Steaming Through 60! 60th Anniversary Year & August Celebration

By Robert Hayward, Chairman, Diamond Anniversary Steering Group

We’re here. We made it. We’ve reached our 60th anniversary year.

It’s a big milestone, not just for us at the Bluebell Railway but for the whole of the heritage railway industry. Many people in the early days thought the Railway wouldn’t succeed or survive for very long. The pioneers who started the Railway were so focused on getting the line back in passenger use for steam-hauled services, they would hardly have had time to think about where it might be in 2020.

Yet here we are. Not only still running steam-hauled passenger trains but with a line running to East Grinstead and a connection to the main line.

New Year Resolutions

January is a month for reflection. We should all take a moment to look back at the last 60 years, and everyone should have a warm glow about what collectively we have achieved since 1960. But before we get too nostalgic, the New Year is also a time for resolutions and our thoughts are turning to the plans for the year ahead.

We have already launched our 60th year with an excellent new Visitor Guide and a new tagline “Celebrating 60 Glorious Years”, which you’ll see on our publications and branding.

That’s just the start, and all our activities this year will form part of the commemoration. It’s a year of celebration and not just one weekend.

A big thank you to everyone who responded to our call for suggestions for how we can mark our milestone. They have all been considered by the Steering Group and many of them have been incorporated into the programme of events.

We“or rather you“have also decided the name for the big weekend of celebrations which will be held on 7-9 August. The Steering Group, whichcomprises staff and volunteers from across the Railway, held a “brainstorming” session and came up with various ideas, but none of themreally stood out. So, in the spirit of consulting and involving the members in our decision-making, we put a handful of suggested names out to a public vote ... MORE
A Very Special Message from Santa Claus

Hello to all Train Managers and Stewards,

I am now back in Lapland having a well-earned rest after all the exertions of the past month. I do not have the exact figures, but there were more than 18,000 passengers in total, heaven knows how many presents and mince pies (don't ask!).

Needless to say that none of this could have been done without you. You have all excelled yourselves and deserve the highest praise for the way you have managed the trains, and “thank you” doesn't seem adequate somehow.

Your efforts will not go unnoticed as I will make sure that the Board ofthe Bluebell Railway are informed of the extraordinary effort you all put in, and it was down to each and every one of you as individuals“and as a team“who made the experience on the train memorable.

So I will now retire to contemplate 2020 and all that it brings. All that is left for me to say is a Happy New Year to everyone, and I will see you again next December!


From Keith Riggs, Roster Clerk:

If I may be permitted to add my twopenny worth, I can only repeat Santa’s message that the Santa Specials could not have been the great success without you.

So from me, a massive “thank you” for rising to the challenges and acquitting yourselves brilliantly. You should all be very proud of yourselves.

Meanwhile, as always, if you have any feedback about the experience, please pass it along to me as soon as possible.

A very Happy New Year to you all!
From Christopher Hunford, Chairman & Locomotive Director, Bluebell Railway PLC:

The weather did its best to disrupt our Santa Specials plans, but I knowthe hard work all staff and volunteers put in, calling customers, arranging revised car parking, standing in the cold monitoring embankments, changing timetables, making catering and shop arrangements,inspecting our infrastructure, and ensuring our locos and carriages were fit to run, so that our trains ran and our customers enjoyed what we planned to offer.

I would also like to wish you all a Happy New Year, and I look forward to working with you all in 2020.

2020 is the 60th year of steam operation on the preserved Bluebell Line. The Railway was the very firststandard gauge heritage line to operate steam-hauled services, and we are celebrating with a very full programme of special events throughout the year.

Upcoming Spring Events


Treat your sweetheart to a romantic afternoon tea on board the  Wealden Rambler  this Valentine’s Day!

Enjoy a scenic and relaxing journey with your Valentine, travelling in one of our four comfortable 1950/60s lounge or restaurant carriages through the Sussex Weald on 14 February.

After being greeted with a glass of prosecco on arrival, you will be served a traditional afternoontea with a romantic twist. This special service includes sandwiches, scones, and Valentine’s themed pastries and cakes. More information here
For Its 100th, Hornby Turns to Sheffield Park

Sheffield Park station features prominently in a promotional video from Hornby to mark the model manufacturer’s 100th birthday.

A film crew was at the Bluebell Railway in December 2019 to shoot sceneson Platform 1 and on board a train as it journeyed through the countryside. The storyline has a retro feel. The Railway scenes depict acouple in 1940 with the woman giving her departing soldier boyfriend a model loco as a gift, not knowing if she will see him again.

The Bluebell Railway sequence lasts for approximately 50 seconds and forms part of a six-minute video which was published on 6 Jan., 2020, tocoincide with the launch of Hornby’s 2020 catalogue of products.

The video is called “More Than Just A Hobby ... A Lifetime's Journey” and can be viewed below, with the Bluebell Railway scenes starting at 00:40.

Chris Knibbs, Bluebell Railway Filming Manager, says, "We were delightedto accommodate the crew from Hornby in making their promotional video. This year is an important anniversary for both of us as the Railway celebrates its 60th anniversary of operation and Hornby marks 100 years since the building of the first model locomotive."

Hornby says the promotion is part of “celebrating 100 years since Frank Hornby built his first model locomotive and the journey you have all taken with us”.
Infrastructure Update: Spanning the Arch

Track relaying in the cutting at Three Arch Bridge is making steady progress, despite the attentions of Storm Brendan. The formation in the cutting has long been suffering from underlying water caused in part by springs in the cutting walls. 

A drainage ditch is being dug on the west side to augment the existing drain on the east side. Cross channels help to make sure the new formation is well drained. As usual, a sandwich of Terram/polythene/Terram is being put down to ensure the water is directed into the drain rather than collecting under the ballast.

By 15 Jan., 2020, the 12th track panel“of the planned 26“had been laid and a further area cleared.

PHOTO 1“ Taken from the east sideof the cutting, track panel 11 is complete, and the sleepers for panel 12 are down with the rail about to be located, clipped, and plated. The sleepers laid across the eastern drainage ditch in the foreground had the concrete sleepers stacked on them before laying. The cleared area beyond track panel 12 can be seen.

PHOTO 2“ The new western ditch can be seen going under Three Arch Bridge. The cable across the track isfrom the lineside phone that will have to be repositioned because it was previously on the line of the ditch.

PHOTO 3“ Late in the day, the Terram/polythene/Terram sandwich is lapped into the western drain to ensure any surface water finds an exit. As can be seen, there is alreadya good amount of water in the ditch and from the ripples in the extremebottom right of the picture, the rather surprising rate of flow is indicated. 

All of this water would previously have had to find its way under the formation to the eastern drain. Nine inch porous pipe“a "French drain"“is being laid, which will be covered with gravel. Note that six inch porous pipe will be used on the northern part of the re-lay, where the flow rate is much less.

By Bruce Healey

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Late Breaking: Two dates have been released for the  Full Steam Ahead  experience, which gives participants the chance to fire and drive Standard Tank No. 80151 as part of a full day on the Railway.
Fancy a treat for half term? The Railway’s  Kids for a Quid  special offer applies daily 15-23 February“pay just £1 per child (aged 15 and younger) when travelling with a full paying adult.
Calling all cricketers of any age and ability: The annual Bluebell Railway XI vs Scaynes Hill CC “Freshfields Test” is set for 2 Aug., 2020.

If you are interested in playing in this annual summer tradition, please email John Walls at
OP4 Progress: Cladding Work Progressing

The recent very wet weather has not helped, but work has nevertheless progressed on the carriage shed and Heritage Skills Centre (HSC). 

Inside the carriage shed, the Infrastructure Team has completed another length of tramway adjacent to E-road. On the outside, the cladding work is progressing, and with a fair wind it should be completed by the end of February. The first skin of grey insulated cladding is complete all around the structure, apart from the northern faces, where the support rails are currently being fitted (photo 1). The second layer of yellow cladding is similarly complete apart from the southern, gable end of theshed (photo 2).

The ground floor windows and doors were fitted during the first week of January, and the first floor windows will be fitted at the end of the month (photo 3).

Inside the HSC, the first floor joists and floor are in place (photo 4).The first floor rear wall studwork is complete apart from one bay that has been left open to facilitate the delivery of sheeting materials for the first floor studwork (photo 5) and another on the ground for temporary access.

The next stage will be to complete the insulation and sheeting on the carriage shed side of this rear wall, which will enable us to lay the final two roads (H and J) in the shed, ready to hand over to C&W to complete the shunting of vehicles under cover. 

The completion of the first floor rear wall and the fitting of the windows and doors will completely enclose the HSC and open the way to the next stage of the project, thus fitting out the HSC (photo 6). 
As ever, I am very grateful for the continuing donations which enable this project to progress.

By Barry Luck, OP4 Project Manager (Infrastructure)
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Branch Line Weekend to Welcome the Taff Vale Tank

Branch Line Weekend takes place from 3-5 April, 2020. It'll be a fun-packed weekend showcasing small locomotives, recreating the branch line feel of the Railway in its heyday.

This year, the Railway will host Taff Vale Tank No.85, built in 1899 by Neilson Reid for the Taff Vale Railway, which connected the Cardiff areawith the coal mining industry located a few miles to the north. lt was re-built to its original outline by a group of Worth Valley volunteers in the 1990s and gave good service until withdrawal in 2010. Seen as an ideal locomotive for a branch line, No. 85 entered the workshops at Haworth and re-entered service in 2016.

The Railway will be operating a different timetable on each of the threedays, so why not take the opportunity to spend a long weekend sampling what the Railway offers and these "small but mighty" engines!

Save the Date: Springing Into Easter, 10-13 April, 2020

Join us for a springtime-themed bunny hunt and nature trails for children over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Why not get the train direct to East Grinstead (under one hour from London) and stroll over to the Bluebell Railway terminus (an easy three-minute walk) for a day of fun and adventure. Alternatively park upat Sheffield Park Station near Uckfield and begin your adventure there.

Footplate Tasters Return

The Railway will be running its popular Footplate Tasters again in 2020.Enjoy a turn on the footplate under the guidance of our experienced footplate crews. It's the perfect experience for anyone who’s ever dreamed of being an engine driver!

Your experience includes:

  • An individual one-hour, hands on driving experience
  • A guided tour of Sheffield Park station, with the opportunity to visit the signal box, SteamWorks!, and locomotive workshop
  • Breakfast in the Bessemer Arms
  • A year’s membership of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society
  • A certificate of completion

Dates available through February. Learn more here .
" Llanbradach Viaduct " (c. 1920) by Gwyn Briwnant Jones, from the National Museum Wales.
London St. Pancras to Derby at 125 mph (September 2019).
Austerity WD600 "Gordon" sets out from Liss Forest station with the "Longmoor Downsman" railtour during the last LMR open day, 17 May 1969. (Photo by John Bird.)
Museum Update: Class 73 Crest on Display

During January and February, the museum plans to update some of its displays. We have a number of new items for display, and the first is now complete.

The Museum purchased the Bluebell Railway nameplate from the Class 73 Electro-Diesel more than 10 years ago, and it has been on display in theMuseum since then.

The whereabouts of the Bluebell Railway crest that accompanied the nameplate on the side of the locomotive was not known. Last September one crest was offered to the Museum, and it was purchased. After some restoration, it now joins the nameplate on the wall of the Museum. It turns out that both crests where bought by a collector in South Wales immediately upon removal at Eastleigh. The second crest has since been auctioned.

By Tony Hillman

PHOTO ABOVE: The "Bluebell Railway" nameplate and crest seen on its class 73 in August 1992 at East Grinstead, after the Railway had just purchased Imberhorne Viaduct for £1 (Mike Esau). 
Camelot Locomotive Society CCT Van Update: Brake Test Passed

Julian Heinemann provides this photo of the CCT Van outside of the paint shop at Horsted Keynes on 11 Jan., 2020. 

I'm pleased to report that member Richard Maxwell has, with assistance, completed the mechanical/running gear overhaul on the CCT. 

It passed its brake test just before Christmas. The next stages are a steam heat test to ensure that the through steam heat pipe is okay and there are no leaks. 

Although the C&W Department has some free-standing steam heat test equipment on site, a working steam loco would work just as well! Also needing to be done is a test run to make sure that everything done at the overhaul is okay, so the final 'fitness to run' certificate can be made out. 

With the Railway currently closed for service trains, and engineering works going on, these two tests will probably be done in the Spring, as 'Camelot' is currently winterised.

The Society would like to thank all those who have worked on the CCT over the last three years, to bring S2531 back from a down-at-heel 'eye-sore' in the down siding at Kingscote to a useful virtually new vehicle that everyone can be proud of. It is hoped to arrange a 'hand-over' and cheque presentation to the 7864 project team later this year.

By Julian Heinemann
Welcome Car 36

Pullman Brake Parlour Third Class Car No. 36  arrivedat Sheffield Park on 14 January, where it was unloaded and later transferred over to the carriage running shed behind the Museum. Car 36 will go to Horsted Keynes when the track renewal is completed, although work to put it into service is not expected to start until Car 54 entersservice. 

The car was purchased privately for use on the Railway, delivery being delayed until after the Christmas season when it was in use at the ColneValley Railway.

Before entering service, it requires rewiring, provision of steam heat, fitting of luggage racks (actually, hat racks), and re-instatement of the missing partition, believed to be still in existence, as well as some mechanical and bodywork maintenance. Learn more at the Bluebell Railway blog
All Change

Operations Manager Chris Knibbs has moved office from the Station Master's Room at Sheffield Park into the former George Harmer Room, which had been the General Manager's Office.

Assistant Operations Manager Chris Haynes has also headed across the corridor, a move that will provide more space and privacy for the Operations Team.

Duty Sheffield Park station masters will now use the Station Master's Room on Platform 1, which has been vacated by the operations team.
SCENE ON TWITTER @bluebellrailway
The Railway on 30 and 31 Dec., 2019, by Philip Bull.
Martin Lawrence's Bluebell Railway 2019 compilation. 
Sleepers Awaken

A pair of Mk3 sleeping coaches, from the Caledonian Sleeper, have arrived to replace the two life-expired pre-BR sleeping coaches at Sheffield Park. Nos. 10690 and 10693 were delivered from Wembley Inter City Depot in mid-December, "top-and-tailed" by No. 66725 "Sunderland" and No. 66701.

Dave Wilson's photo 1 shows No. 66701 backing the pair into the sidings at Horsted Keynes. Photo 2 shows the ensemble passing through West Hoathly. 
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"Sapphire" Steals the Show

The interior of recently launched open first " Sapphire "  is pictured set-up for  Golden Arrow  dining.

In addition to the evening trains, booking is now open for Golden Arrow  afternoon tea lunch , and new  breakfast trains .
John Sandys (5 Jan., 2020): “With No. 178 on Footplate Taster duties and Blackmoor Vale relocated in the dry!”
John Sandys (12 Jan., 2020): "With No. 178 on Footplate Taster duties once more."
Phil Horscroft's photo shows the Q class steaming through the mist at Horsted House Bridge on 30 Dec., 2019.
Dave Bowles' set features the Santa Special trains from 23 Dec., 2019, when the sun came out!
Thankyou for reading our eNewsletter. It's because of 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 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 2020

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