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What is preservation ?

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by zigzag, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. zigzag

    zigzag New Member

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    An interesting quote from HowardGWR (abridged below) on the double track thread struck a chord with me and thought Id open it up for greater debate

    For some while now I have become increasingly disillusioned with the preservation aspect of our railways, and by that I mean that preservation is being ignored. To cite just a few examples of where I see preservation being neglaected at the expense of commercialism, money, ease of maintenance, call it what you will but its not preservation of the past are:
    Large express locos on branchlines
    Increasing lineside vegetation growth
    Continuous welded rail
    Inappropriate buildings
    Rebuilding of rolling stock to new designs

    There are many counter arguments to these and I know that the railways need to do some of these measures to attract the public/generate more money/have a better visitor experience or whatever. Below I cite numerous other historical/preserved attractuons, and they probably do not have the same cost or infrastructure base as a railway, but they do sit in the same market and role, and seem to be doing the preservation aspect of thier brief to a much greater and better degree than our railways.

    I am also aware that there are numerous regulatory requirements to adhere to.

    But I also do not see many other heritage/preservation attractions failing so miserably to preserve or portray the past. Living mueseums such as Black Country & Beamish do not sacrifice authenticity (or perhaps more accurately perceived authenticity) in their main areas, bodies such as National Trust & English Heritage try to maintain a large degree of historical accuracy. Bodies such as these, whether you could say are preserving the past or Disneyfying it, are doing thier best to maintain historical accuracy and create the feel and ambiance of the past. For example when repairs have to be made made many historical bodies try as hard as possible to replicate the materials, methods, and skills used originally, I dont see the same desire to maintain this accuracy on our railways.

    Guard Jamie also on the double track thread makes a very valid point as to the use and meaning of preservation in preserved/heritage railway circles, essentailly saying that preservation is now a misnomer.

    Open to debate, and I know there is no right, wrong, or definitive answer to this, but Id be intertested to hear others views on this matter.
     
  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    There will always be some "unrealisms" (is that a word?), particularly with rolling stock. If preserved railways had carried even a fraction of the passengers they carry now, they would never have needed to close in the first place! So larger engines and heavier trains are more or less a given - even though, like you, things like an A4 running backwards up some branch line largely leave me cold - at least visually; nothing against being inside a carriage pulled by one. There is also the issue of what is available: on the Bluebell, I'm sure many of us would love it if all our engines were ex-LBSC. But they didn't get preserved, so instead we have a heterogeneous mix of locos from the LBSC, LSWR, SECR, NLR, SR, GWR and BR Standards plus a couple of industrials. Not really prototypical for a sleepy Sussex branch line, but what else can you do? There is also the livery question: we try to have our stations move from LBSC through 1930s SR to BR(S) as you preceded up the line, but inevitably that means you will see pre-group locos in 1950s infrastructure, and vice versa, and that is before you even consider matching rolling stock to locos, which at the moment is largely a distant dream. And all of that is before you consider the fact that preservation is a broad church: I like my small pre-group engines, but co-exist in a society where there are people who like their Bulleids and Standards, even if some of them are not really right for the line. The broader interest of preservation probably trumps the narrow interest of realism.

    Then there is cost: we use flat bottom rail and concrete sleepers away from station areas, and preserve the more "traditional" bullhead rail and wooden sleepers within stations. For me, CWR would be a step too far, but there I don't have to plan maintenance of the infrastructure! It is a difficult balancing act, because in the end the railway has to make money first of all: if it doesn't do that, all the lovely preservation "goodies" couldn't happen.

    That said, you do need safeguards, and that is a constant battle. We have a preservation sub-committee and designated development zones within station areas to try to prevent unplanned, and "non authentic" development. (And the whole HK station site is a Local Authority conservation area, which even further restricts what can happen there). It is not perfect, but does mean, when coupled with the long term plan setting out the preservation objectives (and the fact that we are a preservation society is writ large in the plan, both the current one and the current consultation draft new plan) that the worst examples of unregulated growth can hopefully be avoided. Reading the SVR share issue thread, I was quite surprised (and a bit dismayed) that similar safeguards, apparently, aren't in place at Bridgnorth.

    But in the end, running railways is an expensive business, and that inevitably leads to tension between the commercial and the preservation side. i just hope that we (and other railways) can ensure that the balance doesn't swing too far one way.

    Tom
     
  3. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Perhaps "preservation" is having a mid-life crisis, because I have seen different forms of this question in one or two places recently.

    Firstly, I think part of people's difficulty is not differentiating between "what is preservation for?" and "how does it do it?" Secondly, there are probably as many precise answers to either question as there are people - in other words, this is very much personal and I suspect one reason the question is asked is that people see things they don't consider to be preservation (A4s on branchlines are quoted above - may I point out in defence of the NYMR that we were a secondary route even if 60007 was the first a$ to traverse the line!), yet other love such experiences. How many galas having a selling point of “first class XXX between A and B”, whilst others have “historic return of Class XXX to their old stomping grounds”!

    It should not be forgotten that the concept of "preservation" which lead to the formation of most lines was very basic - "preserving the railway line between X and Y" - ensuring it was not lifted, and that it remained in some form of operation. Particularly the immediately post Beeching projects often had thoughts of running a genuine passenger service which have usually died in the face of cost and practicality. Many lines very clearly were not trying to “recreate the past” because they adopted new and often pretty colourful “house” liveries. Other lines always aimed to portray an era of the past. As Tom has said, almost all standard gauge lines (though often not the long established narrow gauge ones) have had to compromise from day one on what locomotives and rolling stock they use for their services.

    The fact of the matter is that there are occasions when historical accuracy and remaining in operation are not just uneasy bed-fellows but sometimes physically impossible. How often do we hear of the conflict between acceptable repair methods and retention of original material. A friend told me a few years ago of a debate he had been involved in where it was proposed to let new pieces of timber into a door pillar on a coach which would be finished in varnished teak – so the joins would be visible. He argued that the original users of the coach would have messed about letting bits in but would have replaced most or all with a new pillar. In other words, the retention of maximum original material would result in something that looked inaccurate!

    There must always be compromise to enable continued operation, but also the preserved railway movement needs to remember that the “journey to the past” is a major selling point to the fare paying passengers whose hard earned fund much of the operation and whose support in the wider sense enables developments and improvements to continue through donations, grants and share issues.

    This balance will always be in a state of tension but must be high aims taken with a heavy dose of reality. Certain limits must be set and not crossed. As an example, the aim on the NYMR is to use original track materials within stations, especially those “set” pre-1948, but modern materials are used between stations. You can argue with whether that is right but it is an example of a compromise that has been thought out in a reasoned way and then applied (hence the new oak track keys fitted at Pickering last year).

    We tend to have become known as heritage instead of preserved railways and technically, this is probably correct but I think is perhaps an underlying part of the concern. We do have provide lines that are all things to all people – what recreates the past for one person will leave another unmoved – but our overall balance must be sufficient to appeal to enough supporters – be they fare paying passengers, signed up members and of course in no way forgetting committed volunteers – to ensure the core “preservation” – that of each line as an operating railway – is achieved.

    Steven
     
  4. zigzag

    zigzag New Member

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    A couple of really high quality posts there gents, illustrating there are many different sides of the argument and the realisation that compromises and therefore tensions are inevitable.
     
  5. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I get the sense that it is over physical infrastructure that the battle lines are mostly closely drawn. The fact remains, in the main we are asking stations that maybe sold a few hundred or few thousand tickets per year to cope with six figure visitor numbers; and moreover, those visitors are disporportionately arriving at some points of the year (weekends, summer) and not others. To take our example, I doubt on average Sheffield Park saw more than a handful of passengers on any normal day in its original life, but now we want it to cope with sometimes more than a thousand passengers per day. We can largely "hide" the car park so it doesn't intrude, but a thousand visitors need toilets; the commercial people want a suitable restaurant and shop for them to spend more money in - oh, and the needs of being a self-contained railway mean we can't send our engines to Brighton and our carriages to Lancing when they need repairs, so we also need an engineering infrastructure, an engine shed that wouldn't have disfigured a medium sized town and a carriage shed that is big enough for 17 full length coaches but is still only a fraction of what we need. Something has to give, and it is the infrastructure that is the visual sign of that.

    There is also the quetsion of "are we preserving railways" or "are we preserving this railway?" To take the NYMR example (and I am interested to hear Steven's view on this): they have recently put up an overall roof at Pickering. Given the vast increase in passenger numbers since BR days, I can instantly see the passenger amenity. It has also been very sensitively done in, as I understand it, North Eastern style, and can therefore represent what an NER station might have looked like. But it is no longer what Pickering did look like: it is railway preservation, but not preservation of the railway. And before anyone thinks I am picking on the NYMR: at Sheffield Park, we have recently extended the up side canopy (as part of the new carriage shed works) and the long term plan for Sheffield Park will see the down side canopy similarly extended, the platform signal box (there since the 1930s, and a part of Bluebell history as well as SR and BR(S)) swept away and replaced with a new signal box in the original location north of the platform; the footbridge relocated and, possibly, the platforms extended. Meanwhile, at HK we have re-instated the platform 1/2 canopy, using a lot of material reclaimed from other stations being demoloished. It is an impressive job, and I doubt now that anyone can "see the join", but the Southern demolished the original in the 1920s, so technically it is anachronistic for the 1930s feel of the station. It is preservation, though, in the sense that many platform canopy supports from other stations were reused that would otherwise have gone to scrap. More controversially perhaps, we have all platform roads at all stations signalled for bidirectional running. That is an operational convenience, but somewhat detracts visually as it means each station looks "oversignalled" - which they are, in a sense. It's an area where the operational requirements of the railway go against the preservation needs, though hopefully not too obtrusively.

    Tom
     
  6. Gwenllian2001

    Gwenllian2001 New Member

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    Surely the roof at Pickering is a re-instatement; the original having been demolished by BR.
     
  7. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    In that case I stand corrected (I had thought it was entirely new). Though it is still an interesting issue, akin to the reinstatement of platform canopies at HK: what are you preserving? You have to select a date I guess - the station is at it was in e.g. 1930, but not as it was in e.g. 1960.

    Tom
     
  8. frazoulaswak

    frazoulaswak Well-Known Member

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    Preservation is defined as the protection of something from loss or danger, which was certainly the original objective at the Talyllyn, the Bluebell and the many other lines that have since become part of the 21st century heritage railway scene. However, once the original objective of saving (Which could mean anything up to completely rebuilding.) a stretch of railway and its associated infrastructure has been achieved, preservation largely becomes conservation - the prevention of loss, damage or other change - and conservation cannot be achieved without the involvement of the ongoing economic necessity of operation (and everything else that entails) to bring in the paying punters in increasingly large numbers. I would hope that we are all in agreement that, having preserved our bit of railway, we would want to take whatever steps were required to protect it from loss and damage, so I suspect that it is whatever people take the term 'other change' to mean that is at the heart of the 'what is preservation' argument.

    For my part, I must admit that I am not that bothered about seeing historical anachronisms in a heritage context (Unless they appear in a film or on TV!) such as a Standard 9F pulling a rake of LNER teak coaches arriving at a GWR station in deepest Shropshire. I'm just glad that the line, the locomotive, the coaches and the station are all still around, still doing essentially what they were built to do, for me to experience and enjoy. At the same time I can also appreciate the care and attention to detail that has been invested in each individual part of the whole, in its own right.

    Having said that, when everything does fit together authentically, when the next train calling at that GWR station consists of a rake of GWR chocolate and cream coaches with a Great Western loco on the front, the whole is undeniably even more pleasing - and I'm citing that example even though I'm not a dyed in the wool GWR fan!

    Whatever the area of conservation, be it old houses, old masters, old cars, old railways or whatever, you will never be able to please all of the people all of the time. As an earlier poster has said, it comes down to compromise; trying to strike a balance somewhere between pleasing some of the people all of the time (the first train) and pleasing all of the people some of the time (the second train).

    Cheers,
    Mick

    Cheers,
    Mick
     
  9. John Petley

    John Petley Well-Known Member

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    I think the concept of "preservation" is stretched even more when considering main line steam. Station rebuilds, re-signalling, CWR, goods yard rationalisation, track singling, the removal of lineside telegraph poles and/or overhead electrification between them have drastically altered many parts of the National network since the 1960s. Add to that the encroachment of lineside vegetation, and the construction of new houses adjacent to the lineside and you really do have quite a different experience from 45 years ago. A number of locos that would have never rubbed shoulders with a Mark II coach in their working lives now have Mark II support coaches (30777 and 34067 spring to mind). While most rakes of coaches used on main line specials are painted in something looking vaguely like 1950s/60s colours, some are not. Furthermore, our "nanny state" has put all manner of obstacles into running pre-nationalisation coaches on the main line, whereas if you look at, say, any book about the last years of southern steam, Bulleid stock remained in use right up to July 1967.

    Then there is the use of locos over lines on which they never ran - the same issue that has been raised regarding heritage railways. No A1 ever ran to Canterbury in BR days; Duke of Gloucester never turned a wheel on the former Southern Region, and no Merchant Navy ever ventured to Cardiff via Gloucester and Lydney, to think of three recent excursions.

    For all the lack of "authenticity", it is still good that these marvellous locomotives are allowed to stretch their legs on the main line and do the job they were built to do. Long may it continue!
     
  10. ZBmer

    ZBmer New Member

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    Plenty of interesting and (for this forum) thoughtful comments already.

    An additional area in which preservation has had to take a step back is with the people who operate our heritage railways. It's not merely the always-increasing sight of hi-viz clothing (though plenty of enthusiasts find that irksome). It's things like observing a train crew working, all of whom may be well past the age at which BR or pre-nationalisation/ -grouping companies would have turned them off.

    Shunting practice has changed out of recognition, in the interests of safety and increased adoption of modern rule books - railways are being prodded by ORR to revise their previous reliance on 1950's/ 60's rules. Safety for railway staff in general has improved way beyond the prototypical, and it is treated with a very modern seriousness when things go wrong.

    And what of female footplate crew/guards? Drivers openly wearing vision correction? No smoking on the footplate? - or indeed anywhere on the railway's premises.

    Most anachronistic of all: where have all those friendly, helpful people come from on our preserved lines? Whatever happened to the universal syndrome of the railway being run for its staff and practitioners, with never a thought for the passenger/ customer? :wink:

    Roger
     
  11. Neil_Scott

    Neil_Scott Member

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    Are you suggesting that preserved railways shouldn't have female crews or drivers wearing glasses? Are all your examples of instances where preserved railways have 'stepped back' (I assume you mean that in a negative tone) or have I read your post wrong?
     
  12. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    As ever, Tom seems to have identified one of the big areas where the compromises are made. But it is not just in having to fit more people and facilities into a station that never had to have them before. There often isn't the money, or volunteers, available to do what may be desirable - hence the collection of portacabins, other temporary buildings, and carriages and vans being pressed into service that we see at many railways. What is desirable often has to take second place to what is possible.

    I think that in many cases the best that can be done would be to say something along the lines of "what would the LBSCR have done if they had to turn Sheffield Park into a terminus and stable a few dozen locos there?" I seem to remember that the Bluebell drew up plans in the 1970's for the development of Sheffield Park, with the idea that there would be a sort of heritage area (my words) where anything that you could see would fit appearance-wise (eg, the loco shed being clad in period style brick) whilst other bits behind the scenes (eg, the workshop) didn't need to be so treated. I wonder if other railways have similar aspirations? If not, then perhaps they should give consideration to it. It doesn't all need to be done at once (that brick cladding on the SP loco shed was a long time coming!), but it is wise to plan ahead (and having clear plans can help in the fund-raising stakes). I do wonder now whether the Bluebell might have found it easier to present Sheffield Park in a BR style period, and Kingscote in a LBSCR period guise, but Kingscote was not seen as a possibility when those plans were drawn up.

    What the bigger railways can do, and some do it very well, is to make the inevitable compromises at places like Bridgnorth, Kidderminster, Sheffield Park, and so on, and then really go down the authenticity route at the smaller passing stations like Kingscote, Hampton Loade, etc.

    Whatever we might think or wish for in terms of authenticity, though, we should be grateful that so much has been preserved, and being cared for - and such variety as well. And whilst my preference is for pre-group locos and stock in all their glorious technicolour and brass (or anything narrow gauge) I still enjoyed my one and only trip (so far) on the East Lancs - and that was behind Flying Scotsman!

    Steve B
     
  13. M59137

    M59137 Well-Known Member

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    I think this a very valid observation and is not just typical of the larger lines. My local line, the Churnet Valley, will never have the "base", Cheddleton, back to how it was, and they would be foolish to attempt it. All the operational add ons such as engine sheds, sidings, car parks etc are all located there, with other stations (such as Consall two miles down the line) far more suited to the game of rebuilding/conserving so that you can take two pictures forty years apart and aim to have people struggling to tell the difference.

    I think it is the correct way forward to sympathetically select certain locations which can never be an exact recreation and "sacrafice" them by concentrating all the operationally required add-ons there, so that other locations can remain "unspoilt" if that is the correct termonology! As Steve B suggests, this is already an established practice.
     
  14. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    In a way, you are both right - yes, Tom, there is none of the original roof used but Gwenllian2001 is also correct that it is a replica of oen that was tehre for over 100 years prior to 1951. The era that Pickering "portrays" is LNER 1930s, so the roof is necessary to be correct for this but, of course, Pickering Station didn't have a souvenir shop or tea room back then!

    The NER footbridge is actually more of an interlooper (just a barrow crossing prior to preservation), and platform 1 is extended and has two additional (but recovered, genuine NER) buildings. Platform 2 retains its original length (the platform over the river is a comparatively recent reinstatement but to original design) but Tom's point about preserved lines now needing to be self-contained is well illustrated by the next thing you come to being a Carriage & Wagon workshop in what was a Goods yard.

    I suspect that many of the "preservation gems" of stations are ones which don't house the line in question's major - and comparatively newly built - engineering facilities.

    Steven
     
  15. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    Although carefully researched and presented development can take place without sacrificing the "gem-like" nature of the place - Horsted Keynes springs to mind out of the stations I know. As Tom has already commented, a lot of change has taken place during preservation years, yet it seems to work, and the carriage works and shed don't seem to jar (to my mind at least). It helps in that it was already a substantial minor junction station (and is probably only reaching it's proper potential in more recent times).

    My other comment in my earlier post about the larger railways and the passing stations being good candidates for authentic restoration wasn't intended as any criticism of smaller railways - it's just not so easy to restore a passing station if you don't have any!

    Steve B
     
  16. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    Interesting comments all, and nice to see that the 'LET'S STEAM EVERYTHING NOW!' brigade have kept their noses out of an intelligent discussion.

    There's not much more to be said than has been said - authenticity and accuracy are subjective, compromises must be made as in track, some things are right to be less authentic - female loco crew for instance.

    Development must be sympathetic, it doesn't mean development can't happen. There will always be a way around things.

    One point that I'd like to bring up - conservation of some rolling stock/locos. It is my firm belief that a percentage - not a specified percentage, just a reasonable selection - of vehicles must be kept 'as is' - never to steam again. Shocking! some might say. But I interpret it thus: if we have some that are 'as was', conserved, looked after as museum pieces, that gives us carte blanche (almost) to keep the others running indefinitely, with all the replacement that increasingly entails.
     
  17. Enterprise

    Enterprise Well-Known Member

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    What is that supposed to mean?
     
  18. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    It is true that heritage railways have to deal with far more passengers than they ever did whn they were part of the natonal system, but the other side of the coin is what they have lost. Whilst just about every statation has a goods yard, how many portray a typical goods yard with any degree of authenticity? Most are full of rolling stock awaitig restoration or are now loco depots or carriage works because the modern heritage railway is crammed with rolling stock. It would be nice to see a few cleared out so that on gala days a pick up freight could arrive, shunt a few wagons and move on, leaving one end of the railway with a set of wagons and arriving at the other with a changed set!
     
  19. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    There are some on here and in the movement generally, I won't name names because it wouldn't be kind and I can't name names because I don't remember, who approach the matter without, in my opinion, due consideration of all of the factors beyond their own emotions, and are inclined to want to see every locomotive left steamed at some point. They argue that steam locos were made to be steamed, which is simplistic - tanks and swords are meant to kill but Bovington and Leeds Armouries haven't been done for corporate manslaughter yet. They are inclined to see museums, which fulfil a different role to heritage railways, as merely caretakers of locos for heritage railways to play with every now and then.

    Personally, I consider this approach immature.

    Now don't get me wrong, emotion is a vital part of our movement - there wouldn't be a movement without it. But the movement cannot - has not - survived on emotion alone all these years. It's survived on emotion, intelligence, compromise, pragmatism and open-mindedness.

    As an example, I am as passionate a GWR man as anyone. I have a particular softspot for Castles. I am ever so glad that Earl of Mount Edgcombe and Nunney are on the mainline. I'm looking forward to Clun and Pendennis, and eventually, Earl Bathurst and Defiant. I'm really happy that Nunney is due to come to my home railway. I really hope Pete Waterman eventually gets Thornbury out of its siding. But do I want to see Caerphilly steam?

    I do not. It is a wonderful example of a Swindon 'job'. The workmanship is not that of a volunteer, it is that of an actual paid Swindon steam fitter. Yes, it was significantly restored in the 50s/60s after withdrawal, but by Swindon. It is about as close as you're going to get to a locomotive overhauled by the GWR. We have no less than seven other Castles out there. So I would like to see Caerphilly kept cold, forever. It is a museum piece. Steam engines were meant to be steamed to answer a need for traction. They have been economically surpassed. They are now relics. Some - most - we can steam, for the joy of it, for the emotion. But others we should keep safe, for future generations.
     
  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Well, keep an eye on Kingscote then. As Steve B noted above, the intermediate passing stations are the best hope for a true recreation of the country railway of yore, because often the main stations are, as you say, full of storage or else home to the engineering facilities.

    So, once we get to EG, Kingscote will revert to what it always was, a sleepy country backwater. The cattle dock has already been reinstated, and the Kingscote Goods Yard project will, in the next few years, be erecting a yard crane (ex-Singleton); Goods Shed (ex-Horsted Keynes); loading gauge; and coal office and weigh office (from bricks recovered from an LBSC worker's cottage at Haywards Heath). The signal box will transfer from the current temporary south box to the existing, but currently empty, north box (ex Brighton Goods yard). Despite being technically single track, the points (especially at the south end) are so far away that from the platforms the station will look double track, as it once was. About the only concession to modernity will be that both platforms will remain signalled for bi-directional running, so there will be four platform starters, not two. And I'm sure that once the Goods Yard project is finished, we will want to hold periodic goods train days, as we have done in the past.

    A feature of those galas in the past was to deliver a barrel of beer from the Harveys brewery in Lewes, via Scammell and goods train, to the buffet at Horsted, as a simple demonstration of the power of trains to move goods (and as a way to get beer to the railway!)

    Edit: Here's the URL: Bluebell Railway - Kingscote Goods Yard Project

    Tom
     

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