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Bluebell Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Jamessquared, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    Why "unfortunately"?
     
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  2. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    Probably because the owner is a Brexiteer. :D
     
  3. simon

    simon Part of the furniture

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    Because I, personally, don't like Weatherspoons pubs and only drink in them when I'm with a group of people, who, for unknowable reasons, like them. Other opinions are available.
     
  4. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    Ah. I think you'll find its because the beer is less expensive.
    Personally, not my choice of venue either, but any business which provides a service, and people with an honest living has my blessings.
     
  5. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    With regard losses, my understanding is that a significant part (about half) relates to depreciation charges on new infrastructure. In particular, by my reckoning there has been over £4million capital investment in the Sheffield Park (Woodpax) carriage shed; ASH; the new Loco Maintenance Shed and OP4 at Horsted Keynes. The combined depreciation on those represents about half the annual loss. By contrast, the revenue savings from those projects don't easily show up: for example, OP4 prevents further deterioration of carriages awaiting overhaul, but those will have largely negligible capital values and therefore no saving from arrested depreciation (but probably a large saving in future overhaul costs, whenever they arise). So preventing further deterioration is important, but generates no tangible financial value. The question for those looking at the loss is to ask whether the railway is better or worse off as a result of having made the provision for undercover storage it has?

    The other point, as has been pointed out, is that you need to look at the financial health of the group, not just the operating company: the PLC makes losses, but is subsidised by the membership body via loan (and periodic conversion into shares) of the surplus from subscriptions.

    As for the OP's post: the issue is that it is a wishlist, but like all wishlists, it reflects one individual's biases, and doesn't consider the question of "if we didn't do X, what would inevitably change as a result?" For example, the OP seemed to complain that the opportunity to install a (totally non-authentic) turntable was spurned, yet thinks the idea of an extension along the original trackbed to Haywards Heath is "daft". Now, there are arguments for and against both projects, though both will require considerable capital investment for uncertain revenue return: whether you prefer one, both or neither might be personal preference, but to argue for one costly non revenue-generating project (the turntable) while simultaneously complaining about the railway making a loss seems illogical; equally so to be wishing to add an entirely unprototypical feature at HK while complaining about development at SP. As for Kingscote - maybe the OP hasn't visited recently; my sense from the footplate is that the installation in particular of a small children's play area there has led to a marked increase in the number of people who get on and off there, particularly families. The absence of parking has been part of the planning conditions since day 1. Now again, maybe you don't like the playground, but it seems odd to then complain that there is little reason to alight at Kingscote. Long term, the goods yard project will further enhance the station - the strategy for the whole line seems to be about developing reasons to alight at each station (ASH and the museum at Sheffield Park; the Children's play coach and C&W viewing area at HK; goods yard project and playground at Kingscote) - reading between the lines, it also looks like the idea is to try to find a combination of things at each station that means a family of granny and grandad taking the grandchildren for a day out all find something when they alight.

    Which is not to suggest that there aren't things that could be done better, but we have to avoid the kind of "cakeism" that simultaneously wants a sleepy rural branchline, yet also wants that branchline to make money; and do it without any investment in maintenance or storage facilities! There's also a bit of selective memory going on: for example, during the 1970s and early 1980s there were very few vintage carriages running - far fewer than today: no Victorian four wheelers, no LBSCR 1st; no Birdcage; no Maunsells; no Pullmans, no Mets, no LSWR carriage. Quite likely the mid week train would be the ex-Kings Cross suburban Mark 1s. With regard motive power, we have had a fairly stable fleet of about 8 home fleet locos in traffic for the last couple of decades, but for the last three or four years, we haven't needed to hire in external locos, as we did for about ten years before that. The annual mileage we run with pre-grouping locos (and probably vintage carriages, though I don't have the figures) is higher than it has been at any time since the 1960s; the difference now is that the 12k miles per year or thereabouts being run by the current pre-grouping fleet (all now well over 100 years per old) is part of an annual mileage of over 30k miles; whereas in the 1960s, that would have been the total mileage of the railway. So in effect, we are doing everything we always were, and then more.

    Tom
     
  6. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    All very fair comments, but the unnamed originator makes two points that you don't comment on. One is the nature of the SP site - to this BRPS member's mind (and he hasn't been for a couple of years), the weakest part of the railway, despite a number of real gems. The other is the comment about the attitude of the engineering team.

    Now, that comment was criticism that could have been signed "disillusion (not) from Sheffield Park", but the comments niggled at me.
     
  7. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Childrens' playgrounds are are something rather important which leisure railways are not always very good at. Ideally every station should have one but very few people indeed are likely to make a special journey to, say, Kingscote just because there is one there. Similarly, there need to be things to see or do for individuals in groups with little interest in trains An association with a garden centre perhaps?. No-body seems to have found anything to cope with entertaining teenage children that does not not involve rather too much noise!

    Leisure railways have to think of "normals" rather than "gricers" and this is my problem with galas and main line connections, both of which are costly.
     
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  8. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    On those points:
    Playgrounds - yes ideally every railway ought to have one, but I really don't think every station needs one! By the by at Winchcombe we have a nice open area of grass as part of the station gardens and kids seem quite happy charging around there.
    Equally, I agree folk are unlikely to get off at Kingscote just for a playground but if there are other things that the railway enthusiast of the family is interested in as well it helps make a stop there a more viable proposition to the rest of the family.
    Garden centres - nice if you can get them! Not so helpful if there aren't any around; I'm not convinced a railway running a garden centre just because is a particularly viable idea.
    Hmm, entertaining teenagers on heritage railways, a tricky one! I'm afraid I fall into the camp that believes they're either interested or they're not by that age. If they're not interested, the only thing that'll get them there is if everyone else is going and they don't want to be left behind. Beyond that, image is probably more important than any specific facilities over and above what adults etc. might expect, and that's a much more nebulous, difficult thing to change.
     
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  9. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    Pre-playground (or East Grinstead extension), this family visited Kingscote with grandpa and two small children, and found it a good destination even then. Space for kids to run off a bit of energy while we had a family picnic - what wasn't to like? The major improvement the kids would have liked was an ice cream stall...
     
  10. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Member

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    I think this recent discussion almost shows that we have reached a marker in time where there are those of us of a certain age who see the early era of preservation as something we would like to "preserve"
    I am still a Bluebell member and whilst believing at the time the drive for East Grinstead was a good thing, the very charm that was the Bluebell (to me) has been lost. I understand why short trains with small loco can no longer run in winter (maintenance, length of line etc), but to me it was the very reason I joined.
    OK I accept Swanage to SP is 3 hours or so by car, but nothing has enticed me to visit in the past two years (not even galas), partly because when I have had the opportunity (eg after a London originating mainline stewarding trip) there were no (or very few) trains running.
    The other issue that seems to be rife (like a number of railways) is the endless management coming and goings, studies, governance reviews etc. The very thing that really p....ed me of in my last few years at work and would do nothing to want me to get involved. Of course this is not a unique Bluebell problem as we all know on here.
     
  11. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    It would not be the railway running the garden centre although, at Exbury, a Garden runs the railway and the garden centre! It could be anything run by a specialist in association with the railway. You and I will be aware of a bird of prey centre run thus and very successfully.
     
  12. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Indeed, I wasn't suggesting as such, but just pointing out that it's not something a railway has much control over if there's nothing that fits that category in the first place.
     
  13. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    On the engineering point, I couldn't comment except to say that is absolutely not my experience.

    On Sheffield Park: I part agree with you, though I'd make my point again about cakeism. Part of what enabled the rural charm of a railway backwater like the Bluebell, pre-preservation, was that it depended on loco sheds at Three Bridges, Tunbridge Wells and Brighton; loco works at Brighton and Ashford; a carriage and wagon works at Lancing etc. On a preserved railway those facilities have to be provided; that means they have to be built - somewhere. That will inevitably constrict the rural charm, particularly on a station like SP that historically had relatively few buildings. It's worth noting that the fledgling BRPS erected a concrete loco shed at Sheffield Park as early as 1962; the new loco maintenance shed is on that site but you could hardly say the view of that end of the station was better over the 45 - odd years following 1962.

    It's also worth remembering that immediately the other side of the railway fence on the west is an industrial estate. The carriage shed is at least well screened from the station platforms by the museum and new canopy; were it not there, you would in any case be looking at the industrial estate.

    The more problematic building in my view is the one that tries to blend in, i.e. the combined Bessemer Arms / Shop. Clearly those are important facilities, but the attempt at a building in station house style unbalances the station simply by duplication: even had it been a perfect replica TH Myers building, it would stick out. It's a building which sometimes makes me think that the arguments from some architects for a deliberately jarring building within a heritage environment actually have some weight. Ideally, there would have been a railway building to re-purpose, but that line didn't have, for example, large goods sheds asking for another use. That said, the time to have had that argument would have been 25 years ago, not now.

    Maybe that was you, all I can say is that my experience watching the line is that once we were open to East Grinstead, it took the children's playground to make people get out in significant numbers; the field itself seemingly wasn't sufficient. Pre extension of course, on a typical service the train was stopped at Kingscote for about 25 minutes while the loco ran round; enough time to get off, have a run round and catch the same train back. After opening to East Grinstead, maybe it just wasn't made obvious that it was a place to let off steam and picnic! I get the sense that some families with very young children get out on the up journey and then catch the same train on its way back about 40 minutes later, which is enough time for a play and a cup of tea for the adults. Ice creams, incidentally, are available.. :)

    Tom
     
  14. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    Very fair points, and the challenges of melding history and operations fully noted - though I find HK works for me in a way that SP doesn’t.

    As for Kingscote, I don’t mean to dismiss playground provision - on the visit in question, a playground would have been great. As for the ice creams, sometimes life does get better with time!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  15. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    Yes I agree with what you say about Sheffield Park, and it's a situation that many railways have to live with. Think of Bridgnorth, Ropley, Haven Street, North Weald, Williton, Llanfair Caereinion - the list could go on. Unless a railway has a site away from the stations for loco sheds and workshops (as at Llangollen) you basically have to sacrifice one of the stations to provide those facilities.

    One way to approach the issue would be to say something along the lines of "If the LBSCR wanted to build a terminus with a substantial loco facility, and refreshment provision for hundreds of passengers a day what would it have looked like?" and then try to build it, you might achieve something useful and convincing, but it wouldn't have 2 through platforms with the sheds at the bufferstop end! And it wouldn't look like Sheffield Park!

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The Bluebell has a policy of presenting their stations as they might have appeared at different times in history: Sheffield Park - LBSCR; Horsted Keynes - SR; Kingscote - BR. I have wondered at times whether it wouldn't have been better to have Kingscote as the LBSCR offering, and putting Sheffield Park into the 1950s. That way you could ask "How would BR have reworked the station if the line had been truncated there and they needed facilities building or converting?".

    Horsted Keynes is wonderful. It's one of the few preserved stations that is big enough to fit the sort of trains that now use it, and cope with the number of passengers that use it without really compromising it's historical buildings and atmosphere. Kingscote is one of those sleepy passing stations that are timeless - and it doesn't really matter how long or busy the trains that call there are - it is how many stations were across the country; a quiet station between other places of greater importance. Some of the stations on the Severn Valley are the same, as are many others on other lines. Great places to stop a while and sit and watch the past pass before you.

    I'm old enough to remember the Bluebell in the mid 60s, and as a teenager volunteered for a few years in the early 70s. Quaint, atmospheric, and a real link with a past that that was rapidly passing. It couldn't stay that way. Without the sheds and engineering facilities, the railway could not have carried on functioning. The "shop" was originally a table on the platform and the cafe was a carriage with a hole in the side in the cattle dock. Sustainable into the 21st century? I think not. It isn't the same, and it has lost some of the "early days of preservation" atmosphere, but actually it has done very well over the years, and even now it is addressing some of the things neglected over the years. Keep going!

    Steve B
     
  16. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    Latest update on OP4 shows just how large the Heritage Skills centre is going to be:
    hsc_barryl0481_16aug19q.jpg
    I was thinking back to when I first stepped into the world of the Bluebells C&W, a whole world ago. It has come so far from the Mess coach, with its smells of tea and damp, trying somehow to work in the impossibly cramped interior of the old shed. Lifting carriages with capstan jacks and a hangover, under the direction of Graham Ward ""Right- on the command "triple hernia!"" It was fun, though...
    More here:https://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/ext/inf_news.html
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019
  17. The Black Hat

    The Black Hat Member

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    Any idea what's running this weekend please?
     
  18. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Member

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  19. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Probably 80151 on the A set; 73082 on the B set, plus 847 out and about on dining trains. The A set will be vintage carriages which are likely to be mixture of Maunsells and Bulleids at this time of year.

    Tom
     
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  20. Paul42

    Paul42 Member

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