FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam to Sheffield Park Garden

Posted in England, Sheffield Park by folkestonejack on October 29, 2016

After a rollercoaster week at work it was good to get out to the beautiful landscape gardens at Sheffield Park, Sussex, to recharge my batteries. It may not have been the best day to visit, with overcast skies and unexpected drizzle, but nothing could diminish the beautiful autumnal colours. It didn’t seem to have deterred the crowds either with the overflow car park called into use to cope with a long queue of visitors.

A view of Sheffield Park House from the garden

A view of Sheffield Park House from the garden

My journey to Sheffield Park Garden was an altogether more relaxed affair. I took advantage of the Bluebell Railway’s ‘Giants of Steam’ gala to take a ride down to Sheffield Park behind the sole surviving B12 class express passenger steam locomotive (built by Beyer, Peacock & Co. in 1928), a gorgeous sight in LNER Apple Green.

The splendid recreation of the Southern Railway of the mid 1920s at Horsted Keynes is always a highlight of any visit to the Bluebell, even if I was only passing through this time. There was even a nod to the 21st century Southern experience with a half hour delay on my journey back up the line (the service unravelled with the unfortunate failure of the B12, blocking the line at Horsted Keynes until the stricken train could be shunted into the sidings).

It takes only a few minutes to walk to the gardens from Sheffield Park station, following a well signed footpath across parkland. Once inside the gardens you can take your pick of paths around the four lakes, through the glades and woodland, admiring a landscape that has evolved over hundreds of years. Most notably, the gardens owe much to the work of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton in the late 18th century.

The gardens also include a splendid set of carefully engineered waterfalls which were constructed by James Pulman and Son between 1882-1885 using their secret recipe for Pulhamite, a rather special kind of artificial rock that is most familiar to me from its use in the Zigzag Path in Folkestone. The waterfalls are only switched on for an hour every Tuesday and Friday, so I’ll have to come back to see it working on some future occasion.

Red leaves at Sheffield Park Garden

Red leaves at Sheffield Park Garden

The Sheffield Park estate was split up in 1953 with the National Trust purchasing the gardens whilst the house remained in private ownership (in the 1980s it was divided into twelve apartments). However, you can still see how beautifully this all fitted together when you take in the view across the Ten Foot Pond from the First Bridge to the gothic house designed by James Wyatt.

Sheffield Park Garden was designed to be at its best in the autumn so its no surprise that the colour on display here, mirrored in the lakes, is such a lure for visitors. I thought it was a wonderful place to unwind and let go of the stresses of the working week. If only you could bottle that effect…

Gallery

Deltic double-up at the Bluebell

Posted in East Grinstead, England, Horsted Keynes by folkestonejack on April 18, 2015

In the 1960s and 1970s class 55 diesels, better known as Deltics, ruled the East Coast main line, hauling express trains between King’s Cross and Edinburgh. The introduction of just 22 Deltics had been sufficient to see off 55 steam locomotives, including 35 streamlined A4 pacifics. Although some found it hard to forgive the Deltics for supplanting such majestic machines, many were soon won over by their impressive appearance and distinctive growl.

D9009 Alycidon amidst the primroses on the approach to Horsted Keynes

D9009 Alycidon amidst the primroses on the approach to Horsted Keynes

The last passenger services hauled by Deltics took place on December 31st 1981, followed by a farewell gathering at Doncaster Works that pulled in vast crowds. Thankfully, six Deltics were preserved and this has given ample opportunity for later generations to be wowed. This is something that I appreciate as I didn’t get much chance to see or appreciate them first time round!

It is surprising how often I have heard steam enthusiasts refer to the Deltics as ‘honorary steam locomotives’ and accord them a status that they wouldn’t dream of giving to any other diesel or electric locomotive, so it seems appropriate that two of these machines have visited the Bluebell Railway, until recently a steam-only bastion, for this weekend’s diesel gala.

Two of the locomotives owned by the Deltic Preservation Society, 55019 Royal Highland Fusilier and D9009 Alycidon, operated the entire weekend’s services between them. I took the first service out of East Grinstead today and enjoyed a good few hours photographing them in and around Horsted Keynes.

55019 Royal Highland Fusilier hauls a late morning service away from Horsted Keynes

55019 Royal Highland Fusilier hauls a late morning service away from Horsted Keynes

It was a great day to be out and about – blue sky, sun and an abundance of primroses at the lineside making for some interesting shots. Admittedly, the Deltics looked somewhat incongruous running through Horsted Keynes, a station which presents a scene plucked out of the 1920s, but it was fun to see nevertheless. I could even see the appeal of the sound too, particularly as it echoed around Sharpthorne Tunnel on my journey back to East Grinstead.

Thanks to everyone at the Bluebell Railway and the Deltic Preservation Society for bringing the Deltics back to Sussex for the first time in over a decade. The packed trains, some with standing room only, and encouraging conversations all around me suggested that it was a much appreciated event. The Deltics are now expected to leave the railway on Tuesday morning with a mid-morning run to the Severn Valley Railway.

Gallery

Blood, custard and a splash of mud

Posted in East Grinstead, England, Horsted Keynes, Sheffield Park by folkestonejack on February 26, 2014

The prospects for a photo charter on the Bluebell Railway in late February did not seem terribly encouraging given the horribly wet start to the year, so it was more than a little surprising to turn up at Sheffield Park to find a beautifully clear sky and all the promise of a good day on the lineside. The forecasts looked pretty rubbish for the week as a whole, so this was more than a little lucky…

Black Five 45231 with the Blood and Custards

Black Five 45231 with the Blood and Custards

The motive power for the photo charter was to be Black Five no. 45231 (without her nameplates) which has been on loan at the Bluebell Railway since 22nd October 2013. Today’s run was expected to be the last steaming of the privately owned locomotive, as things stand, before the loan finishes in March 2014 and provided an opportunity to see her with two sets of stock that she would be unlikely to haul normally – the “blood and custard” liveried Mk1 coaches and the BR era P-Way wagons.

Our day began with the Black Five on the “blood and custard” set with some glorious sunshine to get things rolling, making our way up to Horsted Keynes by mid morning where we switched to the P-Way wagons for a couple of runs past Great Oddynes. My tastes have always been a little biased towards freight and industrial scenes, so this was just marvellous to photograph – even if it did mean standing in mud soup! The condition of the field was certainly confirmation of just how incredibly saturated the land in southern england is at the moment.

After this brief switch, we returned to the “blood and custard” set for the run up to East Grinstead. We had the entire line to ourselves for the day and were privileged to be the first photo-charter allowed to use the extension. This gave us a marvellous opportunity to get some shots from Hazleden which is normally “out of bounds” to photographers. The number of good locations on the extension are limited but this spot was definetly worth the trip up the line.

Black clouds begin to gather at Hazleden

Black clouds begin to gather at Hazleden

Photographers are normally cursed by the sun disappearing at the wrong time, so the beauty of a photo-charter is the ability to call the locomotive at the moment the sun seems set to appear. There is quite an art to timing the arrival of a loco to match a short break in cloud cover and this skill proved to be a necessity as the clouds steadily built up through the morning. Nevertheless, our luck with the weather seemed to be holding pretty well – rain only arriving after we had returned to Sheffield Park for a short lunch stop.

Black five and BR era P-Way wagons

Black Five and BR era P-Way wagons

In the afternoon we focused on the stretch of line between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes, mostly using the BR era P-Way wagons and travelling between locations in the Queen Mary brake-van. The various pools of water along the line provided some interesting opportunities to attempt shots with the locomotive reflected in the water, although this worm’s eye view of the word necessitated an embrace of the muddy ground that few of us relished!

Playing with reflections

Playing with reflections

The weather gods had been incredibly kind to us and even the sudden delivery of a hail storm mid-afternoon was not enough to put us off our stride. Indeed, the sight of our P-Way train beautifully lit against a backdrop of black skies was one of my favourite moments of the day. So simple but incredibly effective.

After hail and rain, back to sun...

After hail and rain, back to sun…

Our day finally ended with a glint shot at Freshfield Bank which I kind of fluffed, but in a day of rich photographic opportunities it was impossible to be disappointed! All in all, this was a terrific photo-charter, brilliantly organised by Jon Bowers. Thanks to all the crews and signalmen for making it possible for such a wonderful day to work to its fullest potential.

Gallery

Tagged with:

Autumn steam

Posted in England, Kingscote by folkestonejack on November 16, 2013

The prospect of good weather tempted us out into the countryside today, in the hope of making the most of the autumnal colours before the cold blast forecast for next week. It was easy to forget that winter could be almost upon us as we headed out to a perfect day of blue skies, gloriously golden leaves and unstinting sunshine.

Our short circular walk began at Kingscote in Sussex, one stop away from East Grinstead on the Bluebell Railway. I haven’t previously used this location as a jumping off point for a walk, so this was really a recce for next year (there are a number of walks around this area on the Bluebell Railway Walks website that look worth attempting).

SECR C-class No. 592 hauls a mid-afternoon train to East Grinstead

SECR C-class No. 592 hauls a mid-afternoon train to East Grinstead

The route we followed today took us through the fringes of autumnal woodland as far as Birch Farm foot crossing before we circled back to Kingscote. We were never far from the railway line, catching glimpses of it throughout our walk. The woods were rich in wildlife and we were startled to see a stag galloping across the path in front of us at one point (we were later to see more deer racing across the fields, presumably startled by the trains).

At the foot crossing we were treated to the sight of South Eastern & Chatham Railway C-class No.592 hauling the beautiful Metropolitan Railway stock towards East Grinstead. The carriages were as much the stars of this consist as the locomotive and it is staggering to think that some of these were languishing as unloved bungalows not so many years ago! The Carriage & Wagon Department at the Bluebell Railway really has done a fine job here.

LMS Stanier Black 5 No. 45231 at Kingscote

LMS Stanier Black 5 No. 45231 at Kingscote

We returned to East Grinstead on the 3.15pm train from Kingscote, hauled by LMS Stanier Black 5 No. 45231 ‘The Sherwood Forester’. The privately owned locomotive arrived at the Bluebell Railway on 22nd October 2013 and will be staying to bolster the home fleet until it returns to main-line duties in March 2014.

It may not have been the most ambitious of days out, but the trip was proof that the re-connection of the line to East Grinstead now offers the perfect combination of a pub lunch in East Grinstead followed by an afternoon of exercise in the countryside to work it off!

Tagged with:

Bluebell explorers

Posted in Bletchley, Croydon, England by folkestonejack on November 9, 2013

One of the delightful side-effects of the Bluebell Railway’s re-connection to the mainline has been the emergence of Sheffield Park as a destination for charter trains. In the year to date there have been three steam-hauled charters, starting with Tornado’s visit on 10th September 2013. I missed that occasion but managed to catch the next two charters en-route to the Bluebell Railway.

The next charter to the Bluebell Railway was hauled by BR Britannia Class no. 70013 Oliver Cromwell, which blasted through Bletchley rather magnificently at 11:01am on 2nd November 2013. The tour was pretty neat in design, as it ran from one preserved railway to another (having started at Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway). Unfortunately, the weather was rather dreadful by the time it arrived at the Bluebell Railway.

Oliver Cromwell hauls the Bluebell Explorer through Bletchley on 2nd November 2013

Oliver Cromwell hauls the Bluebell Explorer through Bletchley on 2nd November 2013

The third charter stuck to southern metals, running from London Victoria to Sheffield Park, followed by a run to Uckfield and then back to London Victoria. Unusually, this charter was topped and tailed by steam locomotives – BR rebuilt Light Pacific 4-6-2 no. 34046 ‘Braunton’ on the front and LMS Class 5MT 4-6-0 no. 44932 on the back.

Braunton hauls the Bluebell Explorer through South Croydon on 9th November 2013

Braunton hauls the Bluebell Explorer through South Croydon on 9th November 2013 around 9.21am

Typically, the light was beautiful in the lead up but the clouds had crept in by the time the railtour passed through my chosen spot at South Croydon. Nevertheless, this was still better than conditions on the Bluebell Railway itself which was once again quite wet.

A Southern class 455 electric multiple unit passes through South Croydon about 40 minutes earlier

A Southern class 455 electric multiple unit passes through South Croydon about 40 minutes earlier, with significantly better light

It will be good fun catching other railtours as they pass through the area in the coming years. It’s a great stretch of line with some interesting places to watch and photograph a steam locomotive working.

Tagged with:

Swordfish in the sun

Posted in East Grinstead, England, Horsted Keynes by folkestonejack on June 29, 2013

The Bluebell Railway has been unusual amongst preserved railways in adopting a 100% steam approach to its operations for many years, using steam locomotives for shunting, permanent way and spoil trains. However, the need to remove significant quantity of spoil during the northern extension work necessitated the hiring of a sequence of diesel locomotives from 2006. It was a pragmatic, if controversial, decision that ultimately helped to ensure the successful connection of the railway to East Grinstead.

Class 33 locomotive 'Swordfish' on the Bluebell Railway

Class 33 locomotive ‘Swordfish’ on the Bluebell Railway

The class 33 locomotive ‘Swordfish’ (33103) has been the most recent hire-in, a fitting choice for the railway as almost 100 of the class were built for the Southern region in the 1960s and would have been a familiar sight at East Grinstead. Twenty-five class 33 locomotives (better known as Cromptons) have survived into preservation and a handful continue in operation on mainline charters with West Coast Railway Company.

Although the use of diesels on the Bluebell Railway has been accepted for extension work it is still exceptionally rare to see a diesel hauling passenger trains between East Grinstead and Sheffield Park. Happily, just such a rare occasion occured this weekend when Swordfish was scheduled to haul some special passenger trains between the timetabled steam services.

I was glad that I ignored the iffy weather forecast and headed down to East Grinstead today as it was a real pleasure to see a Crompton on the line. The unusual sight seemed to have attracted quite a crowd of diesel devotees, alongside families and enthusiasts. Indeed, I can’t remember the last time I saw Horsted Keynes quite as busy as today. Thanks to the Bluebell for putting on such an unexpected, and enjoyable, day.

Gallery

Tagged with:

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

Gallery

Tagged with:

Gallery: Norwood Junction

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on July 14, 2011

Apart from the sight of a steam locomotive through Norwood Junction a couple of additional photo opportunities presented themselves whilst I was enjoying my day off, including the appearance of one of GB Railfreight’s newest acquisitions – a class 66 diesel from Colas Rail (so new in fact, that it was still in Colas Rail livery). The diesel was working empty spoil wagons down to the Bluebell Railway for the continuation of their waste by rail programme.

Tagged with:

Riddlesdown Viaduct

Posted in England by folkestonejack on March 4, 2011

A short midday detour took me to Riddlesdown Viaduct to see 6O10 Forders to East Grinstead cross with empties for the Bluebell Railway. The viaduct looks quite picturesque in old photographs with the quarry in the background (as can be seen in a photograph from 1907 in the Francis Frith collection) but not quite so scenic today with a bright blue warehouse tucked underneath the viaduct!

66724 'Drax Power Station' hauls 6O10 over Riddlesdown Viaduct on Friday 4th March 2011

66724 'Drax Power Station' hauls 6O10 over Riddlesdown Viaduct on Friday 4th March 2011

Tagged with:

Waste by rail

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on February 25, 2011

In the middle of a relaxing day off work I slotted in a moment to photograph class 66 diesel 66720 ‘Metronet Pathfinder’ passing through South Norwood with empty spoil wagons for Imberhorne Cutting on the Bluebell Railway. The “waste by rail” trains are being used to remove one thousand tons of waste each weekday as part of the ongoing work to clear the landfill that is blocking the extension of the railway to East Grinstead.

66720 'Metronet Pathfinder' on 6O10 Forders - East Grinstead seen passing through Norwood Junction at 12:33 on 25th February 2011

66720 'Metronet Pathfinder' on 6O10 Forders - East Grinstead seen passing through Norwood Junction at 12:33 on 25th February 2011

For further information on the four week “Waste by Rail” programme and the planned extension to the Bluebell Railway, see the Latest Progress towards East Grinstead page on the Bluebell Railway website.

Tagged with:

Return to the Bluebell

Posted in England, Horsted Keynes by folkestonejack on August 8, 2010

I returned to the Bluebell Railway with my family on the final day of the 50th anniversary gala, which gave a few further opportunities for photographs – this time with the benefit of added sun!

At the end of the day we made it to Kingscote to board one of the shuttles to see the tip at Imberhorne South. It seems incredible to think that just a mile separates the end of the line from East Grinstead now, particularly thinking back to our visits as children when the line only ran from Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes. I look forward to catching a train all the way to East Grinstead someday, hopefully in the not too distant future…

A triple header formed of Terrier's 672 'Fenchurch' and 55 'Stepney' with Class E4 473 'Birch Grove' departs from Horsted Keynes

A triple header formed of Terrier's 672 'Fenchurch' and 55 'Stepney' with Class E4 473 'Birch Grove' departs from Horsted Keynes

For more photos, see Gallery: Bluebell Railway – 50th Anniversary Gala

Bluebell at 50

Posted in England, Horsted Keynes by folkestonejack on August 7, 2010

Spent the day at the Bluebell Railway for the second day of their 50th Anniversary Gala, starting from Horsted Keynes in the morning before moving on to Sheffield Park and Kingscote. It was hard not to be impressed by the efforts that everyone had put into making this an incredible event – especially the chance to see all the out of action locomotives at Horsted Keynes (rather than top to tail in the loco shed at Sheffield Park) and the display of two standard class 4MT tanks back to back at Sheffield Park (one restored and the other in ex-Barry Scrapyard condition). Apart from that it was lovely to see all the stations looking so wonderful and decorated with colourful bunting. Not even the late afternoon downpour could undo the magic of the day.

Rebuilt Battle of Britain class locomotive 34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair passes Railway Cottages

Rebuilt Battle of Britain class locomotive 34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair passes Railway Cottages