FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Extension to East Grinstead

Posted in East Grinstead, England by folkestonejack on April 6, 2013

I have spent many a happy day on the Bluebell Railway, ever since visiting as a child in the late 1970s/early 1980s (at a time when the line only ran between Horsted Keynes and Sheffield Park) so it is marvellous to see the extension to East Grinstead has finally been realised – something which seemed impossibly far off when I first travelled the line.

Destination - East Grinstead

Destination – East Grinstead

I was away at the time of the opening (in blizzard conditions) but resolved to visit as soon as I returned from my travels. And so it was that I found myself heading down to East Grinstead this morning to catch the final weekend of the fortnight long opening festival. After years of catching a bus to the railway from Haywards Heath or East Grinstead it was a real pleasure to be able to stroll down to the Bluebell’s new terminus without having to ponder connection times and the like.

The first train of the day into East Grinstead was hauled by visiting locomotive 92212, a British Railways Standard Class 9F 2-10-0, which entered service in September 1959 – which was only around eight months before the running of the first Bluebell Railway train! It was a fantastic sight to see 92212 appear in the distance and then draw steadily closer as it made its way across the Imberhorne Viaduct. Even though I knew the line had been connected it still took a moment like this to make me realise it wasn’t a dream!

92212 crosses the Imberhorne Viaduct to reach East Grinstead

92212 crosses the Imberhorne Viaduct to reach East Grinstead

I took the first train of the day from East Grinstead down to Horsted Keynes, which has always been my favourite station on the line. The station has been restored to the Southern Railway period of the mid 1920s and offers the photographer some wonderful period shots. I was also rather pleased to see class 33 diesel ‘Swordfish’, a locomotive which has been hired in to help with the work on the northern extension.

Class 33 diesel 'Swordfish' at Horsted Keynes

Class 33 diesel ‘Swordfish’ at Horsted Keynes

A short onward journey by train brought me to Sheffield Park station for my first look at the new museum which delivers an impressive re-telling of the story of the railways and the history of the line. It is the best museum I have encountered on any preserved railway and a fascinating way to spend time between trains.

The final pleasure of the day was a run all the way from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead. How terrific it is to be able to say that at long last! All credit to the volunteers who played their part over the last four decades – it is a remarkable story born out of those dark days at the end of the steam era.

More information about the milestones of the Northern Extension Project can be found on the Bluebell Railway website at http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/ext/extprog.html

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