Sunday, March 23, 2014


Bluebell Railway.

It has been a lovely day.
I am so very fortunate to have good people in my family.
We went, with my brother and his wife and my cousin to The Bluebell Railway.
My mother was born into a railway family - apart, that is, from others in the family who wheeled and dealed in junk, antiques and maybe almost anything that would turn a profit.
But I was not wheeling and dealing today, I was being a railway person.
We met up at Sheffield Park Station and  boarded the train for East Grinstead - the first time that any of us have travelled to completed route.
And today was the first anniversary of the first passenger trains reaching east Grinstead after the mammoth ask of clearing a railway cutting.
We have witnessed all weathers today from bright sunshine to a heavy hail storm.
The country side looked lovely - the primroses each side of the railway were superb.
We chatted together and enjoyed the views. Bill gave a good demonstration of clapping and banging too!
We stayed on the train at East Grinstead - watching our locos move to our end  for the return journey. We were right behind the the two locomotives hauling the train....poor old L150 was being a bit temperamental.
We waved to people in the fields, out with their cameras - standing (and in one case sitting) like scarecrows to watch the variety of steam engines on display today.
The anniversary ensured extra trains for the enthusiast to drool over.
We enjoyed seeing all the trains too.
We all fell for Captain Baxter - already a favourite of our great nephew; his family cat's name is Baxter.
We met up with Captain Baxter later in the day.
Back at Sheffield Park we battled to find a table for our lunch; as luck would have it we found 5 seats alongside another family of interesting people, people who I would guess had never had much time for formal education but had learned to love learning through their own devices.
We wandered amongst the locomotives in various states of repair in the large loco shed.
My brother found one that was totally apt for the day. He had been pulled by this locomotive when a young lad from Paddock Wood - home of our railway man Uncle and also of his daughter, our cousin who was with us today.
We spent a little while in the museum, until we realised that the next train to Horsted keynes would be departing very shortly.
We climbed aboard.
We wandered a little, with plans to get a cup of tea,
Then the station announcer informed us that Captain Baxter would be pulling a brake van (think I have remembered that right). So we scurried to that platform and climbed up on to what I would have always referred to as the guard's van.
My mother's father.....our grandad was a guard.
The truck was open at either end and we stood to enjoy the wind in our hair and the views up and down the track.
In the middle of the truck was a cosy compartment with a hot, hot, coal fire and some seating for the guard in days of old.
The day, already lovely, now had the cherry on top.
This was a treat that we hadn't expected. And I loved waving to people from my vantage point on the van. Could they be thinking that we might be important visitors doing something so different?
Well, of course, many others also made the trip back and forth, pulled by the delightful Captain Baxter.
We climbed down - thrilled.
But my brother had seemed to negotiate an extra treat for our cousin.
She was invited aboard the foot plate of Captain Baxter and talked with the men working there.
She couldn't stop grinning.
Our great great grandfather had been an engine driver.
He was killed in a tragic railway accident in 1884.

At 20 minutes to 2 on Saturday morning a heavily laden goods train with Continental goods from Folkestone to London, stopped at Sevenoaks station as usual for the purpose of taking in water, and for this the driver is allowed five minutes on the time bill.  But scarcely had the train been standing a minute before another heavily laden train from Deal dashed into it with great force. This train also consisted of about the same number of carriages as the other, and was drawn by two engines.  The line is on a gradient some distance from the station, and the moving train was running at a speed of nearly forty miles an hour.  The collision caused the two engines drawing the Deal train to rear up and topple over onto their sides, one falling on the platform of the station.  A shunter was the only person on duty at the station at the time and he ran to the spot, and found the driver of the first engine named John Ware, jammed in between his engine and the tender, while the stoker, Mark Jenner, lay on the foot plate of the engine, both apparently dead.

Today John Ware's great great grand daughter experienced nothing but pleasure on her locomotive.

I have photos for you. They are on flickr. They are all in the wrong order.

But it's late and I'm tired - too late to be bothering with sorting out any presentation errors.

We enjoyed our cups of tea and relaxed on the train back to Sheffield Park, where we parted after a special family day. We must thank my brother who arranged this day as our Christmas presents and Alison who paid for us all to ride on the brake van behind Captain Baxter.

By the way - if we do get another cat and that is quite likely, we might take a leaf out of our niece's book and name it memory of the locomotive.