Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Sunday, March 17, 2013
riding the zeitgeist
The best news this year so far is the Bluebell's reconnection to the Network. I once worked on this line and also regularly visited it when I lived in Sussex. It was always a very special place and the short Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes section did have a charm of its own. But the world has changed a lot from the 1970s when the above shot was taken, and I think the line always realised that they needed to reconnect to the Network eventually. It's perhaps not even a concious decision, perhaps the emerging view of heritage lines as future community railways is something that is felt rather than thought, but this will totally transorm the Bluebell. Expect plenty of specials off the main line, lots of new visiting locos (steam and diesel) and a lot more TV and film work.
But most of all expect a growing demand for reconnection to Haywards Heath (please make it a preserved third rail electric route!) and then to Lewes. And once that is in the bloodstream thoughts about developing the route as a REAL line, with passengers and freight, will begin. There's no need for the intermediate stations to lose any of their charm, but I reckon within ten to twenty years there will be trains from East Grinstead to Lewes, carrying ordinary fare-paying passengers, and who knows, a London-Brighton train eventually as well.
This is the way things are going, with heritage railways pre-empting the upheavals of Peak Oil and Climate Change and grabbing the business temporarily lost to the doomed car and lorry.
And remember the Imberhorne tip situation has a lot in common with what the SDRHT will soon face at Chilcompton. The little Bluebell has overcome it, the mighty S&D certainly should have nothing to fear!