Blog: What’s New
at the Bluebell Railway?
- The November issue of The Bluebell Times is now available to download here.
- The Infrastructure department has created a report of the emergency track repairs near the Eye Hospital between Kingscote and East Grinstead. You can read the report here.
- This project was made possible by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund Emergency Grant Scheme. This scheme provided up to £250,000 to sustain heritage organisations during the Coronavirus Pandemic. The Bluebell Railway was pleased to receive a grant for the maximum amount.
- The latest issue of RailDirector includes an interview with Vernon Blackburn, chairman of The Bluebell Railway Trust. Vernon discusses the funding lifeline given to heritage railways by various grants including the Culture Recover Fund. You can read the full article here.
- Tests for our upcoming SteamLights services took place earlier this month, ahead of the first scheduled service on 3 December. Please visit our Facebook page for updates and photos.
- Tickets for our new January SteamLights dates are now on sale. Join us as we light up the winter nights!
- We will also be running various dining trains over the seasonal period, including Festive Afternoon Tea and a New Year’s Eve Gala Luncheon.
- The Bluebell Railway has cancelled all planned services from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December in line with the new national lockdown restrictions.
- The well-stocked shop at Sheffield Park station will be shut but it will still be operating online with a range of books, gifts, souvenirs and model railway items.
- The Government has said it will look to return to a regional approach at the end of the four-week period depending on the health data. This means we currently plan to run our scheduled services from 3 December onward but this will be kept under review. We will make further announcements to keep staff, volunteers and customers informed when the situation is clearer.
- Please read the full statement from Christoper Hunford, Chairman, Bluebell Railway Plc here.
- Our customer services team will be contacting all customers who have booked tickets for services between 5 November and 2 December.
- We are pleased to announce that we have extended our SteamLights service into January and our customer services team will be in touch with all customers booked on a cancelled service to offer an alternative date.
- Please find more infomation about all our affected services here.
- October’s issue of the monthly The Bluebell Times is available.Issue 13 contains:
- More details of our new winter SteamLights illuminated train service, and how you can help to light up the experience for our customers.
- Our first post-lockdown event, a transport-themed gala ‘Off the Rails’
- An update on the plans to celebrate ‘60+1’ years of operating as a heritage line
- Help support the Railway at no cost to yourself
- Searching railway auction catalogues for items of interest
- A day on the footplate with a visiting charter
- Down Memory Line and On This Day
- Guess the Year and Word Search puzzles
- And much, much more…
You can download the latest edition here.
- The H-class is seen here running through Horsted Keynes with ‘The Pioneer’ on Saturday (Richard Salmon).
- It’s good to report that 73082 ‘Camelot’ was also back in action over the weekend after some attention to its firebox in recent weeks, and there are photos of it running on The 73082 Camelot Locomotive Society’s Facebook Page.
- John Sandys has provided photo albums from this Saturday and Friday 2 October.
- To supplement his new Goods Train gallery Derek Hayward has now added a collection from visits to the Railway by Scammell Mechanical Horses.
- David Cable’s photo here, and a second below from last Saturday, show one of the last runs of P-class 178 before expiry of its boiler certificate earlier this week. Whilst the boiler is thought to be in good shape for another overhaul, the locomotive does require a new cylinder block. A new P-class block has already been cast and machined for Project 27, so making one for 178 is also planned, once the first one has been proved successful.
- We are pleased to report that our application to the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage provided by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was successful, and we have been awarded a grant of £727,200. You can read more in our press release here, and we are expecting significant press coverage, including on BBC Radio Sussex and ITV Meridian.The timing for the application process was very tight, and those staff and volunteers who put together the highly detailed and costed information required in just over two weeks clearly did a superb job on it. Our thanks to them!
- The Bessemer Arms at Sheffield Park has reopened for table service.
- Derek Hayward has collated a collection of 150 images of Goods trains on the Bluebell Railway.Goods trains will be a feature of our forthcoming Special Event, Off the Rails.
Book on a special two-train enhanced service of The Pioneer and transport yourself to a bygone era when railway stations were a hub for the transportation of goods on and off the rails. (24, 25, 31 October and 1 November)
- The Autumn issue of Bluebell News will be a printed edition and is being posted out to BRPS members shortly.In addition, the Spring and Summer issues – which had been digital only – are also being printed and mailed to members at the same time.The decision to produce digital copies of the quarterly magazine was taken entirely due to the extenuating financial and logistical circumstances caused by the shutdown.We promised to resume the standard magazine format at the earliest opportunity and so all three issues will be sent out at the same time.You can read digital copies of the Spring and Summer editions here.
- We’ve just got the first seat cushions back from the trimmers, so the first compartment of the Bluebell’s Hastings-line SR Maunsell Brake, No. 3687, is looking ever more complete, as seen below. The material is a reproduction of an original Southern Railway 1930s’ “Jazz pattern” moquette. As always in this blog, you can click on any photo for an enlargement.
- Due to the iminent expiry of its boiler certificate, this weekend is the last time for the present that we are able to run SECR P-class No. 178. It is double heading the Pioneer trains (11am and 2pm departures from Sheffield Park) with H-class 263 on both days. Keith Duke’s two photos show the pair at Sharpthorne Tunnel today, and more of Keith’s photos can be found here.
- All our initially published dates for Santa Specials have sold out, and so we have arranged for Father Christmas to visit us on two additional dates, for which booking is now available.
- Short video compilation featuring our SECR H-class running over recent years, and at the Warley Model Railway Exhibition, by Lee Andrew Davies.
- Along with the second of Keith’s photos below is one taken by David Chappell at Kingscote today, with the two SECR locomotives coupled to SECR Hundred-seater No. 1098 waiting to return to Sheffield Park.
- The SECR H-class has returned to steam after an intermediate overhaul, which has seen the big-end journals on its crank axle reground to the correct profile using a machine manufactured to the Bluebell’s own designs, and is seen here about to pass through Horsted Keynes on the first “Pioneer” service of the day, on Saturday (Richard Salmon).
5: Driving the Locomotive
Our Emergency Appeal has now steamed past £400,000. We still need your support to see us through the Winter and next Spring, but this fund-raising, having enabled us to re-open in August, is now sustaining the work of our skilled staff and volunteers to keep the Bluebell Railway steaming forward.
- SECR H-class No. 263 is seen on arrival at Kingscote, also on Saturday (David Chappell).
- Southern Railway Q-class No. 30541 arriving at Horsted Keynes on Saturday with the empty coaching stock for the final “The Rocket” lunchtime special of the season (Richard Salmon). “The Blue Belle “ luncheon dining train continues through October until 1 November.
- The Maunsell Locomotive Society’s S15 No. 847 has also been back in action, and was running on Sunday 20 September carrying a wreath on the smokebox in memory of Frank Glue, who passed away recently after a stroke, at the age of 74. Frank was a skilled engineer and fitter and therefore was a key member of the MLS working group. He had worked with the gang for over 20 years on the restoration of U-class 1638, and the overhaul of 847 and ‘Stowe’. A tribute will appear in the next Bluebell News and the MLS Newsletter. This photo is courtesy of David Jones.
- Peter Edwards’ photo shows the Maunsell S15 No. 847 at Sheffield Park shortly before departure with the Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea train on Saturday (12 September).
- The Government has announced changes limiting the number of people who can meet socially from today (14 September). This means visitors to the Bluebell Railway have to be in groups of six people or fewer unless you are visiting as a household or support bubble which is larger than six.
Please find our updated Covid-19 Safety Measures here.
- The Bulleid Society’s Latest News page has been updated adding a picture of No. 34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair’s firebox in the workshop at Sheffield Park, showing work on the stay heading.
- September’s issue of the now monthly The Bluebell Times is available. It contains details of the Bluebell Railway’s Heritage Emergency Fund grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and plans for the autumn/winter.Issue 12 also contains:
- Two reports on the completion of the Accessible Steam Heritage (ASH) project in SteamWorks! with the installation of a ramp for footplate access and new buffer stops.
- The story behind the Elton John album cover photo opportunity
- More tales of working goods trains
- A debate over the colour of ‘The Bluebell Railway’ nameplate
- Guess the Year and Word Search puzzles
- And much, much more…
You can download the latest edition here.
- These two road steam engines will be on display at Sheffield Park Station this Saturday, between 10:30 and 3:30. They were photographed by Reuben Smith when they also visited last Sunday.The Marshall general purpose traction engine was built in 1908 and named ‘Jess’. It spent its working life in Tasmania, Australia, was brought back to the UK 15 years ago and is now fully restored.The Aveling and Barford steam roller was built in 1938 and named ‘Roll on’. It spent its working life in Mansfield as a hard core roller. It was one of the last steam rollers built for the UK market (after the closure of Aveling & Porter) and retired in 1966.We are running services all weekend. Book tickets here.
- You can now purchase platform-only tickets at Sheffield Park Station!These tickets are available on Saturday and Sundays and cost £3 per adult and £1.50 per child. Visitors can explore the Museum and SteamWorks!If we have compartments available on “The Pioneer” services, on the day tickets are available for £18 per adult and £9 per child. These tickets are subject to availability so we advise booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
- David Chappell’s photo, taken last Sunday while he was working with the Sunday track gang shows SECR O1-class No. 65 with the first “The Pioneer” service of the day just south of Waterworks.
- Video from John Harwood of the “Wealden Rambler” Afternoon Tea Train at Kingscote on Thursday 10 September. Tickets for these trains can be booked here.
- The Locomotive Department Reunion planned for late October has been postponed to 2021.
- The Bluebell Railway has been given a £250,000 grant to help it survive through the winter.The money is from The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund which was set up to give grants of up to £250,000 to help organisations affected by Covid-19.Read the full news release here.
In addition, the Railway’s own emergency appeal, launched in March, and has raised nearly £400,000 so far from donations and a “virtual” track walk. The appeal is still open because of the continued uncertainty over coronavirus.
- Richard Salmon’s photo shows the Q-class entering Horsted Keynes, passing the pump house, with the tea-time dining service on Monday 31 August.
- Update to the web page, adding a recent photograph, for former “Queen of Scots” BR Mk.1 Composite Sleeping Car No. 2442. This carriage is currently being offered for sale.
- Additional image added to the web page for Caledonian Railway carriage No. 3339, which returned to Scotland over four decades ago.
- Updates to the following web pages for some of our Southern Railway Maunsell carriages: Brake Composite No. 6575, Hastings-line Third Brake No. 3687, and Third Brake No. 3724
- Video from John Harwood showing the lunchtime Fish & Chip train Friday 28 August – these trains have proved very popular, and can be booked here.
- Tickets are now available for our Santa Specials!
- Peter Edwards’s photo shows the Maunsell Q-class at Vaux End with the Metropolitan carriages on 22 August 2020.
- The Bulleid Society’s Latest News page has a further photo from South Devon Railway (Engineering) showing the almost complete new inner firebox for 21C123 ‘Blackmoor Vale’.
- We are offering Elton John fans the opportunity to re-create one of his album covers!
- Paul Booth’s dramatic photo below shows the sole surviving Southern Region “Standard Arthur” No.73082 ‘Camelot’ at Leamland Bridge attacking the start of the 2-mile 1-in-75 climb up to the tunnel with the dining train a couple of weeks ago in damp conditions.
- We are pleased to announce availability of our 60th Anniversary First Day Cover which was carried on the first train on our Diamond Anniversary on 7 August 2020. Produced in conjunction with Buckingham Covers, it is signed by the Driver and Fireman.
- New for 2020: SteamLights
Tickets (per compartment) are now available to book online.Sparkle, glow and shimmer on a magical steam train covered by thousands of colourful lights – see this video.These are in addition to our normal Santa Specials, booking for which should commence later this month.Update: The initial tickets released sold out very quickly; we will be releasing more tickets and more dates over the coming days.
- New for 2020: SteamLights
- Sue Bell so enjoyed her journey on last Wednesday’s Fish & Chip train that she sent us this photo montage.
- Updates to the web pages for two of the four SECR Birdcage Brakes at the Bluebell, Nos. 3363 and 950, and for Goods Brake vans Army 49018 and GWR “Toad” 17908.
- Other recent videos added to our Youtube Channel, many being from the Tom Martin Film Collection, including a series of through railtours, and later on, various locomotives at other preservation sites before they moved to the Bluebell, and past Bluebell anniversaries and events:
- Bluebell Model Railway Gala – part 2,
- Dr Beeching on the Blue Belle Special, 1 April 1962,
- The Victory Belle, 21 October 1962,
- The Spring Belle, 31 March 1963,
- The Bluebell’s 5th Anniversary, 8 August 1965,
- The Bluebell’s 10th Anniversary, 2 August 1970,
- Mr Pastry visits the Bluebell Railway, October 1964,
- A trip up the line with No. 55 Stepney,
- Steam Powered Visitors, 1990 and 1996,
- Raising the Standards,
- Maunsell’s Masterpiece and Veteran Tanks,
- Ashford Centre Open Day, 1968,
- Lineside Interlude,
- Terrier Tanks and the re-creation of the Hayling Island Branch,
- The Last of the Line, (S15 No. 847),
- Bluebell 100, 1982 (‘Rocket’ and the Centenary Cavalcade),
- Giants of Steam, 1990,
- Memories of Longmoor and the Bluebell Connection, 1968 – 1970,
- Bluebell Cavalcade, 1976,
- The Scottish Belle, 15 September 1963.
- Issue 11 of The Bluebell Times is now available, and is a special edition in more ways than one.It is the first official publication by the Bluebell Railway since reopening. It also focuses almost entirely on the events to mark the resumption of services and the celebrations for our 60th birthday.There are extensive reports and photos of the Grand Reopening at Sheffield Park station as well as the sight of steam trains on the line once again.The view from the platforms and from the footplate are covered in depth alongside the Virtual Gala for those who couldn’t be there for the anniversary weekend.You can download the latest edition here.
- We have just released tickets for September!We will be running a range of services and dining trains, including the Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea, The Rocket Lunch Train, Cream Tea Riviera and The Blue Belle Evening Dining Train.More carriages will also be added to The Pioneer service – so we have reduced our September prices to £75 for a third class compartment and £115 for a first class compartment.See our timetables and book here.
- John Harwood provides this video of Wednesday’s lunchtime dining train, “The Rocket”.
- Will Hawks always produces a nicely edited video of our events, and his video of our reopening/60th Anniversary day is no exception.
- David Cable has a gallery of photos from both the Saturday and Sunday of our reopening weekend.
- Dave Bowles’ has a few nice photos from re-opening day.
- Keith Duke’s Flickr album from around the railway last Friday.
- Good publicity with this article on our re-opening in “Sussex Life”.
- The first photo below shows No. 65 with “The Pioneer” at West Hoathly on Friday 7 August (Harry Holmes), and the second, from Sunday, shows the 3pm service on Freshfield Bank (Nick Martin).
- The next photo below shows No. 80151 with the “Cream Tea Riviera” at West Hoathly on Saturday 8 August (Peter Edwards), and the final one, 80151 with the “Breakfast Belle” passing the Wednesday Lineside Gang, captured by one of their number, Nigel Menzies, again at West Hoathly on 12 August.
- Jack Lamb’s photo from Friday shows SE&CR O1-class No. 65 ready to set off from Sheffield Park.
- Here is some drone footage of the re-opening services from Friday, thanks to Flying Movies Ltd
- New on our YouTube channel:
The Julian Pettifer Interview, June 1960,
Model Railway Gala – part 1,
Introducing Fred Miles of Horsted Keynes, (Tom Martin, 1960),
The Bluebell Railway Steams Ahead, (Tom Martin, 1961 – 1964),
The Brighton ‘Blue Belle’, (Tom Martin, 27 October 1963),
‘Operation Dukedog’, (Tom Martin, 1962 – 1964),
Watch our footplate crew drive No. 65 on our reopening day and 60th birthday, (Martin Lawrence, 7 August 2020)
Volunteering on the Line: In the Yard and on the Pullmans, (Forge Photography),
Volunteering on the Line: Behind the Scenes, (Forge Photography),See our YouTube Channel for more videos which will be released through today, including:
Model Railway Gala – part 2 (10am)
A Trip up the Line in Stepney (4pm)
- Friday’s “This Morning” on ITV featured our re-opening, now available here in case you missed it live.
- Birthday wishes from the London Transport Museum
- Great video of our reopening day from TheSoutherner
- After traveling on Friday’s Riviera Tea service, regular visitors to the railway over the years the Page family kindly presented the Horsted Keynes Station Master with the birthday card they had made featuring photos they have taken on their visits, as seen in the montage below.
- No. 65 is seen at Kingscote whilst running round in Annamarie Lelew’s photo.
- Tony Sullivan’s photo shows the fireman of ex SE&CR O1-class No. 65, which is heading the 11.00am departure from Sheffield Park, exchanging tokens with the signalman at Horsted Keynes.
- The successful running of our Railway depends largely on the voluntary efforts of the Society’s members.
Watch this special behind the scenes video to see how our volunteers prepare our locomotives.
With thanks to Forge Photography.
- At 10am this morning, part 1 of our Online Model Railway Gala launches on our Facebook page and on our YouTube channel.
- Good publicity yesterday on MSN.
- Neil Munro-Thomson provides a small gallery of photos taken late afternoon yesterday at West Hoathly/Sharpthorne.
- Two photos below taken by guard Jack Lamb yesterday. The first shows No. 65 running round its train at Kingscote, and in the second the fireman on 65 brings the coal forward in the tender during the layover between trains at Sheffield Park
- Diamond Anniversary Virtual Events now underway: Follow events on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- YouTube Video – How it all Began
- ITV Meridian News
- We have been sent birthday eCards from our various supporters. Here is the card from Nicholas Owen!
- Our new webcams are now live. Enlarge them to full screen for full motion HD+ quality!
- Birthday wishes from the Isle of Wight Steam Railway Facebook video.
- We’re back! Facebook video – the SECR O1 steams into the platform.
- Capture from one of our webcams as the 9am Members’ Special sets off from Sheffield Park.
- Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, has sent us a birthday message, (facebook video)
- Here is the SECR O1 at the head of our Members’ Special train in a video from Kevin Clark
- Andrew Savage from the Railway Heritage Trust has sent us a birthday message
- Another two captures below from our webcams – 80151 takes water at Sheffield Park whilst the O1 prepares to depart with the first public service – the 11am train, “The Pioneer”, and after its departure, the Standard Tank with the dining set preparing for the 11.45am empty coaching stock departure for Horsted KEynes for “The Rocket” lunch service.
- Some photos by Chris Ward show the O1 approaching Horsted Keynes, with the SECR Birdcage brake bringing up the rear, as also seen in the photo here.
- Nick Brodrick, editor of Steam Railway, has sent us a birthday eCard to wish us a happy 60th birthday.
- Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, has sent us a birthday eCard!
- Railway chaplain Rev. David Murdoch, Vicar of St Giles Church in Horsted Keynes, came to bless our first train this morning – video thanks to Chris Chambers.
- We have received a birthday eCard from Sir Tony Robinson! Thank you for the birthday wishes.
- Reopening speech by Chairman Chris Hunford, and whistling the Members’ train away – YouTube Video.
- Chris Price, General manager at North Yorkshire Moors Railway has sent us a birthday message!
- Nus Ghani, MP for Wealden, has sent us a surprise birthday eCard!
- We are pleased to announce we will be celebrating our big birthday next year – with a three day extravaganza from 6 – 8 August 2021!See you there – and hopefully many times before.
- Bluebell Railway’s Diamond Anniversary
Today is our 60th birthday and we mark six glorious decades of steam.Our steam hauled services started 60 years ago, and today they also resume after lockdown. Tickets must be pre-booked in advance, and some trains are selling out, but it’s not too late to book tickets for this weekend.
- If you can’t actually visit us this weekend, we will be marking our diamond anniversary with a virtual event. From Friday 7 August until Sunday 9 August, we will be sharing extra special content across our social media and Youtube channels.
You will also be able to see what’s happening at Bluebell Railway in real time via our new webcams.See details of our full programme of online events which start at 7am on Friday.
- Steaming To 60 – a superb stop motion video from Max Davies.
- Burgess Hill Radio, a local Community Radio Station, will be broadcasting live from Sheffield Park Station between 7am an 1pm today, and is available on the Internet and locally on 103.8FM.
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