Posts Tagged ‘Bluebell Railway’

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34059 was withdrawn from service by the Southern Region of British Railways and bought by Woodham Brothers in 1966.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!


The one that got away

Friday, 29 August 2008

31530 H Class push-pull fitted 0-4-4T
at Westerham station in the 1960s

(Click for original hi-res picture and caption on Pixdaus)

Only a small number of British railway enthusiasts have heard of the The Westerham Valley Railway. Yet, the line very nearly became Britain’s second preserved standard gauge railway. Also interesting is that the original conditions put forward by British Railways would have required the preservationists to run a commuter service!

The line closed in 1961, in spite of a vigorous campaign by local residents to keep it open. A preservation society called the Westerham Valley Railway Society were formed shortly after closure and, in 1962, the society merged with Westerham Branch Railway Passengers’ Association, the local campaigning group. The new Westerham Valley Railway Association planned to operate, both steam hauled heritage trains, and a diesel railcar commuter service. If their proposals had succeeded then the WVR would have established a completely different precedent for British preserved lines. Instead of being tourist carrying ‘Bluebell Railways’ running from nowhere to nowhere, preserved lines could have operated a mixture of community commuter and steam hauled heritage trains linking into the main line railway network. But this was not to be, for the Ministry of Transport, and its successors the Department of Transport and Department for Transport, have carefully conspired to ensure that UK preserved lines, while offering the world’s best heritage railway experience, do not, as a rule, run public transport services.

Recently, it seemed that the concept of independent local railways, owned and operated by their local communities, had come into favour with the ministry mandarins, but behind their sham enthusiasm the concept has become considerably diluted. Instead of acquiring and operating their local railways, community rail partnerships have been guided into repainting their local stations, planting flowers and seeking better integration with local bus services

And the Westerham Valley Railway? In 1963, British Railways were told, by Kent County Council that the railway land was needed, for a new road. They were also told that if the land was not sold to the County Council then it would be seized by compulsory purchase. You can read the whole sad story here on Wikipedia. But remember to read between the lines and that as far as trunk roads and motorways are concerned County Councils act as agents for the transport ministry (under whatever name) in London.

1930s 1 inch to the mile Ordnance Survey
showing the Westerham branch line with a
Google Maps map of the area superimposed

TRH visit Severn Valley Railway

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall unveil a plaque on arrival at Severn Valley Railway’s Kidderminster station terminus, 10 June 2008

(source: The Prince of Wales official website, click photo for picture in its original context.)

We wanted to run this story on Wednesday, but the rapidly changing situation regarding Wolsztyn’s scheduled steam turns meant it got held over till the weekend. I hope that all our readers, wherever they may be, will take inspiration from this wonderful piece of good news. D.

While storm clouds gather over over the future of Poland’s railway heritage, Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, visited the Severn Valley Railway on Tuesday 10 June, to help celebrate a remarkable recovery from storm damage another sort.

On 19 June 2007, in the space of just thirty minutes, the equivalent of two weeks rain fell along the Severn Valley, the rain continued day after day, with further heavy rainstorms taking place in July. When the storms abated, they left behind serious flood damage in the region and the railway was faced with the need to carry out repairs costing in the order of £3 million!

In no fewer than 45 separate locations between Bewdley and Bridgnorth, the ground had slipped or moved. The majority of these received attention from SVR’s own maintenance teams. However, in at least ten places, the damage was such that external contractors and heavy plant were required to restore the railway to its previous tip top condition. Now the work has been completed and the train service, which had been suspended on the worst damaged section of line, was fully restored again on 21 March 2008.

The closure of the railway had a negative impact upon the railway’s summer income, the tourist season of the towns that it served, and the regional economy as a whole. The railway launched an emergency appeal. The railway’s insurers paid out £500,000 for loss of revenue, Advantage West Midlands, recognizing the railway’s contribution to the local economy, paid out £750,000; the European Regional Development Fund is expected to contribute a similar sum. The Railway’s members and friends dug deep into their pockets. In a magnificent show of solidarity other preserved railways including including the Mid Hants Railway, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, the West Somerset Railway, the Avon Valley Railway, the Dean Forest Railway, the Great Central Railway, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the Bluebell Railway provided volunteers and loaned equipment.

Then the Prince came! The sun shone. The Severn Valley borrowed GWR 6024 “King Edward I” for the occasion from the Didcot Railway Centre and the Prince sent the royal train. The royal couple unveiled a commorative plaque at Kidderminster Station. Prince Charles bought two tickets and the royal couple boarded the train. This was the first occasion that the new royal train had travelled on a heritage railway or been pulled by a steam engine. At Bewdley the Prince visited the signal box and then boarded the footplate where he refreshed his engine driving skills which he had practised in 2003 on the Welsh Highland Railway.

The train stopped at Hampton Loade railway station where the royal couple met station master Steve Dockerty and long-time Severn Valley Railway members Bill and Muriel Bennett who have lived in the station house for more than 50 years. They then continued their journey on the line to Bridgnorth where they unveiled another plaque. The prince spoke briefly thanking everybody who had contributed to the restoration of the railway.

The royal couple’s visit gave the railway a great publicity after its recent bad fortune and was a great boost to the morale of its volunteers. If only those working to save Poland’s railway heritage could receive the same recognition from the President of Poland!

More words and pictures:

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)