"Tornado" Season Is Coming

The Bluebell Railway is pleased to confirm that plans are at an advanced stage for a return visit by No. 60163 "Tornado," an original-build Peppercorn class locomotive completed at Darlington in 2008 and the first steam locomotive to run at 100 miles per hour on the East Coast Main Line since 1967.

"Tornado" will be at the Railway for five days (25-29 May, 2018), including the Spring Bank Holiday on 28 May. Special events during the visit and rostering of duties are still being finalised, so watch this space for more details.

After Many Successes, Roger Kelly Stands Down as Funding Director

At the Bluebell Railway PLC Board Meeting on 19 Dec., 2017, Roger Kelly formally tendered his resignation from the post of Director of Fundraising after a term of nearly 10 years. Roger made known his intentions more than a year ago, but he was kind enough to stay on to launch the Tr(ack) Action Appeal.

Roger joined the Board in 2008, replacing Nicholas Pryor, an individual with a successful track record and one from whom Roger learned much with regard to Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF).
During his term of office, it is calculated that Roger oversaw more than £5 million in contributions, donations, and other fundraising activities, including securing grants from HLF, charities, and local and central government.

An itemised list of Roger's many fundraising schemes is too long to detail here, but worthy of note are Cash for Cover (aka the OP4 Project), Keep Up the Pressure, the Track Trek initiative, the ASH Project, and the funding of apprenticeships. Plus, he provided motivation for an army of volunteers to raise the final monies for the Northern Extension Project via the Tenner for the Tip and Fiver for the Finish campaigns, which collectively raised more £330,000.
Roger duly acknowledged that the Bluebell Railway is indeed very fortunate to have a large number of individuals who so willingly and regularly provide financial support for specific projects.

It is interesting to note that, of  the £5 million figure mentioned above,  more than two thirds were raised via the Bluebell Railway Trust, and thus enhanced by Gift Aid. It is this aspect of fundraising--as well as the need and desire for the Trust to adhere to Charity Commission requirements--that has resulted in the responsibility for fundraising moving from the PLC to the Trust. The Trust will provide further details about this development in the near future.

Roger will not become invisible, however. Indeed, he has made known his wish to stay on as a Trustee of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society, and he will offer himself for re-election at the Society Annual General Meeting in May 2018. The Railway also hopes to see him as a member of the station staff at Horsted Keynes.

At the Board Meeting, Chairman Dick Fearn and fellow directors all acknowledged the amazing effort and successes that Roger has delivered during his term of office. As part of this recognition, Roger was presented with a Terence Cuneo Limited Edition print: "Night Express", featuring Merchant Navy class No. 35027 "Port Line".

60th Anniversary of Bluebell Line Closure Events Planned

Mike Esau's photo shows No. 80154 with the last Bluebell Line train, as crowds look on at East Grinstead, on 16 March, 1958.
2018 marks 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.

On 16 March, 2018, 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, email Interpretation and Education Development Manager Ruth Rowatt .

On 17 and 18 March, 2018, the Railway will invite 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 are not required!)

Track Action Appeal
Now we are in the new year, the Railway will not be running any services until 10 Feb., 2018. During this period half a mile of track through Rock Cutting will be re-laid. 

As this work attests, fundraising for track improvement is going very well, but more of your generous giving will be needed to reach our goals of £250,000 and a smoother ride for our visitors and precious rolling stock. 

Learn more about the Tr(ack) Action Appeal and donate at this link . Thank you to all those who have contributed so far!
Infrastructure Rocks the Cutting!

Drilling holes for fishplates.

Anyone who walked the recent Track Trek might be wondering how their efforts are being rewarded. In fact, donations have already been spent on new rail and sleepers for the track renewal that is currently taking place between Monteswood Bridge and a little bit beyond Rock Cutting between Horsted Keynes and Sheffield Park. 

The Infrastructure Team started work on the 3 Jan., 2018, after a welcome break following the big job at Poleay Bridge. The first job involved a little bit of work to a culvert, and then things really started when existing panels were removed one-by-one, moving north towards Rock Cutting. 

The "Rock Cutting Taxi".

With the panels stacked ready for removal back to the Salt Yard at Horsted Keynes, the next job was to get the lazer dozer working to level the ballast on the existing formation. This levelling was followed by compacting to achieve the final level in order to match up with the existing trackwork. Finally, before any new sleepers can be laid, there's a job with a paint marker and a long piece of string to mark out the sleeper positions, measured from marker pins put down before the old track was lifted. 

The work is progressing well, with up to six panels being laid every working day and with the 9F Club helping as well on Saturdays, when they are fitting the rest of the Pandrol clips which attach the rail to the sleepers. As the new flat-bottomed rail is being laid initially, it is only necessary to fit clips to every fourth sleeper, as the weight of the rail holds everything in place, but of course before the job is completely finished, they all have to be done. 

At close of play on 10 January, 15 panels had been completed as well as a half panel of new bullhead rail that connects to the existing track south of Monteswood Bridge. 

In John Harwood's video at right, you can see the new track is already up to the whistle board in the cutting and the stacks of new sleepers are laid out and ready to be moved into place. Less easy to see is all the new rail, which, along with the sleepers, was brought down to the site before Christmas, a big job in itself!

The volunteers assemble each day at the Salt Yard and are brought down to the work site safely enclosed in a cage on the road railer trailer, known affectionately as the "Rock Cutting Taxi". Other creature comforts are provided by the portable mess hut and bacon butties cooked up by Barbara at lunchtime, as well as a roaring fire nearby in an old oil drum.

By Mike Hopps
A Successful Santa Season In Sum

The 2017 Christmas period at the Bluebell exceeded our expectations. With none of the adverse effects of bad weather that hit some other heritage lines, our visitor numbers during the nine-day programme increased impressively, to more 14,414 visitors, up by more than 30% over 2016. This number comprised 10,140 adults together with 4,276 children.

The Railway ran 53 Santa Special trains, all of which were heavily loaded and, if customers using the Seasonal Dining, Victorian, Festive Feast, and Reindeer specials are added, visitor numbers easily passed 15,000.

These higher numbers are attributed in part to both the introduction of online advanced booking for the specials, which saw bookings start both earlier and in greater numbers. The decision to start more Santa trains from East Grinstead also helped.
Congratulations to all the staff and volunteers who made this programme so successful and enjoyable.

Footplate Taster Days Go Down Well

After a one-day trial in 2016, last year saw the roll out of a four-day Full Steam Ahead Days programme. This programme provides an opportunity for the customer to undertake the tasks of both driver and fireman over the 22 miles of line, using a tender locomotive and a rake of four carriages. It  proved exceptionally popular, so for the 2018 season we will be running six Full Steam Ahead Days, the first of which will be on 28-29 March, 2018.

At £650 per participant, the Full Steam Ahead Days are toward the high end of the Railway's product range, but we do want to explore other, similar opportunities. So the Commercial and Operations teams put their heads together and came up with another winner.

Knowing that at the beginning of 2018, the line will be closed for track work for six weeks, we created Footplate Taster Days. For £150 the customer receives one hour on the footplate of "Bluebell," which will run within Sheffield Park station shunt limits. The customer also has the opportunity to visit the loco works and view the workings and scope of the Signal Box.

With provision for five customers each Saturday and Sunday for six weekends, there were 60 places to be sold, and, yes, all spaces were sold! However, the Railway will be offering more Footplate Taster Days at the end of this year, so keep an eye on the website for details of this and the March Full Steam Ahead days.
The Horsted Keynes Carriage Shed (OP4) Appeal has been relaunched to raise a further £125,000 for the completion of the walls on the eastern side of the shed, incorporating those for the Heritage Skills centre.

The online portion of this new appeal has moved from JustGiving to MyDonate , as part of a general migration of the Trust's appeals to the BT service (due to lower charges). Thank you to all of those who support this important project!
East Grinstead Goes From Strength-to-Strength

The C class at East Grinstead on what became her final trip.
This March sees the fifth anniversary of the reopening of the Bluebell Line back into East Grinstead.
Who could forget that very cold and snow-filled morning, but what a great occasion?! U ntil then, the only trains running in and out of our station were the daily waste removal trains punctuated with our 4VEP specials and, of course, a visit by the popular Hastings unit on rail tour duty.

Since that time, East Grinstead has gone from strength-to-strength building passenger traffic. In fact, we now account for more than one-third of the Railway's ticket revenue. This is an area where the Railway has the greatest opportunity to develop and grow our numbers, and, yes, there is healthy competition between East Grinstead and Sheffield Park booking offices!

For example, for the first time in 2017, East Grinstead had two Santa Special trains per day plus a host of other services during the Christmas season; that meant an additional 3,000 passengers travelling on our railway. Thus East Grinstead proved it can do the job, and we can build on what was learned.

One of the many special visitors to East Grinstead, Deltic D9002.
East Grinstead was a "blank canvas" opportunity. All we had at this beginning was a narrow strip of land on which to build a platform and add other features, such as the water tower and the platform canopy.  It cannot be said that the station is as photogenic or as charismatic as our other stations, but we try our best to be authentic.  Obviously, the best views are when trains approach us from the south across the viaduct, and we do get some unusual traffic on the neighbouring mainline to keep us entertained!

We are going to continue to add details, such as benches, suitcases, and the forthcoming St. John stretcher case. This year we will be putting the last remaining piece of the original station back on display, namely the old station post box. Unless, of course anybody knows of any other surviving memorabilia!

Likewise people say that not a lot happens at East Grinstead between trains, unless you don't count people watching at the neighbouring Sainsbury's or aircraft on final approaches to Gatwick.  We do, however, attract a lot of people who visit the station to see what is going on, and we witness crowds lining the fences during special events, such as the visit of "Flying Scotsman." The important thing is to get those people through the gate and on to our trains.

And who could forget the visit of "Flying Scotsman"?
Being a good neighbour is very important. Our Travel Centre and buffet bring in locals, and we keep in touch with the Chamber of Commerce and others to ensure we play our part in the community. 
We know shopkeepers and hoteliers value our presence because it brings in trade.

Our passengers come from far and wide (on opening day we had someone who came by train from Berlin) but we need to look at future opportunities such as the direct Thameslink services coming in May. We know people who have come from Didcot, Cambridge, Peterborough, Hull, and Lancaster on a day out. With greater ease of access, we need to promote ourselves and make sure that a visit is more than just a train ride.

As for the future, we look forward to more incoming through trains. My team will tell you it has rained every time bar once when an incoming steam arrives, and I have been duly soaked! This year we are planning to repaint the station as its beginning to look tired.  We will continue to work closely with Kingscote, and the "Northern Territories" staff teams will work at either location when required. If anyone wants to join our enthusiastic teams, they will be more than welcome: the main criterion is the ability to make tea!

By Roy Watts, Senior Station Master, East Grinstead
S&T Update: Cutting No. 15 Signal Down to Size

Photo by Chris Majer.

Except for some snagging, the refurbishment of Sheffield Park northern signals are now complete. The final task was to overhaul and repaint the Up Advance (No. 15) signal, which had a couple of challenging issues.

This signal is the furthest visible from Sheffield Park Station, and originally it stood nearly 27 feet tall. Examination revealed that a section about five feet from the ground was rotten, concealed by a number of layers of paint. Although not in any immediate danger, the excessive height of the signal and the defect would mean regular assessments, and if not addressed would probably require replacement sooner rather than later. 

Another concern was access. Again height would add to the problems and bespoke scaffold would be required to reach the majority of the post. Most casual observers believed that this very high post was to provide a sky background, a principle early signals followed. But research revealed that this was not the reason.

The clue was that the signal was positioned more than five yards to the right of the track. At the time when the signal was installed, it was intended to provide a head shunt to the east of the main line, and when occupied, this high signal could be seen over any vehicles. With the idea of a head shunt long abandoned, it made sense to cut off the rotten section of post and replant it in the normal fashion.

An ideal opportunity to undertake the work arose when the upgrade of adjacent Poleay Bridge was planned over a three-week period and specialist plant would be on site. Working closely with Matt Crawford, the post was taken down at the start of the possession, giving maximum time to refurbish and repaint.

The signal was finally positioned three yards closer to the track and reduced to a height of 14 feet. An option to mount it on the orthodox left hand side of the running line was rejected as it could confuse the view of the down home signals.

The post is expected to last another 20 years, not bad considering we believe it is already more than 140 years old: does this make it the oldest item of infrastructure on the Railway?

By Brian Hymas

FOSP Update: Canopy Construction Commences!

The scaffold platform. All photos by Sue Elliot.
After many months (or is it years?!) of planning, fundraising, and behind the scenes activities, finally the construction of the Bessemer Arms canopy has begun!

As readers will know, we have actually been ready since mid-2017 but unable to make progress owing to the sensitivity of the location, and the issue of possible significant disruption to public access at busy times. Ultimately, this situation left us with no choice but to delay actual construction until the winter shutdown period. Unfortunately, this time of the year also means shorter days and possible interference by the weather. But at least we will be as unobtrusive as we can be.

Anybody who has visited Sheffield Park recently will have seen that a very considerable scaffold platform has been erected around the front and side of the Bessemer Arms. The working platform is above head height and has been carefully designed, with a double-boarded and membrane-sealed working deck with isolated access. This set-up means our contractors and volunteers will be able to operate overhead completely isolated and insulated from the public areas around and below, without the need to have a large exclusion zone.  The restaurant can remain open throughout the build.

FOSP volunteers prepare a column support base.
Friends of Sheffield Park (FOSP) volunteers have been working hard all year doing preparatory and enabling works: manufacturing the column supports and painting acres of surface area on all the timber elements that will together comprise the structure. Over the past few weeks, considerable manual effort has seen us relocate the pre-prepared timbers from storage near our workshop to be closer to site. Finally, this week, all the heavy main structural timbers have been raised aloft onto the scaffold, ready for use by the contractors who will build the canopy. 

We did have an idea we would do this "levitation" manually using force of numbers, transferring the timbers to the scaffold platform via the footbridge. However, the largest timbers are 9" x 4" x 6m long (if I can mix units for dramatic effect) and require at least six people to move them, so we needed help. Happily, Andy from the Loco Works came to our rescue, and, using great skill, operated one of the forklift trucks to raise the timbers up, where we were able to man-handle them into the required placements.

Main structural timbers being placed ready for use. 

Myriad other tasks have been performed by FOSP volunteers in recent days, from preparing the remainder of the column support bases, to arranging a safe temporary electrical supply on the work platform, to opening up the pockets in the walls above the brick corbel supports ready to receive the cross-beams.

One coincidence of the work location is that the station footbridge provides a direct view of the work area, and we have already entertained a few "gongoozlers". One wag suggested we charge admission to the footbridge as a fundraiser!

By Charles Melton

From the Archive
Tony Hillman curates photos of industrial engines from the Museum's John J. Smith photographic collection.


Taken on 23 Nov., 1957. "Gervase" at British Industrial Sand Works, Holmethorpe Industrial Estate, Redhill, Surrey.
Uncovered in Pagham

On 20 Dec., 2017, the Railway acquired two South Eastern Railway (SER) carriage bodies that had been in part of a bungalow in Pagham for at least the last 80 years. The two bodies (one being 130 years old; the other 140) have been donated to the Bluebell Railway Trust, and sponsors have covered the transport costs.

The Railway's blog  has five photos (provided by Carriage & Wagon Trustee Robert Hayward) showing the two carriages at Pagham after the demolition of the bungalow, the crane recovering them, and their arrival at Horsted Keynes as daylight faded.

One carriage is a 33-feet-long, six-compartment third (No. 2159, built in November 1887), identical to No. 2162 that the Railway failed to secure when it was sold on eBay in 2009. The other is a very unusual 30-feet-long, four-compartment brake third, with a central brake compartment with raised birdcage lookout. It was later converted to a two-compartment luggage brake. It is believed to be one of only four such carriages, built in 1877-1878 (nos. 1887-90), but it has yet to be definitively identified.

Diamonds in the Rough: Recent Accessions for the Museum

The Bluebell Railway Museum is always trying to enhance its collection by acquiring appropriate material, and two interesting new items are now on display at Sheffield Park ...

In 2017 the Museum obtained the presentation picture from the naming of Schools class locomotive "Dulwich". The Museum has now been fortunate to obtain via donation a similar presentation picture from Ardingly. Obtained from a skip 20 years ago, this local artifact is now safe in the Museum.

Bridge Diamonds were erected on either side of road overbridges to inform the drivers of large vehicles of the maximum load the bridge could carry. The original Bridge Diamond on display in the Museum has been replaced by the version shown here. This is more appropriate for the Museum as it comes from one of the bridges over the Newhaven Harbour.

The new sign was erected by The Newhaven Harbour Company, London Bridge Terminus. Following the "Grouping", the sign would have had "Southern Railway" overlaid on the original name (the holes where this new name was affixed can still be seen). The sign was purchased from Museum funds. 

Chris tmas may have come and gone, but there's always time for model railway treats! 

For OO and Bluebell Railway fans, have re-created the SECR P class 0-6-0T No. 178 as a DCC-ready 1:76 scale model, with detailing that includes oil cans and lamps.

Meanwhile, Hornby has announced its 2018 releases, including the SR Maunsell Restaurant Car.   All models are available for pre-order from our shop: email . ( Also of note, Matt Wickham's OO gauge model of Horsted Keynes station in preservation is featured both inside and on the cover of the new edition of Hornby Magazine .)

Finally, Bachmann has announced an LB&SCR H1 Atlantic alongside the H2s, as well as some re-tooled SR and BR Bulleid carriages, also available to pre-order through the Railway shop.
New Year, New Coat

A fresh undercoat of green for coach No. 5768, one of a series of photos taken on 31 Dec., 2017, showing progress with this Bulleid Society project.

Photo Gallery  
John Sandys (11 Jan., 2018): Progress on the canopy by the Friends of Sheffield Park and the ASH Project. I also include stills from the two excellent videos by John Harwood of the track re-laying at continuing at Freshfield Halt. It is good to see such fast progress by the Orange Army!"
Martin Lawrence's photo shows No. 323 on "Footplate Taster" duties (see story above). More January 2018 gallery photos here .

Photos by Tony Naunton portraying the evocative, nostalgic atmosphere during the Christmas period.
John Sandys' album from 4 Jan., 2018, of work on the ASH Project and the start of work on the canopy at Sheffield Park by the Friends of Sheffield Park.

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


Nick Dearden's round-up of Steam 2017: "There are a couple of shots on the Bluebell Railway and mostly main line steam in and around the Southern region in 2017."
Railway & Heritage News Briefs
Two steam locomotives at the Milwaukee County Zoo (Ohio, US) were fueled with a renewable wood-based solid fuel last week to reduce fossil coal emissions, and the test runs were a success ...

What can Britain learn from the first nationalisation of its railways? ...

The Merthyr, Tredegar, & Abergavenny railway, a spectacular line that crossed Gwent ...

The first passenger train has travelled across the iconic Ordsall Chord . The 8:40 northern service departed from Victoria Station to Oxford Road, then back to Victoria Station before going on to Leeds. This historic centre piece of the Great North Rail Project joins Manchester's Piccadilly, Oxford Road, and Victoria stations together for the first time ...

Plymouth was first to see diesel locomotives, which eventually found love with enthusiasts. Roger Malone takes a trip back to the days of the Class 47s and those diesel-hauled days in the West Country ...

The pressure is to be put on the government to ensure that high speed trains halt at key Cumbrian stations instead of hurtling straight through once HS2 is operational ...

Springs Tunnel is a modest one, driven through shale and extending on a slight curve for just 77 yards. It would have been a cutting had it not proved necessary to appease William Stanfield, a local landowner ( read on to learn about modern repairs to this historic tunnel) ... 

"World's first" solar-powered train   to begin operation in Australia ...
"The Southerner": "Life from a lower perspective. With 2017 firmly wrapped up, here's a recount of all the low-angle clips filmed during the course of the year."

Lorna Tippett and Janet Dann enjoyed their visit to the Railway so much, they were moved to verse, sending this poem to Administrative Trustee Vernon Blackburn.  

Your Painting: Dad's the Driver

Full Title:
Dad's the Driver, the Buckley Railway , Etna Brickworks, 1930s
Artist: James Bentley
Collection: Buckley Library, Museum, and Gallery
Date: 1982
Medium: Oil on canvas board
Size: 30 x 60 cm
Acquisition: Gift from the estate of Mrs. Bentley (2010)

From the Glossary of Railway Terms ...

Calling-On Signal
Used to indicate to a driver that he may proceed at caution speed because he is entering a section occupied by another vehicle or train. Normally used for coupling operations at station platforms.

From the Huntley Film Archive: History of Trams in Britain

History of service trams: an early 1930s film looking back at the evolution of trams in Britain up to 1930 (so much of the footage is actually from the 1920s).

The film includes scenes from Central London, Crystal Palace, County Durham, Bradford, Sunderland, and elsewhere.
As work is starting on relaying track, it's timely to provide this link to November's work on Poleay Bridge, just north of Sheffield Park.
Great Eastern Glamour in Sussex

This was a good spot by Julian Clark on 12 Dec., 2017: No. 70013 "Oliver Cromwell" and No. 47580 "County of Essex" as the motive power for the Railway Touring Company's (RyTC) "Christmas Sussex Belle".

As Julian describes the event, "'Ollie' roars through Cooksbridge on the 1Z70 10:43 Vic-Eastbourne RyTC 'Xmas Sussex Belle', with No. 47580 'County of Essex' (the decently dressed 'Duff'), bringing up the rear, as it disappears under an Exmouth Jn product. Whichever way you look at the train, it is GE but with 15 year's difference! A nice little spot, with some decent furniture."
The Victorian Christmas and Reindeer specials  on 21 Dec., 2017, by "VehicularBrit". 
From the Getty Archive: Prince Charles on the Footplate

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are greeted by Prince Charles , who is standing on the footplate of the narrow gauge steam engine "Hurricane" during a visit to the Romney, Hythe, and Dymchurch Railway in Kent, 1 April, 1957.

No. 263, repainted and returned to traffic, on 30 Dec., 2017, by JR Railway Videos.

Better Know a Heritage Railway: La Trochita

La Trochita  (officially, Viejo Expreso Patagónico) is a 750 mm narrow gauge railway in Patagonia, Argentina. Its nickname means "little narrow gauge".

The 402 km railway runs through the foothills of the Andes between Esquel and El Maitén in Chubut Province and Ingeniero Jacobacci in Río Negro. Originally, it was part of Ferrocarriles Pataganicos , a network of railways in southern Argentina.

Today, with its original character largely unchanged, it operates as a heritage railway , and it was made internationally famous by the 1978 Paul Theroux book The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas , which described it as the railway "almost at the end of the world" ...

"I wanted something altogether wilder, the clumsier romance of strangeness." -- Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express




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