Latest page update - Tuesday 21st February 2017

 

 

 CLEARING THE BLUEBELL RAILWAY EXTENSION CUTTING - END PART OF 2011

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 only need about 500,000 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. There is an appeal video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oBp6g5fI04

This page contains recent pictures of the work to date and newer pictures - 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 over 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 during the later part of 2011 which is a very important time as the work must be progressed for the railway to ever get back. To see the pictures in more detail just right click and save the small views below.
 

FOURTH SET OF PICTURES FROM THE SECOND HALF OF 2011
 SHOWING EXTRACTION WORK AT IMBERHORNE FARM, EAST GRINSTEAD.

PLEASE BOOKMARK. I WILL TRY TO UPDATE REGULARLY WHILST WORK PROGRESSES.
IT'LL BE A TIGHT SQUEEZE TO FINISH BY NEXT MARCH 31ST!

 

To start off this new page here is a view from a different location on 8th November 2011, the site of the new council waste depot. What I am trying to show is the huge pile of capping material that is in fact as high as the roof of the average house! When you look from the bridge which is 100 metres away you don't always get a fair idea of the size of the cutting.
The other side of the new building which shows the old building to give some sort of scale to the piles of capping. I doubt that these could stay here for a protracted period as surely drainage would be an issue?

 

A very misty Remembrance Sunday 13th November, and in the early morning we can see that some of the waste has been piled up at the southern end of the work. It will all need hauling north to be deposited in the wagons soon.
It's quite hard to see but this pile is not on the "ground", that is some metres below. This pile is on top of a slope that goes under Imberhorne bridge and down eventually to rail level. I had wondered if there was some idea to lay the rails on a higher level than previously but I honestly doubt that less powerful loco - or large trains - could climb the slope shown here! It might look level in this photo but it is not! There is a white line on the far side and that is level.
One of my correspondents suggested that the waste might be measured in volumes equivalent to the average 3 bedroom semi. This is a sensible suggestion but I don't think you will like the analogy. I very roughly calculate that it takes three or four loaded trucks to "empty" the average living room, That being so the small pile here is equal to at least two semis! There are another 200 metres of this stuff round the corner and again it's not on the ground.
Here we can see that what appears to be a new haul road has been built on the "other", Council side of the cutting. Either that or it's the top of the beginning of the new embankment.
On the eastern side we can easily see the huge rocks that make up the cutting face here.

Monday the 14th November, the first day of what is announced to be the last batch of waste trains this year. Without being too negative I hope the Bluebell are right.

Here the loco sits quietly at the edge of Sainsbury's East Grinstead car park. Just imagine if this were a steam engine on a Saturday!

Very misty but the weighing scales still go in at Imberhorne.
The tip area and approach roads are wet - very wet.
First two wagons filled before 1pm but were unfortunately very overweight so had to be shunted back and sorted. As more than three complete scoops had to be removed from each wagon I wonder if this might be because the waste is so wet.

That being so it would inevitably take extra trains to empty the dig. Would it have not made sense to borrow the money and completed the work in the warm dry summer months?

Just one extra train costs at present 24,000. The interest on a 250,000 loan would not have been as much as just one extra train!

The way to Sheffield Park is through the "hills" on the left hand side of this picture.

Just one digger doing the honours at present.

A general view of the normal northern end of the cutting taken on 17th November.
I thought this close up of the embankment might enable someone to tie up a feature photographed from the other end - see below.
Southern end digger load the truck.
From the Imberhorne bridge end I wanted to show the embankment behind the machines. I hope someone will be able to study it and then tie up a feature shown from the other end above. Again if you have not visited this may help show in your minds eye an overall view of the area.
Looking to the very south we can see that even more capping has been deposited on the access down from road level. What shall this area be called? The rocky cutting? Sure someone can come up with a better name!
Here from the side a picture showing the depth of the cutting under Imberhorne bridge which is just on the right.
Sorry, because of the light and shade in the cutting I have had to retouch this pictures contrast, but it does show "rail level" (at the very bottom of the picture, then up the slope and then the tip itself. Hope this gives some more scale to the job.

This is the same area one day later and shows the amount of waste removed in one day.
Now I wonder if this might be a problem. On the right hand side of the cutting we can see newly exposed rocks. If the railway are intending to run the line further over than previously these rocks will have to be removed. You probably can't see easily but there is the newly exposed embankment at the back of this picture then another - this time in line with the bridge edge. This nearer embankment has all the rocks in it.
Looking closer we can see the pile of rocks more clearly here.

Monday 21st November, one week in and 9 trains to go. The light was awful looking straight into the sun so apologies for the quality.
What on earth? This picture taken from the north shows a truck on the road going over Imberhorne bridge! Getit?
It must be midwinter as diesel powered light have appeared on the scene. Again taken direct into the sun, sorry.
The rubbish is very mixed up, I saw this come out of the ground and it was clay and rubbish all mixed together so that is what goes into the train. What a waste!
Now from the other end we can see the extent of the work, there is a lot gone but still a lot more there still to be moved.
And to give scale slightly closer we can see a person! Can you see him? The man is much nearer than the digger so seems very tall. Now do you see the size of the work?! By the way this is NOT the ground. The level section seems to be part of a "road" that is some 3 - 4 metres off the rail level which is under the bridge down the slope..

Half way through this train set on Wednesday 23rd November we can see progress at the north of the cutting. For whatever reason there was just one truck running reducing the quantity of rubbish piled up ready for loading on the train.
We can also see the diesel power lighting rig.
Now the other end of the work and it seems that there is about 8 or so metres of progress each day. That is half height progress as there is still a road about 4 to 5 Metres deep on the line.
Yes a lot more stuff to go as two Bluebell people examine progress and give scale to the work.

A quick stop at Imberhorne on Friday 25th November shows progress from yesterday. I have asked and it seems that much of what is left in the cutting is assumed to be clay that can be disposed of around the railway. Good job then.
As you can see they are almost out of sight round the bend (or is that the photographer?). Two diggers at work as the train was late arriving due to congestion on the route.
At East Grinstead station a fuel bowser awaits the loco. I asked and it's normal Red Diesel as any tractor would use. See I do sometimes think to ask the right questions!
The train arrives and stops at the boundary to collect what seemed to be two permissions to travel on Bluebell metals and more importantly one cup of tea for the driver! If you look at the YouTube videos you can see what happened to the tea cup later on. Oh the minutia of the information here.
Framed by its fuel supply the train slowly moves onto the viaduct. As you can see the light was rapidly fading.

Tuesday of the last week of this extraction the 29th November and three pictures really all showing the same thing - that work is progressing. It does appear they are going down rather than over as there seems to still be a large pile of stuff out of sight near the middle of the tip.

Nearest to the camera at the bottom of this photo is almost down to rail level!

Same scene, but if you compare this picture with the one higher up the page  taken last week the progress into the tip does seem to have slowed which is probably because they are removing waste further into the cutting.

General view from Imberhorne bridge on Wednesday 30th of November 2011. The actual work is going on round the corner.
I hope you will forgive my drawing on the pictures but I have received messages saying that people can't understand what I mean about a pile of waste being left. I have therefore drawn on this picture to show the approximately 4 metre deep pile and approximately 45 degree slope that still exists at the southern end of the work.

Nearest the camera can be considered to be at almost rail level - indeed this section has moved several tens of metres into the tip recently - but the rest will still have to be moved before rails can be laid.

Further into the tip work is going on to remove the upper section of the rubbish - as you can see the digger is working to its maximum reach to load the one truck that was running today. The lower part of the work is the upper part of the slope shown above.

Hope that makes sense!

Now back to our old haunting ground the northern end of the work as we can see two diggers, one dump truck, one set of lights and a large tank of red diesel to make it all work! The tank of diesel is sitting about 3 or so metres in the air on the line of stuff that still requires removal to elsewhere on the railway with any remaining waste going north to the outside landfill that is presently being used.

The railway will eventually go down this side of the cutting and then continue to Sheffield Park, Newick, and eventually Lewes. ;-)

Closer to the work using a long lens we can see a literal hive of activity. I have a longer video taken here which I have uploaded to... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69xiLPMGKqA
Looking north for a second we can see the scales out ready to weigh each wagon in and out so a train is expected to arrive soon. I had wondered if the strike might delay things today, but apparently not.
Just out of interest we can see that they are really getting on with  the other project in the area; the new rubbish and waste centre for the Council now has a roof.
I must suggest again that people don't park here as it is private property, we can see that the road is blocked for the farmer in his tractor when it has machinery attached. I have not seen this car before so it may possibly be the house owners very badly parked but I don't think so as the local people are usually much more careful to park off the track around here.

It's Friday 2nd December, and they are clearing up and apparently preparing to send the well used loading bay north away to oblivion!
Slightly closer we can see (and the video shows this clearly  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-xfzwrq_rs ) that they have finished removing waste from the southern end for now and are concentrating to the north. Perhaps some rails are to go in here soon?
So it's back to Imberhorne bridge where we can see that there is still a deal of waste requiring transport north (or perhaps just elsewhere?!) but with another week of trains planned there is obviously a lot more rubbish to be moved north.
Closer we can just about see that the pile on the right hand side of the trench is obviously waste which should be removed during next week while on the left of the trench they are possibly down to clay. Rail level is where the puddle is.
I have again taken the liberty of drawing (badly) on the picture. It is very difficult to see so I have put in a few lines. The red section marks what appears to be stuff still to be removed that looks more like clay to me. The yellow dotted section marks what appears to be "waste" still to be moved, while the green lines at the bottom mark the line of the cutting that appears almost finished - well sort of! I may be wrong and am just trying to make things clearer as I know it is hard to see the difference on my pictures. Use the picture above and ignore this if you wish!
Just to complete the scene a quick look over the other side of Imberhorne bridge shows, er.. more mud!

Monday 5th December. So an unexpected extra week of trains are planned (although no sign of the wagon weighing scales out yet) and work starts in a completely unexpected place, the edge of the incline which I think most people thought was finished and wide enough for trains to pass.

You can see how cold was the weather and how warn is still the waste (microbes must be having a field day) as there is steam everywhere in the cutting. In fact the first steam in the cutting for many years!

Slightly closer and photographed straight into the sun but we can still see the "moonscape" where work continues.
Just one  more view of the steam which rises high above the work and hangs like a mist in the air.

Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl38F1teNFI .

This one dump truck is bringing the spoil from deeper into the cutting where the far excavator can just be seen at work. As predicted the loading ramp has almost disappeared, it's just a couple of feet high now. I am sorry but I was not able to stay to watch how they load the train from this lower angle.
To complete the picture just a quick stop on Imberhorne bridge we can see that nothing has changed from last Friday although in this light you can see the deeper half trench on the left that reaches right down to the base of the pile. I suppose even these men can't be working everywhere!

6th December and the train is being loaded.
 
Wagons are noticeably less full as the contents are so wet.
The loco does its usual shunting manoeuvres.
As you can see a lot of metal waiting to be moved, not sure if the skip was found in the tip! ;-)
The waste is very varied at present, and very wet too.

Friday 9th December, supposedly the day of the last train but the loco was needed by others so no work today! This therefore is probably how the cutting will look for a little while.
Slightly closer and we can see that the moonscape is still there but work proceeds.
As you can see the loading ramp is back so are more trains expected? If you look you will see that the edge is now contoured. Am I reading too much into this "clue"?
The pile of scrap metal gets larger by the day.

 

Just before Christmas on Monday 19th December we take what is probably the final look at the tip for this year. Here to the south we can see that there is still a quantity of proper waste (rather than clay capping) that will need to either be moved or disposed of by train before the deadline in April next year.
Just one more glimpse over our shoulder as we depart the southern end of the tip.
Up north we can see that little has changed except...
... a sheet of material like stuff has been placed on what used to be the loading road.
A close up shows the edge and that this is indeed material of some sort, perhaps an experiment to see if grass will grow through? There is certainly sufficient moisture at present.
And finally, finally a look to the north where the 11.05 East Grinstead to Sheffield Park is heading this way, just around the bend.
   
   

 

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