Published: 26th October 2015
Bluebell Railway’s ASH (Accessible Steam Heritage) Project application to the Heritage Lottery Fund has secured a first round pass. Clearing this first stage brings a £30,000 grant towards development of a second stage application for a full grant in 11 months time.
The project, likely to cost over £1million (including substantial ‘effort in kind’ by Bluebell volunteers), aims to repair and convert its running shed at Sheffield Park into an Exhibition Hall. To release running shed space and provide more undercover accommodation for routine loco maintenance the ASH project will also build a new maintenance facility over the wash-out pit and adjacent siding in the loco yard.
Plans for the Exhibition Hall include provision for footplate access by both pedestrians and wheelchair users to static locos, an exhibition of how steam engines work and a ‘footplate driving experience’ based on a mock-up of 0-6-0T No. 55 Stepney alongside the original 19th century ‘Terrier’.
Bluebell Funding Director Roger Kelly. "We are delighted by this endorsement of our Railway by the HLF. When completed we will have an educational and entertainment facility based around steam locos that will be accessible to everyone and unique in the South of England. There is now a lot to do to develop the project and to raise the matching funding to go with the full HLF award before a second round application for that grant can be submitted. We have a strong team ready to go, and the work starts now".
Head of HLF South East, Stuart McLeod. "We are extremely pleased that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to give the green light to this exciting project which will allow many more people to explore the history of steam locomotion."
Local MP, Maria Caulfield. "I'm delighted that the Bluebell Railway has been successful. The proposal is exciting and innovative and of great educational value. This will give everyone one more reason to visit the Railway and learn more about our wonderful heritage".
Chair of Lewes District Council, which is making a £1,000 grant to the development of the project, Ruth O'Keefe. “I am very pleased to hear the good news about the award made to the Bluebell Railway for its interesting and well thought out proposals for the Locomotive Exhibition. I am sure that it will be a great addition to what is already a very popular attraction. I really enjoyed my recent visit and am looking forward to returning to see the exhibition in place.”
Meanwhile, Bluebell Railway’s Operation Undercover Phase 4, an extension to the existing carriage shed and restoration workshop at Horsted Keynes, is progressing. A Cash For Cover Appeal to finance this project, aimed at getting 20 pre-nationalisation carriages presently in open storage awaiting their turn for attention under cover as quickly as possible, was launched last year ( http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2014/bluebell-dashes-for-cover / ).
Site clearance turned out to be a bigger task than initially contemplated but is now almost complete. Contributions to the Cash for Cover (C4C) Appeal plus money from the Bluebell’s Trust and a legacy received by the PLC mean finance is now available to complete Phases 1 (site clearance and enabling works) and 2 (erection of the supporting structure and roof) at a total cost of just under £500,000, including some contingencies.
A fixed price contract is being awarded to Robert Stevenson, a company experienced in erecting the desired type of structure with a start on site anticipated imminently. Steel fabrication for attached buildings (a mess room, offices, etc.) will be included in the work.
Remaining phases, including adding cladding/walls, a parts storage shed, mess room, offices, doors, full connection to the track system, and an enhanced power supply for the Horsted Keynes site, have yet to be finally costed – or funded. Clearly the addition of cladding/walls while the contractor is on site would be desirable if money can be made available.
In relation to track connection, while desirable long-term the immediate objective is provision of cover for vehicles awaiting attention, not carriages presently in service.
Bluebell Railway PLC has advertised the post of a full time general manager, a role not employed at the line in many decades. Details of trhe post can be found at http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/recruit/index.html . The closing date for applications is 12 noon on Monday November 30 2015.