Archive for the ‘Bluebell Railway’ Category

Bulleid pacific returns from the dead

Thursday, 30 April 2009


The Viscount John Thurso, MP, grandson of Sir Archibald Sinclair, unveils the new nameplate of 34059 on Friday 24 April 2009 at Horsted Keynes station, prior to the locomotive’s return to traffic after a 30 year restoration. Photo The Bulleid Society.

(Click the picture to see a complete photo report of the event – and photos of the last 6 years of the loco’s restoration – on the Bulleid Society’s website.)

A newly restored ‘Battle of Britain’ class pacific, 34059, was rededicated with the name the engine was given when she was first built in 1947. Sir Archibald Sinclair, Liberal MP for Caithness and Sutherland from 1922 to 1945, was Secretary of State for Air in Sir Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet during World War II, and was present when it was originally named after him at London’s Waterloo Station. Now his grandson, Viscount John Thurso, has rededicated the locomotive named after his grandfather.

34059 was withdrawn from service by the Southern Region of British Railways and bought by Woodham Brothers in 1966. Here it languished for thirteen years, gradually being stripped from ‘useful’ parts, until it was rescued and brought to the Bluebell Railway in 1979. Now after a 30-year restoration it has been completely restored to working order. There is only one word for its present condition – magnificent!


Bluebell Railway starts the dig at Imberhorne

Monday, 1 December 2008


100 year old, Bernard Holden being interviewed
by BBC TV on 25 November 2008
Photo Bluebell Railway

(Click to see picture in original context on Bluebell Railway Extension website.)

Plans by British Railways to close the railway line from East Grinstead to Lewes date back to 1954. These were challenged by local residents, and the matter was debated by Parliament, but after a four year battle, the line closed in March 1958.

In 1959 Bernard Holden formed the Lewes and East Grinstead Railway Preservation Society, the forerunner of today’s Bluebell Railway Preservation Society. His initial aim was to re-open the whole line from East Grinstead to Lewes, and to operate a community railway service using a diesel railcar. But the Society were unable to purchase the whole line; and only a small section of the line from Sheffield Park to Bluebell Halt just south of Horsted Keynes was at first leased and eventually purchased from British Railways. This section reopened under the Society’s auspices in August 1960 and developed as a steam operated heritage railway and as a railway museum.

The Society sunsequently acquired the station site at Horsted Keynes and then in 1994 extended the line in an East Grinstead direction as far as Kingscote. The Society has launched a public share issue to finance the rebuilding of the line from Kingscote to East Grinstead, where the line will once again connect with the National Rail network. A major problem is a former landfill site at Imberhorne that fills a 50 metre deep cutting for 500 yards of the route.

Work on removing some 300,000 cubic metres of rubbish from the tip started on 25th November 2008.


A Pole journeys to the Bluebell

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Part 1 – Getting there

Awaiting the “right away”, Kingscote Station, Bluebell Railway

Like many other Poles, I came to England to top up my savings. However, unlike the majority of my compatriots, I am also interested in railways and, after three months living and working in Hertford, I decided it was time to return to my hobby. Where to go? I had heard about the Welsh narrow gauge railways and the ‘Steam’ railway museum in Swindon, but the Bluebell Railway came highly recommended and could easily be accommodated in a day’s outing. So the Bluebell it would have to be.

My journey started at 7 am on 4 May, outside Hertford North Railway Station. My morning ‘train’ was a bus provided by First Capital Connect. Apparently up to 8.30 a.m. all the morning trains are substituted by buses as an economy measure. One and a half hours later I’m at Alexander Palace. The train would have done the journey in one third of the time. Here a real train takes me into Kings Cross. Soon I am walking on a platform steeped in the history of the LNER. I think of the exploits of Mallard and the Flying Scotsman.

I walk across the road and find myself under the glass roof of St Pancras Station. The restored station is breathtaking and I’m sure that British people must be very proud to have such a gateway to the outside world. I take an escalator to the Victoria line platform. Every time I travel on the London Underground, I am conscious of the enormous amount of work that must have gone into its construction. I am also impressed by the efficiency of the whole enterprise.

Victoria Station seems enormous. The 19 platforms make quite an impression. I have 20 minutes before the departure of my train to explore the station. I notice the third rail electrification and wonder about the lack of standardisation on Britain’s electric railways. The hour-long journey to East Grinstead is interesting. There are numerous junctions along the route and the hilly landscape beyond London necessitates a couple of tunnels. East Grinstead, once an important railway junction, is now a terminus. Sadly, as in the case of many British railway stations, the time of its zenith has long passed. A few hundred metres separate the end of the railway from the start of the Bluebell Railway’s tracks. Unfortunately, to reach the first station on the Bluebell Railway I will have to go by bus. There doesn’t seem to be any coordination between the train timetable and the bus timetable and I waste an hour walking around East Grinstead.

11.10 a.m. approaches, and so does my bus. There are not many passengers on board, but from their conversations I deduce that most of them, like me, are on it in order to visit the Bluebell. We climb and descend some sharp gradients, dive under a railway viaduct and turn into Kingscote Station. The small station has a red-brick building, green cast iron lamp standards, and is very attractive. Inside, it is as if time has stood still. The fire in the fireplace looks ready to light, the walls are covered in old posters, every inch of wall is correct in period detail. Outside, the impression of having travelled back in time, is reinforced. Two old goods wagons stand in a siding, there is a traditional signal box and all the staff are dressed in the correct period uniforms. On the Bluebell Railway – the Beatles are yet to sing, man has not yet landed on the Moon, and most importantly of all, no trains are hauled by diesels – it is still the 1950s.

(to be continued)