Posts Tagged ‘Bluebell Railway’


November 25, 2015

Today I am unashamedly showing some railway locos that will keep me happy. The small tank engines built by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in the 1870s became my favourite type of loco in my train spotting days getting on for 90 years after they were built. A few were still in service. One of them, my absolute favourite, was number 32635 which had been painted in its 1870s colour scheme. When I knew this loco it fussed around Brighton station, shunting things out of the way. Sadly, that particular engine got scrapped, but others survived. The work these engines did earned them the nickname, ‘Terriers’.

Back in 2001, on a trip to the Bluebell Railway they had no less than four of these wonderful locos gathered together and all working trains.

image002There are two of them about to depart with a train from Sheffield Park.



Here’s a third. This is Stepney, the Bluebell Railway’s first loco acquired back in 1960. She is in that 1870s livery so looks very much like I remember that Brighton shunter.

And here’s the fourth Terrier running round a train.


What a fab day that was. And there were other locos in steam and operating as well.


Let sleeper bolts lie

May 22, 2014

I recently visited the Watercress railway line and I noted a collection of sleeper bolts in a bit of a heap. It reminds me that I have one of these items at home and here it is.


This is quite a hefty piece of metal work, about six inches long and I suppose, technically it is a screw rather than a bolt but to me they have always been sleeper bolts. And at one time there would have been about ten thousand of them on every mile of railway line. Their job was to hold the chair to the sleeper. Chairs then supported old bull head rail which was held in place with wedges.

My bolt came from the Bluebell Railway. My dad and I were walking the old line south of Sheffield Park, not so long after closure and removal of the valuable metal work. I came across this bolt which had obviously escaped the journey to the scrap yard. It has been in my possession for well over fifty years.

The bolt has some lettering which I can’t quite make out – or at least I can’t attribute a meaning to it.


Does that say BOB or BJB?

And right on top of the bolt there is a large S.


There’s surely a super nerd out there who’ll know what the letters are for???

Edmonson Tickets

April 18, 2014

My life in tickets

Last year, when we visited the Isle of Wight Steam railway it was a wonderful day and a grand experience. But I did comment on one thing that I regrette3d and that was that the railway issued modern tickets. I commented that it probably made book keeping easier since the computer, somewhere, kept all records. But I fell, that for me, one part of the heritage experience was missed.

At the Bluebell Railway, last month, that little snip of memory was rekindled properly as the Bluebell issue good old fashioned Edmonson tickets.


Yes that looks the part. It’s a proper railway ticket with serial number. A clerk should record the first and last serial number of the day and then compare it with takings in the till. He should be able to tally his results and show he hasn’t been fiddling the books.

When Thomas Edmonson evolved this system, back in the 1840s, it was a huge step forward in the accounting process. Before that, all tickets had been individually written. But we can sympathise with the Isle of Wight Line for it still involves much adding up and checking.

The thing that I remember most about the issuing of these tickets was a double clunk noise as the ticket was pushed both ways into the date stamping machine. That noise is just so evocative of the start of a train journey and what a pleasure it was to hear it at Sheffield Park Station. The date appears on the reverse of the ticket.


This date allows any ticket inspector to see that the ticket is valid for the journey you are making.

The Edmonson ticket had other advantages. The card was robust enough for the clipping process.

A triangular notch was removed from this card as I left the booking hall and went on to the platform. In a sense, this doesn’t matter on the Bluebell, for the ticket, which looks like a standard return from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, is in fact a day rover. You can travel back and forth as many times as you like. But again, the clipping was a part of the experience. If the ticket had been a ‘real’ return ticket that triangular notch could tell a ticket inspector I had already made the journey and was riding a train fraudulently.

And again, the clipping had a sound – one I associate with railway travel.

It’s good to bring back those memories.

Because we took the absolutely magical brake van ride at Horsted Keynes, we got another ticket. This one is not an Edmonson – it was more like a bus ticket.


The date has not been entered but it was the same date – 23rd March 2014.

Of course, both tickets have been added to my collection. Both help to keep memories alive for me.

False Colours

April 15, 2014

This proves I am not really a railway nerd. If I was then I’d object to the image I’m about to show. But do you know? I don’t mind it at all.

Let’s look at the photo.


This was taken on a recent visit to the Bluebell Railway which chanced to be a gala day with four different trains running. This one was being hauled by two different former Great Western Railway locos. The second one was in good old GWR livery. The front one is the one in wrong colours. It’s pretending to be a London Underground engine and has been painted in the old London Underground livery and given a suitable number for that task of L150.

In the 1960s London Underground did purchase some former GWR engines. They were useful for shunting trains in sheds where people work. The normal power source of conductor rails is dangerous in those circumstances. But the engines the Underground purchased were not like this one.

However, when the Underground celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013 this loco was chosen to operate some special trains on the Underground system. Some call it a work of fiction, for such a loco never worked ‘real’ trains on these lines. But then, one could say, this one has now.

I don’t like the colour as much as the GWR green, but I see no harm in a loco getting a paint job for a special occasion. And then it might as well keep that paint until it needs re-doing.


April 5, 2014

Baxter first saw the light of day in 1877. He quickly – instantly, in truth, found employment at a quarry in Betchworth, Surrey.

For no obvious reason he was given the rank of Captain in 1947.

In 1960, aged 83, Baxter was retired. He joined the staff of the Bluebell Railway in Sussex, but they didn’t find much use for him.

In 1982 he was given a bit of replacement part surgery which kept him going – and going. Then, in 2010 he had more major surgery. He was aged 133 by then – a truly venerable age. And he’s still going and still gets odd jobs to do at the Bluebell Railway.

This post is about how some of my family and I encountered Baxter and fell hugely in love with him. You’ll have guessed by now that the elderly Captain Baxter is not a person. He’s a little steam railway locomotive. But don’t switch off. Baxter is very cute and most of my family members who loved this little loco are female. Baxter has that cuteness.

Now I’ve been visiting the Bluebell Railway from time to time since it opened in 1960. I have known Baxter since then, but I have never seen him turn a wheel until a visit on March 23rd this year. When we parked our car I could see a tall funnel moving around in the yard and I knew it was Baxter. I hastened to the station to see this old chap.


That’s Baxter. He’d finished clearing the yard for the day and was heading off to Horsted Keynes from Sheffield Park.

There he is, all red and delightful.


The family arrived and we went on what might be called an ordinary train to East Grinstead. Baxter was at Horsted Keynes, attached to a brake van or guard’s van.


We had no time for him then.

Nor had we really on our return journey although Baxter was still there, at Horsted Keynes. That’s him behind my cousin.


I will say our train was stopped at the time. Leaning out of train windows is dangerous when the train is in motion.

We dined at Sheffield Park and then took a train back to Horsted Keynes. A loudspeaker announcement advised us that we could take a ride in the brake van behind Baxter. Our grandfather had been a guard, spending his working life in such vans. We did it. And by heck it was worth it.


Baxter was being prepared.

As we set off, standing on the open balcony of the van, Baxter decided we needed a shower.


The girls loved it.


And that could have been grandad sitting in his van with the stove keeping him warm and the big brake wheel in the middle. Actually, it was brother in law.


On return journeys Baxter had to push us, so we stood right at the front looking over the route ahead.

Here’s a film to give the idea.

And here’s the crew at work on Baxter.


After a wonderful little trip Baxter was prepared for his next turn.


Now Captains are obviously gentlemen who do their best to keep the ladies happy. For my cousin, a dream was fulfilled. Baxter let her on the footplate.


She certainly looks thrilled.


By now Baxter was very much ‘our’ engine.

Here’s to the next time.