Thursday 15th July saw John Lunn’s loco 'Railway Mission' holding steam for the first time since the 1970s. Although the engine did not move under its own power, it held pressure and did not have any serious faults. A huge congratulations must go to Harry Spencer for completing the mammoth task of getting 'Railway Mission' to this stage. Harry has been working on 'Railway Mission' for a number of years now and has put a lot of his time into rebuilding and restoring the loco. A thank you must also go to Kev and Ben for making some of the pipework for the loco. 'Railway Mission' is now not far off from once again pulling passengers.
Since July, "Railway Misson' has been seen around the railway on test, but more recently has been used to head up the Christmas goods train for the 2021 Santa Specials."
Since reopening to the public this year, the track and lineside has become quite over-grown with the lack of trains running. To tackle this, Jerry Chivers and Paul Cowlin have built a Weed killing wagon. The compressor is used to pressurise a separate tank that then sprays the weed killer from that tank. A series of nozzles have been made to create an even spray across the track bed. For the time being the weed killer contraption has been placed on a flatbed wagon. However, a separate wagon for the weed killer will be made in due course.
Since the start of 2021 Alan Eatwell has been at the Railway most Thursdays working on his loco Agapanthus. This work has included new steam chest covers, new leaf springs, and work on the new tender water tank. A couple of steam tests have also taken place to iron out some of the issues. The loco has been steamed a number of times and has pulled a train consisting of the 2 Covered, 1 open and the Covered Brake around the inner loop. The loco seemed to handle the coaches well and pulled them with ease.
Since then Agapanthus has been seen pulling Santa trains during our 2021 Santa season and we're looking forward to seeing more of her in the 2022 running season.
We're happy to announce that the railway will be re-opening on Sunday 18th April with a two-train day. Following that, we are planning to run on as many Saturdays & Sundays as possible in 2021, along with Bank Holidays as normal. Keep an eye on the website and Facebook page for more information.
Today we have released our Santa Special tickets for 2020. Things will be a little different to previous year, but we're happy to say that the big man will be with us again this year! Check out our Santa page for more infomration and a link to our booking website.
Secondly, this is a reminder that we are open for all Sunday's in October 2020. This is something new for us, but we thought that as we've been closed for most of the season, now that we can run trains, you guys might appreaciate a little extra time to come and grab a ride with us!
We're happy to announce that we're planning to re-open the railway on Sunday 26th July and then every Sunday in August. We may open on Wednesdays in August too, but that depends on the number of volunteers that we can press-gang/ask nicely, to run the services
Things will be different. We'll have to be socially distant whilst we queue for tickets, we'll have to queue outside of the ticket office before we're allowed on to the train. There will be screens between the seats of our covered coaches so that we can carry two families per coach but still keep a barrier between the family units. We'll be cleaning the train between each and every journey. We'll be putting in a one-way system to board and exit the train. This is still a work in progress for us, and there will probably be other things that we'll be doing too to make sure that both you and our volunteers are kept safe during these unusual times and things are likely to change as we evolve the way that we run the service.
That's the good news. The bad news is that we've had to make the difficult decision to cancel all of the special events planned for the rest of the year. This includes our annual Teddie Bears' Picnic and our galas. The latter is particularly frustrating as we had planned a special 20th Anniversary gala for the end of August with visiting locos that had helped start the railway all those years ago. Rest assured though, this is being re-planned for 2021!!
We understand that there are lots of concerns around the current COVID-19 virus.
Following a meeting of our Board meeting tonight (19/03/2020), it is with the deepest regret that we have to inform you that due to the current COVID-19 situation and the current guidelines from the Government that we have taken the very difficult decision to close the Railway with immediate effect. Although this will undoubtedly be disappointing for all of our volunteers and all of our visitors, we feel that it is our responsibility to protect all who work with us and all who visit our Railway.
For clarification, this means that no services will run at the Railway, and means that the special event planned for Mother's Day on Sunday 22nd March is cancelled.
We are sorry to have to announce this and ask for your understanding at this time. As soon as we are able, and following the guidelines as laid out by the Government, we will re-open and start operating again.
In the mean time, please stay safe and look after yourselves until we are able to go full-steam ahead again in the near future.
This year's work weekend sees us start a major task, that being to remove the bridge by the swimming pools, re-align the track and then rebuild the bridge.
The issue here is that by re-aligning the track, it changes the curve and therefore moves the track away from the platform at Hardham Halt. This means that a lot of the undergrowth needs to be removed too to make way for the new track before we can then extend the platform at Hardham Halt, which will then give more room on the platform for when it becomes "North Pole", where there is always a crowd of people either waiting to get to see Santa, or waiting for the return train from the North Pole.
Pictures in the gallery here show the old bridge being dismantled, the new bridge starting to be constructed, clearance of some of the undergrowth, and the new bridge with some rail laid on it.
We're proud to announce the visit of 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley from Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway for our annual Steam Gala, running over the weekend of 25th, 26th and 27th May. with each day will see at least 3 trains running.
Sir Nigel Gresley was built by William Kirkland in 1964, at which time he ran her at Thoresby Hall in Nottinghamshire from 1966 to 1988. During the 1990s Sir Nigel was based at Stapleford Park, Leicestershire. After William's death in 2001 the engine was sold by auction at Bonhams to two members of The South Downs Light Railway, from where Eastleigh Lakeside Railway purchased her in August 2003. Since then the team at Eastleigh have taken over 5 years rebuilding and converting to 3 cylinders, finally putting her back into service April 2009.
March saw the start of the new running season at SDLR, along with the Annual General Meeting on 23rd March, during which all statutory business was transacted with the adoption of the Directors' Report, the annual accounts and a resolution to dispence with a formal audit. The Treasurer reported a very successful year with a healthy balance sheet and the Chairman was able to comment on another year of healthy traffic and good special events.
Elected to the Board were Crispin White and Julian Chivers, who take the place of Peter Taylor and Alan Jackson. A big thank you is expressed to both gentlemen that have served for a number of years on the Board of Directors.
During the AGM, the Steam Guage Trophy was presented to Herbie Greasley, recognising all of the hard work that Herbie puts in to the railway. Almost every weekend you can find Herbie at the railway, either performing his rostered duty, or more than likely, filling in for someone to cover their shift. It is very much appreciated, along with all of our other volunteers hard work.
Also in March we saw the arrival of "Agapanthus", a locomotive owned by Alan Eatwell. Agapanthus was purchased as part of the auction of Lord Braybrooke's locomotives from Audley End. She needs a bit of work completing, but that is well under way and we hope to see her running on the railway very soon. More information can be found in our Locomotives section of the website, where an image gallery will be created when we have some photos of her in action.
Truly amazing progress (as can be seen here) with the re-railing project over the last few days, digging new route with plant one Thursday, followed by hardcore, new sleepers and rail for about 80% of the new track, now just the new crossover to build & ballasting to go!
December finds a lot of Santa's helpers visiting the railway to help prepare for Santa's visit.
The younger members of our Railway have taken on a project of their own. They are currently starting the re-installation of the turntable, having relocated it to the outside of the workshop. When complete, this will allow easy access to the workshop for the locos and rolling stock, rather than having to move all of the locos in the engine shed to gain access to the workshop.
May 2018 saw the whole country celebrating the marriage of Price Harry to Meghan Markle. It was a very hot sunny day, and we too celebrated the wedding with our own special headboard for the happy couple!
Regular visitors could not fail to notice the changes to Stopham Road Station. (If you've not, click here for an image gallery!) The water crane positioned between the tracks always concerned us, not just becuase of the risk of impact with one of the narrow gauge locos if it was not returned to position, but also the fact that passengers could easily reach the arm and grab it.
Extending the platform has been an aim of the Railway for many years. Initially it was impossible because of the old access to the swimming pools, but once this was closed there was room for about 15ft of extra platform. The next hurdle was the insulated joint activating the crossing and the starter signal. The track replacement programme in Feburary 2018 gave us the ideal oppurtunity for the insulated joint to be moved, which was easily achieved by the S&T gang. The final problem was the starter signal which was on a gantry with the inner loop signal. Simply moving the signal back was not practical becuase of the curve making for poor visbility. The S&T Gang put their thinking caps on and came up with the ideal of splitting the gantry signal in half, leaving the inner loop signal where it was and placing the starter signal at the end of the platform.
The Society's Annual General Meeting was held on Saturday 10th March 2018 at Hardham Halt. The usual statutory business was transacted with the adoption of the Directors' Report, the annual accounts and a resolution to dispence with a formal audit. The Treasurer reported another successful year with a healthy balance sheet and the Chairman was able to comment on another year of healthy traffic and good special events.
Steve Johnson was elected to the Board. He takes the place of Julian Chivers who has served the Society as a committeeman and Director from the earliest days. Thank you, Julian for your past service.
This years' Steam Gauge Trophy was awarded to John Holmes for his consistent hard work as the Socitety's Treasurer.
In the cold wind of February we started our work weekend. The plan was to replace 3 or 4 panels of the older track, starting from the new track on the front straight heading back towards the station.
Thanks to the "heavy gang" that work on Sundays for us, we managed to surpass the station and replace track all the way back past the level crossing to garden centre. It meant that we had to build a new level crossing, but we were happy to live with that minor inconvenience!
The plan now for the work weekend in October is to start at the other end of the front straight and work round Windmill Curve towards the diamond crossing.
Here's a few photos
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© South Downs Light Railway, 2022.
South Downs Light Railway Society Ltd
Stopham Road Station
Pulborough Garden Centre
West Sussex. RH20 1DS
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