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Bluebell Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Jamessquared, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. D1039

    D1039 Member

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    I know zero about this vehicle or discussion with regard to Bluebell use, but a similarity strikes me with the non-gangwayed observation vehicles on the SVR. They seat 23 and are added to service trains, often for cream teas or similar, and sometimes used singly for charters. They seem to get a fair bit of use.

    Patrick
     
  2. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    I would be delighted to see the Brighton Saloon restored - having seen it in use in my youth. I once booked a "Director's Saloon" ticket on a New Year's Eve (or was it day?) special hoping to have a ride in it, only to discover that a second saloon had appeared on the Bluebell and I'd been allocated a seat in the GNR saloon instead. It's a hard life...

    However, I too think that there are other priorities, and other coaches that have suffered much more, and which would be more useful day to day. I don't think anyone is saying that it shouldn't be restored - just that it looks as if it will have to wait. At least now it is safe and dry.

    Tom has mentioned the aim of having a Birdcage Set - the coaches are there (and the unrestored ones were once part of the Bluebell's core front line fleet) and I agree with him that they should be a priority. There is also the sad case of Ex LSWR 320 which seems not to have been in so great a condition when it came in 1960, and which is in a truly dreadful state now. The aim to create a set of Maunsell coaches (including the restaurant car) is also important (and useful), and the work going on to create a train of Brighton 4 wheelers likewise fills another gap on the Bluebell. There is also an SECR 100 seater awaiting attention - a Very Useful Coach.

    Going back to the saloon, it needs to be remembered that the HK C&W works has come a long way from the the 1970s and 80s. It now has skills and facilities available that would have been daydreams back then. The major rebuilding jobs that are so clearly shown in Dave Clarke's excellent photos - https://www.flickr.com/photos/extension3363/ - would have been unthinkable then. At least now when the saloon is restored we can be certain that a thorough job will be done, and not the "do the least possible to get it back in traffic" approach of the 1970's. That is not a criticism of what was done back then - frequently there was no alternative if trains were going to run, and no money to do more anyway. Eventually, though, the "least possible" was still too expensive, complicated or beyond the facilities/skills available and the coach shunted off into a siding to wait...

    The Mets eventually got restored (and arguably are in better condition now than they were in their final years on LT), likewise others. The saloon's day will surely come.

    Steve B
     
  3. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    For those unfamiliar with the Brighton Saloon see https://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/pics/60.html. I suspect that the estimates of the restoration costs have risen a bit since it was written.

    Steve B
     
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  4. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    I have to say, I am with Tom every inch of the way here.
    Shortly after becoming properly aquainted with the remnants of Sussex's branch lines in the 1970s, and joining the Bluebell shortly afterwards, one of the first historical images of the railway I came across was a well-known view of a norhbound train taking water at Sheffield Park, taken by Hubert Wheeller on a summers evening in 1934.
    On a personal level, that view encapsulated so much of the atmosphere of the Bluebell in those far-off days; the peace of the station, the Radial tank with its crew going about their business, heedless of the photographer up on the old wooden footbridge; The lengthening shadows, and in the foreground, a Birdcage brake with its "Victoria" destination board. From that point on, the trio set became, to me at least, the quintessential Bluebell line train, and still is, despite all the years and changes in between.
    When 3363 was so beautifully restored, it became a personal "go-to", and I just hope I live long enough to see it running with 5546 and 3334, perhaps once in a while behind 473 as a typical Wealden branch line train of the period.
    Although im sure there are many who will be keen to point out that such an ensemble is no longer "commercial" in this age, yet regrettably it would still get a lot more bums on seats than the dear old Brighton Saloon.
    IMG_20190414_020655_287.jpg
     
  5. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Well, if the answer is it will never receive priority then it would be better for attempts to be made to locate some person or organisation to give it the necessary attention. This could either be on the basis of a long term loan or outright disposal.
     
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  6. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    This is such a difficult one, I agree, Paul.
    The vehicle has everything- uniqueness, unimpeachable provenance, and an impressive appearance. Its career path would have been so different, had it not been for the GNR saloon's presence, and I speak here as a lifelong "Brighton" fan.
    With an estimated £100k needing to be spent on rehabilitation, and with only limited potential use, it is hard to see a commercial case for this carriage. The GNR saloon has enjoyed the support of a dedicated group, who now have charitable status.
    Perhaps the formation of a setup similar to the Howlden Group could be one way of ensuring a future for this carriage?
     
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  7. Midlandsouthern

    Midlandsouthern New Member

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    Saloon 60 certainly a stunner of a carriage, and a unique one and that. But its better to focus on birdcage set and the maunsell diner and saloon pairing. Its had work done in past asbestos removal, bodywork and window changes. And there money already raised for it put to one side reading the article.
    Its in the dry and undercover so its not going to deteriate any further. But it should be a never say never, who knows what the futre may hold, if a group want to work on her and improve her appeareace externally and mechnically intially, then railway should be open to it.
     
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  8. burmister

    burmister Member

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    It has been interesting to read this thread, seems to be a majority view by the active members that the Coach is useless to the Bluebell and therefore not worthwhile restoring.

    As someone who is old enough to have seen this coach in service and impressed enough as a young man to give a not inconsiderable donation for the times for its restoration, I have been disappointed over the years at the Bluebells reluctance to do anything with this coach.

    The opening paragraph of its page on the stock list should tell everybody of its importance not only to the Bluebell but its place within historical railway items nationally as well.

    "This superb vehicle should be the pride of our coaching stock fleet; not simply for its impressive appearance, as displayed in the official photograph above, but also for its uniqueness. Only two twelve-wheeled carriages were built by the LB&SCR; the King's Saloon and this, the Directors' Saloon. It is also the only LB&SCR bogie carriage to have survived complete into preservation in mainland Britain."

    I fully get the Bluebell PLC itself should not be restoring this coach, it wasted enough time and years not investing in the infrastructure in the push to EG and now has a huge catch up bill as a result. Its job is to run the railway for the majority general public, and as Bernard Holden used to say nobody will make money running trains but the PLC should be breaking even in Capex as well as Opex terms and not living off subs from its majority shareholder.
    However the society trustees and trust governors should be hanging their heads in shame at the Crown Jewel of the LBSCR suffering decades of neglect in their hands.

    Sadly it seems to me as a Shareholder and Society member they are just poodles of the PLC, whenever the PLC growls the society caves in and spends money that should be spent on preservation and conservation of unique items such as this carriage (and other items such as Adams tank, NLR tank, Sharpthorn that actually built the railway to name but a few).

    As a member I cannot even write into the 'Society' magazine these days, the PLC takeover is so complete the letters page in the magazine has gone now judging by the latest magazine which arrived this week.

    Time perhaps to have a stock review and offer up items which are deemed useless to the Bluebell to others, if its a good enough policy for the National Railways Museum of the nation then this should be good enough for the Bluebell.

    Brian
     
  9. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    I'm an armchair member, and am torn on this question. I recognise the uniqueness of this carriage, and it's relevance to the Bluebell. At the same time, I share @Jamessquared's view that preservation of the ordinary is important, and the likes of the Birdcages are if anything more historically important.

    Ultimately, that then comes back to the question that gets debated in many places, including the NRM and National Trust, of whether preserving the high profile exceptions - Scotsman, country houses - or the ordinary matters.

    As for what the Bluebell does, it will struggle either way. It will cost a lot to restore this carriage, money that can never be earned back and which could be used for other, equally worthwhile projects. At the same time, letting the Directors' Saloon maunder in store does no justice to this important piece of the carriage makers craft.

    As for how the situation is resolved, I suggest @Jamessquared has it right when he suggests that the key is for the right group of motivated funders and volunteers to get together and make something happen. It's what gave us the Bluebell in the first place, and was important as a way to get other projects up and moving. And, sad as it might be to see the Saloon move, I note that the Bluebell is but one of 3 ex LBSCR lines within a short distance of East Grinstead...
     
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  10. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    +1
     
  11. John Petley

    John Petley Well-Known Member

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    In many ways, there are parallels between the LB&SCR Directors' saloon and the Adams Radial Tank. Both are priceless artefacts, both need considerable sums of money spent on them, both are highly regarded by enthusiasts but both are of rather limited use. Just as putting together a Birdcage trio set or a longer rake of Maunsell carriages is of more practical use than restoring No. 60, in the same way, putting the C or the Dukedog through the works would give the Bluebell a more powerful and versatile engine for working the second set of carriages or low-season work than No. 488. A special appeal led by a dedicated subgroup would seem to be the most likely route back to service for both. As someone who can remember seeing No. 488 haul the LB&SCR Saloon on a special working to mark its return to service after the overhaul at Swindon in 1973 (I've even got a colour slide I took of this train) I hope that, in due course, we'll all be able to enjoy this same combination again.
     
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  12. Midlandsouthern

    Midlandsouthern New Member

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    Its great to see valid points to which i agree with, its a special coach 1 of only 2 made and only survivor. But future planning what rolling stock is goingbto be needed that is going to bring in the money. I would prefer the maunsells kitchen diner pair to be done together, but i do love that saloon to me up there with the beavertails in original form. If there is enough people who want to see it 60 done. Then maybe an approach should be made, whether at the bluebell or somewhere else. Im guessing all the interior and fittings when it was last in use are still in storage and her fund still active
     
  13. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    One thing sadly strikes me about most (not quite all) of these comments, is the lack of a sense of mea maxima culpa about this vehicle amongst Bluebellites.
     
  14. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Out of the 23 pre-nationalisation carriages currently available for traffic (17 of which were in use the other weekend, and all of which have been in use within the last month) which do you suggest should have been sidelined so that No. 60 could have had the tens of thousands of man hours snd hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on it instead? Perhaps you’d prefer the four Mets to have been set aside, recently returned after a door and lock overhaul - sounds trivial, except there are 50 such doors to overhaul? Or maybe not to have worked on the steadily growing Victorian four wheelers, soon to be six in numbers?

    It is no use bewailing the lack of action on one carriage unless you have a viable plan about how to do something about it. One of the set backs that that carriage suffered was an attempt at restoration that foundered, leaving it in a worse state than before it started. Naturally enough, there is no desire to see the same happen again, which means there is now a project initiation process that requires that for a project to start, there has to be - amongst other things - a viable plan of how it will be completed. That means above all else having a team with the necessary technical skills to do it. In an environment of limited resources (and which railway doesn’t have limited resources?) every decision to work on one project inevitably means not working on something else. From a loco point of view, I’m really glad that historic mistakes made in the 1970s are being rectified with Project 27; but you have to accept that restoring that means not working on, say, the Adams tank, since it is likely the same people and space would need to be used for either. Equally with carriage 60: by the late 1970s it was worn out and no longer safe for continued use without major work, but a choice was made then to restore the high capacity Metropolitan set. Had No. 60 been done then, likely we wouldn’t have the Mets. Every choice has a hidden consequence of something else not being done, which is rarely perceived.

    Again, for BRPS members, the LTP is up for revision. So if you feel that coach should take a higher priority, put that forward for inclusion within the LTP, along with a team of people with the necessary skills to take it forward.

    Tom
     
  15. mdewell

    mdewell Member

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    Perhaps Bluebell (and others in a similar position with unique rolling stock) could take a leaf out of Embsay/Stephen Middleton's book by offering a premium 1st class service by adding such coaches to some trains. Less seats but higher pricer should go towards balancing the books for these more expensive coaches.
    Or, even run as special trains offering cream teas or some such extra service. If the timetable allows, one of the smaller locos hauling 2/3 coach trains of observation car and/or first class coaches etc.
    Just a few thoughts. :)
     
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  16. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    The railway already has 1st and 3rd class fares (quite frequently people are surprised at the opulence of third and think it must be first!); already has a cream teas available on both service trains and the Rambler service; and already runs on occasion the GNR Directors’ Saloon with a cream tea service - that carriage will be in traffic all four days over the Easter weekend for public use.

    Tom
     
  17. mdewell

    mdewell Member

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    Great. Pardon my ignorance. :)
     
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  18. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Again one looks in vain for a hint of much needed contrition. If you really can't deal with it, dispose of it to someone who can.
     
  19. torgormaig

    torgormaig Well-Known Member Friend

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    Like who?

    Peter
     
  20. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Like anything, you need to ask.
     

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