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GWR, Great Western Railway, British Railways, Flying Scotsman, Station track, Caternary set, Steam locomotives, Deisel locomotives, Electric locomotives, Passenger cars, Freight cars, Trucks, Scenery kits. The man who first put steam engines on rails was a tall, strong Cornishman described by his schoolmaster as “obstinate and inattentive”.
On February 21, 1804, Trevithick’s pioneering engine hauled 10 tons of iron and 70 men nearly ten miles from Penydarren, at a speed of five miles-per-hour, winning the railway’s owner a 500 guinea bet into the bargain. Perhaps because it was the birthplace, Britain can boast more railway attractions per square mile than any other country. But it is North East England that is known as the birthplace of railways for here, around Newcastle, the world’s first tramways were laid and, later, the world’s first public railway between Stockton and Darlington steamed into life.
At nearby Beamish, the open-air museum of North Country Life – where the past is brought magically to life – there’s an opportunity to see one of the earliest railways re-created. Being an ex-LBSCR line the original intention was to concentrate on rescuing as much "Brighton" stock as possible with the first requirement being a Stroudly "D1" Class 0-4-2T, until it was realised that the last one had been scrapped some year and a half previously! This, the Bluebell's first train, arrived under its own steam on 17th May 1960, travelling via Haywards Heath to Horsted Keynes and thence onto Bluebell metals to Sheffield Park. So, the first summer saw the BluebeTraffic in that first short summer from 7th August until the end of October, running at weekends only, exceeded all expectations at over 15,000 passengers and proved the point that to run a steam service using volunteers was a viable proposition. A classic case of this was an LBSCR Billinton "K" Class mogul, quietly put to one side by sympathetic BR staff when, following the hand-over of the running of BR from the BTC to the BR Board, the whole class was suddenly scrapped in 1962. In addition to these and other locomotives, various representative types of rolling stock were targeted. In 1961 an attempt was made to bolster the meagre coaching stock by purchasing some ex LSWR "gate stock" (open vestibule, gated stock with tram style seating) still in use in the Plymouth area, but this was scuppered when the coaches were seriously damaged during a storm. The asking price for ex-BR coaches was ?200 each but the Bluebell managed to aquire the four "Cheshams" from LT for a total of ?260. Another Bluebell policy, that of no duplication of locomotives (despite the original intention to purchase a second "Terrier") fell by the wayside during 1961 when a second SECR "P" Class, number 27, was purchased to augment number 323. A big milestone in Bluebell history was achieved on 29th October when, for the first time, the Bluebell was allowed to work into Horsted Keynes Station, still used by BR for the electric service to Seaford.
1962 saw the arrival of GWR "Dukedog" 4-4-0 number 9017, Earl of Berkeley, an interesting class of loco re-built from the frames of the older "Bulldog" class with "Duke" class boilers. 1963 brought a major campaign to secure some coaches before the supply of pre-nationalisation stock dwindled too much and several Maunsell coaches were bought, together with the two 100-seaters.


Now both outshopped in full Maunsell livery they are a joy to behold (and with the recently installed through lighting, no longer the guard's nightmare now trains run through Sharpthorne tunnel!) Coaches did not have far to come as most were being stored on the Ardingly branch after withdrawal before being taken to Newhaven for scrapping.
Richard Trevithick (1771-1833), who learnt his craft in Cornish tin mines, built his “Penydarren tram road engine” for a line in South Wales whose primitive wagons were pulled, slowly and laboriously, by horses. He was 20 years ahead of his time – Stephenson’s “Rocket” was not even on the drawing board but Trevithick’s engines were seen as little more than a novelty. The figures are impressive: more than 100 heritage railways and 60 steam museum centres are home to 700 operational engines, steamed-up by an army of 23,000 enthusiastic volunteers and offering everyone the chance to savour a bygone age by riding on a lovingly preserved train. Though small in stature, these narrow-gauge lines are real working railways, originally built to haul slate and other minerals out of the mountains, but now a wonderful way for visitors to admire the scenery, which is breathtaking.
Feel the wind – and steam – in your hair as you travel in open carriages behind a working replica of a pioneering engine such as Stephenson’s Locomotion No.1, built in 1825.
We need styles that are quick and easy to maintain without having to wake up at the break of dawn every morning to get it right.
These plans soon fell through however when they a) failed to aquire the whole line and b) not surprisingly found no enthusiasm for the idea amongst the local population.
So, the next choice was a Stroudley "Terrier" 0-6-0T, probably the best-loved of the Brighton locos (two of which, 32636 and 32670, were by then the oldest locos operating on BR), and of which BR just happened to have a surplus one and sold her, together with a couple of coaches, for ?750.
As the Bluebell was not yet allowed access to Horsted Keynes but was only able to run from a point (Bluebell Halt) just to the south of the station where no run-round was possible, it was decided that a second loco was needed to run trains "topped and tailed" so a request was made to BR to buy a second "Terrier".
The railway could make the ?2,250 annual payments on its five year lease of the track and run its trains, but had virtually no surplus income to invest in other rolling stock. A loco each from the LBSCR and SECR and a coach each from the LSWR and SR - a far cry from the earlier "all-Brighton" ideal!
This loco was only able to steam on a handful of occasions in 1960 and '61, and because of its condition would not do so again until 1982, when it had received a thorough overhaul.
The railway just could not find the cash so in the end the loco suffered the same fate as the rest of her class. Amongst these was the last LBSCR coach surviving on the mainland (some were still in use on the Isle of Wight, and still are to this day), a Pullman car, an SECR birdcage brake, a clerestory coach and a GWR rail motor coach. They form the oldest complete set of preserved bogie coaches in Britain and worked long and hard on the Bluebell for several years, until age finally took its toll in the late 1960s. These were not the most popular of coaches with many of the members, but proved to be amongst the most regular and reliable performers.


Supplies were so good that on a couple of occasions a coach was sent back to be exchanged for another because it had broken windows! The attitude from BR was fast hardening and basically the Railway had to find the funds to purchase the line, or be closed down. There are eight lines to choose from and one, the Ffestiniog Railway, is the oldest of its kind in the world.
Part of Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry is situated in the world’s oldest passenger station; and the ‘Thinktank’ museum in Birmingham contains the world’s oldest active steam engine, designed by James Watt in 1778.
So, the idea to re-open the Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes section as a steam "museum" railway was proposed and adopted.
However, with only 11 of the class now remaining, BR could not spare one and suggested instead that an ex-SECR Wainwright "P"Class 0-6-0T, BR number 31323, could be bought instead. At the conclusion of this first short but successful running period the winter's work of refurbishing the engines, station, signalling etc. This led to the decision not to allow any more such locos to clutter the Bluebell in the same way that they were to do on many railways elsewhere. Some items which were available were rejected as being beyond restoration, a view not always shared by everyone.
In the case of LBSCR "E1" Class 0-6-0T number 110 this was turned down as it had been much modified during many years service with the NCB but the loco was subsequently rescued for the East Somerset Railway. One tragedy of the Ardingly branch was when the last LBSCR coach, reserved for the Bluebell and marked accordingly, was accidentally removed and converted into a car-carrying flat truck.
History can tell the story of the protracted negotiations with a hostile BR management and the final triumph in 1968 when a hire purchase deal was struck, but there was a long and agonising period when it seemed the Bluebell's days were coming to a sad end. One, and probably the only, highlight of 1964 was when, after the personal intervention of that famous East Grinstead resident, Dr Beeching, the original "Terrier" of 1872, number 32636 Fenchurch arrived. Amends were made, however, two years later when the LBSCR Directors' Saloon became available and BR, no doubt remembering their error of two years previously, gave the Bluebell preferential treatment and did not go to open tender to dispose of this vehicle.



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  • Pussycat_Doll, 16.08.2013 at 11:16:24
    Involves floor-to-ceiling mountains and stroll-by means driver jumped ship as his train was entering.