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Bluebell Railway General Discussion

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

  1. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Disclaimer - please check your local rule book before planning your rosters! :)
     
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  2. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    Spotted on the BB Facebook page from the 18th November. Stunning, or what?
    316247718_10159953940745967_831123854136612171_n.jpg
    Unfortunately no photographer's name present, so unable to give credit.
    Just the numberplates, now...
     
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  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I’m not a fan of diesels at the Bluebell (who knew, eh?)

    My concern is really summed up in @Big Al ’s phrase “less is more” - or do less but do it better, as I’d phrase it. I don’t believe that diesels represent a significant saving on whole train costs, but they will require a diversion of resources. For example, we’ll need dedicated storage and maintenance facilities, which is both a capital cost and a space constraint. There is an opportunity cost to those resources: they will inevitably divert away from efforts to preserve, restore and maintain what I see as our core.

    Note that I am not saying such vehicles are unworthy of preservation; just that I don’t believe we should be doing it. You wouldn’t expect the IoWSR to take on a Mark 1 coach, even one of high heritage significance; you wouldn’t expect Tanfield to take on a large ex-mainline loco, even one with impeccable North Eastern credentials. Those lines operate in a niche, but know that niche represents their unique selling point. My concern on the Bluebell is that by trying to do everything, we are forgetting what our unique selling point is.

    Tom
     
  4. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    I'm really torn on this one. I agree with all you say, Tom- it all makes sense, but from a practical point of view, at peak periods, a Thumper could be very useful at each end of the day, providing an early down service from EG and/ or a late up return for London bound passengers. This could have a positive impact on rostered steam preparation/ disposal crews by shortening their day. I'm sure in reality it's far more complex than that, but it's a long day from lighting up to washing up.
    On a less practical note, like it or not, these units were a ubiquitous part of the Wealden landscape, including the period we are purporting to cover on a temporal journey from south to north, ie the early 60s at EG. Our "sister" line used them, as witnessed here at Heathfield in June 1962:
    heathfield(terry_williams6.1962)old9.jpg
    (Photo: Terry Williams)
    Even though our own line went too early for them, had it lingered into the 60s, these units would have been seen in regular traffic south of East Grinstead. And, purist that I am, I still see Bluebell's USP as a classic Sussex Wealden secondary line, however diluted that may have become over the years.
    Though ultimately, I guess we have to move beyond all this nostalgia stuff, and ask, taking into account all those facilities and infrastructure costs which you so rightly pointed out, how useful would having this second string be to operational flexibility, in the long term?
    (Interesting to note as an aside, in the picture of Heathfield, it appears as though, unlike Horam just down the line, the station was never repainted in Southern Region colours, and retained it's faded SR paintwork at least as late as 1962)
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2022
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  5. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Early / late trains seem to be what is proposed, though I can't see you can do both - what do the crew do for 6 hours in the middle of the day? Not a very attractive crew diagram to run a 9am service and a 5pm service ex-SP and nothing much in between. So it only really seems practical to run teh early morning service.

    In the meantime e- where is it going to be stored? I, and I think quite a lot of other donors to OP3/4, would be very disappointed if it went into either of those buildings. And in maintenance terms, you are just adding three more carriages to the fleet when we are struggling to keep a core fleet operational as it is.

    The USP to me is pre-grouping. It is the one era we can portray better than almost anyone else. Lots of lines can portray the 1960s.

    Tom
     
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  6. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely, hence the AIUI!
    I don't think the Bluebell should necesssarily run planned diesel trains at all, but if we get more summers like this last, unless you are prepared to give up a big chunk of high season revenue.

    I certainly don't think it should be rushing out to get a DEMU (even if I do like them).

    A teddy bear would probably be a good choice
     
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  7. John Petley

    John Petley Part of the furniture

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    I'm with Tom as far as the Thumper goes. There are four heritage lines where Thumpers did operate - Swanage, Mid Hants, Spa Valley and the Lavender Line. All but Swanage have an example. The Bluebell has no historical connection with them and the negatives (lots of doors, rust-proneness, nowhere to store it when not in use, what to do with it and the crew if it is just required for an early and late trip and more carriages to clean when it is in use) seem to outweigh the positives. A green liveried Crompton is as good as it gets if you want a diesel "Thunderbird", something to haul the trains in the event of any further heatwaves or an early + late turn loco, but I'm not even that convinced about the "ED". Could it manage a train of five or six Mk 1s all the way to East Grinstead on diesel power?

    While I can just about remember steam, my spotting days were in the 1970s and I therefore have a soft spot for Cromptons and EDs which could be regarded as the last "Southern" locos in the broadest sense of that term. I am glad that some of both classes still survive in preservation, but I think that the Bluebell really should keep its involvement with diesel traction to a minimum when it has so much else to offer.
     
  8. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Part of the furniture

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    The other issue with diesels as has been discussed on other threads is that you need to be qualified to drive the type, ( I assume this also applies to DEMU/DMU types) unlike to just drive steam. Not all steam drivers will want to qualify to drive a diesel so that complicates rostering even more.
    I remember the day the West Somerset Express ended up with an air braked coach in the set in error. The 7F had been steamed, but the driver did not drive diesels, and a paid member of staff had to be called in to drive the diesel from BL to MD and back, plus the ECS moves from Williton.
    It all gets very messy potentially.
     
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  9. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I wholly agree with you on this. The NYMR really fell foul of this this year. Not only did the long dry spell cause problems but so did the unavailability of the planned ‘Whitby’ locos for various reasons. With nominal pool of 70 drivers rostering should be easy but, with the non-availability of the Cl.25, which most drivers sign, locos had to be hired in and we ended up with a Cl.31, Cl.37 and Cl.47 running many of the services and majority of drivers did not sign these. Mixed traction turns were a real headache to roster as steam only and diesel only drivers could not be used and it was compounded by not knowing which loco would be on which service meaning that rostering was not being sorted until the night before.
     
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  10. WesternRegionHampshireman

    WesternRegionHampshireman Member

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    Well, they were steam only for a long time.
    Then again, I suppose since diesels are considered outdated this age, like steam was in the last age then it really wouldn't be fair to just leave machines like that to be cut up and continue advertising railways as preserved steam attractions.

    After all, it won't be too long before 66's and 67's are considered too old for mainline usage.
     
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  11. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

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    Tom,

    In many ways I agree with you, and I understand the impact of introducing a diesel to The Bluebell.

    BUT summers like this year will almost certainly become more common, so what then?

    At some stage you will almost certainly have to shut, and probably strain your relationship with the fire brigade/neighburs/bank in the process
     
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  12. Steve B

    Steve B Well-Known Member

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    I feel that I don't have any right to tell others what they should do with their railways, given that I have no involvement, other than as a passenger - very occasionally. But having said that, whilst I feel that there should be places where the earlier "modern" stuff like DEMUs, early diesel locos, 1st gen DMUs etc can not only be preserved but used in traffic, I do think that what has been described as the USP of a particular railway needs to be kept to the fore - it's what many visitors expect when they go there.
    The Bluebell, and some others, is in a position to present a whole package - stations, signalling, ways of operating, etc as well as the trains - all from a period of time that may span many decades but which are largely compatible. This is part of the USP, and diluting it will do harm to the picture being presented. Granted, diesel trains from the 1950s and 60s could also historically fit into part of that picture and would be no more unauthentic on the line than most of the trains run on the Bluebell for the last 70 years (SECR liveried O1 on the Golden Arrow, Dukedog, Adams tank, Terriers, P class, Metropolitan Railway coaches, LNWR observation car, etc, etc). But what the Bluebell has been doing has been portraying a particular age, and the modernisation period diesels etc, mark the end of that age and the beginning of a new one. And for many, that jars.
    I can see the advantages that diesels have for rescue, infrastructure, etc purposes, but personally if I was visiting a railway like the Bluebell (particularly given the cost not only of visiting, but getting there as well well exceeds what we might expect to pay for food and fuel for a couple of weeks or more) I would want to make sure that I was going to see steam. If I couldn't be certain of that I would think twice about going. That applies to other railways as well. Some lines I don't expect so much from in terms of the trains. I visit the F&WHR more regularly than other lines and never assume that it will be a "victorian" experience - it's not what they do on a day to day basis - but I know that I'll have a ride through the mountains and with much of railway interest to see. But somehow that wouldn't appeal to me (or my non-enthusiast wife) on the Bluebell, East Lancs, NYMR, WSR, etc..
    I have said that I can see the point of preserving the more modern stuff - to show that I'm not completely "anti" yesterday I was travelling on a Class 150 on the Wrexham - Bidston line and found myself thinking that it would be a pity if one wasn't preserved...:eek:

    Steve B
     
  13. Steve B

    Steve B Well-Known Member

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    On the subject of preventing fires during droughts and the use of diesels in that context - does the Bluebell (and other lines) fit spark arresters to the smoke boxes and ash pans in the same way that some of the NG lines do?

    Steve B
     
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  14. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    That pass was sold a while back, and the USP of the Bluebell as an all steam railway lost. The question now is how diesels are used and accommodated.

    Taking your view that the Bluebell’s usp is pre grouping, the 33 covers a transitional period where diesels and birdcages overlapped, let alone with Maunsells and Bulleids. Using heritage locomotives (and I do think the plural important) fits within that.

    The DEMU is more challenging. Personally, I think it potentially has an important place for early and late duties, as is done elsewhere. I accept the point about design issues imposing a maintenance burden, and it warrants careful consideration.

    However, what concerns me is the implication that diesels are somewhat lesser, and not deserving of care. Some of that is how the disposable plant attitude is now costing railways dear as cheap replacement becomes impossible. But it’s more importantly about the image of railways treating certain of their collection as less important, and allowing situations to develop where knowledge constrains usability.

    The welcome for a collection item needs to be wholehearted, not reserved or backhanded or resentful. If, for good reasons, Bluebell won’t go back to using steam for the shunt duties, then it has to accept that diesels are here to stay, and embrace them as part of the family.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  15. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    What the Bluebell has been doing, is trying to portray varying eras, from the 1880s at SP to, (at East Grinstead) the mid 60s.
    Apart from the rather too pristine paintwork, lack of closure notices, and "BR regrets..." messages, the current overall tableau at EG isn't too far off:rolleyes:

    But of course, that creates unavoidable anachronisms. So the sight of a pre-grouping liveried locomotive, hauling immaculate SR liveried carriages into a "BR regrets..." period station will always be an unavoidable feature of the railway.
    Ironically, a class 207 set is far less an anachronism at EG than an SECR liveried locomotive manoeuvering around a set of BR mk1s. Of course, "pretty" is what Joe public have come to see, but the irony is abundant.
     
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  16. Chris86

    Chris86 Well-Known Member

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    I can see the reasoning behind having diesels- there is an economic case, Safety case and operational resilience case.

    I'm also on board with the philosophy that where possible/practicable the railway should remain steam operated- as mentioned a number of times the Bluebell has a unique collection of locos and stock, unlike anywhere else.

    I mentioned upthread that in my opinion a couple of suitable diesels would be likely worth embracing- but practicality wise 2 of the same class would make a lot of sense to allow for maintenence/stand down/spares availability/crew competency- especially if they are being used as standby & maintenence assets as opposed to a heritage traction collection/attraction.

    I struggle to see the appeal/necessity of a DMU, DEMU- strikes me as a lot of additional extra hassle and requirement for undercover space and siding space/maintenence for a unit which would likely see minimal use- loco haulage makes more sense?

    Regards

    Chris
     
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  17. Major Midget

    Major Midget New Member

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    I suppose you could banish the Thumper to that future Ardingly branch... ;)
     
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  18. RichardSalmon

    RichardSalmon New Member

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    Um, given that we actually need to replace the current jacks, that's not a solution - we have far more jacking space than usable jacks at present.
     
  19. M59137

    M59137 Well-Known Member

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    I have always found NP to be unapologetically steam biased in it's membership, and diesel themed debates on here have been hardly debates at all as a result!

    So I can be forgiven for smiling after reading just how many people have started their posts with "I can see the benefits of the 207 BUT....."

    I would say that's a begrudging sign that the 207 could be a real winner!

    Sent from my moto g(8) power using Tapatalk
     
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  20. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    Thumper = thumping great liability to repair.

    Sadly all the mk1 issues x 10 because of the number of doors.

    A diesel loco is a better option, but there is a big step from maintaining an 09 to maintaining a 33 or similar. Unless the Bluebell can pull together a group of committed people with all the skills needed for maintenance, then on practical grounds alone I would stick with just the 09.
     

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