According to Wikipedia, ‘The Bluebell Railway is a heritage line running for 11 mi (17.7 km) along the border between East and West Sussex, England] It uses steam trains which operate between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead, with intermediate stations at Horsted Keynes & Kingscote.
The first preserved standard gauge steam-operated passenger railway in the world to operate a public service, the Society ran its first train on 7 August 1960, less than three years after the line from East Grinstead to Lewes had been closed by British Railways.
On 23 March 2013, the Bluebell Railway commenced running through to its new East Grinstead terminus station. At East Grinstead there is a connection to the UK National Network, the first connection of the Bluebell Railway to the national network (in 50 years) since the Horsted Keynes – Haywards Heath line closed in 1963.
Today the railway is managed and run largely by volunteers. Having preserved a number of steam locomotives even before the cessation of steam service on British mainline railways in 1968, today it has the largest collection (over 30) of steam locomotives in the UK after the National Railway Museum. The Society also has a collection of almost 150 carriages and wagons, most of them pre-1939.
By August 1969, therefore, the steam trains that had run past 29a Stanton Road, where I grew up, no longer ran past the maisonette. Perhaps that is why Jackie and I, with Michael and Matthew, joined our then friends, Sue and Keith Bannister for a ride on the Sussex tracks. Keith and I both took our cameras to record the event.
Today I scanned most of my batch of slides. The first set were taken inside the historic train. Matthew probably didn’t appreciate a camera being pointed in his direction.
These old corridor trains contained carriages in which two rows of people occupying upholstered seats that can be seen in the first two pictures faced each other. Not counting those who, in the rush hour, were forced to stand, there was room for perhaps a dozen passengers in each compartment on the national railways. The story of how two of my classmates ensured their sole occupancy of such a set of seats at such a time is told in ‘The Drain’.
It is not possible, as is often done in period dramas, to open these doors on the move, and looking out of the windows was not recommended. This is because there were no electronic locking devices in those days. The window was lowered or raised by adjusting the notches holding a leather strap, and the door had an albeit strong levered catch. If you wished to hang outside the carriage, either to get a breath of fresh air or to escape a would-be murderer, you could. Similarly, by doing what Keith was doing, you could risk being decapitated as the conveyance careered through a tunnel. Michael was still short enough not to be tempted into such risky behaviour, and Keith would, no doubt, have drawn his head in when necessary.
The differences in approach to photographing the trains in their yards between Keith and me was interesting. Keith concentrated on the whole train in its setting, whereas I focussed on sections in close up. Unfortunately only one of my efforts has survived. This is because I was so pleased with them I had some A3 prints made by a professional and somehow managed to lose the original slides. Only one of the prints is still in my possession, and that is too large for my scanner.
So how was I to reproduce it for this post?
Obviously I needed to photograph the photograph. But I am no Ken Morse, and without his rostrum camera, there was bound to be some distortion at the edges of the new picture. A very small amount of trimming was required.
I always delight in asking viewers of this print what they think is being portrayed. What do you think? The answer will be provided tomorrow.
This evening we dined on pork rib rack with a barbecue glaze, stir fry peppers and onions, fried rice and green beans followed by rice pudding and strawberry jam. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Bordeaux.