Bluebell Railway April 20, 2013

Visiting a Preserved Steam Railway.

The Bluebell Railway is Britain’s first standard gauge preserved steam railway. It dates from the early 1960s, and for more than 50 years has offered excursions over a scenic portion of former Southern Railway, ex London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. Today the railway runs from East Grinsted to Sheffield Park (south-southwest of London), and includes a relatively long tunnel.

Bluebell Railway.
Departing Kingscote behind a British Railways class 9F on April 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

Bluebell, like many of Britian’s steam railways, is a fully functioning preserved line, complete with stations, signal boxes (towers), authentic period signal hardware (including semaphores), engine sheds and lots of staff (presumably mostly volunteers), all of  which contributes to the appearance of an historic British railway. In other words, it’s like a time machine!

Bluebell Railway.
Bluebell’s staff wear period railway attire. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

On Saturday April 20, 2013 David Hegarty and I traveled from London by train via East Croydon to East Grinsted. It was a beautiful clear bright day. Bluebell had just recently reopened its line for connections to British rail network at East Grinsted.

Bluebell Railway.
New track! On April 20, 2013, our train from East Grinsted navigates the recently completed connection from the British rail network. After more than five decades of isolation from the British rail network, Bluebell is finally connected.

While not especially photogenic, I found the new East Grinsted transfer a big improvement for reaching the Bluebell. On previous visits, I’d hired a car and drove directly to Horsted Keynes—a mid-point station on the Bluebell. All things being equal, its nice to arrive by rail.

Engine driver on the Bluebell.
Enginemen on Southern Railway 2-6-0 1638 at Horsted Keynes. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

It was interesting to travel behind steam (British Railways 2-10-0 class 9F) over newly laid track. We spent a full day wandering up and down the line by train. At one point we went for a long hike following signposted footpaths to a known good spot (what friends like to call a KGS). I’d found the spot, north of Horstead Keynes, about 10 years ago.

Bluebell Railway.
Bluebell’s dinner train departs Sheffield Park on April 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

Biggest challenge to making photos on the Bluebell is their operating practice of locomotives facing north, which can present some difficult lighting angles considering most of the line is on a north-south alignment.

Bluebell Railway.
My known good spot: here a Bluebell train works the bank north of Horsted Keynes. Lumix LX3 photo.
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