...

Thousands of train lovers visited Birmingham's NEC for the UK's biggest model railway exhibition . The 50th Warley National Model Railway Exhibition saw enthusiasts come from far and wide ... 
Mike Anton: Christmas carols at Horsted Keynes.

Brian Aitchison, the Railway's Safety Manager, has produced a new issue of Bluebell Safety News. Read it here .
Your Painting: Early Days of Steam

Full Title: Early Days of the Steam Train (Effects of the Railroad on the Brute Creation)
Artist: Unknown
Date: 1838
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 28 x 35.4 cm
Collection: Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum

A very interesting piece, given the folk art style and its contemporary view of this new-fangled steam locomotion thing.  
Ben Jenden: The Railway on 2 Dec., 2017.

From the Glossary of Railway Terms ...

Weight Transfer
When a locomotive (or other powered vehicle) begins motoring or braking, the distribution of weight on the axles changes due to the shift in the body weight. This can give rise to wheels slipping or sliding. Modern systems of motor and brake control can reduce the risk but never eliminate it entirely.

Want to volunteer at the Railway (and gain some great work and life skills) but are under 16? The Railway's 9F Club is for you!
"E4 'piano' tank No 473 'Birch Grove'", by Chris Eden-Green.

From the NRM Archive: No. 188 at Waterford

Steam locomotive No. 188 on the Cork passenger train at Waterford Station in County Waterford, Ireland, 4 Aug., 1949 (RJ Sellick collection).

We think the Balcombe Viaduct in Sussex is pretty impressive, but check out the Gokteik Viaduct in Myanmar in this video of a train journey from Pyin Oo Lwin to Naung Pain.

A winter of discontent for the Japanese railway: The Iiyama Line in Nagano Prefecture operates in one of Japan's snowiest regions ...





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