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If I recall correctly, the O1 was stabled at Horsted Keynes for a period of time one winter not too many years ago when the Sheffield Park-Horsted Keynes section was severed for maintenance. Its a shame that this couldn't be done again with a different loco, but the railway has had a motive power crisis of late so in my view it is OK to give the loco department some breathing space!

 

Another shame is that it isn't a Thumper. When the Bluebell purchasing a Thumper was first mooted, I was very much against the idea, but in hindsight it would have been a worthy investment for times such as these.

 

Overall though, I'm glad to see the track being repaired on Freshfield Bank. The Bluebell has received stick from casual observers and other railways for the damage this stretch of line does to locomotives. Running a DMU in order to rectify this issue is a small price to pay.

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Crew training for the recently arrived DMU:

And my former office-colleague David meeting the incoming train.

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If I recall correctly, the O1 was stabled at Horsted Keynes for a period of time one winter not too many years ago when the Sheffield Park-Horsted Keynes section was severed for maintenance. Its a shame that this couldn't be done again with a different loco, but the railway has had a motive power crisis of late so in my view it is OK to give the loco department some breathing space!

 

 

IIRC the big problem with that is the last time it was done, the O1 subsequently had to spend a couple of weeks in the works having its firebars replaced after they were damaged due to disposal problems. This is because although Horsted does have a pit, firstly said pit doesn't have a water supply making raking out the fire difficult and secondly it is not really deep enough for loco disposal. There also is the issue that C&W might be wanting to use it, plus the fact that it is supposed to be a 'clean' environment for adjusting brake rigging, and doing work on vac / steam heat pipes, etc.

 

In this case there is also the little matter that the points being replaced have to be used for a loco to run round its train at Horsted regardless of which platform it arrives in from the north - so to maintain a steam service you need to outbase two steam locos at Horsted to top & tail.

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Sorry for the rather late posting but here are a few photos from my trip down to the Bluebell (or should that be BR Blue-Bell) last Saturday. E50599 and E51505 were in fine form and performed very well throughout the day with some rather healthy loadings, and everyone all seemed rather pleased with the change of traction - even welcoming the mooted idea of running a handful (including the first and possibly last) services with either a DMU 33 or Thumper.

 

If anything, my only downside of the day was actually the journey home again - Saturdays weather was mostly fine on the Bluebell, heading back however we got caught out by the 'freak storm' which made a 2 hour journey into a 6 hour! (Tree's down at Sanderstead and Upper Warlingham to the north and a tree on the platform and tracks at Hurst Greet)

 

And as a modelling tip - if anyone's after any Jouef Mk3s, the Bluebell has a few for £8.50 each in the carriage shop at Horsted Keynes.

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http://www.bluebell-railway.com/event/diesel-gala/

:O

 

Edit:

Also on the loco roster the DMU is scheduled to run the 9:45 from Sheffield Park from 15th to 23rd February

:O

 

I noticed and i'll certainly be down for that, although it is a shame that they chose to do it on a Friday and not over the space of a weekend - seems to be a slight bit of selective date choosing there. Nevertheless, it is good to see some progression in History on the line and I hope they consider the idea of bringing the VEP down for it as not only could it do with a good few runs but would work rather well for the 3rd Train service in push pull with the 33.

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I guess the point of doing it on a "normally closed" day is that there is starting point of a guaranteed zero for attendance and income figures, so they can easily track both - whereas if it was a normal running day you'd normally get a certain amount of people turning up regardless of what may or may not be running. 

 

It's called a gala but really it's more of a 'diesel only running day'.  Hopefully the day will be well supported (certainly some relevant Facebook groups to which I belong are talking positively about it) which then may then open up opportunities for visiting locos to strengthen the fleet in the future.

 

After all, a 33, 73, VEP and Thumper are far more "in fitting" with the generally Southern theme of the Bluebell than some of the visiting stock that's been there in the last few years... and a mainline connection makes such things much easier now.

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Anything that brings visitors to a heritage railway is Good For Business!

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Bluebell Real Ale & Jazz - 1st evening of 2014 - 23rd May....

 

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Edited by Neal Ball
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The DMU has broken down!

 

Services are now running on the full line from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead. (Initially the idea was that the first service of the day would be the DMU - I bet we will see this a regular feature soon.....)

 

I went to the railway last Sunday and made a quick video, whilst taking 'photos...

 

 

The 'photos are gradually going onto my website...

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Am watching with great interest we are planning on a small Sheffield Park Station, great reference material.

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Well, it's not quite broken down - It's only got a broken spring hanger so it's nothing mechanical. Shame really as they were using the DMU to operate the first return service of the day with a view to emulating how many other pres railways operate with the first and last services of the day being Diesel operated, allowing less pressure onto the Loco Crews whilst being able to offer more services earlier in the morning and later into the evening. Hopefully they will go back to operating that trial service again soon - I'm not seeing much of a rush by either line's to send it back to Worksworth at the moment, so there's a possibility.

 

Anyway, here are a few more pictures of it in happier times (Sunday the 8th) With some of the best DMU driving I've ever had since their day's on the mainline ended.

 

Apart from a return on March the 23rd, quite interested in one of the Real Ale trains as well - sounds like a nice Summer's Evening.  

 

 

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Well, it's not quite broken down - It's only got a broken spring hanger so it's nothing mechanical.

 

Given it's a key part of the "Diesel Do" on 21st March (which I hope to get to) hopefully it's back sorted by then. 

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Given it's a key part of the "Diesel Do" on 21st March (which I hope to get to) hopefully it's back sorted by then. 

 

Mind you, there could always be another (unlikely) option - Well, the line obviously has friends in GBRf who operate and own several 73s. They also own poor old 3417 'Gordon Pettitt" which is sat at Clapham doing nothing (and enough friends in LUL who I'm sure could spare the TC for a short space of time!). Whilst I would miss the DMU, a 4 VEP / 73 option could work as a suitable replacement if a spring hanger isn't found in time. I don't think we've seen the last of a DMU at the Bluebell anyway, given that it's stay seems to have been extended out from just the first 4 weeks, to covering February half term, to being rostered to the impromptu Diesel Gala. And given it's usefulness I think these could well be the first steps.  

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Here we are only making comments on the news.  We do not shoot the messenger.

 

I shall be paying my respects to the Bluebell in late summer but not travelling on any form of diesel-worked train.  I can do that on most other lines.  The Bluebell must act as it sees fit but purely from a personal viewpoint I am rather saddened to see a blue DMU on the line.  It doesn't even have any connection to the Southern Railway / Region and it looks horribly out of place.

 

In fairness I will add that I also avoid bog carts on any other "heritage" railway if I possibly can.  They formed an important chapter in our railway history but not one that endeared me to them then and certainly not now.

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The DMU is a short-term hire that covered a specific problematic period and I would assume better than "no service at all".  Accept your point about not being specifically appropriate for the line although there are images available of 101's and 108's at Redhill on the Tonbridge services so it's not necessarily too far a stretch.  I guess the unit was the most convenient/available/competitively priced at short notice and the initial hire period has of course been extended now.

 

Whilst there are many at the Bluebell who are against the "dieselisation" of the line, I really don't understand how they can continue to be so yet happy to have entirely inappropriate steam locos running on the line as well.  Fine that there may be no photographic evidence of a 108 running on the line before closure but I'm pretty sure that there weren't many GWR locos running on it either - and as for the visit of Tornado, well that's an entirely different argument altogether.  A blue DMU may look "out of place" on the Bluebell to some, but I can't quite work out why?  Would it be more acceptable if it was painted green?

 

I think that many of us have rose-tinted glasses of "the railways of our childhood".  The older generation (to me) were around when steam was king (or spamcan, or A4 or whatever) and that's what they want to remember at a heritage railway.  I missed mainline steam and thus have a soft spot for the "rail blue" era, 33's, 50's and some of these rattly old bogcarts that are also long gone from the mainline rail network and consequently I have no problem travelling behind diesel - and if it happens to be steam then that's fine too. 

 

I'm just happy I have these parts of history still around to enjoy - will my grandchildren be able to have that experience?

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Many of the "rattly old bog-carts" were around long before steam vanished.  They ran alongside steam and while they replaced that mode on many a rural and secondary route that is what they were bought for.  The Southern had its own diesel-electric versions of much the same vintage of which several are running in preservation.

 

I have no wish to question the Bluebell's commercial judgement.  They like all heritage lines must exist as a viable business in order to stay with us.  My comments are borne out of the fact that for so long they alone have remained all-steam.  I fully understand why diesel traction was used on the cutting clearance.  The timescale and the potential costs for alternatives were untenable and risked the link to East Grinstead being made.

 

It remains my personal opinion that DMU operation has no place on the Bluebell although I might be willing to concede a point if an SR unit in green were to be used.  It is not the provenance of the steam which really matters.  It is the fact of the steam.  There are plenty of SR types but not all are available for traffic at any one time.  There are "big engines" on the Bluebell which never ran there in BR days but neither, apart from the occasional rambler's special, did the line see packed trains of five, six or more coaches in daily service as it sometimes does now.  That it does so and requires traction to meet those demands is testament to its success and sound management.

 

I can check the timetable and avoid anything diesel when I'm there.  I can ride on a Thumper down the road at Isfield, I can ride on a bog-cart in many other places and I can even ride behind an MLV at Shepherdswell running on battery power and paired with a 4Cor coach to boot.  

 

The Bluebell will remain a steam railway through my rose-tinted spectacles; the same cannot be said of many other locations as blue diesel becomes the new steam for younger generations.

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it's funny how our tastes develop. I too missed mainline steam but commuted regularly to school on Southern Region EMUs, which to me were little more than carriages with a driver stuck at the front. A boat train was more impressive because of the speed - as was a Hastings DEMU passing non stop through Tonbridge, whilst the occasional 33 or 73 on a freight was slightly more interesting. But what was really exciting was the chance to travel behind a steam train ... perhaps that was glam because I didn't experience the smuts and the smoke every day?

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I gather that there are more reasons than just the recent engineering works for the lines temporary (or potential) acquisition of the DMU, these including the lower running costs (for a commercial point of view) but also the fact that knowone is getting younger and Sheffield Park isn't in the most convenient of locations to get to for staff - with the extension to East Grinstead opening up, This has allowed the line to run earlier in the day and later into the evening, but this then requires the crew to get to the line earlier in the morning (3 AM was quoted to start running services at 9) which then means your crew has to give up their evening, and the later crew have to give up their morning. Running the DMU at least allows them to operate as per other lines whereby the first and last services of the day can be run with a DMU, Whilst the steam can then come out during the day where there is the most demand.

 

I too would love to see a thumper on the line at some point in the future as they would be slightly more historically accurate than the 101/108 hybrid - given that the surrounding lines where not electrified then it's fairly likely that had the bluebell remained open Thumpers would have been used in the event of non electrification, but as pointed out by Cromptonnut the 101s did make it on the Reading - Redhill - Tonbridge services so are semi accurate to the area at the very least. Even the 33s are rather appropriate for the line having moved batches of stored 4 CEPs to Horsted Keynes and several daily turns to East Grinstead in the 70/80s.

 

Unfortunately for some, whilst I do appreciate some steam I was raised on Diesels and the eras of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Whilst I appreciate the heritage and history of the Bluebell, I do think that it is time to reduce the rose tinted spectacle's and stop pretending that diesels never existed and look to embrace the history of the past 60 years. I'm not asking for a sweeping take over at all - Steam is what brings most people to the line, as well as the superbly restored rolling stock and smartly turned out stations, but I do think that giving more occasional use of the 33 on a few service trains, or bringing down the lines own 4 VEP and using that on a few Summer Saturday's of Southern Region Push Pull with 33103 - recreating that aspect of the Southern Region in the 70s for example, or even looking at the Severn Valley or West Somerset Railways 'Mixed Traffic Galas' for example whereby 2 services could be run with Southern Steam and the third with a diesel - I've even got an idea for a 'Atlantic Coast Express / 1960s weekend with the West Country, Bulleid Light Pacific and a Class 42 Warship. Even the Mid Hants have admitted how successful their Hampshire Unit has been for the line (which now appears to be turning a nice profit for them), and have now decided to continue the Hampshire Unit running days of last year in this years timetable. I guess my point is, is that if it works for other lines, then why can't it work for the Bluebell? Attracting new membership and volunteers will always be one for the future, and if running a diesel to capture the youth of the 70s to now to raise awareness and increase the potential for membership then it can only be a good thing, can't it?

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 Attracting new membership and volunteers will always be one for the future, and if running a diesel to capture the youth of the 70s to now to raise awareness and increase the potential for membership then it can only be a good thing, can't it?

 

It's often said that the only way to change anything is from the inside, so on that note I may well consider membership myself to help encourage the small group of diesel enthusiasts on the line.  I doubt that a day's diesel driving experience on the SDR on a 33 is going to be a great deal of use to them at present but you never know how small things can develop...

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Maybe as a final thought, before returning on topic to "news items"

 

Spare a thought for the time that the crews need to get to Sheffield Park to get a steam loco prepared for the first train of the day whi h on service 2 leaves the Park at 09:45..... Best guess at preparing a loco..... 3 hours? That makes it 06:45...... Them the crew have to get to the railway..... I live in Hove which is about 40 minutes away, so if I was flootplate crew (which I would love to do) could possibly mean leaving home about 6am.

 

My guess 3 hours prep time.....

 

Food for thought about why there is a call for the first train of the day to be diesel hauled.....

 

Back to the topic of news please!

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