Latest page update - Tuesday 21st February 2017




With the main rubbish extraction phase concluded the Bluebell Railway can achieve its aim of reattaching itself to the main line at East Grinstead by 2013 if they get enough money! They only need about 500,000 now so if you can help please do consider making a donation. For details . In the mean time I hope to continue to publish pictures of the work as it progresses. There is a new appeal video here:

This page will now concentrate on a quick summary of the work to date and newer pictures - the old page can now be seen by clicking here

This page records my pictures of the Bluebell Railway's attempt to reconnect the 9 mile long existing line with the main railway at East Grinstead in Sussex. If you are not familiar with the Bluebell area then it's a little complicated so here is my (very simplified) explanation. When the Bluebell decided to try to reconnect it was faced with a virtually clear but heavily overgrown track from its existing terminus at Kingscote to the main line at East Grinstead - just two miles away. The problem was that more than 30 years ago as a young man I watched as one cutting was filled up with over 100 thousand tonnes of domestic waste. This was accomplished by waste wagons backing up to the edge of the old cutting and then simply opening up the back and dropping their waste over the side. Other waste arrived by road and was very basically sorted then pushed over the edge by a sort of pump device. I am aware that some people give other descriptions of the way it was done but I was there and together with my late father we watched the work being done! They did not even bother to remove the ballast from the old track - indeed some old sleepers were left behind and buried under the first tippings.

After much provocation and delay after a trial by road, the Bluebell decided to remove this waste by rail which meant that they first had to build a line south from the main line railway at East Grinstead to the tip face. Next they transported trains of wagons to the tip face, filled them with a digger and transport it all away to another dump. So there are really at present two Bluebell Railways - one is the original track running to the south of the blockage and a second line over half a mile long running south from East Grinstead to the north of the tip located near Imberhorne Farm. The Bluebell passenger station at East Grinstead was rebuilt and opened last year - this has confused some people as it was not really made clear that the new station did not serve any others! We hope the two lines will be rejoined soon with a new golden spike as used by the early American railway pioneers. This page records work removing the waste by rail during the later part of 2011 which is a very important time as the work must be progressed for the railway to ever get back. To see the pictures in more detail just right click and save the small views below.




So it's 27th June 2011 and work starts again. We are told that the trains will run  for a few weeks, then take a short break for more sorting out, then another batch of removal trains.

Looking at the Southern end we can see that the clay capping is being sorted out with the help of three diggers and that wonderful "snow cat" that I pictured before.


Actually to call it clay is rather misleading. I have seen stuff as good or as bad as this with potatoes sprouting through so it probably has more uses than just as infilling.
Here, snapped with my phone is one of the green lorries that seem to be regularly arriving at the site empty and leaving full. They then head off to Turners Hill and onwards! As long as they take stuff with them I'm not complaining!
! So it's back to the familiar bridge overlooking the north end of the work and we can see that with the reduced visitor count it has become very overgrown.
There is still a lot of dog muck in the long grass so be very careful if you visit!
Notice the track is still very muddy though
Looking over the left hand side we can see that little has changed, it's still a dusty moonscape. Not helped by the temperature being 84F when this picture was taken! You will see that there has been little to no vegetable growth on the sides, Is it possible for someone to find some grass, wild flower or even some bluebell seeds? The whole area is going to look awful until there is growth and if left alone it will just be thistles and stinging nettles.

Just 4 days later on the last day of June and we see a lot of preparatory work has been completed ready for the first train which will arrive by Monday afternoon. It's booked to return for emptying on Monday evening.

Another view and you can now almost see to the far end of the cutting! This is where my camera is misleading as the difference on the ground is quite startling.


And here is where much of the topping has been deposited. Taken from an unusual place to the east of the cutting (make the most of it this took a lot out of me reaching the spot) we can see a mini-mountain of capping material presumably waiting for road removal. I gasped when I saw this lot from the road which is why I especially wanted to photo it for you, being perhaps 30 feet tall!

This pile has now all but disappeared - it is being moved south. (Update August 2011).


This gives a scale to the whole operation! A general view on the morning of American Independence Day as we await the big story of the first train of trucks for ages. The digger is working on top of a pile of rubbish that looks about the volume of 20 trucks
More new machinery on site. For the first time a "real" Bulldozer.
Another new arrival is a much larger tipper lorry shown here on the top of "Spoil Mountain".
According to a local resident the Bulldozer spent ages levelling the top off flat. Perhaps this is the final contour, ready for tree or shrub planting? There is a later picture of the work continuing lower down this page.
Which is a bit odd seeing as there was at the time of my visit just one digger doing all the filling. Now I timed filling the first two trucks at 28 minutes, so multiply that by 10 and it will be a tight squeeze getting the job done by the end of the day.
Perhaps more help is on the way?

It's now "tomorrow" the 5th of July and a train of 20 wagons has departed.
Can you see the difference? No, me neither!
It's always difficult to give this work scale. Well here is a picture of the general scene and on the right is a man in a yellow jacket. Did you see him first time?
THAT is the size of the tip!

Thursday 7th July, with three full trains gone - that's 58 x 50 Tonne wagons there does not seem to have been much progress. Perhaps it's all an optical illusion?
Two diggers filling today and I must say it was MUCH quicker taking perhaps 9 minutes to fill each wagon.
Looking for a long lost red scarf? Sorry it's now at the bottom of 50 Tonnes of rubbish and will be under the ground in Bedfordshire by tomorrow! This does though show how well things keep their colour and condition below ground.

Nearly a week later on the morning of 12th July and a lot of top soil has been moved around but I must say progress still seems very slow. We are told that it will take 10 weeks to gain over 350 metres. That's 30 metres per week and I can't see anything like this progress. The railhead remains 4 and a half trucks long.

A LOT of top soil has been moved about admittedly but one would have hoped to see a larger hole emerging. Even allowing for the top soil being disposed of elsewhere the amount of rubbish moved seems quite small.

I sincerely hope that I have missed something going on elsewhere!

The work this morning consisted of moving top soil from the centre to the edge where it was being laid out and flattened. The rubbish to fill this afternoons train is waiting on top of the loading ramp. That is what 100 Tonnes of waste looks like - the dark bit on the top of the ramp is one train load.

This digger is busy flattening and laying down the final contour on the eastern side of the cutting. Shown is a continuation of the work pictured last week in the picture higher up this page.

Wednesday 13th July and we are at a different location. We are beside the Council dump works on the northern side of the tip. In front of you are the remains of the "mountain" that can be seen in earlier pictures. This is NOT the pile of topping that sits at the southern end of the cutting. That's 100 metres away!
And here is the pile which marks the southern end of the cutting. This pile has now been greatly enlarged. (August 2011).
Here is the gap between the two. get the idea? The area is huge! The three trees mark what appears to be the edge of the cutting itself with the trains eventually passing 30 metres below on their far side. Either way it seems that the Bluebell have inherited quite a large area of commercial land. No idea of future uses but it must have some value.
This might look like an odd picture but it shows a very important subject which will give some idea of location and how far work has progressed. The orange digger is a marker sitting just about a third of the way from the north/western end of the cutting. If you are familiar with the area this is about in line with the far end of the public area where the Council rubbish skips used to be - where the old TV storage cage used to be. I have put an unmarked cross on the map on the index page almost exactly where this digger is. You will see it again in a minute.
Here (top right) is that self same orange digger from the more usual angle on the bridge. This shows the level of the land here as well as how much has to be removed to reach "rail level". Worked out where we are yet?
Some non-visitors who have only looked at these pictures have suggested that there are hidden works somewhere which is why the progress seems so slow. Well from looking on the ground there are not. Yes the topping has been moved all over the place but this seems to be the only place where waste is presently being extracted. It is then passed on to the next digger, and then laid out on the ramp for loading this afternoon. What you see is what there is - there are no hidden "digs" anywhere.
Finally for today is the finished contoured "left hand" edge of the cutting. they have even put down some top soil so if anyone has any grass seed could they please donate it and get it spread out before the weeds take over next year.

18th July update: This has now all been dug up!

Picture taken on Thursday 14th July and viewed from a higher than usual angle thanks to my Jimmy Jib (actually a bit of a bodge as the real high angle mount is being used elsewhere). This picture clearly shows the new narrow route of extraction. Straight on for Sheffield Park but as you can see the track needs shifting over a bit before use!

18th July update: The level area on the top left has now all been dug up again,

What's this? Yes the lorries that take the topping away now come right onto the top of the tip where they are refilled in seconds. Then they speed off but where to? They go a mighty long way, I saw one on the M23 junction and believe it then went on to the Horsham area! You'd think that earth could be obtained nearer but apparently not Educated rumour says the topping is going to cover a tip near Small Dole..
This is another view of the "mountain" of topping that sits about half way along the route of the old cutting and seems to be on the new line of the railway.

This pile is now being moved south (updated August 2011).


A quick visit on a sunny Friday 15th July finds 66707 Sir Sam Fay shunting wagons. And here it finds itself backed right up to the tip face and waiting for the final two wagons to be filled. Looking on the left we can see what appears to be a cut on the left hand side of the cutting. IF this is the start of the halving that has been promised then it appears to be on the longer side of the curve. Time will tell but it seems this is the new route.
The waste is not all loose soil type stuff you know. Here is a large tree trunk almost 4 metres long that somehow found itself in the rubbish this afternoon. But how did it get there? My guess is it was tipped over the side one dark evening!
More wagons waiting to be filled pass those already in the siding. The filling is now extremely quick, taking a total of less than three hours - and that includes the time for the driver to get his cups of tea. When I was there it was completed by two diggers in blocks of 4 wagons then the final 2 shown below.

This is where your correspondent tries to show amazement whilst still remaining objective, well I can't! Let me explain. You may remember that last week I described an area of embankment where a large amount of work had been expended levelling and flattening. After this some proper top soil was laid and I suggested that we might like to donate some grass seed to finish off the job.

You remember? That was last week. It's shown above dated 14th July.

Today the entire area has been dug up again! It looks as though this area is now being turned into a loading access ramp. The dark area in the front will probably be removed shortly.

Talk about changing boat in mid stream!

The truck on the left is on a gentle slope that has been dug where the finished area was last week. I expect the dividing wall to be removed soon when it will all become much clearer to photograph. I suspect this will provide a "side" access to the loading ramp.

Incidentally you may also remember that the new scheme was designed to prevent double handling of the waste. Well that will be another plan that has changed.

Here you can see the new "half width" cutting line. It's on the top right of this picture. You can also see where the top soil has been removed allowing access to the spoil below. This goes back to the northern end of the Council dump. I'll put it on the map as soon as possible.
The rain has caused some slippage of the waste which can be seen here. The filled trucks are not as buried as they appear but this does show how easily a little rain moves the waste.

I just wonder if the realisation that the waste is not as stable as thought may cause yet another change of plan?

I sincerely hope not!

It's Wednesday 20th July and we can for the first time see what happens when the tip contents get wet. Much of it turns into what can best be described as wet concrete!
As I mentioned earlier the wall between the new access "road" and the loading ramp is being removed. Just in front of the lower digger is a pile of wet waste.
The grey matter underneath the digger has the look and consistency of wet concrete and is a mash of rubbish and rainwater.
This is a general view of the area taken on 20th July 2011.
This is in fact a "waterfall" flowing from the new access "road". To see all this properly I earnestly recommend a look at the videos.
Finally some more waste metal has been recovered and dumped for for disposal.

Friday 22nd July 2011 and with just one train to go this represents 14 trains and three weeks of work on the tip near East Grinstead. It is interesting to see that some of the capping that was removed seems to be being pushed back onto the top. You can see this if you compare earlier photos still shown above.

If you look further down the page it does for once seem that quite a lot of spoil was removed after this picture was taken. Look further down the page to see.

And here is a view of the actual work gained, it's the half width "wall" between the two sides of the tip. My very rough guestimate would be 20 yards, remember this part is only half depth at present.

28th July and a few days after the last train. I must say the amount of capping moved is considerable and worth looking at from the side, but the rubbish underneath seems to still be a problem. Hope it all suddenly disappears!

In the far distance you can see a dark layer of capping material. The cutting width seems (to my untrained eye) to be 60% removed with 40% left in situ. the angle of the slope seems shall we say "optimistic" if it is to survive a British winter.

There is now a straight line of pegs for the digger drivers to follow.

By the way if the pictures are all too small to study properly just right click any picture as they download to your computer in a larger format than you first see!

Can you see the blue fencing that has appeared on the right hand side? This wouldn't be the start of a viewing area would it? No, thought that would be unlikely!

Here is another view of the blue fence that can be seen on other web sites. It shows the top of the slope too so line the two up and it shows where the railway have reached.

Wednesday 3rd August 2011 and this is the view of what is in fact a large mound of topping that has been moved south to Imberhorne bridge. The mound is much deeper than it is wide so it disappears out of sight to the north. On the right is a haul road that the tipper traverses every few minutes.
And here is the same mound from the side showing the tipper dumping the capping that has come from the mountain in the centre of the site. The trees are a continuous problem trying to picture (or see) anything in detail is difficult. This pile is extremely high, higher than the new embankment that has been built at Horsted Keynes.
This is the tipper doing the carting of topping from the old mountain that is on the route of the line to the new mountain that is being built on the side at the southern end.
A view of the entrance to the site - exciting eh? ;-) This does however show the size of the area, in the distance is a yellow toilet which is about 50 metres away. On the right is one of the tyre piles - they are being burnt by the way. Further down is another view of the yellow loo from the side.
This might look familiar. It is pictured elsewhere and shows the most southerly building on the site. Oh behind it is another pile of earth capping.
Now this is another earth mound and is the most northerly on the site. Work extracting the spoil (on the far side of this mound) has not yet reached this far. There is still a very long way to go and whilst trying to stay encouraging one does wonder if they will manager to get enough rubbish removed on time.

This is not just my view, chatting to other locals they mostly now seem to recognise the urgency of the situation, but also seem to think the job may not be finished in time.

I just wish we could have an overhead view.

Another view that has been seen before, might be useful to compare and contrast, it shows the most southerly building and the pile of earth. There is another pile to the north, and a larger one to the south!!!

This is just about the half way point along the cutting which is marked on the map by a dotted red line. Unfortunately I can confirm that extraction of the tip material (as opposed to topping clay) has reached nowhere near this point yet.

This is the far southerly end of the site - the same yellow toilet might give some scale.

I expect that I shall pull these pictures soon as they are not particularly helpful, but for now they do show how difficult it is to picture the work from a low level.

It's the middle of August 2011 and I made an unscheduled visit. Because of this I have had to use a lower quality camera but it is still possible to see how wet the site is. The rubbish has generally collapsed (so running trains like this will be a no-no.) There is a 5 week extraction phase booked for later in the year.

And here right in the middle is something that we would have never expected to see - a puddle in the rubbish. It is brown mucky water just above centre. We have always been told that the rubbish drains easily. Well there has been no rain for at least a couple of days but it is easy to see that a lot of water is held in this pile. This does not bode well for extraction over the winter season.

The puddle can also be soon on this picture. It's a tyre track in the middle. This is rather a depressing view showing where the rubbish has collapsed all over the line. the green bush at the end is so deep it is well routed and covers the last metre of the line. There is no extraction progress (of course) and the end of the slope is still where it was some time ago.

I'm afraid all in all it's rather depressing as summer turns into autumn. Obviously if you have cash to spare then please still donate but this looks (to my admittedly uneducated eye) to be becoming a long term project.

It's almost autumn on the 30th of August 2011 and I can report a breakthrough at the southern end of the cutting. As you can see the capping is being piled high on the edge of the work. At least one can (almost) see through from one end to the other!
From the side.
Whilst there most certainly has been progress there is still exactly the same amount of rubbish to be removed. They are getting there though.
Looking the other way to the south of Imberhorne bridge we can see that several lengths of rail have been removed. Why? A clearer view from an iPhone!

26th September, general view before any extraction. The digger in the very distance is important - read on. In reality there is not a large arrow on its roof.
This is the pile of metal waiting a visit to the fiery furnace!
 Right at the Southern end on the 27th September we see one of two dump trucks attempting to reach the moon! The digger on the right is the one visible in the photo above and is filling the trucks with capping clay. Yes we can almost see from one end to the other!
Close up of the same digger, taken on 27th September.
Now looking to the very South off Imberhorne bridge with a long lens, again 27th September.
OK, back to the North on the 27th, this is the result of 1000 Tonnes of rubbish being removed on the 26th. The newly exposed rubbish is darker as it is damp, which shows what has been exposed. There was quite a smell in the air I expect locals will be happier when it has all gone.
Same place, same day, different angle.
Finally for now a closer view showing a general view looking South from the Northern bridge on the 27th September 2011. The capping pile on the right is very interesting as it obviously can't stay there for ever. Wonder what it's there for?

Here is a video of work on 4th July 2011

Work in a new area on 13th July 2011

Thursday 14th July, getting the rubbish ready for the afternoon train

Three videos from 20th July

Video from 22nd July



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