Latest page update - Tuesday 21st February 2017

 

 

 CLEARING THE BLUEBELL RAILWAY EXTENSION CUTTING - 2012

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 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.
 

SEVENTH SET OF PICTURES FROM SEPTEMBER 2012
 SHOWING EXTRACTION WORK AT IMBERHORNE FARM, EAST GRINSTEAD.

 

Monday morning 'up north on 3rd September 2012 and we can just see some Bluebell personnel laying out the new track.
These pegs will mark the way for the next 50 years!
At the southern end they are transferring material to even up the layout.
The lorry transports the material to the other side of Imberhorne bridge. Yes that is grass growing on the line of the track, in fact the whole area seems to have sprouted green lately!
The truck is refilled for its next journey down under Imberhorne bridge and onto the new formation.
I'm the king of the castle, the new highest point of the works.

Look here, this shows how dry the clay is now.

New video available here http://youtu.be/uJcIAiVMzPM This shows the dryness of the tip material now.

 

A glorious 4th September sees this digger emerge to travel down to the work site.
On the way please take a closer look at this tree which has been buried in clay for the best part of a year, shows how much clay has been removed.
So down at the other side of the bridge the digger starts to climb up to the repair area...
... getting there...
... almost there ...
.. O.K. let's go down again!
Meanwhile the Bluebell gang continue their work further down the track. Just what are they up to, seem to have been working there for ages!

A short video from today is now available.http://youtu.be/atISIftWiBU

 

You will notice that I have reduced the number of images today. It seems to me that uploading lots of pictures all showing basically the same thing is a waste of energy and bandwidth. Obviously I want to show what is happening, but I will be guided by your comments.

A beautiful sunny and warm Thursday 6th September and there is work going on all over the place! In fact there were no less than 5 diggers at work on the project today - plus the Bluebell crane further along the track!

Here they finish off the landslip while at the same time preparing the track bed for rails.

 

Looking the other side of Imberhorne bridge shows that a large amount of clay has disappeared from the top of the formation. The man on the extreme left gives scale; you can see that muddy tree that I photographed juat a couple of days ago in the background.
Whilst further away down the track the Bluebell team carry on doing what they have been doing now for quite some time.

I took a good look at the other (northern) end but there was no change from last week, route of the line laid out with blue pegs but no other action.

I'll keep my eyes open for you...!

 

A brief visit on Monday 10th September and summer has given way to autumn cloud.
At last! Work to remove the final "hump" is in progress! The haul road immediately adjacent to Imberhorne bridge has been completely removed and the embankment made up to match the rest of the cutting. Due to the height of the bridge parapet I have unfortunately been unable to picture this properly from the side. Perhaps someone with a long pole could help?
Here we can see the final contour of the eastern side of the cutting with the site of the old haul road in the immediate foreground. Right at the bottom right hand corner is the final level ready for the line, so it's not that far away!
Here just north of Imberhorne bridge the area awaits metals.

There is a new video here http://youtu.be/9o2TCVErLow

 

Tuesday September 11th and work continues with the Bluebell gang at the southern end of the site.
Looking the other way the hump that blocks progress continues to shrink. It's the large dark one in the background by the way. ;-)
With the rubbish moved from the centre onto the eastern embankment.
The same new pile of rubbish taken from the other end of the work, waiting on the farm bridge.
Looking at the western side of the cutting I am sure there is a plan to tidy up the area before trains run.
Thursday 13th September and an "awesome" scene of three diggers working together to empty out the cutting.
As you can see it's obviously too narrow to run trains here so I wonder if these rocks might be next in line for attention. I have no idea.
Three diggers hard at work in early autumn sunshine on Thursday morning.
As you can see there is a narrow gap here.
 
Finally, does anyone think that the railway should sell tickets to watch the work?

There is a new video available showing the work in progress at
http://youtu.be/bWnAohWAzdg

 

Monday 17th September and despite it being a bright and breezy day, I saw nothing mechanical happening during my visit to the tip today.
As you can see the rubbish has been piled high at the side of the new formation, perhaps temporally?
Just a little further round we can just see a yellow machine in the distance.
The two figures (see 'em?) give scale to the operation.
Here is that same yellow digger taken from the other end of the work.

Sorry with nothing happening it's a bit boring but there is a video available here... http://youtu.be/y_9A2YGmiIQ

 

Two new pictures taken on Tuesday 18th to show the two diggers at work today.
Sorry these are just quick snaps but do show progress.

A short video is also available http://youtu.be/EUZ1-VHjPmA

 

It's Wednesday the 19th and is that a stairway I can see? No the trains will NOT run up that sort of slope!

My guess is that this is being cut for the use of the visitors who are walking the line soon. Whether the steps will hold up to thousands of feet, time will tell!

The work today was to remove the clay from the side and literally empty it over the side where...
... the bulldozer smoothes it out. Pictures from my phone again, sorry for the lack of fidelity.

Friday 21st September and a new piece of equipment is visible, probably a lot to do with the men in hard hats who have been working there for the last few weeks. Right at the southern end of the tip site. I am not a signalling expert so can't identify what it is beyond a two aspect colour light signal, but the signage obviously shows it as pointing towards Kingscote!
A more general view of the scene on Friday.

And a close-up of the signal itself. Is that groups of LEDs that I see? How modern is this to have solid state luminaries.
Looking the other way I was not able to see any machinery moving but that is certainly a staircase in the middle of a rubbish dump! ;-)
It a different picture on Wednesday 26th September as several days rain has turned a happy busy scene into another one of desolation.

A charity "Track Trek" was planned for this weekend but has now been postponed until November. This I am afraid was an obvious result of the ground being absolutely waterlogged.

As I have commented before drainage in this area is badly needed, in fact this seems to be one of the wetter parts of the line which might yield enough water to refill a large locomotive. Isn't it downhill all the way to Kingscote? Perhaps one day the pipes from the centre of the cutting will be directed towards the viaduct which is part of the rain water catchment scheme for the new East Grinstead station water tower.

 

As you can see from a northern view the steps have started to disintegrate and will not now be used by walkers. This seems sensible as it is all rather slippery. I am reliably informed that the second northern "paddling pool" has reopened beyond this crossing point.
Another sad view. Again please don't shoot the messenger who got wet right down to his socks to get these pictures for you.

An update from the railway on Thursday says that they hope to have the entire line under ballast before the Trek takes place in mid-November.

With the weather we have had this year I would not be surprised to find a heatwave or a snowstorm on the day!

 

An unusual and unscheduled visit on Saturday 29th morning shows that the tip is completely waterlogged and there is a surprisingly cold wind today.
One more look at the southern work face.
All the machinery is put away until it dries up.
I wonder what these rocks are being stored for, a children's climbing area at one of the stations perhaps? ;-)
Finally on this Saturday some good news, these final two lengths of rail have been fully installed.

I took a short video of the scene which will is available on YouTube at http://youtu.be/cM7tjAo930Y .

 

A visit on the first Tuesday in October finds a wet and isolated tip area. Whilst it is wet I have seen the area much wetter in the past so hope that work may restart soon. Indeed this needs to happen if the published itinerary is to be adhered to.

To be fair I must report that the general opinion of the others standing looking at the work today was somewhat pessimistic as the weather forecast does not seem helpful for a dry work area in the next several days.

 

Just two men seen working this morning drilling holes in upright rail posts at the cattle creep.

The finished line, as indeed the rest of the completed work, is completed to very high standard but the long lens view makes the line appear to be wandering "all over the place" when it is really very straight. In fact I would guess we will all have a very comfortable ride when the line eventually opens.

p.s. For the sake of completeness I need to add that another visitor checked the northern end of the cutting this morning but reported there was nothing going on there either.

A look on Monday 9th October shows work has resumed on the banking near the accommodation bridge. Sorry, it was too muddy for me to be able to get over to see exactly what was happening here.

At least L&W are working which means that some work continues.

Tipping the camera down to ground level however shows that the area is still sodden.
And the other view shows Bluebell personnel hard at it in the heavy lunchtime drizzle.
A hospital appointment called for an early visit to the work on Wednesday 10th of October. Just in time to capture a group of Bluebell workers on their way in to work.
Looking North from Imberhorne bridge shows just a lot of mud unfortunately.
At the northern end we can see that a drainage channel has been cut and it is already taking some of the water towards East Grinstead.
Now this is interesting. You can see above and especially on this picture that the cutting is going to be narrow for more of its length.

It's not very clear but there is a second line of yellow markers on the right hand side making quite a narrow cutting.

 

Here they have taken away some of the embankment and flattened it out.

There is a short video at http://youtu.be/djK1yqDA5Ys

 

It's Friday 12th October and work has moved to the very far northern end of the site where they seem to be doing something with ditches.
"Follow the yellow paint line" as it shows the edge of the new railway!
Closer they sort and deliver those drains again. I'll tell you for free that there is a railway on its way round that bend. I reckon it will be in sight soon after the weekend!

Take a look at the new video from today.

 

Now looking south you can see they have again flattened out the path of the line.

Another visitor asked me today if I thought the railway would be ready by April  nest year, and I replied that yes, I thought it would.

 

These are the yellow markers that people said they could not see in my last set of photos!

There is a video showing some real diggers moving up on YouTube now at http://youtu.be/egoekMyBK9s

 

Monday morning 15th October and work progresses on two fronts.
To the north they are working on the new line and the drains.
Just imagine a steam loco in the place of the diggers. A beautiful place for a photograph in years to come!
A busy scene. I can recommend the video that is now available at http://youtu.be/HAn1XDRkEJ0 at least there is movement on the ground as well as camera shake today!
Thursday the 18th October and only one van in the compound means it's too wet to work - I can only describe the area as "wet"! The blue pegs seem to mark the centre line of the new track. They appear to have been moved over a bit since I last looked closely. It'll all grass over so should look fine when nature has added it brushwork.
A closer look at the drains which appear (and as you know I am no expert) to consist of a porous membrane and a pipe to carry the water away.
Now looking the other way we see yet more mud. Not sure what the line of poles represent but might be the line of the drains. In which case I ask if they can be installed under the running line?
Here is where the embankment seems to be being rebuilt.
This was all smooth and looked as though it might be ready for a railway line just a few weeks ago. How the weather can change things!

 

Midday on the 22nd October shows the Flying Scotsman coming round the bend with an 8 coach train on the newly opened double track section of the Northern Extension.

Well it might do - the mist was so think a man can dream!

 

One snap showing non activity on the same day on the other side of the bridge. I measured the remaining spoil that needs to be removed before there is a clear path through the cutting and it comes out at about 110 Metres. None at full depth of course.
Thursday 25th October and work progresses on several fronts today. Here we can see the Geotex material being buried along with the drains hopefully never to be seen again!
Wet, what wet? We have been told that work cannot take place when the area is wet. Well they have obviously found a way round this or have perhaps changed the rules. You will see on the video just how wet the area is!
Another load of ballast is delivered to the site.
It is brought from the stockpiles out of sight near the viaduct.
A more general view this morning.
The long pipe is buried under the track where it connects with the uprights that can be seen every few yards.
Gone, never to be seen. The pipe is right alongside the track so it should stay dry in the worst of weathers.

I have taken a long video today which will be on YouTube at the following address http://youtu.be/OlStLKLt1Ng

 

Just realised that I had not included a general picture looking north. So here one is! You can see how the ballast has been flattened out from previous views of the area.

 

It's Saturday the 27th October and in a biting north wind a quick squint over the parapet shows the diggers lifting spoil from the ground up to the eastern side.

At least the men in the cutting work in a slightly less exposed area.

 

One lifts and deposits higher up where the second excavator tidies up the embankment,
And a final quick look.

There will be a video later which once again shows the work far better than these still images.

It also features a surreptitious look at the clay earthworks just visible on the left, that will also eventually need removal. This was taken from a moving vehicle but does, I hope, give an idea of the amount of clay still on the site.

YouTube video http://youtu.be/MEf6_aMD67E .

 

 

A very bright Tuesday 30th October and there is apparently no change looking north but in fact the site has been laser levelled and 100 Tonnes of ballast moved!.
To the south side of Hill Place Farm bridge a look right into the cutting also shows excellent progress, in fact if it were not for the bridge between the two embankments one might say they are nearly there!
The earth bridge is just a little further on.
Obviously a lot of sorting out to do but if you look...
... from the other end you can see that they are working the diggers almost up to the other side of the earth bridge.
The staircase does work but is very slippery. I don't think it will stand up to several thousand feet on the Track Trek!

I wonder if the Railway will arrange a public "break through"? Filmed from the ground it might look quite spectacular! I know the bridge is staying there for a bit but its removal can't be that far off.

I have a video of the digger drivers really struggling to climb up a slope in the mud. Their tea break beckons, recommended. http://youtu.be/sMdQIhuZO9c

 

Halloween, and although it is far too muddy to work on the cutting proper, work is in progress to lay the new permanent way at the northern end.
A new 30' section is delivered.
And rapidly placed in position. That's 30' less to do.
You end up with a nice new stretch of track... which they then take up again!!! See 2nd. November update. There is in fact method in their madness.
Sometimes you just can't get it to start!

A video is available at http://youtu.be/b-qtap7XWAo where you can see just how windy it was today!

 

As it's the end of October 2012 I am going to declare this phase of my reports closed and move on to a section that I will call "Finishing the Cutting".
You can see the next set of pictures on this page. Hopefully the new page will cover events until the new permanent way is fully laid, just leaving one further new page to cover the final construction and the Grand Opening!.

 

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