Latest page update - Tuesday 21st February 2017

 

 FINISHING THE BLUEBELL RAILWAY NORTHERN EXTENSION - FROM NOVEMBER 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 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.
 

EIGHTH SET OF PICTURES FROM NOVEMBER 2012
 SHOWING WORK AT IMBERHORNE FARM CUTTING, EAST GRINSTEAD.

 

My first November visit and my first entry on this new page made on the 2nd, and we can see that the rails that were laid earlier in the week are being replaced with longer lengths which gives a smoother ride and saves valuable fishplates.
As the rail mounted crane hauls the short lengths away to be reused it's nice to see all the hard hats in evidence.
As soon as the new line is laid the rail mounted crane ventures onto it!
A look the other way shows mud, and more mud. Anyone considering visiting at present please note that the bridge is muddier than I have ever seen it before. Wear boots!
As you can see no progress today on the waste due to the wet conditions.

A video showing rail laying operations today is available here http://youtu.be/IGAP1pLpSeM 

 

Mid morning on the day after Guy Fawkes and there has been little progress since my last visit. The tip area itself is saturated but the drainage on the new line appears to be working well giving a virtually dry rail bed.

I managed to miss all the activity which for some odd reason started after lunchtime today. I unfortunately had an appointment this afternoon but will do my best to visit specially tomorrow. Knowing my luck it will probably be snowing!

 

A closer view.
This saturated moonscape is still blocking the route south.

I will try to upload a short video later today.

http://youtu.be/ojMZeM-R28Y

 

After missing the action yesterday I made a special visit today 7th November, to try and catch up.

So here from south to north we see at the southern end of the work electricians doing their electrical stuff.

 

This is the only stuff left blocking the way and in the far distance we see..
.. almost certainly the most interesting photo for ages.

There is a mesh laid on top of the rubbish and then a metre layer of clay supplied from the area of the next photo, is laid on top. Anyone got some grass seed?

 

Yes, right beside the entrance to the site some of the first clay that was laid down all that time ago is being transported across the site to act as the final seal for the waste.

Should look very neat and tidy soon.

 

This is the cutting viewed from the other bridge. The mesh is just visible on the left hand side. I must say the final result will be quite deep and is well above the bottom of the trees at the side.
Off for a well earned lunch.

As I was able to stand (legally) right beside the work today so there is now a new video at http://youtu.be/DuPzoxvlM94 

p.s. A new (second hand) video editing computer is on order! Thanks to my son for an early Christmas present.

 

A bitterly cold Friday 9th November and when I arrive the whole area is desolate.
Not for long however as a new 30' length is laid down.
The area covered with membrane (cost over 1 a metre) is getting even larger.
The next front cover of Bluebell News? Just look at the state of the ground just behind the photographer, the Railway expects to have steam engines going over this spot in less than 3 months time!
I don't think I would like to travel over these joints. Rest assured they will soon be replaced with 60' lengths properly connected!
Sometime you just can't rely on your equipment.

A 7 minute video that starts off slowly but ends with lots of interest at http://youtu.be/CSxeyLTZ3uE

 

Just two pictures to start the week taken in appalling conditions on Monday 12th. November. Here they are working in weather that would have stopped all activity previously. Moving rubbish that is quite dry.
One more taken before I was soaked by passing vehicles. Video at http://youtu.be/nJENbgXVv1M
What a difference a day makes! Tuesday 13th November and we can now see clearly the progress of the last few days.
The rainwater needs to be allowed to escape.
The digger in the distance is on the other side of the land bridge. That is all that is left to remove - unless the bridge is staying there for now.
Now looking from the other end of the cutting and with a close-up lens the blue and yellow diggers are "this" side, and the other digger is on the "far" side.
As you can see some of the track is almost ready too.
This is interesting. The ground is sodden but the track itself is perfectly ok. I don't think this part of the line will be subject to flooding very often!
Meanwhile more membrane is put into place on the eastern side.

Video of today's activities http://youtu.be/2oeHglKR_Z8 .

 

Thursday 15th November and a lorry pulls up to the Bluebell compound. What is it carrying?
Piles and piles of bricks, is the answer. What are they to be used for? They look to be "seconds" by the way!
Meanwhile work proceeds on several fronts at once.
This looks to be the final contour of the eastern cutting side.
This digger is working to finish the contour on the western side. You can see this better on the video.
After lunch and at the other end of the work they are busy burying drainage pipes. That's two lines of pipes as there is already a row installed under the track of course.
Just like a model railway, ready for the final onslaught.
Looking directly into the setting sun, the line is almost clear with just a narrow bridge in the way.

Dual video from today now on line at http://youtu.be/qWmoOJFMfzw

 

Just two pictures on Friday 16th November as you can see it was thick fog and I couldn't see anything! There was a full attendance however and work in the compound being completed.
This is the pile of rubbish that has been deposited beside the gate. As the way to the gate has also been cleared one wonders if they are going to move stuff that way later?
First pictures of the week (previous pictures here) taken on Sunday 18th November and a sunny day shows no change at the northern end.
Looking south however we can see some progress going into the narrow cutting itself.
The rails on the right await their place in Bluebell history.
I have pushed the contrast but even so it is difficult to photograph the work at the extreme distance.

There is a video taken today now available on YouTube at http://youtu.be/FtMclJhFWsY

Hopefully a full update tomorrow (Monday) afternoon.
Please bookmark www.railwaytrains.co.uk and look back then

 

In passing on Monday I snapped a couple of pictures of the new profile at the south.
Tuesday 20th November. Here is the nice smooth curve that now leads into the northern end of the cutting.
Dedication! A dreadfully wet day and well before 9 a.m. we find a gang of Bluebell volunteers hard at work laying drains.
For some reason they have laid a deep layer of ballast at the end of the present line. We can also see the gentle beginning of a reverse curve into the narrow part of the cutting.
Closer still and the ground is really, really slippery in this area. The Sussex clay does not give up easily!
Concrete is transported by the old fashioned method. There are several large piles of sacks of cement. I wonder what they use all the cement for? On some wartime sites you find cement that has set in the original bags where it was never used. With all the cement on this job I wonder if some future archaeologist will do the same thing?
This is the bridge from which most of the pictures are taken!

A video is available on YouTube at http://youtu.be/XkGFlWU9LAA .

 

On an absolutely foul 21st November we peeped in but the compound had the machinery stored away. The weather was extremely wet so this was hardly surprising!
Thursday 22nd November. After yesterdays apalling wetaher it is at least for now dry but extremely windy at the cutting. Several lengths of rail have been laid.
And the gang ready the line for another 60' length to replace two 30' rails.
Examining the joints, one supposes!
It is worth pointing out that the texture has not fared well and looks as though it may need more attention. Where it was laid earlier then as you can see it looks a lot better.

Next stop round the bend. I will though guess that the area is too wet for now for the next pile of rubbish to be moved.

This is a newly laid manhole. It covers I believe the electrical cable conduits.
My camera was literally nearly blown out of my hands at times but a 5 minute video can be found here http://youtu.be/_wrWEdPiYxU

 

Monday 26th November and the afternoon sees the road railer transferring ballast onto the side of the new line.
There 30' rails wait for the weather to dry out a bit.
The buffer stop is temporary and is in place to stop ballast wagons running off the end of the line!
A more general view on what can only be described as a soaking wet day.
Looking north the road railer sets off for another load.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dcuOoWnYxc has another video showing work on the extension this afternoon.

 

A bright sunny Thursday 29th November - above all a dry day. I thought that I could no longer be in Sussex. Following reports of an 18 wagon ballast delivery I had thought that I might see huge piles of the stuff. Looking north however I was wrong.
Ah, there is some here, it was transferred by digger yesterday. I can only guess if more has been deposited out of range of nosey lenses.
A glimpse at the blockage that is still like the rest of the cutting, completely saturated but probably drying up as there has now been a complete day without rain!
Off then to Imberhorne bridge and some markers show that work continues.
And finally a look south to show that there has been no more above ground work in this direction yet. This may be obvious but we can of course only photograph and report on progress that is visible.

More reports as soon as possible.

 

Friday 30th November and a view from an unusual angle showing the end of the huge pile of clay that sits between the cutting and the Council depot. For the avoidance of doubt the cutting is situated between the trees and the earthworks.

Update: I have just realised that this picture also shows the small bank that has been built on the eastern (near) side of the cutting. Theses are probably 2 or 3 metres high which makes the old banks much higher. You can see the small bank slightly to the right of centre behind the two trees.

It has always been difficult to convey the size of the work to those unable to visit which is what I am trying to show here.

You can see how high is the clay from the large Council building immediately behind. The land in this area is essentially flat, the large industrial building probably stands three or more normal stories above ground level. I still wonder at the original contractors moving so much "stuff" with wheelbarrows.

Looking at it another way these piles could quite easily be compared to an embankment on the London - Brighton main line. They are big!

This pile of bricks are all that is visible of the start of the water tower at East Grinstead station. We had been told that the foundations had been started but I looked quite carefully and could not see any sign of work starting yet.

I took a short video of the area too but that will have to wait for my next upload.


The tank itself which has yet to receive the attention of the builders. I don't know if this work needs to be completed before the first steam visitors.

Looking North to the end of the buffer stops at the very end of the Bluebell line. I still find the contrast between a heavily industrialised East Grinstead and the land just a few hundred metres south which is in the most rural beauty.

The fence that the camera is pointing trough is still to be covered with some sort of protection for parked cars from the steam efflux.

The new Network Rail East Grinstead station is just visible in the distance.

A new week and a new month finds a reasonably warm and above all dry Monday 3rd December. You can probably just see that they are adding another layer to the rubbish that is presently stored on the east side embankment.
At last a pump (or perhaps a siphon) has been installed which seem to be working well transferring water from one side of the bridge to the other. The flow was quite extraordinary for such a small pipe.
Closer the extra pile of waste that is presently being added to
To prove it is still there a look south. "Follow the yellow line" might be the song. (With apologies to the popular wartime song!)

I am sorry that I was unable to get to the north today but I did my old trick of listening carefully from my side vantage point and could hear no work. Maybe they were tiptoeing - I will now look and photograph properly on Wednesday afternoon.

So going from south to north on Wednesday 5th December. As you can see they are really getting there!
Now at the other end and no less than 6 machines at work.
Including two rail mounted cranes.
Well almost two, as a slight mishap (which I also show on this video http://youtu.be/ttJzLhq1Pyw ) needed a quick sort out. A few minutes later and some judicious twiddling and it was back on line.
Just to complete the picture looking north today. Video and more commentary soon.
Friday 7th December, does the earth bridge look different to you?
Well spotted! They are in fact making the bridge higher. Not sure why but as can be seen from these pictures they are taking clay from the mound at the side and depositing it on top of the bridge.
From the side they are taking clay from the pile at the side and depositing it onto the temporary earth "bridge" that connects the sides of the cutting.
Looking into the sun but little seems to have changed at the northern end of the cutting. You can certainly begin to see how the shape of the cutting will finish up.

The white, just beyond the buffer stops is the first stage of line laying where one expects to see a pipe and then ballast laid soon. The pipes are put on top of the white matting where they sink into ready dug places. That will be at least another 30' or 60' nearer Sheffield Park but also that much further from my lens.

Close inspection, as I do from my permissive spy place, shows that the tip just here is absolutely sodden.

 

Finally, and by request from one of our readers, a photo of one of the new mounds that have appeared beside the entrance to the Council depot. This appears to be composed of waste rather than clay. It's about as high as the eaves of a house.
Monday 10th December and I thought it worth taking a look to see any changes after the fairly dry weekend.
As you can see work continues but I was unable to discern any major differences.
This tracked truck got bogged down and had to be freed by one of the diggers.

You can see the end of the northern line and work beyond that. I wonder if another ballast train is due?

From the other end of the work.
At least the bridge is drying up but if this is an indication of the state of the tip itself there is still some way to go.

A video taken today is now on YouTube at http://youtu.be/foG_mXiJMhw .

 

Wednesday 12th December and from this end little seems to have changed. Ah, but what is that in the distance?
Closer, but we will need to see from the other end.
Now this is different, in just a couple of days the south eastern embankment has been covered in two layers of netting.
As you can see a lower thin net and a second thicker one.
Just the bridge, and a bit of stuff the other side in the way.
It is usually difficult to show how narrow this part of the cutting will be. It's about the same as the single line platforms at Horsted Keynes station but this is on a sharper curve.

Video showing today's work can be found at: http://youtu.be/sk132XthHY4

 

Two snapshots specially taken for readers in a rain storm at lunchtime today Friday 14th December. With the compound closed up there is little to report but this does at least keep you up to date.
Another Friday view, more as soon as the weather improves.

 

A new week on the 17th December and very quick work sees a large deep sump dug, laid and concreted at East Grinstead Station. This is of course in preparation for the new water tower that will be supplied in part by rainwater from the area of the viaduct.

It will soon become the centre of a hive of activity when steam trains are expected to run into East Grinstead next spring provided the rain stops soon as the remaining rubbish is very wet at present which makes access for machinery difficult..

 

The sump itself which is 2.1 Metres deep.
Further down the platform they are making up the new lines.
Now to the south and the new drain that has been cut out to go under the running line.
Further away work continues on the cut out to hold the 4 pipes that protect the electrical system. It's all go wherever you look.
Just for completeness a look north from Imberhorne bridge.
Tuesday 18th December and lots happening. Unfortunately not on the line itself which seems to still be very wet.
This is the most obvious recent change. A large scaffolding has been erected on both sides of the accommodation bridge. I am assured that the work teams can still get underneath for access to the waste extraction site.
No doubt to attend to these huge cracks that are on both ends of the parapet.
Further away work continues to remake the protective covering.
Some of the rubbish that will have to be removed soon if the railway is to achieve its aim of opening in the spring.
Now to East Grinstead station where work continues to make up the new lengths of railway line. The driver was moving the sleepers around like matchsticks. Very skilful.
Drilling holes in the end of one of the new lengths.
Here we can see the finished lengths together with work to make more. There is a longish video on YouTube showing this work in some detail.

The video is at http://youtu.be/M1yC7bC_hxw

 

On the Friday morning before Christmas work continues to remove the shuttering around the base of the new water tower.
The tank is 2.1 Metres deep.
This shows the newly removed side of the bottom tank which has been built to catch the water in the event of the upper tower leaking. I think that is what they said!
The shuttering is moved away and deposited further down the line using the rail mounted crane.
This will eventually be buried. I think I know where they can get hold of some clay to do the job!
The upper shutters are removed.
Other side of the base. There is also a video on YouTube at http://youtu.be/qUZlM1uk-hM May I thank the workmen for their cooperation during filming.
At the work site the machinery is all packed away for Christmas. The tipper being left up to save it filling up with rain.

 

We thought it might be helpful to take a look at the state of the works during the last week of the year so we made a special visit to the area to see the "state of play" on the Northern Extension. All the following pictures were taken on a rainy morning on Friday 28th December 2012 which has reduced their contrast - sorry. There are three months to when the railway hopes to open a public service. Can they do it?

Up to the accommodation bridge north of Imberhorne cutting the line appears ready to run, indeed we know that the line is well able to support heavy goods wagons so no problems there. We are not privy to the state of the wire connections for communications and signalling from here south however so we will assume that there is just under half a mile of "wires" still to be laid. Some of the cable run has already been dug out, some has not.

Now looking south from the accommodation bridge things seems to be a bit different.
Looking closer still we can see what must be described as a quagmire. If it stopped raining today we think that at least two, and possibly three weeks would be needed before heavy machinery could "get at" the rubbish still to be removed.
After that there is the job of replacing the bottom of the formation with clay which is also dreadfully wet and "squishy".
So now to the southern end of the blockage from Imberhorne Lane bridge again on Friday morning. As you can see the area is also waterlogged. We are not experts but wonder how this digger is going to be removed in such wet conditions? It got there by simply going down the side when it was dryer. This is just not possible at present.

For the avoidance of doubt as the photo is not clear we can confirm that the earth "bridge" between the two sides is still very much in situ. Probably 10 or so metres thick and tapering out each side this will also need removing.

 

Where access has been possible we can see that the job has been completed to a high standard, such as this embankment which has withstood more rain than anyone could have imagined possible.
This photo (again taken in rain hence the poor contrast) tries to show just how wet the area is.
Now looking south and the completed running line is just out of sight round the corner. Again running trains up to here represents no problem at all so we are only discussing the bit in the middle. Perhaps a third of a mile.

We now understand that work is starting next week to lay lines from this end as well. As the drainage is already in place this will keep the workers active while the tip itself is drying out - hopefully!

At least we can keep an eye on this area without negotiating the muddy lane at the Northern end.

So do we think the railway will open in a little under 12 weeks time? We will not speculate but if it does it would represent an achievement similar to building the pyramids!

This last pictures seems appropriate as it shows the barricades that are put in place to deter visitors vehicle access to the accommodation bridge. These can be swung out of the way, but the cutting has to be dug out!

Sorry there is no video report but there was really little worth filming that you have not seen a hundred times before. We will try to make another visit before the end of the year. If you see something happening that you think worthy of reporting please get in touch.

THIS PAGE IS COMPLETE - THE NEXT PAGE IN THIS SERIES CAN BE FOUND HERE

The next page covers events from the beginning of January 2013. The Railway still hopes to be able to open through the cutting in March 2013, and to speed things along are to start laying rails from the southern end - something that your correspondent suggested they did a month ago when he was loudly and rudely shouted down. Read what it says on Page 1 of this web site about our commentary often being right!

 

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