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THE BLUEBELL RAILWAY RALLY - SHEFFIELD PARK STATION, EAST SUSSEX
Sunday 6 October 2001

Being the last outdoor event of our 2001 programme the tremendous support was much appreciated by the organisers who, with their usual expertise, also managed to get the weather right too! A total of ninety members and guests with thirty-seven cars was a goodly turnout in anybody's book! (More Brownie points for the boys!)

Although the allocated parking area for our cars was quite large, we had not been warned about the service bus that needed to pass through it at two-hourly intervals, so we apologise to members who might have felt that we could have used the space more effectively... however, we managed! Just! If it had not been for the fact that we had arranged for five cars to be on display at Horsted Keynes, then it would have been very tight indeed.

With cars arriving from 10.00am onwards there was plenty of time for members to explore the many interesting areas of Sheffield Park Station, which included the engine shed, workshops, museum, station buildings and the highly-polished controls of the signal box. Some members were also invited to a conducted tour of the workshops, led by Fred Bailey, also a member of the R-REC, who kindly gave his time to the nine or ten interested people whom, we understand, thoroughly enjoyed the benefits of his knowledge.

Everyone, having enjoyed morning coffee and a general look around, suddenly found it was 12.30 (lunchtime), and with seventy-eight dining in the upstairs Birchgrove Restaurant and eleven and a half downstairs (Peter and Diane Parkinson brought their grandchild), an excellent lunch was enjoyed by all. Unfortunately, with our two o'clock train imminent, we were not all able to enjoy our 'after lunch' coffee. Anyway, we had more important things to do and no one wanted to miss the train!

For sheer nostalgia, this trip back in time (if the smile on people's faces was anything to go by) provided all anyone could wish for as a really authentic look into the past. There is something truly fascinating about these early steam locomotives, with the familiar smell of coal-fired boilers and steam seeming to come from everywhere. The sheer size, too, of these early colossi can be somewhat bewildering... especially to younger generations who have only known electric trains! How fortunate we are to have such dedicated enthusiasts (we know the meaning of the word!) to preserve and operate these antiquities for the benefit and pleasure of us all. And enjoy it we did!

Having been allocated our own special carriage (immediately behind the engine), and all safely boarded, we departed on time(!), and with a round trip of about twenty-two miles and taking about one and a half hours, we headed north and 'chuffed' our way merrily along, via Horsted Keynes.

All this, with the passengers in the rear carriages being totally oblivious to that elite band in the carriage ahead of them, from which much raucous laughter filtered back to be lost in the clickety-clack of the ancient rolling stock. It was at Horsted Keynes that a group of members' cars were on special display in what is called the Dock Area, and here they created much interest for keen photographers. Then on to the extremity of the currently usable track at Kingscote Station, where the engine changes ends of the train for the return journey to Sheffield Park Station.

We were fortunate, as it happens, to have such a very fine day, and the journey through the lovely countryside was most enjoyable (this born out by the amount of noise erupting from the adjoining compartments when entering the very long tunnel!), and with our engine proudly carrying the Rolls-Royce commemorative plaque at its front (which apparently brought a cheer from the many onlookers at the stations), it was one of those days that you did not want to end. Also remarkable was the fact that everything, including platforms and station facilities, has all been preserved, down to the last detail; the suitcases with their original labels, the fire hoses and sand-filled buckets, the signal control box and highly -polished points levers, and of course, all the railway personnel's uniforms of the day.

On the homeward journey the drivers of the Horsted Keynes cars alighted and collected their vehicles to return to Sheffield Park to all meet up again. The weather, being still nice, was an added incentive for members to stay on and enjoy that last chat and a cuppa before the (for some) long trek home after an interesting and relaxing day.

In conclusion then, very many thanks to Laura for keeping the cars under surveillance for the afternoon, and special thanks too to Ian and Corrine for all their help in ferrying drivers to and from Horsted Keynes in their 1960 S2 Bentley, to Fred Bailey for arranging the conducted tour of the workshops, and to George, our engine driver who, apart from his other duties, helped with fixing the R-R plaque. We knew he was only joking when he said it might fall off in the tunnel! And our thanks to Ian, Andrew and Simon, Peter and Mary Seamer, Peter Waller and his wife for offering their cars for display at Horsted Keynes. And to all the staff of the Bluebell Railway and Restaurant, thanks from the R-REC Central Southern Section for a great day.

Doug Groves and Ted Meachem


Cars at Horsted Keynes   Doug, Ted and No65
Doug Groves and Ted Meachem with No65 at Kingscote. Photos: Dorothy Groves
Some members and cars at Horsted Keynes Station. Below: Happy travellers.
Happy Travellers