by Cliff Thomas

Bluebell dashes for cover

Published: 15th October 2014

The Bluebell Railway races to raise £125,000 by mid-November to get historic carriages into covered

The Bluebell Railway in Sussex, already renowned for its fleet of restored vintage carriages, has launched a major effort to get 20 pre-nationalisation carriages presently in open storage awaiting their turn for attention under cover as quickly as possible.

The Cash For Cover Appeal aims to make a flying start on Operation Undercover Phase 4, an extension to the existing carriage shed and restoration workshop at Horsted Keynes.

Planning permission for the structure was secured in October 2011 but an application for Heritage Lottery Fund cash towards a comprehensive new building was turned down earlier this year. A re-think has resulted in a scaled back scheme not reliant on HLF support. The structure now envisaged will involve supports and a roof over the current maintenance road and four proposed new roads. While satisfying the immediate objective of avoiding further deterioration in the condition of the carriages, the long-term aim remains of eventually adding sides, doors and other facilities.

In mid-October a start was made on the foundations for the building, securing the requirements of the existing planning consent.

Double Donations Dash

Generous benefactors have promised matching funds for the first £125,000 donated to the project – provided the cash is raised by November 15 this year. The race is therefore on for the Bluebell’s Double Donations Dash (DDD) 125 to rapidly raise £125,000 which DDD125 sponsors will match pound for pound. The resulting £250,000 will finance a roof over half of the new shed to cover 10 vehicles with work commencing in 2015. Raising a further £100,000 will cover completing the roof and getting all 20 carriages into covered storage.

A video fronted by TV personality, Nicholas Owen, explaining the project in detail can be viewed via the Bluebell’s website.

The carriages to receive top priority to be moved under cover are:

Maunsell brake composite No. 6575

Maunsell composite No. 5644

Bulleid open third No. 1481

Bulleid brake third No. 4279

SECR/SR non-corridor composite No. 1050

SECR short Birdcage brake third No. 1061

SECR long Birdcage brake third No. 1170

LBSCR Directors' Saloon No. 60 - the ‘Brighton Saloon’

Pullman brake third No. 157 – ‘Car No. 54’

Full details of how to donate can be found at

This gives information on how to make on-line donations (at or via a mobile phone and enables downloading of a Gift Aid form. Donations can be posted to Bluebell Railway Trust, c/o Roger Kelly, Sheffield Park Station, East Sussex, TN22 3QL or call 01825 720800 during office hours, including weekends, for more information.

They said:

"We have already seen the benefits provided by the Sheffield Park carriage shed, but that collection cannot be the end of it. Our collection of rolling stock is a unique selling point - just witness our Victorian or Southern rakes of stock - and to me it's a crime that we continue to allow some of our original rolling stock from the very early days to sit outside slowly deteriorating,” commented Bluebell Railway Preservation Society chairman, Roy Watts.

"Having seen what our excellent C&W teams are capable of achieving, we owe it to them to protect this stock so that it can survive for the long term whilst patiently awaiting its turn for the restorers’ craftsmanship.”

"Our supporters have been very generous in the past when given the chance to see their donations doubled in value. It will be a tremendous boost to the Railway if they do so again and I would like to thank them in advance if they can," said Bluebell Funding Director, Roger Kelly.

Operation Undercover – step by step

Initial Bluebell Railway carriage restorations were undertaken in the cramped conditions of the old carriage shed at Horsted Keynes. Between 2000-2004 this facility was extended to provide properly laid out restoration bays and a paint shop with part of the building forming storage.

With Operation Undercover Phase 1 complete, the focus switched to steam locomotives. Phase 2, a comparatively limited scheme, involved completing the north end of the locomotive running shed at Sheffield Park incorporating a one-bay extension. This was completed over the winter of 2005/06.

Phase 3 was the major re-development of what was once known as the ‘Woodpax site’ at Sheffield Park. The £3.9million project, substantially supported by an HLF grant, provided a carriage shed to accommodate up to 18 vehicles (from the running fleet) together with a museum and reconstruction of the station’s platform 2 and other facilities. This phase was fully completed in 2012.

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