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Bluebell Railway General Discussion

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

  1. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think chance and timing. My understanding on the Bluebell was that the constraint was the bridge over the main road at Sheffield Park, which went quite quickly after BR closed the line.


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  2. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Pah! The Snowdon Mountain Rly have been using that excuse for a century and a quarter! :Punch:
     
  3. John Petley

    John Petley Well-Known Member

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    Fair point, Paul, although some enthusiasts enjoy the spectacle of locos being worked hard. Think of Goathland bank on the NYMR. Thanks to the way the tip was tackled, the Bluebell now has a section of 1 in 55, but it's fairly short and not remotely comparable to the ferocious 1 in 50/52 banks either side of the summits at Heathfield and Argos Hill on the Cuckoo Line. It's now a cycle track from Heathfield southwards and someone only recently cycled along it and mentioned to me that it seemed fairly flat. I pointed out that it certainly wouldn't have seemed like that to locomotive crews when it was a railway.
     
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  4. Steamage

    Steamage Member

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    Don't be. That's very effective, especially given how many folks on the platform are in (some form of) period costume :)
     
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  5. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    It's an interesting question, but I think essentially the answer is in the Long Term Plan:

    The principal objective of the Society, as laid down by our founders, is the preservation of, and operation of, the Railway between Sheffield Park, East Sussex, and East Grinstead, in the county of West Sussex and any future extensions.

    The Railway also aims, by various means, to recreate the three main periods of our railway's history in the south, namely:
    1. Pre Grouping - London Brighton & South Coast Railway (up to 1923).
    2. Grouping - Southern Railway (1923 to 1948).
    3. Nationalisation - British Railways, Southern Region (1948 to mid 1960s).
    In other words preserve and operate the railway, but as a backdrop to any train that is representative of those in the south in that time period. So that means a Terrier on four wheeled carriages, but also a BR Standard 5 on a train of Mark 1s are both suitable, since both were typical train formations in Southern England at different times.

    Subsequent development of the railway, and of different departments, including the museum, confirm that strategy, in terms of what has been acquired and restored.

    Being a democratic society, you could I suppose argue for a revision of the Long Term Plan so that it said, in effect, that it should preserve and operate trains appropriate to the line. However (and without getting into the philosophical minefield of the fact that some, such as the GWR Dukedog, have spent longer at Sheffield Park than anywhere else), you would then have a lot of thinning out of both locos and carriages. Terriers were hardly representative of the line, though they did work motor trains briefly. The H class was, in the later BR period, typical of locos at East Grinstead, but on the High Level line, not the Low Level. In fact, of the locos currently based at Sheffield Park, about the only ones for which there are good pre-preservation records would be the Terriers, the E4, the Standard Tanks - oh, and the Bulleid Pacifics and Marsh Atlantics ;) No other type of those at Sheffield Park was a regular performer on the line. Likewise with carriages, you would get rid of the Mets, the GNR Saloon, the LNWR Obo, the Pullmans, the SECR 4 wheelers, the LSWR brake 3rd and so forth. I doubt such a course of action would gain much support, either from members in general or those who worked on those vehicles specifically.

    There is no heritage line in the country that is able to run solely on locos and carriages historically appropriate to the line; none that has made no infrastructure changes to the original appearance. It has certainly never been the case at the Bluebell - indeed, for many years the carriage stock included the Kings Cross suburban Mark 1s and at one point (in 2001) the loco fleet included 75027, "Blackmore Vale", 92240, "Camelot" and 80151 all simultaneously in traffic! We've changed since then. My own preference, oft expressed here, is to do less but do it better; but even that isn't the same as saying operate the railway as it was pre-preservation; but rather to take a more à la carte approach to the objectives in the long term plan.

    Tom
     
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  6. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    My sentiments entirely, John. It was such a lovely route, with the novelty of (most) of its stations being actually located in the villages they were named after.
    Here's probably my favourite view of the Cuckoo line, taken by John J Smith on Friday, June 11th 1965, just a couple of days before closure. 80142 is just about to enter Argos Hill tunnel, amidst a sea of Ox-eye daisies waving the train on its way towards Eastbourne, the permanent way still immaculate, despite its numbered hours:
    Argos Hill 11.06.1965.JPG.jpg
     
  7. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Had to reread carefully, but conclude Tom's perfectly correct. Even the VoR locos sport different brake gear these days and that stonking great (though doubtless very welcomed by staff) 2012 shed wasn't there in BR days. Neither were proper platforms, attractive wayside station buildings and well kept flower beds .... and I, for one, have absolutely no problem whatsoever with that. Seat cushions aren't an innovation to which anyone who endured the 'authentic experience' of yore would be likely to object either!

    Likewise, although employing fully authentic stock, the IMR now boasts a highly successful dining service unknown during the line's commercial existence and even the Great Orme system has a few added safety features these days.
     
  8. alts1985

    alts1985 Member

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    Great shot, bridge ahead and tunnel behind very much still there, buried in the undergrowth.
     
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  9. Big Al

    Big Al Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    Not being a member I was unaware of that plan although does it not signal a change of direction?

    Given that the Bluebell came into being when, for example, the ACE was still hurrying people to the West Country with steam in the fastest times it had ever operated, it is understandable that, for example, preserving a Bulleid Pacific, even if one had operated on the line, would not be a priority. I guess that is why it became a magnet for historical rolling stock with the desire to recreate the pre-grouping world of the railways.

    However, were I to descend from Mars (unaware of the Railway), read the principal objective of the society and the three summary points above and then go and look at what I could see, the disconnect would be pretty obvious.

    LBSCR - I get that. Ditto for the Southern Railway Grouping period etc. But LCDR coaches that slip in under the radar with SECR badging as 3188, 3360? And then there is the Met Railway set.

    So is the Bluebell Railway slowly moving away from a living railway museum of everything historical that ran south of the Thames to something rather more focused? I can see the logic in doing so if that's the intention.
     
  10. David R

    David R Well-Known Member

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    No - it is likely to remain a heritage railway showcasing principally the railways of the South of England in the steam era - for various reasons it is the main centre for former SE&CR locomotives (6 of the 8 surviving locos are based at Bluebell) - hence much interest in building up a rake of SE&CR coaches to run with them and any thought of disposing of the Mets (although from North of the Thames) would surely not find favour after the effort that went into restoring them. They are very popular with the public and if it is possible to run a service this year, the Mets as compartment stock with no corridor (each compartment has a door to the exterior on each side) will provide the necessary social distancing if tickets are pre-sold to family groups on a per compartment basis.

    I am not quite certain what is meant by "LCDR coaches that slip in under the radar with SECR badging" - SE&CR was effectively the successor to the LC&DR as the joint managing committee for the SER and LC&DR so turning out LC&DR vehicles in SE&CR livery is perfectly authentic for the period from 1899 through to the grouping.

    I would be very comfortable with the current mix of stock - representing the possibility of re-creating complete representative sets of carriages that would have run in the South of England covering most periods from the 1880 s to the 1960 s interspersed with a few representative or special vehicles from outside that geographic area - Obo, GN Saloon, Pullmans etc.

    David R
     
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  11. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    The long term plan has been around for I think at least fifteen or more years, but hasn't been around for sixty. It is subject to periodic revision, voted on at the AGM - in fact there should have been one this year, but like many things that has been pushed back. (There was a consultation process last year for members to suggest revisions).

    There is a lot of rolling stock in particular that, if you were starting today, wouldn't meet the criteria, but which was obtained at a time when processes and policies were different - the Mets being an example, acquired in the 1960s; and likewise the Dukedog amongst locomotives. I don't think anyone would dream of disposing of them now on the grounds they are not LBSCR!

    Incidentally, on the SECR front, it is clear that both SECR locos and carriages were in use on the line, particularly in later years. Amongst the SECR locos recorded on the line is the Wainwright E class No. 516. The class were regularly used on London - Brighton via Oxted services.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2020
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  12. Big Al

    Big Al Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    A couple of useful clarifications. Thanks. There's always something to learn.
     
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  13. Dan Hill

    Dan Hill New Member

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    I guess that's another good factor behind the choice of an E class after the Atlantic is complete.
     
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  14. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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  15. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Issue 7 of The Bluebell Times is out now with an important announcement about our provisional plans for reopening.

    Read what the railway’s chairman has to be say about running steam trains again and the measures being put in place to provide passengers with a safe and enjoyable day out once more.

    The latest edition also has an update on the Emergency Appeal and more details of the fundraising sponsored ‘Virtual Track Trek’ taking place later this month.

    In Issue 7:
    • Meet the couple who live on the site of a former railway station
    • Find out how a loco was rescued from the scrapyard and restored
    • Read about ‘A Day in the Life’ of a senior station master
    • New puzzles including a Spot the Difference challenge
    • Special kids’ section with a carriage shed shunting puzzle
    • And much, much more
    https://www.bluebell-railway.com/bluebell-times/

    Tom
     
  16. jackshepherd

    jackshepherd New Member

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    Just curious, will we be able to park at Horsted Keynes station and watch the trains from the public lineside areas? I wouldn't be travelling but I would certainly donate the equivalent ticket price to the rly.
     
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  17. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Its interesting to see the iem on the restoration of the 'U'

    My late father had 'aquired' some drawings when I was a child for a 'U' class for me.

    Most of them were the pipework arrangement.

    Anyway after his death (?) when the stuff in the loft at the family home needed looking at, the question was what to do with them.

    I asked the Bluebell if they wanted them and the reply was that the pipework drawings were what they didnt have and the U was being put back together so off they went!
     
  18. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    I see that you've got Chatham locos on the front page again - nice work!

    Steve B
     
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  19. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Oops - it’s happened again ...

    Tom
     
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  20. 6026 King John

    6026 King John Member

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    Good news .....or is it? Having read the small print I'm not so sure. Basically there are so many restrictions to conform with the "new notmal" that in my view it just isn't worth it. For a start you can only book by compartment - not much use for me as I always visit either alone or with my wife and there's no way we're paying for a whole compartment. On top of that they want to wear face coverings! What exactly is the point if you've got to have your own compartment anyway?

    I realise that all this is to fulfil some kind of government requirement but honestly in my opinion I'd rather leave visiting heritage railways for the moment if this is the way it's going to be. It's supposed to be an enjoyable experience but having to adhere to all these rules just makes it stressful. My wife and I discussed this kind of thing the other day and we are both in agreement that we will give anything that has too many "social distancing" rules as miss for now. There a plenty of things to do where you can carry on much as usual - such as going for nice walks in parks.

    Maybe the West Somerset's decision not to open this Summer is the right one.
     

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