Latest page update - Tuesday 21st February 2017

 

 CLEARING THE BLUEBELL RAILWAY EXTENSION CUTTING

SIXTH PAGE OF PICTURES SHOWING WORK FROM JUNE 2012
 AT IMBERHORNE FARM, EAST GRINSTEAD.

 

With the main rubbish extraction phase concluded the Bluebell Railway should now achieve its aim of reattaching itself to the main line at East Grinstead by spring 2013. Most of the money is available but if you can help please do still consider making a donation. For details www.bluebell-railway.co.uk . In the mean time we hope to continue to publish pictures of the work as it progresses. Please bookmark this page and look back frequently. There is a new YouTube appeal video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oBp6g5fI04

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 with an expensive 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 2012 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.
 

As you can see if you intend to visit the area you should be extremely careful where you park!

I can't walk far and have a special arrangement with a local landowner so that I can get near - you probably don't!

What a difference a year makes - click here to see what it was like just under a year ago.

O.K. we start not in June but it's Wednesday 30th May 2012 and despite the wet weather forecast it's another hot and sweaty day. They are removing the clay from the first "mountain" and transferring it to increase the height of the line south of Imberhorne bridge.

This just proves that I should not listen to people who claim to know about things. Some time ago I said that boards had been erected showing the new level of the line and was hastily shouted down and told that these boards do not show the finished height. I immediately corrected my copy. Guess what? They are now working to raise the level of the line right up to the original boards!

So the line will after all be quite high going under the bridge, much higher then previously expected by some people.

This is clay from the "mountain" being transported to the new running line with a bulldozer following it like a puppy keeping the road flat...

And being emptied there. It now seems that the eventual level of the line will be up to the top of the white sump that can be seen on the extreme left of the above picture and on some of my other photos of the area.

 

The nearest mountain is now almost a hill!

I earnestly suggest a look at the new video is now on line at http://youtu.be/mlMNKXbztys. It shows far more than these few still pictures

 

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A picture showing one of the new datum points just north of Imberhorne bridge. I had in fact wondered at first if this might be graffiti. Love the subtle, non-Southern colours!

Now into June proper it's Saturday 2nd and the smooth area will still need some more clay to raise its level up to..
... the top of this drain sump on the left hand side that has been sitting there being slowly buried for ages. If you look back at the older pictures this provides a firm datum and clearly shows the level change.
Looking the other way a lot of clay has been removed from further into the cutting, hidden behind the trees.
Anyone who thinks that the work is nearly finished can think again! Looking carefully and analytically at the cutting makes it clear that there is still a mighty lot of stuff left to move. The embankment on the right shows the planned contour and I can easily imagine this covered in grass, but the running line will be almost at the bottom of this picture.

All that stuff still to move and it goes well over half way into the tip at this depth then slowly tailing off down to line level where the present old loading ramp is situated.

It will obviously be finished but my uneducated guess is that there is 6 months continuous hard work needed before they can clear a level path through the area.

I have had a look from my vantage point and hope the railway publishes some pictures from the side, or from on high soon as this would be a clear way to show the membership what is still left to do.

D-Day 6th June, and the day that my spies suggested was the day that rail laying might start. Well it's very wet, and it hasn't! Today's pictures show that absolutely nothing at all is happening at the tip - yet again.

I have always been restrained about what I picture and believe it or not quite careful what I write but feel that it is now time to be slightly more argumentative and say that if the railway are to meet their deadline for reopening the line they need to get on with the work which does seem to start and stop very regularly. This can't be good for progress, can it?

We all want to see the line reopened. I in particular want to see it happen before I expire!

 

Looking the other way we can see yet more flooding (and some small clay falls) but perhaps this should have been anticipated and a temporary drain put in before the new access road was laid?

To explain further the tip drains down towards Imberhorne bridge and a couple of weeks ago it was decided to put in a new haul road by simply filling up the previously excavated cutting with clay from the side. (Not the first time that stuff has been put back where it was previously removed from). This new road has of course completely blocked all the water that drains from the tip area which has, as you can see, made a large quite smelly pool of water with absolutely nowhere to go.

My suggestion is that by burying a short length of plastic pipe (which was already available on site) the water would have drained into the already cut drain on the other side of the new road. Perhaps a good reason why this was not done, I am no expert more just thinking out loud.

So it's Sunday the 10th of June which means that, believe it or not, it's almost mid-summer time, yet nothing whatsoever seems to be happening at Imberhorne. Now I know that work is progressing elsewhere but I must say that to me a casual observer and others watching from the bridge, it's beginning to get a bit worrying that nothing at all has happened for yet another week.

Earlier in the year we were told that it was hoped to have the line laid up to the bridge by the end of last month yet work has not even started. Yes it has been wet, but a look at the long range forecast (as I have just done) shows that rain is forecast every day for the next two weeks and after that it's just "unsettled".

If the railway are waiting for "Summer" proper then they might be in for a very long wait, but the very latest Bluebell update says that track laying will start soon. I for one can't wait! (p.s. Since writing this they haven't started yet!)

 

It has been said that nobody is interested in reports of every sleeper laid on the extension (some hope!), well I disagree. If this were a railway that was a business then I understand that nobody outside the company would have any entitlement to be kept up to date. Perhaps just the shareholders who might be interested in the nitty-gritty of a major project. But the Bluebell is financed by individuals, in some cases paying a large percentage of their pension towards the work, and I think that they are absolutely entitled to be given as much contemporaneous information as possible. Hence this site.
Looking to the north of Imberhorne bridge we can see that the new pool is no smaller. I have other things to do this week but will do my absolute best to keep an eye on the area and will report as soon as I see or hear any work happening.

The latest news seems to indicate that work will resume very soon, I just hope it continues as these work stoppages are bad for my nerves!

If you want to know when the site is updated you are welcome to join my Twitter group. I only use this to advise of updates and important news - nothing else. If you join Twitter under a pseudonym then nobody will know who you are.

 

Been having an off list discussion with a member who says that the tip area is still muddy and impassable. Well sorry to disagree but these two pictures were taken today (Tuesday 19th June) and as you can see it's really quite dry at the tip. There IS still the swimming pool the other side of the bridge but that is not going to evaporate for ages and ages without the help of a large pump and this is not on the path of the present work. The "pool" WILL though need removing before the job is finished.
At last some real progress to report (which unfortunately did not last long as it started raining again)! It's Wednesday the 27th June and at the northern end of the cutting they are working to recontour the area. In the course of which they appear to be raising the level by at least 2 metres and maybe even more.
This is the course of the new route south.
Friday the 29th June and what looks like a lava flow from a volcano slowly approaches Hill Place Farm Bridge, it's stuff from the dump obviously!
Finally a mid-morning visitor at the very extreme of my lens seems to be either the tamper or rail mounted crane. It didn't stay long whatever it was!

More reports as soon as I see some progress to report.

 

Late on Friday the 6th of July and looking south from Hill Place Farm bridge we see little has changed in the last week.
Looking the other way however, wow what a difference! The rail line and siding have both been lifted and transported out of sight round the corner. So things are moving along, albeit out of sight without a walk and peer over the edge of the bridge. I am sorry that I was unable to video the work as it is both strenuous to do, and entertaining to watch. ;-)..

This leads me to suggest that the rail height is to be increased further north than the bridge. What are the "barrels" that have been left in the centre of the formation? They look like they are made of plastic.

 

Closer the ballast awaits a clear up squad who are I believe going to sweep it over to one side. Anyone want a set of slightly used points?
And finally the answer to a question that has been long wanted. This sign has appeared at the very northern end of the tip. So we now know that it is officially this length!

Alerted that "something is happening at the tip" on Friday 13th July I hurried over to find workers setting out levels and digging for drains something that looks badly needed seeing the state of the ground (see the video!).
This is the course of the railway that is predicted to reopen in just over 8 months time! The present railheads are three quarters of a mile apart, one out of sight behind the camera, the other a half mile further on from here.
Looking towards East Grinstead, again my prediction was right and the top of the ballast has been removed exposing the drainage.
A hole is dug and discussed, they seem to be located every 10 metres.

It's not for me to point out that with working heavy  machinery not one person on site was wearing a hard hat - so I will as I think it's important that valuable workers are not hurt! I think the workers forget that I am not the only person taking photos of the work, some look official and carry their cameras in briefcases. Others are scruffy old men like me!

This seems to be the new line of the railway and the levels indicate that there is to be a slope going "down to earth" near the old hut..
And finally another view to the North with the hut on the corner of the curve. Anyone want to superimpose a picture of a loco coming round the bend, or wait for the real thing? ;-)

I have filmed a new (somewhat shaky in places, sorry) video that shows the work in some detail. Look here to view http://youtu.be/And46_KzLG8 .

Wednesday July 18th and L&W are working to flatten and compress the waste layer. I presume to try to slow water getting into it.
One digger passes the excess up from rail level to the top of the embankment. The grass has really taken hold in the areas that have been untouched this year.

I have uploaded a long 15 minute video which is available on YouTube here... http://youtu.be/_sDOwchyU6o.

Friday 20th July. I guestimate in the new video http://youtu.be/_sDOwchyU6o today that the breakthrough (when the line is right through the waste) will take about a week. The weather forecast for next week is good so here's hoping!
This is the surface so far, the waste compacted. What looks like rocks are pieces of rag and other detritus.
Monday 23rd July and work resumes at the southern end under Imberhorne Bridge. Here is a look furthest south which is now nice and easy to view. Nearer the bridge we can see work of some sort that I must say looks like a new access way being set up. I doubt this personally but time will tell!
The afternoon of the same day and after a rest I find myself at the northern end of the work where a new temporary drain has been installed. At the same time the drains in the centre of the formation are receiving attention.
And just to cross the t's and dot the i's to give a starting point here is a general view at the state of the northern work on Monday 23rd July 2012. The slope of the formation is easily discernable by looking at the level lines to the left hand side. The slope seems to level out near where the formation narrows.

There will be another video of today's work available later today at...
http://youtu.be/WBQb3XCnG8s

 

The middle of the week on 25th July we can see that the clay is being deposited at the side and is then being well compacted so it seems the cutting is to revert to single - the way it was last year! I think this will look neater.
Three L&W machines here with the largest digger being used to help remove the barrier under Hill Place Farm bridge. There are old concrete sleepers being loaded into the lorry.
Where the unwanted bits are deposited into the lorry.

There is another video showing today's action here http://youtu.be/YxtFZhSkJzg

 

At the same time Bluebell workers do measuring and hammering! The sign says that they are 420 Metres from Imberhorne bridge.
Friday 27th July and I have NO idea what is happening! Let me explain, not a couple of weeks ago I watched as they spent the better part of two days spreading out rubbish and compacting it, pressing it flat. Now guess what? I was surprised to see the same stuff being lifted up again and transported back to almost where it originally came from! Perhaps they were just drying it out.
Looking the other way the lorry is bringing clay presumably to complete the formation. But where are they bringing the clay from?....
... The extreme other end of the site, where I watched them lift it and then drive past piles of clay with a lorry full of clay! Oh well!
.So here is the stuff that was compacted being dug up again and...
....placed in the lorry (the same one that brought the clay, remember) where the rubbish is then transported...
.... right back to the other end of the site!

I hope you are following this!!! ;-)

If not please look at the video which shows the cycle in more gory detail.

http://youtu.be/_oSgVA6ZMMg

 

It's Monday the 30th of July and after a busy weekend we can see some progress... not here actually, but look the other way. Before we do though I should report that there seems to be mechanical problems with the hired in plant with an engineer on site and much hammering - I was too far away to hear any bad language ;-)
Still looking the other way we can see that work has progressed at the very northern end of the site where the line looks almost up to its finished height they seem to be gradually working south.
Here the lorry drops another pile of clay and sets off back to the other end of the work. Does anyone know if the yellow board is the final height or one metre too high? I was told the latter when I asked before but they then went ahead and filled right up to the level of the boards
And back up the newly laid incline for another pile of clay that has the consistency of Plasticine. To my very untrained eyes it looks to be very wet and not able to bear much weight at present.

Last week they had an extra machine just to level out the haul road, perhaps this is the machine that has failed as the road is very, very rutted and difficult to follow. This lorry driver though seems to take it in his stride whilst being quite literally thrown all over the place in his cab.

There is another somewhat shorter than recent video available. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q64hZ39XOzk will take you there.

 

It's the first day of August 2012 and I am delighted to report that work seems to have started at the southern end beginning laying railway lines at last!

Looks to me like membrane and some sleepers, taken at the extreme range of my camera so less than normal definition, but from little acorns etc...

 

At the other end of the work we can see that clay laying has now reached south to Hill Place Farm Bridge.
While looking north the clay appears (and I say appears) to be almost up to the final level.
You can just see the clay here - lower left corner.
The reason why I was a little hesitant above is the new drain that has been laid. I just hope it is not to have clay laid right up to its top! If so there is another metre or so to go!

A video is available here http://youtu.be/t6b0eB1adw8

 

6 August: Looking north we can see that (to my eyes anyway) the area looks finished and ready for the next stage of installing drainage. Unless they are waiting for it to dry out and there is more clay to come? That's possible I would guess.

There is another short video available here.. http://youtu.be/7uXTg5ep_Xc

 

A quick look around on the 9th August.

Here we look south at activity in preparation for rail laying, they have now got at least 100 metres nearer to the bridge.

 

Now looking to the northern side of Imberhorne bridge. If you think this is a finished road - it's not! All this needs digging away as the final rail level will be approximately 1 metre below the bottom of this picture. It's only a guess at this stage but I expect the material from here to be put on top of the embankment to the right. There is just about room and waste material has to stay between the two bridges. The former clay capping can of course be moved anywhere.

You can also just about see that the digger on the left is rapidly lowering the height of the clay pile in this area. Don't worry, there is about 200 metres more behind this pile!

 

Up to the very northern end and looking over Hill Place Farm bridge we can see the drainage ditch has been dug with the pipes waiting final positioning. I think we can say that this will be the finished profile here.
Now south from Hill Place Farm bridge clay is gradually reaching into the narrow part of the cutting. The waste alluded to previously will probably end up on top of the left hand embankment.
A close up of the "smoother outer" digger bulldozer; looking at the exhaust it must be at least 15" diameter, the engine capacity must be enormous (perhaps a reject from a passenger liner. ;-)

Today's video shows this machine in action and is now available at
http://youtu.be/E1MMTE8tJ74 I can't imagine any other machine being able to deal with the sticky clay surface.

 

14th August 2012 and work progresses towards Imberhorne bridge.
Now looking far north we can see that the "road" in this area looks almost finished.
All that is in the way is this barrier, some 100 metres of rubbish still to be moved.

 

It's Thursday the 16th August and work at Imberhorne bridge appears to be to install some sort of infrastructure just before the bridge. Suggestions are a drain to take the run off from a nearby field while others email me to suggest a distant signal (too far and hard to see round the bend perhaps?).. Time will tell...

but, look round the bend....

 

... and it's quite exciting to see that rails are being replaced extending the line northwards towards the bridge. There will be lots of "cliickety-clacks" here as each rail length is just 30' at present although that may of course change later.
And one more for luck! The matting ends just before the bend into the bridge and can just be seen on the top of this set of pictures.
Here we can see that the first mountain of clay is no more. There is a video on YouTube at http://youtu.be/4PUWEFdoTb0
Monday 20th August 2012.

At first I was not going to update the photos today but after some emailed moans I have relented so here are some pipes being delivered at the southern end.

 

The rails are now nice and straight.
On the tip itself surveying was in progress.
Further north we can see how much the area has dried up and possibly ready for the rail crew?
And the very northern end of the works is also looking much more healthy! The drainage ditch is as you can see completely dry at present.
Two days later on Wednesday morning works continues.
Work repairing and preventing the reoccurrence of a landslip.
Thursday 23rd. August.

This is new, seems the Bluebell now has its own robot Mars Rover! This remote controlled device is used to compress the ground. Unlike it's Martian counterpart this device is diesel powered and does not have a nuclear generator or a laser on board!

 

The give away - this rover is human operated - albeit by radio control!

You can see a video of it in action here..
http://youtu.be/oFy7-6Ll8BM .I just wondered why such a sophisticated device was necessary?

 

A new picture from Thursday gives scale to the cutting - the man is on the top right of this picture!

"Five minutes looking over the wall at Imberhorne" video now available on YouTube. http://youtu.be/o6EIrUKaooc

 

 

A day after the August Bank Holiday on the 28th an important development is just about visible, see it?
Yes, the final contours for the cutting have been laid out and they confirm that there is still a fair quantity of stuff to remove. The curve continues right round the bend, indeed the other bridge should be clearly visible when it's all finished.
Look closely and you will be able to see the new curve and just how much rubbish will need removing to make it..
This is a close up of some of the waste and as you can see it's proper rubbish with rags and other stuff in it. My guess is that this is destined to end up on the top of the south eastern embankment.
A quick look the other way on Imberhorne bridge and we can see that either the digger driver was trying to build his own little moat or the drains are to go round the area where there have been falls in the past!
Nobody was working the diggers today and their compound was deserted but as usual the Bluebell team were hard at it on the new line.

It's been very wet over the Bank Holiday, let's hope this will not lead to more delays. More heavy rain fell in the area on Tuesday too. However looking at the long range weather forecast for the first two weeks of September seems to show a mini heat wave predicted for when the children return to school, perhaps there will be a further opportunity to catch up.

 

   

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