OP4 Update: Heritage Skills Centre Preparation & More

The main focus of the OP4 project since the opening ceremony on 30 Nov., 2017, has been centred on earthworks. The major part of this work is the construction and stabilisation of the embankment on the east side of the shed. This will enable the spoil heap south of the shed to be removed, and it will facilitate excavation of the ground east of the Heritage Skills Centre (otherwise known as the HSC, the "lean-to" offices on the east side of the shed) so that the framework for this structure can be erected. 
The location of the HSC is shown in the first two photos. 
They show the location of the offices from inside and outside 
the shed. The offices will stretch the full length of the mid-
height beams. The ground level outside the HSC needs to 
be reduced by approximately one metre.

Work started in late November/early December at the southern end of so-called "Dingley Dell," as shown in the next photo, creating an access track down to stream level, as a precursor to the construction of the embankment. Good progress was made initially but very wet weather throughout the latter part of December prevented any further work. 
With the Infrastructure team now fully engaged on running line relays,  work on the embankment cannot restart until the end of  February, and it will be reliant on a period of dry 
Since the first three carriages were shunted into the shed at the end of November, a further two have been added to F-road, as seen in the fourth photo. It was intended that G-road would be connected during December, allowing a second road to be filled. Two factors have prevented this: the first is that the ground immediately south of G-road is soft and unstable when wet and requires work to consolidate it before G-road can be used.  

The second is that the removal  of the northern end of the spoil heap (which is partially  obstructing access to road G, H, and J  as shown in the fifth  photo) also has been  delayed by the wet weather.
After the earthworks and the HSC framework, the next major element of work will be the erection of the eastern and northern walls (brickwork and cladding to match the existing shed). 
As a precursor to this job, detailed design of the Skills Centre and ancillary works has commenced; this will enable the east and north walls of the shed to be designed and specified.
The erection of these walls is the subject of the next round 
of fu nd raising for "Cash for Cover". A MyDonate page has 
been set up with a target of £125k. Many thanks to all who have contributed to this worthy and necessary cause.
By Barry Luck, Project Manager, OP4 Project 
Daniel Brookbank Joins Bluebell Railway Trust as Fundraiser
As recently announced, Roger Kelly has retired from a successful stint as Funding Director for Bluebell Railway PLC, and the decision has been made that the key responsibility for fundraising in the future will be anchored within the Bluebell Railway Trust. A key reason for this change is that the majority of funding is in fact now raised via the Trust.
To this end, I am pleased to confirm that at a meeting of the Trustees held on 10 Jan., 2018, it was agreed that Daniel Brookbank would join the Bluebell Railway Trust with key responsibility for fundraising from trusts, foundations, other charities, and, of course, high net worth and other personal donors.
Daniel has more than 20 years of experience in the health and voluntary sector, and for the last seven years, he has been Chief Executive of the East Sussex Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People.
Now living in Pevensey Bay, Daniel was raised in Chelwood Gate, and in his youth he was a frequent visitor to the Bluebell Railway. He will hit the track running, with the fundraising programme for the Diamond Jubilee being one of his first projects.
Key ingredients to success, in his view, are a co-ordinated approach to fundraising and an effective Capital Project Review process that identifies and prioritises where, when, and for what funds are needed.
Daniel will be looking towards a small team of volunteers to help with delivering his mandate, and he will be meeting with Roger Kelly in the near future to ensure an effective transfer of responsibilities and to cover any outstanding matters.  Please join me in welcoming Daniel to the Bluebell Railway.
By Vernon Blackburn, Administrative Trustee                                                    

The Horsted Keynes Carriage Shed (OP4) Cash for Cover 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.
No. 813 to Visit Bluebell Railway in May

Photo Courtesy of SVR (Keith Wilkinson).
The Railway confirms that plans are at an advanced stage for ex-Port Talbot Railway 0-6-0ST No. 813 to be in the line up for the 2018 Branch Line Weekend to be held on 18 to 20 May.

Built by Hudswell Clark in 1901, this locomotive is now owned by GWR 813 Preservation Fund, and it is based at the Severn Valley Railway (SVR). Taken out of service in 2009 for heavy boiler repairs, No. 813 re-entered service in late 2016. The loco will be transported to and from the Railway by road. More details to follow.

Details of Diesel Gala 2018 Released

Class 31 No. 31271
This year's Bluebell Railway Diesel Gala will be on 23-25 March, 2018.

Three locos are confirmed:
  • Class 45 No. 45041, owned by Peak Locomotive Company Ltd.
  • Class 46 D182 owned by Peak locomotive Company Ltd.
  • Class 31 No. 31271 owned by A1A Locomotives Ltd.
None of these locos have ever hauled passenger trains on the Railway before, so this is a unique opportunity for a trip through the Sussex countryside riding behind them. Well worth a visit!

Timetables are being finalised and will be available soon. The weekend will include:
  • A three-day intensive operating service with three six-car sets.
  • Brake van rides (in our "Queen Mary" No. 56290) at Horsted Keynes during the day.
  • Twelve-car set running Friday and Saturday late afternoon.
  • Saturday evening train, with sausage and mash in the Bessemer Arms.
For more information, click here .

Infrastructure Update: Trains,  Drains, and Rain

The lazer dozer levelling with a new drain seen at the side of the formation.
It was the famous Rev. William Spooner who referred to the "Town Drain" instead of the "Down Train", and while the London Brighton & South Coast Railway were pretty good at trains both up and down, they were generally less than enthusiastic about drains.

Perhaps in their race to the coast, the LB&SCR didn't much consider the effect that the rain would have on the underlying clay and beach shingle they used for ballast if it was not properly drained. 

On our Railway, there are ditches at lineside in many places, but over the years they get silted, and of course they are only effective up to a point, so in many places mud pumps up through the ballast leaving voids where the track can move up and down. 

Compacting the old ballast after levelling and before the Terram and polythene is laid.
As well as putting down new track, the Infrastructure Team are improving this situation now that new materials are available. Whenever track is laid in a cutting, the now familiar sandwich of Terram and polythene is laid on top of the old ballast once it has been scraped and levelled. At the same time, whenever it is deemed necessary, new plastic drains are laid at the side of the formation so that water percolating through the ballast runs straight into the drain without ever reaching the clay underneath. 

The relaying at Rock Cutting is nearly complete, and it has been reported that we are not yet two thirds of the way through the timescale, despite several days of atrocious weather. Ballasting started on 25 Jan., 2018, with new stone, and the tamper is booked for 30 January. 

There is still plenty to do though with all the old panels that have been taken back to Horsted Keynes and that will need breaking down when there is time. 

By Mike Hopps

Tickets are going fast for The Company Upfront's set of 2018 Murder Mysteries on board the Golden Arrow. Trains are sold out through March, and April and May shows are nearly sold out. However, there are more dates for "A Fete Worse Than Death" and "Murder at De'ath Place" later in the year. Learn more here .
Provisional Visitor Numbers Posted

For 2017 provisional figures show overall visitor numbers at 153,372. Of this number, 90% travelled on trains, with the remaining 10% representing station admissions.

The Railway had a very successful "Flying Scotsman" event during Easter and an outstanding Christmas season. December saw visitor numbers at 21,502, up 16% on same time the previous year. The Railway, of course, was fortunate not have been hit by any bad weather.

Nonetheless, overall visitor numbers for 2017 were down about 5% on 2016. Visitors in the summer months were 64,423 compared with 67,774 in the previous year, which also reflects a 5% drop.
Looking at the context of the last five years, 2012 was a low point, with visitor numbers at 146,224, but that year was immediately followed by the high point of 188,144 in 2013 when the extended line into East Grinstead was opened. Since then, the visitor count has stayed below 160,000.

Premium dining and other value-added products continue to perform well, but focus on lifting the day-to-day service train passengers is now a key priority. Being so close to the resident population of Greater London and tourists visiting Central London means the Railway is very keen to pursue that market opportunity further.

2018 events such as Branch Line Weekend, the visit of "Tornado" in May, and our Diesel Gala all contribute to promoting the line. Moreover, the opening of the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported Accessible Steam Heritage (ASH) project in the summer should stimulate additional interest for younger visitors and schools.

By Roger Garman, Communications Director

2018 Find Out More Days Announced

Have you ever wondered how to become a volunteer, what it entails, and whom to contact?

No matter whether you are male or female, skilled or with no previous experience, can offer a day a month or more, you are invited to find out what volunteering in the various departments on the Bluebell Railway entails.

Details of our 2018 "Find out More Days" are now available at this link . Essentially, they will be on the second Sunday of every month from February until November.  Meeting time is 10:30 a.m. at Sheffield Park Station, and the day should end around 4:30 p.m.

These gatherings include a tour behind the scenes that show the variety of roles and departments across the Railway departments that you can volunteer for, and they are a chance for you to discuss what you might be interested in doing at the Railway.

For more information, email Volunteer Recruitment Leader David Chappell or call 01825 720800.

New Accession at the Museum: Bridge Parapet Decoration
The London, Brighton, & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) bridge parapet plaque is from the East Dulwich-to-Tulse Hill railway line in South East London.
It features on the left the coat of arms of the LB&SCR and on the right those of Edward Alleyn, born in 1566, who was a successful Shakespearian actor. He started buying land in Dulwich in 1605, which became known as the Dulwich Estate.
To construct the railway across his land the LB&SCR paid Edward Alleyn a large sum of money that he used to build what is now Dulwich College. This was originally called Alleyn's College and the centre part of the plaque shows the letters A and C plus the date the bridge was constructed, 1866.
Many of the plaques are still in situ on both over and under bridges around Dulwich. The picture above shows two of the four crests on the over bridge outside North Dulwich station.
By Tony Hillman

The Railway has been informed by East Sussex Highways of road works that could cause delays during busy periods. So to help you plan your journey, please take note of the following issues:
  • At The Kings Head, East Grinstead Road, North Chailey, East Sussex BN8 4DH. Three weeks from 15 Jan., 2018: lane closure and three-way traffic lights on the East Grinstead Road at the junction with the Lewes Road, eventually becoming two-way traffic lights. A temporary bus stop have been arranged for the 121 service.
  • At Sheffield Bridge, Chailey, 5 Feb., 2018 to 2 March, 2018. Structural repairs to the bridge and substandard safety barriers. Temporary traffic lights and footway closures will be in place.
For more information, contact East Sussex Highways on 0345 60 80 193 or .
Wide Angle Iron

During the six-week closedown, until services resume on 10 Feb., 2018, the Railway is re-laying half a mile of track on either side of Rock Cutting, as seen in Paul Booth's panoramic shot taken on 13 January.

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

Ever Wanted to Drive a Steam Locomotive?

Are you looking for a special birthday present, retirement gift, corporate team building exercise, or just the chance to have a dream to come true? Then Full Steam Ahead 2018 is for you!

The Railway is running some a very special days for lovers of steam this year, days on which you can experience first-hand firing and driving one the Railway's fleet of historic steam engines.

No. 73082 "Camelot" will be on duty for an exciting day over the entire length of Bluebell Line. The train will comprise four carriages for the exclusive use of the participants. Included in the price of £650 pp is the opportunity to both fire and drive the engine, breakfast on arrival at the Bessemer Arms, and a buffet lunch on board.

It will be a full day, starting at Sheffield Park 8 a.m. and finishing at Sheffield Park at around 5 p.m. A maximum of two guests per participant are welcome for an additional cost of £30 per guest.

  • 28 March
  • 29 March
  • 11 July
  • 12 July
  • 24 September
  • 25 September
For more details and to book, click here .

Can You Help? London Bridge Departure Board

The Museum now has four of enamel destination boards from London Bridge, and we would like to display them is a similar way to how they were displayed in the station.

The problem is that we have not been able to find a photo to use as a basis for the display. Can anyone help us by providing us with a picture and telling us where to find one?

If you can help, please email Tony Hillman at .

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.
Project 27: Scenes from a January Working Day 

Rueben and Matt setting up ready for the next rivet.  The Project 27 restoration team had its first working day of 2018 on 21 January when the angles were riveted to the rear drag box plate.  Click here  for all pictures taken during the process ...
Take in the Bluebells on the "Sussex Belle"

Why not book a trip aboard "The Sussex Belle" during bluebell season this spring?

On 25 April, 2018, this brand new service will depart Sheffield Park Station at 1 p.m. and offers a two-course meal aboard a First Class dining car.

The journey through the beautiful Sussex countryside will last for 1 3/4 hours and the cost of £50 pp includes the fare and a set two-course meal of lemon and thyme infused chicken supreme with roasted spring vegetables and minted new potatoes, followed by crème brulee cheesecake with fresh berries.

For more details and to book, click here .

Camelot Locomotive Society Update: Valves & Pistons

A progress report from the Society Chairman Peter Gibbs:

The valves and pistons came out easily and these and the bores are very clean, a testament, as usual, to the uniform and plentiful lubrication of the valves and cylinders. New piston heads (already in stock) will be fitted and new rings put in for both valves and pistons. The bores have been checked for size and shape and do not require re-boring.

The crossheads require attention, the white metal bearing surfaces need to be built up and machined to take up wear; their location points, the associated slidebars, are fine. Some metal bushes on the coupling and connecting rods have been removed for remetalling and all the motion rods are receiving a thorough clean.

Photo Gallery  
John Sandys (16 Jan., 2018): A lovely sunny day saw more progress on the canopy and the ASH Project. (I have also included some stills from John Harwoods latest video.)

John Sandys (23 Jan., 2018): This album shows more progress creating the new entrance lobby to the Locomotive Shed. The concrete base has now been poured within a blockwork shell, which will be faced with brick. This is the most visible part of the ASH project currently under way.

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



John Harwood's aerial video from 23 Jan., 2018.

Rambling Railwayman Recollections

Another illustrated talk by Geoff Burch, hosted by the Horsham Model Railway Club (HMRC), will take place on 13 Feb., 2018, at 7 p.m. at St. Leonards Church Hall, Cambridge Road, Horsham.

The last in a series of three talks deals with the time Geoff passed his driver's exam through to his appointment as a Driver at Effingham Junction and his driving days at Woking Mixed Traction Depot to his stint as a Senior Instructor at Waterloo South Side Training School.

The talk will be accompanied by an exclusive selection of both black and white and colour photographs, projected onto the large screen. Entry is by ticket only at £3 per person, which includes light refreshments. Tickets can be purchased from the Horsham Museum, located at 9 Causeway, before noon on 13 February.

Pop-Up Shop

HMRC once again will have a pop-up shop in Swan Walk, Horsham, from the 10-18 February.

Visit two layouts, browse secondhand railway items, and talk model trains and their full-sized cousins!

Times are Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday 10:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

By Peter Reed, Chair, HMRC
Railway & Heritage News Briefs
A Swindon-built diesel loco that spent its working life hauling coal in the valleys of South Wales has become the latest addition to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway's vintage collection ...

100 new jobs to be created at Eastleigh Rail Works following investment by Network Rail ...

Researchers at University of Huddersfield explore 3D printing of train components ...
Lac-Megantic trial: Workers cleared over Canada rail disaster ...

Nottingham's train station is a reassuring presence which could easily have been destroyed by fire ...  
New Cylinder Cast for Steam Locomotive Peppercorn A2 "Blue Peter" ...

Locomotive Services TOC Ltd has signed a deal which sees Class 40 No. 40013 "Andania" become part of their fleet for the next three years ...

Somerset and Dorset (S&D) 7F No. 53809 will move residency from the West Somerset Railway (WSR) to the North Norfolk Railway (NNR) ...
Alstom is to carry out tests of autonomous freight trains on a 100km stretch of track in the Netherlands ...

The Vale of Rheidol Railway has announced that Hunslet steam locomotive "Margaret" has passed its annual cold boiler test during January ...

Steam locomotive "Brown Bear" has left the Groudle Glen Railway on the Isle of Man and is heading for Old Hall Farm Engineering, in Cumbria, where her final assembly will take place ...

This is the 150th issue of the eNewsletter. The 149th issue was sent to  7,457 readers. Thanks to all those who have made the newsletter a success! 
Martin Lawrence's video of "Footplate Taster Days".

From the Glossary of Railway Terms ...

Buckeye Coupler
An automatic coupler invented in 1879 by Eli Janney in the US and now used world-wide. Vehicles are coupled by pushing them together and are released by a lever under the coupling head. The term Buckeye comes from the combination of the nickname of the US state of Ohio 'the Buckeye state' and the Ohio Brass Co. which originally marketed the coupler.

Hattons has an update to its full line-up of SECR P class 0-6-0 models, which includes "Primrose", "Bluebell", and "Pride of Sussex"! Read the project page here

Website Gems: Carriage Fleet Review (1990s)

This classic article from Bluebell News magazine in the 1990s takes a closer look at the Railway's Victorian carriage fleet ...

This is the first in a series of articles surveying the Bluebell Railway's carriage fleet, which originally appeared in Bluebell News. The opportunity has been taken to bring their histories up to date, and to try to indicate the future which lies ahead of them. This article deals with our 19th century coaches, excepting the GNR Directors' Saloon ... and the SER Gilbert Car.

London Chatham and Dover Railway six-wheel brake No 48.

The history of this coach, an early arrival on the railway, has been well documented in the past. Suffice it to say that it was purchased out of departmental use, and continued to perform a similar function for a number of years, as the "Alf Brown Gang Tea Room Mk.1".

A few years ago it entered the carriage shed, and it was rumoured that it was to be restored. The work force sadly did not materialise, and so it had its tarpaulin replaced and returned to its home in the up sidings. Structurally the coach is in poor shape, and it is completely devoid of an interior. However its six-wheel wooden underframe has received some attention, especially to the centre wheel-set, thanks to the Alf Brown Group ... MORE

Your Painting: David Gordon's Steam Coach

Title: David Gordon's Steam Coach, 1830
Artist: Brian Fawcett
Collection: Durham County Council
Date: 1984
Medium: Oil on board
Size: 35.5 x 43.2 cm

From the Getty Archive: At the Outbreak 

A view of a London train station during the outbreak of World War II (the name of the station is not given).
The Railway has posted number of catering vacancies
From the BBC Archive: The Fishing Line (1986)
Miles Kington travels from Fort William across the western Highlands via Glenfinnan to Mallaig.

While observing breathtaking scenery and stunning engineering achievements, Kington uncovers what the railway meant to the traditional crofting communities that had been devastated by the Highland clearances.

Better Know a Heritage Railway: The Plains (New Zealand)

The Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum is a heritage railway and historic village located in Tinwald, New Zealand. The Plains Railway operates on approximately 3km of rural railway line that once formed part of the Mount Somers Branch.

The original branch , built in 1878, was different from a great many of the other branch line railways built by the New Zealand Government Railways at the time, in that its sole purpose was not the opening up of the land for agricultural activities, but instead for the cartage of lignite coal and lime from deposits behind Mt. Somers, an extinct volcano, on the edge of the Southern Alps.




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