Operations Update: The Season So Far

So here we are in September. It only seems like yesterday that the peak season started, and now it’s drawing to a close. We had successes, such as Branch Line Weekend, the Easter Egg Hunt, Road Meets Rail, Steam Through the Ages, and the Teddy Bears Picnic. The Railway was popular over all the stations during these events, and it would seem everyone had a good time and visitor numbers were good. Let’s not forget our own Full Steam Ahead and Footplate Taster courses.

Failures of rolling stock were relatively few. At least once the 09 was called upon to haul the Wealden Rambler, which is not ideal I know, but at least it looks smart in its BR green.

Our thoughts now turn to Giants of Steam with guests “Britannia” and “Mayflower” replacing the originally intended “Duchess” alongside our own big locos. Once again it will be an intense timetable with some special moves in it. The next events are then Witches and Wizards followed by the ever-popular Santa Specials, tickets for which are selling fast.

One thing that has been lacking this year is filming, which is down this year on previous years. It just goes to prove that filming is not something the Railway can use to strengthen its coffers because it is very seasonal work, when it happens at all. However, this is not to say we haven’t had any film work, and we shall see what the rest of the yearbrings.

A surprise visit from “Clan Line” across 24-26 August saw checks carriedout in the Loco Works. Once completed, she was rolled out into the LocoYard, and the owners supervised visits to the footplate, which many took advantage of. This was a great gesture from the owners. On 27 August, she pulled the A Set on the 2:30 p.m. departure, but I missed out as I was guarding on the B Set. She returned to Stewarts Lane via the national network on 28 August.

Planning for the 2020 timetables is complete. Running days remain the same as this year in the low season with no services on Monday or Tuesday, which allows additional time for infrastructure and locomotive work.

  • Service One “Similar to thisyear with some changes to the 1:30 p.m. departure from Sheffield Park, which is revised to depart at 1:15 p.m. This change allows for an earlier arrival back at Sheffield Park at 2:55 p.m. instead of 3:10 p.m., giving catering more time to lay up tables for Steam & Cream if required.

  • Service Two “Next year this will be a completely new timetable. The current Service Two“aka the Sulky Service“has been withdrawn for 2020 due to disappointing passengerloadings. While the initial introduction of Service Two proved popular,it tailed off as the year progressed and really can’t be sustained for another year. The timetable was introduced for 2019 in response to requests for an earlier departure from East Grinstead.

  • Service Three “This remains the same as 2019, with the exception of the permanent withdrawal in Julyand August, Saturdays only, of the 5:15 p.m. to East Grinstead and 6:15p.m. return, which almost always returns empty.

All three timetables can be revised for the various catering and other trains that run throughout the year.

Basic departure times are as follows:

Service One
Sheffield Park      10:45 1:15 3:30
East Grinstead 11:45 2:15 4:30

Service Two
Sheffield Park    10:00 11:15 12:45 2:15 3:30
East Grinstead   11:00 12:30 2:00 3:15 4:30

Service Three
Sheffield Park   9:30 10:45 12:00 1:15 2:30 4:00
East Grinstead  10:30 11:45 1:00 2:15 3:45 5:00

Here’s to the remainder of the year, with hopefully lots of visitors for our remaining events.

By Mike Ellis, Operations Director

Photo: "Clan Line" seen at Platform 2 at Sheffield Park before working the 2:30 p.m. departure on 27 Aug., 2019.
Santa Still Needs You!

Summer holidays are over, Wimbledon and strawberries are things of memory, and the children are back at school! So what have we to look forward to? Christmas of course! And there are two signs that Christmas is on the way: Strictly is back with all its sparkle and glitter, and I am sending out recruitment notices for the sparkles that are the Santa train volunteers!

Thanks to enormous teamwork from everyone, last year's event was very successful, and the feedback from the public was overwhelmingly positive. This year we want to build on that success and make the Christmas season an even better experience for everyone.

This year the trains are operating on 10 days, starting on 30 November and then on the 1, 7-8, 14-15, and 21-24 December. Each day there will be three trains doing two runs“four from Sheffield Park and two from East Grinstead.

Tickets are now on sale , and I understand that the sales are well in advance of last year so the Santa trains promise to be another great success.

We are recruiting volunteers to be train managers and stewards, and the more we can recruit the better. The roles are mainly to serve refreshments and to look after visitors during the train journey to and from Horsted Keynes, while being a smart and friendly face of the Railway.

So far more than 60% of last year’s volunteers are keen to participate again, and I sincerely hope we can recruit more people for this fantastic event. As before, there will be a train manager plus eight stewards on each of the day's three trains. Over the 10 days, there willbe a total of 270 on-board turns of duty to cover. You can appreciate why we need your help!

So, if you are 16 or older, a yearly or Life Member, or you know of anyone interested in joining us, please e-mail me at with your available dates (if you can) and whether you wish to work on trains that leave Sheffield Park or East Grinstead.

In late October/early November I will arrange a get-together of stewardsand train managers so that everyone can meet each other and discuss their roles.

Santa thanks you for your help!

By Keith Riggs, On-Board Train Volunteers Organiser & Roster Clerk
Three Positions Open at the Bluebell Railway

Finance Director (Volunteer)

As a PLC Board member, the Finance Director has the professional responsibility for the management of the company’s trading, oversees the work of the Finance Manager, and assists the other departments where financial advice is required. The post involves the management of the budgets together with provision of the year-end financial statements, liaison with the auditors, and production of the annual cashflow budget for Board approval ... MORE

H&S Compliance Officer (Salaried)

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 are in place, are current and are achieving high levels of compliance throughout the organisation ... MORE

Competence Standards Manager (Volunteer)

The successful applicant will be responsible for the routine management of the Safety Critical Work training and associated competence management systems applicable to Signalmen, Guards,
Shunters and Station staff ... MORE

Here are some autumn and winter event dates for your calendar ...

• 6 October: Vintage Bus Running Day
• 11-13 October: Giants of Steam Gala
26 Oct. - 3 Nov.: Witches & Wizards
• 30 Nov. - 24 Dec.: Santa Specials

NOTE: no trains will run on Mondays and Tuesdays until the October half term. However, the Railway remains open for food, shopping, and platform viewing as usual. 

More information on daily operations is available at Today at the Railway
"Mayflower" Subs In for Giants of Steam

Unfortunately, "Duchess of Sutherland" will no longer be joining the Railway for the Giants of Steam Autumn Gala on 11-13 Oct., 2019. However, LNER Thompson B1 No. 61306 "Mayflower" will be joining the festivities instead, in addition to BR 7MT Pacific No. 70000 "Britannia".

Visitors also have the chance to dine behind "Britannia" on a special Golden Arrow service on 14 October, or even fire and drive this "giant" during a "Britannia" Full Steam Ahead day!

"Britannia" Rules with the Golden Arrow

On 14 Oct., 2019, a very special Golden Arrow service will run on the line, pulled by visiting loco "Britannia". No. 70000 will be visiting the Railway during the Giants of Steam Autumn Gala, and she will be hauling a premier dining Golden Arrow service on the Monday.

The Golden Arrow dining train is the perfect setting for a special meal with friends or an intimate evening for two. With a train made up of Pullman cars "Christine" and "Fingall" and first class carriage "Ashdown", the train recreates the Golden Arrow service that once linkedLondon and Paris with style and panache. It was one of the most glamorous and famous trains in the world. On board you will enjoy fine food and wine served to the standards of yesteryear.

The ticket price includes the cost of the journey (approximately three and a half hours) and a five-course gala meal. Learn more, read the menu, and book online here .
" Happy Tram Ride " by John Peirson, from Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council.
In 1985 the BBC broadcast a series of three programmes about Swindon Locomotive Works, the first was called "Of Coppersmiths And Kings".
A1x No. 32662 takes water at Robertsbridge with No. 32670 before working the LCGB South Eastern Limited Railtour to Tenterden, the last passenger train over the old K&ESR, 6 Nov., 1961.
An update of the new 2019-2020 Football Competition after first four matches. Well done, John Woods! The competition is raising funds for the forthcoming overhaul of Southern Railway Maunsell Restaurant/Dining Saloon No. 7864 .
The Severn Valley Railway has announced that Q class No. 30541 will be a visiting locomotive for its Autumn Steam Gala , joining No. 34092 "City of Wells" and No. 76017. 
"Clan Line" Thrills on the Bluebell Line

Photo #1 shows the recent departure of No. 35028 "Clan Line", taken by Julian Clark on 28 Aug., 2019. Note the headboard: "Kelly's Heroes".

The Merchant Navy class loco was at the Railway recently for a precautionary inspection and maintenance of her front bogie. We're glad to help out and hope to see her back at the Railway soon! As a test run,the loco hauled the 2:30 p.m. service train on 27. Aug, 2019, as seen in Derek Hayward's photo (photo #2) and the videos below. What a treat!
No. 35028 "Clan Line" at the Bluebell Railway on 27 Aug., 2019, by Tail Lamp Productions. 
Nick Dearden captured “Clan Line” on its test run/service train.
Late Summer on the Bluebell Railway, by JR Railway Videos.
The Railway on 25 Aug., 2019, by Meengineer100. 
Views from East Grinstead

East Grinstead Station Master Roy Watts offers some views from East Grinstead that show how the heritage Railway and the station continue tothrive in the context of modernity. 
A colourful visitor to East Grinstead mainline station: a “Pride” class 700 Thameslink spreading LGTBQ+ awareness by rail. 
A new safety walkway has been constructed alongside the through connection.
A last view of the fields south of East Grinstead before they get developed and built on. 
The summer enamel advertising sign "treasure hunt" quiz for visitors to East Grinstead station. 
Meet the Watermeadow Line

Chris and Sheila Beaumont sent in this photo of author Simon Hall at Kingscote on 26 Aug., 2019, during the Teddy Bears' Picnic. "My wife purchased the two titles for our grandchildren and they are over the moon with them," says Chris. Find out more about the author and his books“Trouble on the Watermeadow Line and Crossing Time on the BlueberryLine“ at his website .  

The Railway is inviting all witches, wizards, ghosts, and ghouls to a spooky gathering this October half term!

Head to Horsted Keynes stationfor Halloween fun and games, including a fancy dress competition, crafty fun, and much more from 26 Oct. to 3 Nov., 2019.

Visitors on Halloween Day will enjoy extra spooky fun, including pumpkin lighting, a disco for small children, and an additional evening train.


Building on the success of the last two years, the Railway will once again be hosting a Macmillan Coffee Morning Train on 27 Sept., 2019.  

This year, the Railway is adding a separate challenge for working volunteers in the shape of a prestigious cake competition in the Bessemer Arms.

The Macmillan Coffee Morning Train leaves Sheffield Park at 11:25 a.m. A voluntary donation of £10 ispayable on the day either in cash or cheques made payable to Macmillan Cancer Support. Passengers are asked to donate cake, which will be sold on the journey to raise further funds. Even if you are not booked to travel on the Macmillan Coffee Morning Train, head to the Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park Station on the day and bring your cake, your fork, and a donation!
Hail Fellow, Well "Met"

John Watts took this photo of Metropolitan 1 tailing a train of BluebellRailway Met carriages during Steam on the Underground earlier in the summer (22 June, 2019). The train is seen leaving West Kensington enroute to High Street Kensington, pulled by No. 12 "Sarah Siddons".
OWLs Week Is a Hoot

It’s not an ornithological reference, but an acronym for (Ray) O rpin, (Drew) W arner and (Adrian) L ee. Our traditional week of signalling duty began in the mists of time, we think about 20-odd years ago. Early signs of OWLs migration in summer are to be seen in the station house garden, with Adrian renovating the bench and Drew installing the barbecue and erecting the gazebo. The latter is an essential for outdoor living, because sometimes the August weather can be a bit fickle.

Over five working days, we staff the three Bluebell Railway signal boxesin rotation. In the same way that each of the stations have different characters, so do the boxes, and the job is different every day. On Monday, it might be the “knee-frame” at Sheffield Park under the eyes ofthe “punters”. Then on Tuesday it’s the conventional lever frame at Horsted Keynes. The fine architecture of this building dates from 1882, but upgrades to the signalling between grouping in 1923 and the present would baffle a Southern Railway signalman. Then perhaps on Thursday you might be rostered at Kingscote, with its incredible award-winning Westinghouse miniature frame. No danger of straining your back here!

Of course, “signalman” is a responsible grade. A train of six coaches might have a couple of hundred passengers on board. They look to the signalman to guarantee their safety, in addition to the responsibilitiesof the train crew.  

However, once responsibilities are carried out, it’s time for some well-earned R&R. Meals are often barbecued al fresco (my speciality)with the occasional take-away. We have also been known to have a glass of wine. One year we had pie-and-mash delivered from Bermondsey““Dell Boy” country“but sadly my OWL colleagues were not impressed (they were not born and bred in London!). Andy and Adrian may say that washingup is not my forté, but I have been known to keep the fire pit“completewith spark arrester chimney“stoked on chilly evenings. 

To cement any group some merchandise is indicated. Andy Warner developeda range of goods, such as T-shirts, key rings, mouse mats, and mugs. I don’t know how he got the owl to grip a train staff!

Will we make it in 2020? Who knows“after all we are OWLs not chickens“but if not, we would miss out on the end-of-the week celebration.

By Ray Orpin
More Tales of a Picture

The painting "Morning Delivery" by Don Breckon ("Class T9 in Action Near the Bluebell Railway? Or, a Tale of Two Pictures," eNewsletter #184) continues to jog the memories of our readers.

Writes Mike Keeping, "[The painting] is from page 64 of the book The Paintings of Don Breckon , firstpublished in 1982. My edition was published in 1995 by Greenwich Editions. The late Don Breckon was one of the UK's foremost railway artists."

Keeping points out that Breckon's note on the painting, reproduced in his book, sheds more light on the subject:

... This is one of those paintings that grew from the original sketch as the work progressed. I wanted to see how the folds of a jacket would lie on a figure leaning on a bike and asked my wife, Meg, to take a polaroid shot of me, posed with bike, from the back. Not having a flat cap for what was going to be a farm worker I wore my old RAF Cap - a souvenir of National Service days.

When I saw the photo I thought I looked like a postman and suddenly realised that a postman would have a red bike (balance for the buffer beam) and make the chat to the farm worker more authentic. I have since realised from the reaction of those who have seen the painting that there is another happy aspect“people like postmen and feel a warmth towards this chap with his bike.

Houses in Cornwall are stone with slate roofs, and I had to visit the library to check on the brick and tile cottages of Southern England. Looking at the painting while drying the dishes (I prop paintings up around the house when I am working on them to get a fresh viewpoint), I had the idea of chickens in the foreground, to build the atmosphere ... It became known to bemused friends as the "Chicken Painting".

Yet another friend suggested the finaltitle, "Morning Delivery", because it linked the train delivering goodsalong the branch with the postman. A great asset to any artist is to have good friends who are interested in what you are doing.

The postman and a farm worker pause intheir chat to watch the passing of the morning local train, headed by Southern Railway Wainwright H class 0-4-4T No 1521. The H class was built for the South Eastern & Chatham between 1904 and 1915 and the last of these very useful engines was withdrawn in 1964. One has been preserved on the Bluebell Railway ...
Canadian Huw Lloyd took this photo of No. 65 on 5 Sept., 2019. She was undertaking the regular Thursday shunt in place of the 09. Thank you for your help, Huw!
John Sandys (12 Sept., 2019): "Three locos in steam today!"
Derek Hayward's photo from 8 Sept., 2019, shows the Maunsell S15 with the vintage set at Birchstone Bridge. During the first six years of her current period in service, she has been very heavily used and is taking a back seat, only being used sparingly on lighter trains to minimise wear on her tyres, which will be replaced at its next overhaul.
John Sandys (5 Sept., 2019): "An unusual day at the Railway today with two replacement locos brought in for those scheduled on the Roster. The 01 was brought in for shunting duties in place of the09 and No. 80151 was brought in for the Q class." 
Thankyou for reading our eNewsletter. It's because of you“our members, volunteers, visitors, and supporters“that the Railway continues its success.

Pleasecontinue to support us by passing this issue on to your friends, family, and/or colleagues by forwarding using the social media links above, 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 Preservation Society 2019

Confirm that you like this.

Click the "Like" button.