Latest page update - Tuesday 21st February 2017

 

THE NORTHERN END OF THE NORTHERN EXTENSION CUTTING

With the main rubbish extraction phase concluded the Bluebell Railway can achieve its aim of reattaching itself to the main line at East Grinstead by 2013 if they get enough money! They need well under 1 million now so if you can help please do consider making a donation. For details www.bluebell-railway.co.uk . In the mean time I hope to continue to publish pictures of the work as it progresses. Please bookmark this page and look back frequently. There is now an appeal video here: http://www.youtu.be/1HDeMmn-0J8

Page 1 - April 2011

This page will now concentrate on a quick summary of the work to date and newer picture - the old page can now be seen by clicking here

This page records my pictures of the Bluebell Railway's attempt to reconnect the 9 mile long existing line with the main railway at East Grinstead in Sussex. If you are not familiar with the Bluebell area then it's a little complicated so here is my (very simplified) explanation. When the Bluebell decided to try to reconnect it was faced with a virtually clear but heavily overgrown track from its existing terminus at Kingscote to the main line at East Grinstead - just two miles away. The problem was that more than 30 years ago as a young man I watched as one cutting was filled up with 100 thousand tonnes of domestic waste. This was accomplished by waste wagons backing up to the edge of the old cutting and then simply opening up the back and dropping their waste over the side. Other waste arrived by road and was very basically sorted then pushed over the edge by a sort of pump device. I am aware that some people give other descriptions of the way it was done but I was there and together with my late father we watched the work being done! They did not even bother to remove the ballast from the old track - indeed some old sleepers were left behind and buried under the first tippings.

After much provocation and delay after a trial by road, the Bluebell decided to remove this waste by rail which meant that they first had to build a line south from the main line railway at East Grinstead to the tip face. Next they transported trains of wagons to the tip face, filled them with a digger and transport it all away to another dump. So there are really at present two Bluebell Railways - one is the original track running to the south of the blockage and a second line over half a mile long running south from East Grinstead to the north of the tip located near Imberhorne Farm. The Bluebell passenger station at East Grinstead was rebuilt and opened last year - this has confused some people as it was not really made clear that the new station did not serve any others! We hope the two lines will be rejoined soon with a new golden spike as used by the early American railway pioneers. This page records work removing the waste by rail. To see the pictures in more detail just click the small view below.
 

Before we start a warning! Keep out of the cutting. There is a footpath on a bridge that crosses the line. Best use that to see what is going on. At present the footpath is extremely muddy and Wellington boots are to be recommended. There is NO PARKING anywhere near the work so if you have not made arrangements with a local resident as I have then you will have to walk. Please do not park on the nearby private ground or block entrances. The local residents have enough to put up with so let's give them some space. OK.

Obviously when the work progresses it will eventually be visible from the next road bridge that crosses the line 300 metres further on.

 

Warning! Keep out of the cutting. There is a footpath on a bridge that crosses the line. Best use that to see what is going on.

When you visit the site you have to walk down a public footpath. Some people don't bother - they drive which blocks access and upsets the neighbours.

 

This is "before" how the tip was before work started. Use it to compare and contrast how much spoil has been removed. This picture was taken a few days before the work started.

A visit on Sunday 20th February shows another length of track squeezed in. There is now probably just enough track to stable a loco and 2 coaches on the southern side of the bridge!

A visit on Sunday 20th February before work starts shows another length of track squeezed in. There is now probably just enough track to stable a loco and 2 short coaches on the southern side of the bridge!

That's it! All done and you can see the progress here on the last day of operations - but with no more trains due -tidying up is in progress.

The view from above the new line so that you can compare.

And from the other side so nothing is hidden! Anyone got some grass seed?

Two piles of reclaimed metal parts, one here..

... and the other here. Amazing how quickly they rust up once exposed to the air. You can almost see them discolour as you watch!

There is just about room for another short length of track - perhaps 12 more sleepers length but the area is still completely surrounded by spoil.

It's the Tuesday after the last train has left and we can see that the spoil loading ramp is being thinly earthed over. Anyone got some grass seed?

Looking at the other bank we can work out the total gained in the three and a half weeks of extraction. Work started at the green patch in the centre of this picture. the scar and grass strip on the right is from an earlier extraction. There is apparently now 250' (76 Metres) of track south of the bridge. Look at the top of this page to see how it looked before work started.

Now this is interesting as a bit more rail has appeared. I reckon four trucks could stick out from under Hill Place Bridge with perhaps just the buffers of the fourth truck still hidden. Looking on the ground it is easy to see that the new rail is curving over to the left far more than expected, apparently it just needs straightening out. If only a "loading ramp" could continue all the way it would save a small mountain of extraction - that's a sort of joke by the way as the whole of the rubbish needs to be removed!

The earth capping heaps have been landscaped and look to be semi-permanent.

A close up of the capping which is well over 1 Metre deep...

..and here you can see the problem. the complete height of the tip that is yet to be extracted - it is considerably over 300 Metres thick too. That is one huge lump of rubbish! The line at the bottom is of course standard gauge i.e. 4' 8 1/2 " wide so the approximate total height can be worked out.

After 4 weeks work my calculation is that there is still about 355 yards (that's about 325 Metres) between the present rail heads. It's impossible for me to be more accurate as the cutting is curved and exact alignment will only be known when the bottom of the cutting is found.

The railway says that it needs over 2 million to complete the job, and the extraction phase has to be completed within 1 year or the price will skyrocket.

A visit on Sunday 20th February shows another length of track squeezed in. There is now probably just enough track to stable a loco and 2 coaches on the southern side of the bridge!

Two pictures showing before and after nearly 4 weeks extraction from roughly the same place. This is what 18 trains, 4 diggers, a tracked vehicle and several dozen men have achieved in all that hard work. This hopefully put the rest of the job and the time that it will take in context. Perhaps more importantly it gives an idea of how much rubbish fills 18x18=324 railway trucks. Obviously only the rubbish will have gone north, the capping - which is quite substantial, and is not required to be specially disposed of - has been deposited around the site for now.

It's Thursday 7th April and we have visitors: two locos and the Bluebell electric train "Gordon Pettit".

Less than half a mile from a busy town and supermarket with the trees coming into leaf the area is quickly becoming extremely photogenic. Until that is the leaves block the camera!

A closer view.

Looking at the cutting we can see the tidied up loading ramp.

A digger and truck at work too!

The site of the next batch of loading.

Primroses are aplenty, but no bluebells to be seen yet!

Just after lunch on Friday 8th April and it seems we were only here just a few days ago. Already the special spoil train has been filled (it came down yesterday) and is ready to be joined to its other half.

If you look carefully there is a blue plastic fence waiting to keep the visitors off the track.

The view looking the other way.

Three items of plant in operation, two diggers and the "snow cat".

Just managed to get them all in the viewfinder. Four trucks now comfortably fit under the bridge...

....in fact four and a half trucks!

Another view taken after the train has been filled.

And one more for luck showing the general scene before the public arrives on the scene.

I must say that after a full 18 trucks have been filled it is difficult to see the difference from yesterday. Just shows how much, or little rubbish fills up a train.

Tuesday 12th April and we can see the blue fencing that was erected for the recent open evening

It's looking really nice now the leaves are coming out

The complete extraction shown here

A close up shows a digger at work on the capping

It's now a month later and the tip is sitting there waiting for something to happen. In the mean time the dust blows but otherwise it's all looking rather dead. What a waste of beautiful dry weather.

Looking the other way we can see a much more mature view than a few weeks ago.

And from the other side, the extra piece of rail is nearly buried. I wonder how long that will stay there?

The embankments await the arrival of the inevitable weeds.

 

At East Grinstead station a new road/rail digger sits on the tracks.

Getting it onto the tracks was a long job involving brute force and some language!

Two machines through the fence as I left, don't know if both are staying.

It's much easier to show the operation in moving pictures so I am uploading videos to YouTube. Some links are below, but there are plenty more. Sorry some are only short and 4:3 but show what is needed nevertheless. Yes they are all similar, but I don't know of any other easy way to show the progress of the work.

There is a short video of the first days work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_7f7h9DwCM
Video of wagons arriving on Thursday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDKPuXZYd7E
Thursday, two videos giving a better impression of the scale of the work
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7UAutCRqR4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttpAtbrP5q0
A look at things on the first Saturday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb0xTLWotZc
Now "proper" videos showing various angles of the work at the tip. Give a better idea of the scale of operations. I'm sorry they are so poorly edited - my editing software will not work with Win7 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F0gMoC2ERk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejNbEyCM9AE
Latest video taken on Friday showing more diggers digging! Enjoy if you wish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfQrbCle4wY
A 40 minute good quality video showing the shunting and digging operation that took place today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZw2FVv_xc4
An amazing video showing how skilled are the digger drivers. When confronted by a mountain of rubbish, nothing stops them! Watch and enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpKzEV_wGS8
Putting a road/rail digger on the line at East Grinstead Station. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCnmkYaab5s
   
   

There are many more videos of this work on You Tube to see them please click any of the above links and then look at my other videos.

Remember all the still pictures can be downloaded in better resolution just by right clicking!
Please contact me first if you want to reproduce these pictures elsewhere.

Return to Bluebell Photo Index Page

 

 

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