Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Bluebell Line

A visit to the Bluebell Railway in Sussex has been on my bucket list for a while, and recently, while visiting London for a few days, I took a ride out to East Grinstead to the (new) end of the line station. I had been following the railway's progress in extending their track over the past few years, and the extension to East Grinstead means that the Bluebell can be reached easily by the national network. The Bluebell Railway was the first preserved standard gauge passenger line anywhere in the world. Read about the early days here.

I was met by BR 9F 2-10-0 No. 92212 which is normally based at the Mid Hants Railway, but is currently on hire to the Bluebell. It was built at Swindon in 1959. The locomotive's history is here.

A proud station master at East Grinstead waiting to see off the first service of the day.

The big problem in extending into East Grinstead was that the way ahead was through a cutting that had been used as a rubbish dump in the years since the line had closed. Much of this waste had to be removed, and the remaining material stabilised, before the track could be relaid.

There's a wonderful video of the opening of the extension last March here.

We're now at the other end of the line, at Sheffield Park. 92212 runs round.

And sits ready to depart north...

... without me, as I head for a splendid lunch!

I had time to visit the stock of preserved locomotives under cover. You can read all about the Bluebell's locos here.

Now, this is a good job for a volunteer!

Nice touch, this old gas lamp outside the new museum.

The museum at Sheffield Park Station is one of the best I've visited.

On static display at Sheffield Park, awaiting boiler work, is SR Bulleid Light Pacific, 'Blackmoor Vale', West Country Class 4-6-2 built in 1946. Read more here.

The incoming service, hauled by South Eastern and Chatham Railway Wainwright goods, No. 592, an 0-6-0, built in 1902, see here. The signalman beside the track is collecting the token from the cab.

592 runs round.

Watering time!

Ready to head north.

This was my next stop, a step back to the 1920s!

The opportunity to visit the carriage works.

Indeed, one of the things that impressed me most on my Bluebell visit was the standard of the rolling stock! This beautiful first class carriage is London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Stroudley 6-wheel First No. 661, originally built in 1880. It was on static display at Horsted Keynes. Read about how it was rescued and restored here.

I even got to look inside! Beautifully restored.

This sign in the Gents made me smile... after I had double checked I was in the correct loo!

I was surprised to discover that you can get married at Horsted Keynes, details here. It was Jan and Phil's big day last Saturday, and South Eastern and Chatham Railway No. 263, Class H, 0-4-4T, built in 1905 (see here), was transporting the wedding party up and down the line in a rake of Pullman cars for their meal.

Drinks on the platform too. "Just a half glass for me, please."

92240 (see here) and 75027 (see here) on static display at Horsted Keynes awaiting restoration.

My visit to the Bluebell Railway was one of the most enjoyable heritage railway experiences I have ever had. Do go!

Photos © Skip Cottage

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