Christmas Starts Here

By John Sandys.
Here we go as we start to move towards the "busy Santa season", with the Operations Department seemingly fairly quiet in the recent month other than the Footplate Tasters.  

A lot of those staff from the department have been busy present-stuffing for the Santa Season and decorating stations ready for the onslaught. The making up of the various carriage sets also has been going on behind the scenes, including, hopefully, the addition of the recently overhauled BCK No. 21246 on its first passenger foray on the Bluebell Railway.  

This year's operating season has bought its ups and downs, from the disappointment of "Tornado" not being available and the problems during the Diesel Gala to the mindless throwing of objects at trains by youths between Horsted Keynes and Kingscote, which caused some injury to staff as well as some damage to trains over the summer Bank Holiday.

On the upside Steam Through the Ages certainly proved a success, with large numbers of visitors from my view of it over the two days at Kingscote. The visit of a certain A4 locomotive also proved extremely popular, with, again, large numbers of passengers. It was a shame "Mayflower" couldn't make it, but I think the A4 was just as good a crowd puller on its own. I certainly enjoyed guarding it on two trips non-stop to add to the enjoyment.

The hot weather over the summer months and beyond caused some problems with trackside fires, but as I have said before, loco crews and other staff managed to keep the calls to the fire brigade down to a minimum due to their vigilance.  

I think it has been a successful year, with the Santa Season to round it all off: bookings are extremely good for our Christmas festivities.

By Mike Ellis, Operations Director

Double Donations Dash: We're Nearly There!

The Double Donations Dash appeal for the next stage of the OP4 Carriage Shed Project has reached the magnificent total of just more than £243,000. We have had a tremendous response, and we want to thank each and every one of you for your donations.

Money is still coming in, and we are hopeful that we can reach or even go beyond our target of £250,000. This fundraising will enable us to make significant progress towards the completion of the next phase of OP4 and to help us achieve our objective of getting virtually all of the coaches that were stored outside into a dry and safe environment as they wait their turn in the restoration queue.

The closing date of the appeal is 31 Dec., 2018, so if you have not yet made a donation, there is still time. Thank you for your generosity.

By Trevor Swainson, Funding Governor

Please give to the Double Donations Dash  directly online at this webpage , or by cheque, including this Gift Aid form (note, however, that the deadline has been extended to 31 Dec., 2018).
Post cheques to "Cash for Cover Double Donations Dash", Bluebell Railway Trust, Sheffield Park Station, East Sussex TN22 3QL.

Thank you, as always, for your support!
Getting to the Point: Santa is Very Special

The start of the three-way point in the Down Yard at Horsted Keynes.
With the trackwork for the OP4 project in the Salt Yard at Horsted Keynes put on hold for the time being, attention has now turned to other more urgent matters in the lead up to Christmas.

For weeks now the Infrastructure Team has been getting ready for the next major relaying job that was planned. Inch-by-inch and chain-by-chain we are replacing the worn out track between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes, much of which was inherited from British Rail all those years ago and which is pretty much life-expired.  

There are only so many times in the year that a major infrastructure job can be done without trains getting in the way, and November is one of those occasions. With the planning done and all the materials delivered to site over the past couple of months, the intention was to complete the section between the top of Freshfield Bank at Sloop Bridge to connect to the new section laid earlier this year between Montesford Bridge, Rock Cutting, and River Slip.  

Point 7 at Sheffield Park: "mind the gap"!
However, things never quite go according to plan and a lot of concern has been expressed recently about point No. 7 south of Sheffield Park station which is crucial to the operation of the whole railway. It is the run round point for the platforms, and it leads to the loco yard--so any problems with that and the Bluebell World stops turning.  

It is not so much the rail that is causing problems this time, but the sleepers in this case, some of which are well past their sell-by date, so it was thought best to replace these while we had the opportunity. The ground beneath at that location is very wet, so the usual trick of laying a Terram/polythene sandwich will be used once the old ballast has been removed and the new track bed prepared.  

Sleepers that support pointwork, known as timbers, are much longer than normal sleepers and are cut to length to fit a particular location. They are often much better quality hardwood to cope with all the stresses and strains of what is going on above as trains impose greater than normal sideways stresses. Timbers are unfortunately very expensive. Fitting all the rail back in exactly the same position will require a lot of very accurate measuring, not to mention a number of holes to drill for track screws.

Work is now well under way and on target to be finished by 28 November, so that any potential problems over the festive period are, hopefully, eliminated. Given that this is one of the most popular times for families to visit the Railway, it wouldn't do for Santa Specials to be operated by a replacement bus service!  

By Mike Hopps
No. 5768 Update: Nearing Completion

The coach at the start of work in November 2009.

No. 5768 was built at Eastleigh Works in 1947 on an underframe constructed at Lancing Carriage Works. It was classed as a composite vehicle, since it contained four first class and three third class compartments. It spent much of its working life on the West of England and Weymouth routes out of Waterloo as part of a three-coach set, No. 787.

The coach was withdrawn from traffic in 1968 and was purchased by The Bulleid Society. It was moved to the Railway in 1971, along with the Bulleid Society's West Country class loco No. 21C123 "Blackmoor Vale".  After an overhaul, the coach entered traffic along with No. 21C123 in May 1976 and continued operating until 1993 until its condition resulted in its withdrawal from traffic.

No. 5768 after final painting, on 21 Nov., 2018.
Among the Bulleid Society members, Roger Williams has become an expert on Bulleid coaches, both from the history point of view and the practicalities of their overhaul. Roger agreed to both oversee and participate in the overhaul of No. 5768, which commenced in November 2009. The restoration team also includes Simon Bass, John Coleman, Richard Phillips, Andrew Baker, Dave Clarke, Jennifer Wills, Tony Clements, Alex Morley, Ray and Pat Medhurst, Tim Preston, Jonathan Burley, as well as the late Chris Pyle.

A completed first class compartment.

The coach is now in ex-Eastleigh condition after the first major overhaul since arriving at the Railway. The interior is virtually complete, with the coach's electrical system and wiring being completely overhauled by Tony Silcock, and the upholstery being re-covered by Paul Toomer at Eastleigh.

The overhaul of the bogies and cross shafts continues, and the coach now resides in the OP4 shed after the completion of the repaint by Ollie Robbins. Passengers are reminded of the history of the coach thanks to a brief summary appearing as a carriage print in the compartments.

The completion of the overhaul will result in a useful composite vehicle returning to traffic on the Railway, with a set of Bulleid coaches in traffic nearer to fruition.

By John Fry, Chairman, Bulleid Society

Santa Needs One Last Push!

We are still looking for volunteers on the Santa Specials, and especially on the following trains: 
  • Sheffield Park, dep. 1045 and 1330 on 2, 22, and 24 December
  • Sheffield Park dep. 1140 and 1425 on 2, 8, and 24 December
  • East Grinstead dep. 1235 and 1520 on 22, 23, and 24 December

The specials will soon be departing, full of families, and your help would be appreciated, not only by the Railway but by all those children (big and small) who are coming along for a fantastic day out.

So if you can help, please send me an e-mail and get on board for what will be a heart-warming experience and a volunteer activity that will greatly help us out. Thank you.

By Keith Riggs, Santa Specials Staffer 

Wheelchairs Get a Lift in C&W

With the aim of making the carriage shed more accessible for wheelchair-using volunteers and visitors, a solution was sought to enable transfer from the dock area of the shed to the main work area.  

Traditionally any wheelchair user has had to negotiate an uneven route around the north end of the shed in all weathers when moving from the upper to lower levels.

This problem has now been solved. Available lift solutions were researched and a portable platform lift was selected with the correct specifications for the location and task. A generous donation from a Horsted Keynes-based volunteer enabled the quick ordering of this lift, and a suitable sturdy "runway" to span A Road on which the lift would be positioned was designed and built by volunteer Ron Burrows.  The lift was delivered and installed on 20 Nov., 2018.

Our own volunteer Dave Deeks, who works two days a week in the Trimming Department, was the first to try out the new facility, and he has declared it a huge success--no more trips around the outside of the shed in the rain or in freezing conditions six times a day to access the mess room for lunch and tea breaks! The photos, taken by Paul Cripps, show Dave trying out the new lift.

The lift has been initially positioned at the south end of Stroudley No. 328, but as it is portable, it is capable of being relocated depending on the vehicles occupying A road. The provision of the lift is a very welcome step forward in allowing access to wheelchair users to the works for tours and special events.

Development of an accessible toilet facility is the next task that is now firmly on the agenda.

By Sheina Foulkes, Carriage & Wagon Supervisor

Some exciting Christmas Season events for your calendar:

CCT Update: Doors, Doors, Doors

Restoration of the Camelot Locomotive Society Covered Carriage Truck (CCT) continues in the Carriage & Wagon Department.

Julian Heinemann visited in early November to see the excellent progress being made by skilled workers. He provides the photos and the following update:

Following completion of the new planked floor, the focus has turned to finishing off the four sets of side doors. Following trial fitting, the door furniture-handles, catches, lever mechanisms, bump stops, etc.-has been attached.

The doors are then removed for painting up to topcoat level. One set has been completed, two are being painted, and the final one is having the furniture attached.

Meanwhile, work has commenced on the sides, with the bottom level of boards having been made, attached, and painted. The new plywood for the panelled sides has been purchased, and it will be cut to size to fit.

A tiny amount of residual asbestos rope packing was found around the drain valve on the through steam heat pipe. This was removed recently by a specialist contractor. Work has also started on the springs and axle boxes on the chassis.

Learn more at the Camelot Locomotive Society Facebook page .
Firebox "Stowed" at Home

The rebuilt inner firebox for Schools class No. 928 "Stowe" has returned to Sheffield Park, and the overhaul of the locomotive is also progressing, as seen in these photos from the Maunsell Locomotive Society.

The first photo shows the firebox returning on 16 Nov., 2018, and the second illustrates that the firebox side sheets are now welded in position and the tubeplate and throatplate have been riveted back into place.

Read more at the "Stowe" Facebook page.


From the Archive
Tony Hillman, "With No. 75027 now on static display, let's have a look at some of its  
class mates at work. All from the John J. Smith collection."


No. 75065 at Broadstairs on 14 June, 1959.
Website Gems: Caledonian Railway No. 3339

Ivan Godfrey's photo shows No. 3339 at Horsted Keynes in the company of LSWR No. 320 and the LNWR Observation Car. This historic photo of the ex-Caledonian Railway carriage has prompted the creation of a dedicated webpage for this one-time Bluebell Railway-owned carriage: 

"This 64-seat side-corridor compartment third was one of two Caledonian Railway carriages restored to their original livery by British Railways (Scottish Region) in 1958 to run with CR 'Single' No. 123 (which visited Horsted Keynes in 1963).

"When the locomotive was retired from railtour duties to instead be displayed in a museum, the two carriages were disposed of. One remained in Scotland, with our friends at the SRPS, and the other, this vehicle, came south to join the Bluebell Railway's fleet in late January 1969 as a representative of a once ubiquitous carriage type, the corridor third."

Other now-departed items of former Railway carriage stock also are listed as part of the Carriage and Van Stock List .
Photo Gallery  
John Sandys (20 Nov., 2018): More Christmas preparations around the Railway. This photo shows John himself, with Jack, a 93-year-old a former airline pilot.

John Sandys (17 Nov., 2018): "On a glorious sunny autumn Saturday, no passenger trains were running, except No. 323 'Bluebell' on Footplate Taster duty."

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 

John Walls
Editor-in-Chief, eNewsletter
Bluebell Railway


Bluebell Railway Privacy Policy


No. 323 on 17 Nov., 2018, by John Sandys.

From the Huntley Film Archives: Cleaning Time

"The Flying Fox 1926 LNER steam locomotive is cleaned by a huge gang of people, polishing the brass and rubbing the engine and boiler. This process is compared to a woman at her toilet or make up, putting on powder and applying perfume, rather inexplicably!"

No. 66739 "Bluebell Railway" passing through Port Glasgow with the Royal Scotsman (17 Sept. 2017). By Davy Gray.

NOTE: There are no trains running on the Bluebell Railway during November. During this month, the Railway will undertake track maintenance on our line at various locations.
From the RR Pictures Archive: Class 37

The very first Class 37 , No. 37119, on an Up Freightliner working Lawrence Hill near Bristol, 1979. Photo by Robert Tarling.

A look at the Railway in 1987 (VHS to digital conversion), by AL Hodgson.

From the Glossary

Main longitudinal structural member of vehicle underframe which forms the extreme edges of the frame. Also known in the US as a "side sill".

In the News
From the British Movietone Archive: Pub on a Train

At Waterloo Station we see the unveiling of a "pub" carriage installed by the BR Southern Region, from 1949.
Your Painting: The Night Mail

* Full Title: The Night Mail: The Engine Men (London Midland and Scottish Railway poster artwork)
* Artist: William Orpen
* Date: 1924
* Medium: Oil on canvas
* Size: 79 x 117 cm
* Collection: National Railway Museum
* Acquisition: Redundant material from the nationalised railway, 1957

Trackwork on 23 Nov., 2018, by "George's Railway Videos".


@MattwicksBMR 21 Nov
Back in Bluebell 4mm mode ... The H2 Atlantic takes to the layout. Only 5 years late. Seen here pulling a rather special LBSCR carriage. If you want to see an H2 Atlantic there's one under construction @bluebellrailway on special open days. #LBSCR #LondonBrightonSouthCoast #H2

@LokaGraph Nov 9
Where Overlord filmed @OverlordMovie @JJAbramsFans @bluebellrailway #unitedkingdom #OverlordMovie #Overlord #WestSussex #Sussex #Bluebellrailway #jjabrams #Filmlocations #LokaGraph





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