The Bluebell Railway reconnects.

No other country in the world has even near the number of heritage and preservation railroads as the United Kingdom. The variety of the individual operations is truly astounding: reaching from the 7 1/4 inch gauge Great Cockcrow Railroad near London, to the standard gauge North Yorkshire Moors Railway in Pickering, Yorkshire, to the Crich National Tramway Museum in Crich, Derbyshire. 

Great Cockcrow Railway Steam engine

Great Cockcrow Railway Train

North Yorkshire Moors Railway Station in Grosmont

 

Any railroad fan traveling to the UK should definitely not miss the National Railway Museum in York, just two hours north of London via the high speed East Coast Trains service from London's Kings Cross station.

Inside of newly remodeled London Kings Cross Station

An East Coast Trains service at Doncaster

One of my favorites has always been the Bluebell Railway in Sheffield Park, not far from London. I have visited it on quite a few occassions. Here is a little tidbit for all the Arthur Conan Doyle fans out there: Most of the railroad scenes in the Granada Television series "Sherlock Holmes", starring Jeremy Brett, were filmed on that line.

Like most of the preservation railways in the UK, the Bluebell Railway was abandoned by the railroad operator, in this case the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, and eventually reopened as a heritage line run by enthusiasts in 1960. Also, like most of the preservation lines, the Bluebell rail connection to the UK national rail system was severed, thus making for an insular operation with all it's ensuing difficulties.

Even though the rail line is close to London, it was always a small drama to get there by public transportation. From London Victoria station it took a train ride on Southern Railways to East Grinstead, where one would have to change to a bus for the rest of the trip to Kings Cote. The bus did not run all that frequently, once an hour or so. Going back one had to time everything carefully, since the last bus back to East Grinstead from Kings Cote was rather early in the afternoon.

 

London Victoria Train Station

Typical Southern Railways Train at Clapham Junction, London

So I was particularly delighted when the Bluebell Railway announced that it had finished reconnecting to the UK national rail system at East Grinstead station and was going to commence running their trains from East Grinstead to Sheffield Park and back on the 23rd of March. I had vaguely known about plans to do just that, but had no idea that the Bluebell Railway was this close to realizing a long held dream. A near cross-platform connection and no more bus!

I will definitely have to visit them again. 

Bluebell Railway Station at Horsted Keynes (Photo by Michael Evans)One of the Bluebell Railway Steam Engines

A former London Transport steam engine on the Bluebell Railway

A former Southern Railway (UK) steam engine on the Bluebell Railway

The author traveling in style on the Bluebell Railway (Photo by Michael Evans)A former LNER (London and Northeastern Railway) lounge/parlor car on the Bluebell RailwayBluebell Railway train departing Horsted Keynes stationLaying the new connecting track on the Bluebell Railway (Photo by John Sandys)Installing signaling on the new Bluebell Railway connecting track at East Grinstead (Photo by John Sandys)Map of the Bluebell Railway