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Bluebell Railway General Discussion

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

  1. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Firstly just worth remembering that everything in the draft LTP is just that - a draft. It won't officially become policy until ratified (or, conceivably rejected, or emended) at the next AGM. So "Sheffield Park will remain of LB&SCR appearance and all works done will be sympathetic to that period" and "Reinstatement of the canopy on platform 1 from the barrier to the gentleman's toilet" and "To improve the appearance of the station by achieving a uniform style for platform surfacing and fencing" and "To replace the signal box at Sheffield Park with an appropriately designed building and to re-signal the station" are all current official policy as laid down in the current long term plan; but moving and replacing the footbridge, and lengthening the platforms northwards is an aspiration that is still to be formally agreed by the membership.

    Tthe second point to note is an oddity (for want of a better word) of how our LTP is written, which is that everything is, as I say, an "aspiration". In other words, it shows a desired direction of travel, but prioritisation and funding are not part of the LTP. So even if the current draft is approved later this year, it will still then need to be thought through how exactly such changes are funded and in what logical order they should be carried out. (For example, do you lengthen the platform and then move the signalbox, or vice versa?)

    With regard the north footbridge: the photos show the original was a very grand affair, though the footbridges at West Hoathly and Ardingly were similar in style (HK and KC had, and still have, subways rather than footbridges). Worth remembering that Sheffield Park was primarily built for the convenience of Lord Sheffield, so the facilities were on a rather grander scale than the size of the local community may have warranted: see Barcombe for a more typical LBSC country station.

    I have a certain sympathy with Luke's position about the north end of the station being quite open and light, though even now that is starting to get crowded in with, for example, the museum extension, Wythiam box, SP Carriage Shed and teh Woodpax industrial estate. The platform extensions might help in that regard by projecting the furthest away from the station you can walk by another carriage length. Another issue that hasn't yet really been picked up on by too many people, but will affect photos taken just north of SP is that the project to change the course of the River Ouse, and re-instate some flood meadows, just north of the station has seen a large stand of trees planted which, in twenty or thirty years time, will give a more wooded flavour rather than the open fields just north of the station on the up side. That's not a Bluebell project or on Bluebell-owned land, I hasten to add!

    Tom
     
  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Well, technically it is a draft, and won't become the actual LTP until it is ratified (or who knows, maybe not ratified...) at the next AGM. So for the time being, official policy is set by the existing LTP (available here: http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/soc/ltp.html

    In comparison with that document, the new one is, well, longer. Hard to say how much, but I'd estimate the new one is probably about twice as long. And that extra length is mostly in the punchy bullet-point style of the existing one, not long screeds of prose. So there is a lot in it - too much to summarise here, and in any case it should be ratified first by members (who, incidentally, should all have got a copy circulated with Bluebell News last year).

    But in flavour, I would say it is evolutionary, not revolutionary. So for example, there are tweaks to the loco section, but the fundamental strategy - about ten locos, spread between large, medium and small (with the Bluebell meaning of those terms) remains. Similarly, the C&W section has closed some gaps in the existing plan, notably by making specific mention of pre-grouping bogie carriages, a birdcage set and a train of vans as specific restoration aims. (It was a curiosity of the existing plan that even though we had restored, for example, an SECR birdcage brake and an LBSC bogie first, neither of those vehicles really fitted the C&W departmental aim as written down, even though clearly both are significant vehicles. The new plan tides up that loophole, as well as making non-passenger vans a specific aim; in the existing plan we make provision for carriages and wagons, but not the vehicles in between despite having several historically important such vehicles, including one currently under restoration).

    Similarly, the general chronological presentation of stations going from 1880s in the south to 1950/60s in the north remains. Most of the changes at SP we have been discussing are in the old plan, but the ideas about platform extension and moving the footbridge are new.

    The other big theme shining through is really about really getting to grips with preserving and restoring what we have, rather than making major new acquisitions. hence the focus on OU4 (and later phases) to slow down the deterioration of both service stock and stock awaiting restoration; and there is a recognition throughout about the need to attract and retain volunteers and to develop skills.

    Tom
     
  3. jnc

    jnc Member

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    Any chance the draft can be made available to interested non-members? After all, a document sent to thousands of people can hardly be denominated as 'confidential'! :)

    Noel
     
  4. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Not so much confidential, but it is right that members should have the first sight. Incidentally, I suspect there will probably be a slight revision between the current draft and that that goes out for the AGM, since there was a second period of member consultation on the existing draft that finished at Christmas. Whether that amounts to tweaks and typos, or is something more substantive I don't know, but I'd imagine the former, since the current document doesn't seem to have stirred up major antagonistic passions on the railway (as far as I can see) and it also emerged after an initial trawl for suggestions amongst the membership a year or so ago. I'll claim a one in three success rate of getting suggestions incorporated: one is in, one is not included without explanation, and one is not included but with explanation why!

    Apart from the projects we have been discussing, on the "big infrastructure" side, there is discussion of OU5 (i.e. the phase of Operation Undercover that will follow the HK carriage shed), which conceivably could be a large exhibits museum hall (location unspecified); a volunteer hostel and an archive building and research centre for the museum department. (The Bluebell has a considerable archive, not just from the original railway, but also from 50 years of our own history). There is also mention of machine and boiler shops for the loco works to improve capacity.

    On the question of extensions, that section of the plan starts: "Following a period of consolidation and maintenance ...". In other words, don't expect a westwards extension any time soon (though I think I am right in saying that we have outline planning permission for the bridge to replace Sherriff Mill viaduct, so that option at least (i.e. bridging the small lane south of HK) might need to be exercised sooner rather than later, or else the permission would lapse - can't remember the state of that now). Beyond that, both south and west, the plan is to maintain a watching brief to stop encursion on the trackbeds. In other words, making sure that the possibility of extending is not scuppered (any more than now) by further development, but without actively pushing on southwards, and just doing preventative maintenance work on our landholding west.

    With regard stations, the major planned physical changes are at SP, as discussed above, at least within the "protected" zones. But it is planned to bring Platform 1 at HK up to passenger standard (operationally, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me except as pre-enabling work for going to Ardingly). There is also a plan to reinstate the water supply, and some enabling work for that on restoring the sub-track water pipes took place during a period of track relaying a year or two ago.

    At Kingscote, the existing project to develop the goods yard will continue. Resignalling at KC needs to happen to transfer the functions to the north box and signal EG. That will be based on a 47 lever Westinghouse "L" frame (ex Clapham Junction B), which is enough levers to cope with EG, KC and any possible sidings at WH as a possible base for the P/Way department. More information on that frame here: Clapham Junction 'B' signal box. Incidentally, the original frame was 103 levers, made up of 8 * 12 lever modules and 1 * 8 lever module, with the end lever unused. We have preserved 4 * 12 lever modules, which with one lever unused, makes 47 levers.

    There is also some discussion about possibly re-instating a station at West Hoathly; if so that would likely be a halt without signalling as there is no timetable advantage in being able to pass trains at WH, but considerable cost of signalling a loop. Putting a loop at WH would also screw up the eventual plan to instigate "long section" working between SP and KC, allowing HK to be switched out, for example during evenings when only the evening GA is running. Like all good railway discussions, the "livery debate" about WH is settled, even if absolutely nothing else is decided! (1940s wartime SR, before you ask, fitting in between the 1930s at HK and the 1950s at KC).

    Also worth bearing in mind that the plan includes everything from projects already underway and which might be finished, or substantially advanced, quite soon (such as the Kingscote Goods Yard Project) right through to aspirations where we are protecting future options but which might not happen for 50 years, if at all (such as a southern extension). In other words, just because a particular project is mentioned, doesn't mean that it is definitely scheduled to be completed within the lifetime of this plan (about 5 years). Some of them will take many years to complete. For example, to meet the totality of the C&W plan might take several decades. But it is important to have a plan even over that timescale to ensure that there is a logic to the order in which vehicles are restored; and to help identify any potential gaps which need plugging by acquisition of grounded bodies (and perhaps even more important, to stop random acquisition of vehicles which don't fit the plan and realistically would never get restored).

    Incidentally, all thoughts and interpretation above are mine, not necessarily the official line.

    Tom
     
  5. Orion

    Orion New Member

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    Just a little bit of Sussex that will always be North Korea!

    Regards
     
  6. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    So I take it you will be starting a thread pointing out all the other railways that have public online access to draft strategies and plans that haven't yet been endorsed by their membership? When it is approved, I am sure it will appear online, but it is hardly unreasonable that until then, we just have our existing, adopted, strategy online?

    As for not the official line: that's because what I say is, erm not the official line and I want to make that clear! D'oh! I'm a volunteer and a member, and I did provide feedback that went into the draft plan. But I am not a Trustee or a Director, I don't speak officially on behalf of the railway, and in the end I'll have exactly the same amount of say into whether this gets adopted or not as any other member, i.e. one vote at the AGM.

    If despite all that, people want to have a grown up intelligent debate about Bluebell Matters - then welcome. If instead all that sounds a bit North Korean secretive, then that's fine as well - go and find another thread to discuss the future direction of some other organisation you are interested in.

    Tom
     
  7. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    The Bluebell Railway, which has a track record of putting its policies on line that is second to none. I can't think of any other railway that makes such an effort, so to liken it to North Korea is petty and frankly very stupid.
     
  8. cct man

    cct man New Member

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    God people are so sensitive when someone has to audacity to critiscise any Bluebell member and supporter.

    Lighten up please gentlemen.

    :) :)

    Chris:
     
  9. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Chris - constructive criticism and debate is great, and I'm certainly not sensitive to that. But Orion was accusing the railway of North Korean levels of secrecy, simply because it hadn't published a draft plan that was yet to be ratified, when in fact hardly any organisation in any field would publish draft plans. I'm eagerly awaiting being proved wrong, and being invited to peruse online draft strategies of our other major heritage railways. :smile:

    Tom
     
  10. jnc

    jnc Member

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    This is, I think, the more interesting point, rather than the (to me, at least) sterile (in the original meaning of the term) discussion of whether the Bluebell is more or less open than other heritage railways.

    Is keeping such draft plans widely held actually better for the railway than making them public? I'm not sure I see the benefit. Yes, drafts do need to be carefully marked as 'Draft - Preliminary - For Discussion' (or some similar label) on every page, so that people thoroughly understand that the thing they are reading is not final. But I've always felt, and found, that the more widely things like this are viewed and discussed, the better the outcome. What actually is the potential harm in letting everyone see? (This is not a rhetorical question - I'm trying to understand what the negative effects could be.) Yes, there are often discussions which must be closely held, but things like that wouldn't be circulated to the entire membership.

    Oh, and thanks for taking the time to pass on all that information on the general plans - most interesting.

    Noel
     
  11. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    God people are so sensitive when someone has to audacity to critiscise any Bluebell member and supporter.

    I'm an admirer of the Bluebell and unashamed of that, but I have no connection with the line, so when I see a spiteful and completely unjustifed comment about it I think it is only fair to answer the point. It was particularly unfair, given the depth of detail that the Bluell site does provide on its various policies.


    The NYMR has published a long term plan in its "Steaming On" document, which is available on the NYMR website, but there is little detail in many key areas because many of the planned developments require the acquisition of parcels of land, and the specific sites are "commercial in confidence". I don't see why planned overhaul schedules cannot be released, though, and again the NYMR website does provide estimations for when various engines might return to traffic.
     
  12. cct man

    cct man New Member

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    Fair point Tom, however what come over to me is the way Bluebell people immediately jump down an alleged dissenters throat without giving it any time and thought whatsoever, do you see my point?

    Sometimes a cooling off period would be better IMHO

    Regards :)

    Chris:
     
  13. std tank

    std tank Member

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    Just like some MHR people.
     
  14. cct man

    cct man New Member

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    I could not agree more, the MHR and others are just as guilty of this sort of behavior, no more no less than anyone else.

    At least I added my comments with a smiley:)

    Chris:
     
  15. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    By temperament I have a certain sympathy with that view. However, in the end, the railway has decided not to publish a draft for all to see but rather just to circulate it to its membership, so I'm not about to go beyond that decision and publish it myself - even if I had an electronic copy. Probably correctly, the Bluebell has always felt members should be informed of certain things first, which has led in some quarters of accusations of being slow to communicate since that often meant waiting three months for BN to be published - though that is rapidly changing with, for example, the fortnightly email,the Yahoo group and Facebook, all of which are also open to non members.

    Tom
     
  16. Orion

    Orion New Member

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    Not so, you have read into my tonque-in-cheek post what you wanted to be there! I was actually getting at the procedures required on the railway to get anything out at all; it's byzantine and has been for many years now. It's also very much North Korean in the way that dissenters are treated, and that has always been so. You even mentioned the phrase 'official line'. Now I imagine that you had your tongue firmly in cheek too, but only an autocratic system would generate such a view even by one of the Bluebell's greatest advocates, which, I think it's fair to say, you are.

    I only hope that the Bluebell's Byzantine/North Korean politics don't bite you in the bum as they have so many others. It's not nice.

    Regards
     
  17. tom92240

    tom92240 New Member

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    The Bluebell have always been quite confidential with some of their information, even the weekly Traffic Notice's are marked as private and not for publication, not sure why as the information contained within isn't usually full of state secrets. Alas that is the way it is, and you learn it best to wait it out as the information comes out in the end!
     
  18. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    As someone who has always had something of a "soft spot" for the Bluebell, although I have not been a member since 1976 when I moved from the South East, I'm bemused at some of the things I've just read here. As a non-member I don't think I have any right to know what draft plans are being talked about, and yet I know far more about the Bluebell's affairs than most other railways, largely because it is published on the internet - the society website, the photo reports from people like John Sandys and Dave Clarke, and not least Tom's regular and detailed posts here. In contrast there is a railway not far from where I live that didn't even advertise on it's website that it was running passenger trains last summer, or that it was even possible to do so. Most other railways seem to be somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum. We do not have a right to a lot of the information - when it is given it is a privilege.

    As has been said, constructive criticism and debate is all well and good, but for it to flourish care needs to be taken how it is said. And no matter how far tongues may be wedged in cheek, if something feels offensive to the listener then you have lost your audience.

    Steve B
     
  19. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    They may not contain state secrets but I don't think I've come across a Traffic Notice on any railway that isn't marked as private and not for publication. There may well be some to prove me wrong, but they will be very much in the minority.
     
  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I've always assumed the STNs are private because periodically they will mention the name of an individual or group who have booked e.g. a compartment or a special charter etc. They would also contain information about e.g. film jobs which the companies concerned tend to be quite secretive about. Obviously in many instances, those reasons don't apply and there would be little problem publishing, but it is easier saying they are all private than trying to make decisions about which are private and which public each week. I think I am right in saying that, for the benefit of future historians, the museum keeps a copy of every STN and SON for its archive.

    Tom
     

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