Not So Sulky S15

An excellent video from Bob Kershaw: "The Bluebell Railway in fine weather, filmed on 16 and 17 Feb., 2018. The locations are Sharpthorne Tunnel (northern end), Horsted Keynes, and nearby, including the site of the former Holywell Halt. The locomotive operating the Sulky Service is S15 No. 847.

"In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the final closure of the Bluebell Line from East Grinstead to Lewes, trains are running to a timetable known as the "Sulky Service", because that was the minimum number of trains that British Railways were forced to operate in 1958."

After Rock Cutting, Infrastucture Is on a Roll

Sleepers being sorted.
After rocking Rock Cutting, the Infrastructure Team is now on a roll, with even more relaying taking place next week between Holywell and Caseford Bridge connecting up with that laid in January 2017. 

We have some more track, some more sleepers, and the always-present urge to keep going while we have the chance with trains not running. Since finishing at Rock Cutting, much time has been spent breaking up the old panels in the triangle at Horsted Keynes, with the old rail sorted into useful bits for other jobs, such as the occasional fence post, but with the bulk being sent back as scrap on the same lorry that delivers the new rail: big savings in cost and of course sensible recycling. 

Sleepers are being sorted as well, with those still deemed useful for other jobs such as supporting containers, making retaining walls, and possible use on temporary track to OP4. Those that didn't survive the trip back to the triangle looking like sleepers will end up on the bonfire. The logistics for all this has been a lot easier since we sorted out the Salt Yard with a new entrance, and we now have a big enough turning circle so that lorries can drive in and out more easily and without having to reverse. 

People are always interested in the details of a job such as this because it makes a change from counting rivets. In probably the biggest relay to date, 55 panels were laid, as well as three transition panels where the track was joined to the existing formation. 110 lengths of 60-foot rails were set on 1,540 concrete sleepers, which were held in place by 6,160 "pandrol" clips and plastic "biscuits".  Following this, 1,800 tons of ballast was spread and the whole section tamped.

During the course of the six-week exercise, there were 69 paid staff days, including Saturday working.  Contracting staff spent 38 days on site, including the tamper boys, but the volunteer days added up to 274, which included the diesel crews for the ballast drops. The 9F club also spent time on the Saturdays clipping up the rail, which was an interesting exercise for them and very helpful to us.

And before anyone makes a joke about the need to get out more, we do that all the time and in all weathers! Once this next bit of relaying is finished, it will be back to OP4, finishing the new point work for the Salt Yard and a lot of digging in the area known as Dingley Dell. Let's hope the ground dries out a bit between now and then!

By Mike Hopps

Preservation Standards: "Balancing the Aims"

In attempting to restore and reproduce areas of the Railway to their original condition, it is not always possible to achieve perfection. We have inherited a 140-year-old Railway, and it has been subject to major renewals, modifications, and "improvements" over time.

For instance, Kingscote station was built by contractors for the L&EGR, operated by the LB&SCR for some 43 years, run by Southern Railway for 25 years and then British Railways for 10 years, till closure.

In 1963 the station was sold off and modified from a station to a private dwelling and garden by its owner over a period of 31 years. Since 1994, the Railway has restored the station by rebuilding as much as possible to the original design. However, current legislation dictates, for instance, that the gents' toilets must meet modern standards.

But such regulation does not mean that the exterior should not appear as original as possible. The Friends of Kingscote have rebuilt the exterior of the station with matching brickwork; the roof, although in a modern material, matches the zinc of the canopies; and the signage, while not original, is in the correct style and colour.

Yet some details on the Railway have inevitably "slipped through the net", such as the brickwork supporting the Brighton "Upper Goods" signal box, which is in a compromise brick type and with modern bonding.

The Railway's Preservation Standards manual attempts to explain as many of the standards we hope to achieve, in order to present our Railway in a manner that lines up with the aims of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society, whose members own the Railway.

By Chris Saunders, Preservation Standards Trustee

News from Preservation Standards Committee

Chris Saunders has provided an update to the work of the committee, which was convened to encourage the authentic presentation of Bluebell Railway's heritage, based on detailed research.


The core of the Standards Manual has been completed, and its rollout is in progress. The main areas finalised for publication are based around the authentic presentation of our station buildings in their different themed time periods on the Railway and also other areas of infrastructure. All the policy statements are complete; however, some further information is required to complete the task, mainly relating to finding missing original specifications produced by the Southern Railway to confirm detail. 


Staff uniforms are the next section to be worked up in detail, and hopefully will be completed early this year. It is amazing just how many staff grades there used to be, and how many we have on the Railway, and each need researching to get everything just right. Small details such as the correct buttons and badges aid authenticity, and it has been surprising the number of commercially produced examples we have found that are incorrect! ...

More preservation updates--on rolling stock, locos, the ASH Project, and more-- can be read here .

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.
A Stitch in Time

Two photos from Bob Pamment show the venerable and skilled art of upholstery alive and well at the Bluebell Railway. (Left) Offering new interpretation of the title "chairman", Dick Fearn, Chairman of Bluebell Railway PLC, tests the Pullman Car 54's new seating arrangement mock up at Horsted Keynes Carriage & Wagon works on 20 Feb., 2018. (Right) volunteer Dave Deeks carefully upholsters seat backs in the C&W works, also on 20 Feb.

Positions Open at the Bluebell Railway

Buildings Manager

The successful applicant will be responsible for the inspection, repair, and maintenance of the company's buildings. Building management, architectural, design, surveying, construction, or similar qualifications/experience are necessary to effectively undertake this role.

This is a volunteer post that carries no remuneration or specific hours of duty. However, the successful applicant will require sufficient time and flexibility to effectively undertake this role and have the appropriate technical competences to meet the professional requirements of the post. Applications must be received by 16th March 2018.

H&S Compliance Officer

Based at our Sheffield Park offices, the successful applicant will be responsible for working with the management team to ensure core health and safety elements of the Railway's Safety Management System (SMS) are in place, are current, and are achieving high levels of compliance throughout the organisation.

This post does not necessarily require a background in safety management (although this would be an advantage) but an aptitude to grasp, understand, and interpret health and safety legislation is essential in order to advise and guide the management team.

Essentially this position is about making sure compliance is being achieved for both the record keeping and delivery aspects of legislation; for example, are the risk assessments up to date, valid, and being complied with in the field?

Good interpersonal skills are an essential quality with a strong and determined approach to achieving robust and compliant core safety requirements.

It is anticipated the successful applicant will manage their time to work a 24-hour week over a seven-day period in order to be present at appropriate times that coincide with managers and their team's availability. Salary and conditions to be discussed at the interview stage.

Safety Systems Project Manager

Based at our Sheffield Park offices, the successful applicant will be responsible for developing and implementing a range of safety and assurance systems and processes enabling the organisation to progress towards RM3 compliance.

This post does not necessarily require a background in safety management (although this would be an advantage) but an aptitude to grasp, understand, and interpret what is required to put in place a framework that guides and supports the Railway's management team in moving towards strong SMS compliance is essential.

Currently, the Railway's senior safety team know what has to be done and the successful applicant will work with them and have the ability to deliver their objectives over a three-year period.

Core to success is the PM's ability to identify and adopt suitable online, user-friendly systems that can be used by volunteer and staff alike in their daily roles therefore a strong IT systems awareness is essential.

It is anticipated the successful applicant will manage their time to work a 40-hour week with some weekend working required. Salary and conditions to be discussed at the interview stage.

This is a three-year fixed term contract that would provide an ideal opportunity for a graduate or trainee systems engineer/manager with good interpersonal skills and a strong and determined approach, eager to develop their skills and experience working in a challenging heritage railway environment.

If you are interested in these opportunities, please contact the Personnel Manager at 01825 724884 or . Bluebell Railway is an equal opportunity employer.

Car 54 Underframe Update

A lot has happened on the underframe of Car 54 since its body was removed. One of the first jobs was to grit blast it using the newly acquired blaster, which helped us to assess the condition of the underframe more easily.

A convenient window in the paint shop allowed the cleaned frame to be shunted inside the shed over the Christmas period where a "paint brush army" descended upon it to paint most of it to black gloss.

Four of the main gusset plates had suffered from rust build-up underneath and as a result had "blown". These plates have now been replaced. This job was made a little awkward by having to reverse-engineer the holes in the new plates from the pre-existing holes in the underframe.

We also have replaced all of the cross bracing that runs along the underframe. This work proved to be trickier than first thought as we had to work out how the braces were tensioned when the carriage was first built. The method we used in the end was to rivet the centre of each strap and heat the middle of it to a red heat. While the strap was still hot the other end was tack welded. On cooling there was a surprising amount of tension in the brace.

Members of our Tuesday and Thursday volunteer gangs have been doing sterling work constructing the hardwood battery boxes and producing the many metal fittings which are needed for them. It has been noted that the ability of our volunteers to make things straight and with holes in the right place far exceeds the efforts of their Claytons counterparts of the period!

What we have of the hand brake assembly has been found, overhauled, and refitted because it is much easier while the carriage body is still off the underframe.

By Peter Blythe

Some exciting spring events for your calendar:
Owen's Favourite Photo

A lovely article about one of our biggest fans, Nicholas Owen, and a Bluebell railway related photo that he treasures ...

(From The Daily Express | 18 Feb., 2018) "I have a high regard for these preserved steam railways that you see around the country and the Bluebell Railway is among the best. I got involved with them several years ago and for a while I fired the coal with a shovel, which is what I'm doing in this photograph.

"I was keen to do something at the sharp end and while it was jolly hard work, it was also an enormous pleasure. 

"What's important is that I'm wearing an old locomotive man's cap - a proper cap.

"Attached to the cap is a British Railways badge I bought and it's relevant that it's green - the colour of the old Southern Region Railways, which ran through Surrey where I've always lived. Another point is the neckerchief around my neck: it's red and that was a tradition of the old locomotive men who wore one to keep the soot away ... MORE

Life's a Scream

Something for those of you who yearn for a more dark and scary experience ...

From 29-31 Oct., 2018, we dare you to visit the Bluebell Railway's Plague Platform on Halloween. Don't be mistaken, this won't be a light-hearted "ghost train", but an immersive steam journey to a historic location with a dark secret.

While at the station, make sure you speak to some of the frightful characters so you can piece together the story, but some characters are not very welcoming, so choose your interlocutors wisely.

Due to the frightful nature of the evening event, anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and this event is not suitable for those under the age of 12.

If you need your chilled bones warmed up, hot chocolate and other drinks will be available in the haunted buffet on Platform 3. A selection of hot and cold food will also be on sale.

You can start your experience from Sheffield Park or East Grinstead, when booking please choose the correct ticket selection for your arrival station.

Tickets can be purchased here .

Website Gems: Southern Railway 14/15-Ton Motor Car Truck No. 39617

Photo by Richard Salmon.

Built in the Southern Railway's workshops at Ashford (Kent) between December 1932 and May 1933, No. 39617 was one of a lot of 75 wagons built to diagram 1383 and order A681. With a 14-ton capacity and 18'7" wheelbase, the wagon was designed principally to carry wheeled vehicles, being fitted with a wheel restraining bar rack. 

The Southern Railway never built any vehicles intended solely to carry container traffic, so these vehicles also were used for that purpose. As built, No. 39617 had a handbrake only and was designated a "Conflat C".

Between 1935 and 1937, it was fitted with vacuum brakes, which increased its tare weight to 8 tons 16 cwt, and it was re-designated a "Conflat D". A through steam heat pipe would have been fitted at the same time.

As built, its livery would have been SR wagon brown/umber body, headstock and solebars, with black running gear and white lettering. Not being intended for common use--i.e. for use only on traffic originating on the Southern Railway (returning empty unless it had a return load)--it would have been branded with its SR telegraphic code and marked with a "N" at the bottom corners on each side. During World War II the carrying capacity was raised from 14 to 15 tons ... MORE

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.
Photo Gallery  
Peter Skuce's photos from 17 Feb., 2018, including SR 4-6-0 class S15 No. 847 back at Sheffield Park.  

The Railway recently hosted photo charters with SECR class O1 No. 65. Steve Lee's photo of the loco with a goods train during Jon Bowers' event on 20 Feb., 2018.

Jonathan Hughes (16 Feb., 2018): "Maunsell S15 No. 847 storms up Holywell Bank with the day's first service to East Grinstead, the 25th 'sulky' round-trip service of this anniversary week in glorious freezing winter sunshine, catching seemingly by surprise a male pheasant that decided to cross the tracks at the wrong moment. It survived."

Brian Lacey's photo shows LSWR No. 96 "Normandy", one of the locomotives temporarily on display at Horsted Keynes while the loco shed at Sheffield Park is being re-roofed.

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



TrainFan28's video shows No. 847 in service on 14 Feb., 2018.
From the BBC Archive: Steam and Wildlife

In this series that looks at the relationship between mankind and wildlife, Andrew Cooper explores the natural history of the Dart Valley Railway and details the way in which the arrival of the steam train affected not only the landscape, but also the plants and animals that call the trackside their home.

Check out the latest radio ad for the Railway, airing on Uckfield FM.  
Nick Dearden's video shows steam action from autumn and winter at the Railway. Plus, "there are a few shots of recent progress with OP4, ASH, the loco works, and the Bessemer Arms canopy."

Your Painting: Tudor Cars

Full title: "Tudor Cars' and the Rail Bridge at the Foot of the Station Approach
Artist: Stephen Chaplin
Date: 1994
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 12.5 x 17.5 cm
Collection: Central Library, Bromley
Acquisition: Gift from the artist

A visual map (a group of 36 pictures) has been created by Stephen Chaplin, from Orpington, by creating a grid of Orpington using an OS map and painting a picture from each of the squares. It results in a fabulous visual map of the area today.

This Budd's For You

Canadian reader Archie Bennett of Oakville, Ontario, thought our readers would be interested--and amused--by this video about the restoration of Budd Rail Diesel Car No. 6133:

"Budd built the stainless steel diesel cars for local branch traffic. Compare the melodic horn to the donkey bray of a standard DMU.

"The location is the Mimico yards (i.e., sidings) on the west side of Toronto, used by national carrier Via Rail beside the main line to Hamilton, Ontario; Buffalo, New York; Windsor, Ontario; and Detroit, Michigan.  

"On the other side are the yards for the Toronto regional commuter service GO Transit. Examples of the 10-coach, push-pull, double-deck, green-and-white GO trains pass through between minutes 4:30 and 5:45."

Update to the Locomotive Duty Roster , with expected locomotive use for the remainder of February and March.
From the Getty Photo Archive: Bristol Docks

Old rail cars on side track along Bristol docks , Bristol, UK ...

Covered goods wagons for transporting part-load or parcel goods are almost as old as the railway itself. Because part-load goods were the most common freight in the early days of the railway, the covered van was then the most important type of goods wagon.

In the News ...

The End of Diesel?

The UK Government has announced plans to phase-out the usage of diesel-only trains by 2040 as part of an initiative to reduce carbon emissions ...

The new rail minister wants to phase out diesel, and, according to this article, "his predecessor hobbled electricity."  That leaves one viable option ...

Hydrogen the favoured solution as UK government aims to scrap all diesel-only trains by 2040 ...

Other News

Amtrak: We'll stop service on tracks lacking speed controls ...

Direct Rail Services No. 37407 hauled its first passenger train on the main line in more than 18 years on February 19, when it led the 0836 Norwich-Great Yarmouth ...

"Flying Scotsman" engineer keeps famous locomotive on the right track ahead of 95th birthday ... 


The annual Bluebell Railway CC vs Scaynes Hill CC "Freshfields Test Match" will be held on 5 Aug., 2018.

This is a social cricket match and fundraiser , held this year on a Sunday,  for players of all ages and ability, that includes delicious catering provided by our gracious hosts and neighbours and breaks to wave at the occasional steam train!

If you are interested in joining the team--open to staff, volunteers, and other friends of the Railway--contact eNewsletter Editor John Walls .

From @bluebellrailway

@ExpMidSussex Feb 20
Wonderful to see so many @ExpMidSussex venues featuring in the new Sussex Top Attractions leaflet 2018 @GardenHighBeech @bordehillgarden @Wakehurst_Place @bluebellrailway We hope you enjoy visiting them all!Ă‚ 

@SpaVRofficial Feb 16
We are delighted to announce the visit of South Eastern & Chatham Railway P-Class locomotive No. 323 "Bluebell" courtesy of @bluebellrailway 

The 1910 built 0-6-0 tank engine is expected to arrive at Tunbridge Wells West during the week and be in service from Saturday 24th Feb.

@sussexliving Feb 14

It's #KidsForAQuid at the @bluebellrailway this half-term (Feb 10-18), allowing children aged 3-15 to enjoy unlimited travel on the railway, all day, for just £1 each!

@Pecka68 Feb 14
Perfect way to spend #ValentinesDay2018 on the @bluebellrailway #creamtea

IngenuiIES Feb 13
@bluebellrailway Thank you for a fantastic day on the Golden Arrow this weekend. If only all rail travel could be so relaxing and indulgent! #Heritage #BluebellRailway #preservedrai lway





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