The long awaited re-opening of the Bluebell Railway took place at 9am this morning and coincided with the 60th anniversary of the opening of the line in 1960.
The reopening ceremony started with a short blessing of the engine from the railway chaplain, the Rev. David Murdoch followed by a speech from the Bluebell Railway chairman Chris Hunford.
Images (C) Mike Skinner
Live from the Railway – (apologies for poor internet signal)
About the steam engine pulling The Pioneer:
A beautiful turn of the century engine – a real eye-catcher.
Locomotive No. 65
SER Stirling 0-6-0 No.65
Built: 1896; Rebuilt 1908
Numbers carried: 65, A65, 1065, 31065
Returned to service: 15 July 2017
Previously operational: 5 August 1999 to 7 July 2009
The South Eastern & Chatham Railway O1 Class 0-6-0 No. 65 (BR 31065) was rescued from preservation by a private individual at the last minute when awaiting cutting-up at Ashford in early 1962. Built in Ashford by the SE&CR in 1896, it was one of a class of 122 and the only and last survivor having given 66 years of service to British Railways. It was originally designed for branch passenger and goods trains but ended its career in June 1961 with British Railways on shunting duties at Ashford and Dover. The highlight of its career on the mainline was puling enthusiasts’ special trains in the 1960’s with similar-looking SE&CR ‘C’ Class locomotive No. 592, which is also preserved on the Bluebell Railway. It arrived on the Bluebell in 1999 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the SE&CR and is presented in its original SE&CR lined green livery.
Numbers: 368, 387, 394 and 412.
Each Built: 1898 – 1900
Image features 3 out of 4 Metropolitan Coaches.
This morning the locomotive crew were Mick Blackburn and Heidi Mowforth. A married couple, both locomotive drivers! Mick has been a working volunteer since the railway first opened and also facilitates film crews on the railway. Heidi started the Stepney Club, a distance club for under 9’s. She writes stories for the club magazine when she is not at school in her role as teaching assistant.
Back in 1961, the infant Bluebell Railway could ill afford to spend a single penny, but passenger numbers demanded more than just the original two Southern Railway coaches. The cheapest coaches on the market were some ex-Metropolitan Railway coaches, dating from the turn of the last century, for which London Transport were asking only £65 each. It happened that four of the six coaches which had been used for the previous two decades on the Metropolitan Line’s Chesham branch came to the Bluebell. Another went to the LT Museum, and the sixth was scrapped. Their story is one of considerable complication and their survival most definitely one of luck. They are also a testament to the years of hard work on their restoration; bringing them back to a standard where they have been used, once more, on special trains on the London Underground. They were also a winner of the Heritage Railways Association coach competition.