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

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Tour in London

It's not difficult to guess where I was today!

It's bright and early on a Sunday morning, albeit a bit grey!

This is the final round of the Johnsons Health Tech Grand Prix Series. The Westminster Grand Prix involved more than an hour of racing round a short course, starting and finishing on Whitehall.

There was a good number of spectators to watch the women, although easier to find interesting places to photograph the action, than it was to be for the men's Tour of Britain stage later in the day.

Tough women! I was pleased to read that in May next year there is to be a Women's Tour of Britain.

Hannah Barnes, the leader in the Grand Prix standings, leads this group.

Natalie Creswick on the front in this pic.

Three of London's finest watch the action.

The breakaway pair (Lydia Boylan and Nicola Juniper - hopefully I've got the names right) were brought back into the bunch, and Hannah Barnes won the sprint finish - or so I found out later!

Big queues for the London Eye...

... but not for me. I happened to notice this old Routemaster (number 324), and hopped on to have a wallow in nostalgia as we struggled through the traffic. There are some ten of these still in service, five of which operate on the Number 15 route. It was great to be able to chat to a conductor. Yet I was still able to use my Oyster card on his hand held machine!

London is such a contrast between the new...

... and the old!

Back to the cycling and Stage 8 of the Tour of Britain. I watched a couple of laps at the Tower end of the course.

Then I jumped onto the Tube to Embankment to see the Sky Train, with Sir Bradley Wiggins, in the gold tour leader's jersey, being well looked after by his team.

This rather fine monument is the Royal Tank Regiment Memorial Statue, on the corner of Whitehall Court and Whitehall Place with the cyclists passing right in front. The statue depicts the crew of a World War 2 Comet tank.

There were huge numbers of fans out on the course.

Seeing the riders pass live, makes one realise just how fast they are going!

Here's Mark Cavendish, as the race is all back together, with one lap to go.

Mark Cavendish Fan Club near the finish line.

I made sure I was near the finish line on the last lap, to be able to hear the commentary and at least watch the action on the big screen, even if I couldn't see the road! But it was great to experience the excitement of the thousands shouting for Cav on the sprint finish - and then see how it all actually happened back at my hotel later on ITV4.

Photos © Skip Cottage 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

To Birkhill, and beyond!

It's been a little while since I visited the Bo'ness and Kinneil railway. When I travelled the line in 2009, it was only as far as Birkhill, see here.

But now you can travel as far as Manuel, and here the passengers stretch their legs on the new platform...

... and chat to the driver!

LNER - D49, No 246 'Morayshire' was designed by Nigel Gresley and built by at Darlington in 1928. The locomotive is on loan from the National Museums of Scotland

 Morayshire runs round at Manuel.

Not sure about the smells, but I do enjoy the nostalgia of travelling behind a steam locomotive in a heritage carriage.

Back at Bo'ness, Morayshire sits in the sun.

Another new feature at Bo'ness is a 'visitor trail' which means you can walk completely around the site and view future projects!

The Museum of Scottish Railways is well worth a visit (see here), but there is also a new open shed, keeping some of the exhibits, in various stages of restoration, out of the elements. This is 'Lord Ashfield', a fireless locomotive built in 1931 by Andrew Barclay of Kilmarnock. It was supplied new to Brimsdown 'A' Power Station. Such locomotives were designed for use where flammable material was present, such as in mines and chemical factories. Read more about them here.

Photos © Skip Cottage