First Steam

Jonathan Hughes'  photo  shows the first service of the 2018 season climbing Freshfield Bank behind Maunsell S15 No. 847, "its superb exhaust hanging in he cold morning air just before the rain started."

On Fire: Updates on Inner Fireboxes for No. 34059 and No. 21C123

The new gusset plate and transverse stays in the firebox.
The new inner firebox for No. 34059 "Sir Archibald Sinclair" is complete and has been passed by the boiler insurance inspector and has been trial-fitted to the outer wrapper of the firebox. The new gusset plate at the back of the crown plate, which gives support to the rear of the firebox has been riveted in position.

The outer wrapper sheets are both being renewed, with that on the driver's side awaiting fitting. Marking out and drilling of the stays is underway with approximately 2,200 stays being required.

We hope that the fitting of the new inner firebox to the outer wrapper and its associated welding, marking out, and drilling for the stays will be completed for a return of the boiler to the Railway around Easter time.

Meanwhile, components for the new inner firebox for No. 21C123 "Blackmoor Vale" have now been prepared and await welding, and, good news for another loco, the new inner firebox for No. 34101 "Hartland" is nearing completion.

By John Fry

The new inner firebox and boiler barrel.

View looking forward to the boiler barrel showing the transverse stays, new outer wrapper on the left, and a corner of the gusset plate also visible on the left.

General Manager Position Open

The new post of General Manager was created just over two years ago as a part of the Railway's review of its organisational structure and a desire to position the management team to meet the needs and challenges of the expanded scope and environment in which the Railway now operates.

The role during the incumbency of Gordon Owen proved both the need for and benefits of such a managerial position. We are now recruiting a replacement for Gordon who recently departed his position at the Railway.

By Roger Garman, Communications Director


Applications are sought for the post of General Manager of Bluebell Railway PLC.

Reporting to the Bluebell Railway PLC Chairman, the General Manager will be responsible to the Board for the overall day-to-day management of the business.

The successful candidate is likely to have experience in the management of a small or medium sized business and a proven track record in the management of people.

Candidates should send their application and accompanying CV either by post to Lisa Boyle, Personnel and Administration Manager, Bluebell Railway PLC, Sheffield Park Station, TN22 3QL or by email to .

The closing date for applications is 9 March, 2018. Bluebell Railway PLC is an equal opportunities employer.
Thank you to all those who have helped so far with our two current fundraising campaigns!
  • The Tr(ack) Action appeal is helping to accelerate the Railway's much-needed programme of track renewal. In addition to improving passenger comfort the renewed track will reduce maintenance costs on locomotives and carriages. Donate here.
FOSP Update: Canopy Construction Proceeds Apace

Photo by Sue Elliott.
It is just one month since the scaffold was erected around Bessemer Arms, and already the main structure of the new canopy is not only built but finished, with valancing and substantially complete glazing. This is excellent progress against our planned schedule, and it has been assisted in no small measure by mostly favourable weather.

When the project plans were being laid, we considered having a covering "roof" built above the scaffold platform to protect our contractors--and the project timing--against the vagaries of winter weather. The scaffolding cost would have been doubled by this idea, and we would have needed an expensive intermediate rebuild of the scaffold before we would have been able to install the glazing. 

Friends in the building trade confidently announced that January weather was "usually good" for working outdoors, so we bravely went ahead with no roof! As the total lost contractor time due to adverse weather during the construction phase has only been two days, this strategic decision turned out to be very cost-effective--and who says the weather gods don't answer our prayers?!

So, we are now on the home straight. The contractor phase is 95% completed, with only a small amount of glazing to complete plus some lead flashing to add where two beams enter the main building roof above the restaurant doorway.

The remainder of the works--to be completed by Friends of Sheffield Park (FOSP) volunteers--includes the painting and fitting of the cast iron guttering, installation of a decorative trim to the valancing, and finish/touch-up painting of the whole structure where needed. The support struts atop each support column also will be added, as soon as scaffolding is removed in about two weeks. At this point the effect of the new canopy will become fully apparent. Without being too immodest, I think it will impress!

A particular word of praise is due to FOSP team members who have gone way above the usual call of duty to support my requests for assistance to keep the project rolling in this critical build phase. In particular, certain individuals have put in many additional hours painting critical areas of the main structure, so that the glazing could be scheduled in very short order. Others have worked on additional preparation works behind the scenes such that delay for our paid contractors has been completely avoided. That's proper teamwork! 

By Charles Melton
A Rare Find for the Museum: SR Meritorious Service Medal

Southern Railway (SR) awarded these medals to members of staff for deeds of outstanding gallantry performed in connection with World War II. Only 28 of these medals were awarded, the first 18 being presented at a ceremony at Waterloo on 16 Aug., 1940.

The medal is made of silver gilt as gold was not available at the time. It was design by George Kruger Gray CBE FSA and produced by the Royal Mint. The ribbon attachment takes the form of a vehicle spring, and the ribbon has a rendering of railway track in the colours in use by the Southern Railway.

The medal in the Railway Museum was awarded to Esmond Arthur Roote. He, along with four others, was awarded his medal for dealing with a mine in Folkestone Harbour.

The citation reads as follows:

A live mine drifted into the inner Harbour at Folkestone in March, and floated towards the viaduct and swing bridge. These men launched a boat from which they threw a line over the mine and moored it to a buoy in the Harbour, arrangements having previously been made to contact Naval Authorities.

Esmond was born in 1885 and on his 18th birthday, he joined the Royal Navy and served until a year before he married in 1920 when he was working on the South Eastern & Chatham Railway. He died in 1970.

By Tony Hillman
Any Old Iron

During the rail relay, the old rail to which we were going to connect at the north end of the job turned out to be so worn that we did not have a step plate big enough to lift the head of the rail up high enough to match up with the new rail. Therefore we had to remove it and replace it with a less worn rail and put a step plate either end to make up the step in two goes.

A step plate is a fish plate with a joggle in the middle so that it lifts one rail higher than the other so that the top surface of the two rails match up and there is no "clunk" when a wheel passes over it. They normally come in 1/16" steps up to about 3/8" although we don't have any that big (and you have not been able to buy them for 96-pound rail for many decades).

The two step-plate solution resolved the problem very well and attention turned to the rail that we took out. It turns out that it was probably one of the original 96-pound rails put in when the line was re-railed from 70-pound to 96-pound near the beginning of the last century. The rail was made in 1903, 115 years ago! Is this the oldest we have still in use?

The picture above of the rail shows the age with the rolled notation of "DOWLAIS STEEL - IX-1903 LB&SCRy", which was also found elsewhere on the rail. It has now been used for some of the new fence posts, protecting the Tremains foot crossing just north of Rock Cutting, with the writing still visible.

By John Goff

Steam-hauled--and steam-heated--services resumed on 10 Feb., 2018, and are running every day for Half Term, until 18 February, and then at weekends through to Easter. Save money with our Kids for a Quid special offer each day over Half Term, 10-18 February. Buy tickets online in advance (with an advance purchase discount on the adult tickets too) or turn up on the day and buy tickets at the window.
New Events Added for 2018

For details on these events and more, and to book tickets online, visit

30 March-2 April: Mad Hatters Tea Party

Catch the train to Kingscote Station awaiting your arrival will be a world of madness, a hatters' tea party, children's adventure hunt, giant games, and entertainment for everyone.

16 June: Trackfest 2018

Exciting news for music lovers! This summer the Railway will host its first ever music-and-steam festival, "Trackfest". Visit Horsted Keynes for an afternoon of great music provided by some great bands, including Modern Romance, The Jive Aces (see photo), The Gallerys, and Wake Up Leo!

11-12 August: Steam Through the Ages

Travel through 100 years of history in one day! The London Brighton & South Coast Railway, from which the Bluebell Railway evolved, began life in the 1840s and it is the Victorian Era that Sheffield Park will depict. Horsted Keynes Station will give a flavour of life during the war years of the 1940s while Kingscote will become 'Kingscote-on-Sea' a 1950s "Seaside" holiday.

CCT Van Update: Sorting the Good from the Bad

An update on the repair of Covered Carriage Truck (CCT) No. 2531S by the Camelot Locomotive Society, by Julian Heinemann ...

Two new large south end doors have been made for the CCT Van, incorporating the original interior timber backing planks that were still in good enough condition to be re-used. They have been painted in primer.

On the van itself, further grit blasting has continued where possible, but the CCT is currently out in the open in Horsted Keynes yard. All the life expired/rotten floor boards have been removed, leaving the central gutter in situ.

I understand that it is intended to bring the van back inside the shed in the next few weeks, so that work can continue.

Just Passing Through

Tim Crump's  photo  shows the first train passing through after the reconnection of 5/8 mile of new track through the rock cutting. The diesel shunter, pulling the Dukedog and one carriage, literally waited at the south end for the final screw to be put in on 25 Jan., 2018. The shunter pulled its train to Horsted Keynes and returned with a ballast train.

From the Archive
Archivist Tony Hillman is going underground with John J. Smith photos this time, but not actually under ground.
Met #16 at Baker Street on 9 Sept., 1961.
Better Know a Heritage Railway: Trois Vallées

The Chemin de Fer à Vapeur des Trois Vallées ("Three Valleys Steam Railway") is a heritage railway in southern Belgium, created in 1973. It operates from the Mariembourg to Treignes , over about 14 km of standard gauge track. Three rivers follow the line: Eau Blanche, Eau Noire, and Viroin, hence the name. The railway connects with the greater Belgian rail network in Mariembourg.

The railway operates nine working steam locos, including a German class 52 and a restored Polish class 48 (No. 4887, pictured), as well as 11 diesel locos, and five railcars (including No. 55411, pictured). In addition, several steam and diesel locos are under reconstruction, and a museum can be found in Treignes. Like the Bluebell Railway, Trois Vallées offers special trains, such as a Santa Special, group specials, and fine dining.

Photo Gallery  
Martin Lawrence has made a start to his February 2018 gallery , which includes this photobomb by Phil taken on 4 February.

John Sandys (8 Feb., 2018): "Fresh deliveries for the ASH project and progress on the canopy."

John Sandys' album from 1 Feb., 2018, includes more progress on the new canopy around Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park.
John Sandys (4 Feb., 2018): "A lovely crisp sunny day, but bitterly cold! I saw 'Bluebell' on Footplate Taster duties, plus updates on the Sheffield Park canopy, (the scaffolding is coming down in mid-March) and the ASH Project."
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


Competition Time!

Leading up to the Mad Hatters Tea Party (see center column), here's your chance to enter the Bluebell Railway's maddest hat competition.

To enter, post a photo on the Railway's Facebook page or bring your mad creation with you when you visit the Mad Hatters Tea Party on 30 March-2 April. There will be a daily winner who will receive a family rail ticket.
Your Art: Willesden Shed

Full Title: Willesden Shed (British Railways poster artwork)
Date: 1955
Artist: David Shepherd (1931-2017)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 62.1 x 93.8 cm
Collection: National Railway Museum
The Footplate Taster sessions for January and February quickly sold out. The Railway is now taking bookings for November.
From the British Transport Archive: Trains and Snow 1963

The year of the Great Blizzard. This film comprises train and track footage quickly shot just before a heavy winter's snowfall was melting.

The multi-award-winning classic that emerged from the cutting-room compresses British Rail's dedication to blizzard-battling into a thrilling eight-minute montage cut to music.

Tough-as-boots workers struggling to keep the line clear are counterpointed with passengers' buffet-car comforts.  
From the Glossary of Railway Terms ...

A train stalled over a gap in the conductor rail of an electric railway is said to be "gapped". This occurs when the shoes on the train which collect the current have all lost contact with the current rail due to gaps left for junctions. Particularly prevalent at complex junctions such as the entrances to yards. 
Brooksbank: Willesden Junction

Willesden Junction, eastward to West London Junction, 1962 : Beside No. 2(?) Box, the view is towards Euston, with the West London Line curving away to the right. It is a summer Saturday: over to the left "Rebuilt Jubilee" 4-6-0 No. 45736 "Phoenix" heads the 10:57 Walsall-to-Hastings and is about to turn south to Kensington Olympia, while the 10:45 Hastings-to-Wolverhampton High Level is approaching with Bulleid Light Pacific No. 34101 "Hartland": both trains will change locomotives here.

Unfortunately, the talk by Geoff Burch to be hosted by the Horsham Model Railway Club on 13 Feb., 2018, has been cancelled. 
In the News ...

A1 Steam Locomotive Trust in Darlington starts work on new engine which was Sir Nigel Gresley's last design ..

How the world's longest model railway showed that train enthusiasts don't mind going off the rails ...

The Swanage Railway has announced that a challenging restoration of two heritage diesel trains will delay the second year of the pioneering train trials to Wareham ...

Ffestiniog Railway pulls out all the stops to push North Wales' tourism industry ...

Dismay for South Cumbria as MP says no train upgrades until December 2019 ...

"Oliver Cromwell" returns to East Anglia for last trip before retirement ...

An under-used and historic railway line could be given a new lease of life to improve links between Clitheroe and Hellifield ...

Steam Locomotive "Tornado" to mark anniversary of "Fifteen Guinea Special" ...

Amtrak crash highlights looming deadline for rail safety system ...

Virtual Reality Tour : Explore this grand former railway station in Dublin, with its own murder mystery ...

The Untold Tales Of The HRM Train Coach : In 1956, the Queen of England and the Duke of Edinburgh paid their colony, Nigeria, a visit, focussing on Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, and Calabar. The most convenient way of moving around at the time was by rail ...

The Tutbury Jinnie will always remain a sentimental realm of Burton's railway history ...

Memories of playing on a runaway train that went down the hill 75 years ago ...

The use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) is governed by the Civil Aviation Authority . The regulations include the requirement not to fly within 50 metres of any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.

Therefore, drones must not be operated from Bluebell Railway property or within 50m of Bluebell Railway property, except where specific authority is given by either the Infrastructure Director or  Operations Director.

That authority will be at the sole discretion of the Bluebell Railway and may be withdrawn without notice at any time. Any authority will be given only after a risk assessment and suitable controls have been put in place. Learn more here .  
From @bluebellrailway

@beeranddiesels Feb 7
OK, so not a diesel, but a photo of #FlyingScotsman taken at @bluebellrailway that I'm quite proud of.

 @SussexLifeMag Feb 2
Looking for a date with a difference this #ValentinesDay? Here are our #Sussex suggestions  @BrightonProud @HailshamCinema @bluebellrailway @BSBBallooning

@railwayblogger Jan 29
How did you get interested in railways? As I mentioned in my blog about Starting out  #heritagerailway #railwayblog

@tryandlilly Jan 29
We've made these samples today for @bluebellrailway retweet if you like them! @Heritage_Rail what do you think?  #Railways #rail #trains #heritagerailway #uniformcaps

@ExpMidSussex Jan 28
Chuffed to see @OckendenManor and @bluebellrailway mentioned by @sussexlife for venues to celebrate #ValentinesDay with your #LovedOne




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