It is just a ten mile drive from Springwood to East Grinstead, one of the four stations on the Bluebell Railway.
The Bluebell Railway is a heritage line of 11 miles running preserved steam trains from Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes, Kingscote and, of course, East Grinstead where it connects with Southern mainline trains. The Bluebell Railway is the perfect day out – especially when combined with a visit to the National Trust property of Sheffield Park and Garden.
“The Railway’s four stations, its locomotives and its rolling stock cover a period of railway history from the 1870s to the 1950s and as such provide a unique insight into a way of life that has largely disappeared from the United Kingdom today”.
The Bluebell Railway is largely run by volunteers and boasts 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.
The Four Stations
The four stations have been restored to show different periods of the railway’s life:
- Sheffield Park has been restored to a Victorian ambience, as it would have appeared during the time of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (up to 1922). Head for Platform 2 to access the new museum and discover the history of the railway from its beginnings in 1882 through to the present day. From Platform 1 and the locomotive sheds view a fantastic collection of stock including the oldest locomotive “Fenchurch” built in 1872, or his younger brother “Stepney” who appears in the famous Thomas the Tank Engine story books.
- Horsted Keynes emulates the Southern Railway (1922–48) and houses the award winning Carriage and Wagon department. This is where all carriage restoration takes place. The carriage works viewing gallery and display is accessible from Platform 5.
- Kingscote echoes the British Railways of the 1950s. Cycle hire is available from Kingscote station for exploring the local country lanes and of road tracks through Gravetye Woods. There is also a picnic area is available behind Platform 2 and the ‘Well House’ Station Refreshment Room offers tea, coffee and snacks.
- East Grinstead showcases British Rail of the 1950-60s and is based on Platform 3 – built alongside the Southern Station of the regular train network. The Bluebell Railway’s station booking office and travel centre is located on the concourse as well as “The Grinstead Shop and Buffet” carriage offering teas, coffees and light snacks. Both the Travel Centre and Grinstead Shop & Buffet are open every day (except Christmas Day) even if trains are not in service.
Enjoy Afternoon Tea
The Bluebell Railway also offers treats such as “Steam and Cream or Full Afternoon Tea” as well as lunch or evening meals on-board a steam locomotive:
Steam & Cream includes a cream Tea on the Bluebell Line whilst you steam through the Sussex countryside from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead and return (1 hour 40 minutes).
Full traditional Afternoon Tea is served in either the Ashdown, Chelwood or Balcombe Cars on board the Wealden Rambler tea train. Afternoon Tea includes Indian Tea, a selection of sandwiches followed by cakes, tarts, scones, fruit bread and shortcake. The Lounge Car runs on selected dates throughout the year but please note this service is extremely popular and advance booking of at least two months is advised.
The Railway’s steam hauled services operate every day from East Grinstead to Sheffield Park through the delightful Sussex countryside. This is a special time of year when the trees display their magnificent golden colours as summer gives way to Autumn.
Sit back and enjoy the splendid views on the 22 mile round trip along the Bluebell line whilst you are steam hauled by one of their vintage steam locomotives.
At Sheffield Park visit the locomotive sheds and see the historic collection of locomotives awaiting their next turn of duty. The fabulous museum on platform two was built only a few years ago and charts the history of the Bluebell line with an array of displays and interactive games and screens. The Bessemer Arms restaurant on platform one serves a selection of hot meals daily as well as a variety of drinks and light snacks. Alongside the Bessemer Arms is the Bluebell Railway shop – pop in and treat yourself to a souvenir to remember your visit by.
From Sheffield Park station you can also take the opportunity to visit the National Trust property of Sheffield Park and Garden. It has a long and varied history, including:
- as an estate, it is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086)
- Sheffield Park House, was remodelled in the late 1700s and is a fine example of gothic country house architecture (still in private ownership)
- “The informal landscape garden was laid out in the 18th century by ‘Capability’ Brown. It is designed around a series of lakes with meandering paths that take you through glades, along the edges of the lakes, through woodland and over bridges”. The estate includes Parkland, Pulham Falls, four lakes, woodland trails, and river and meadow walks”.
- By 1885, an arboretum was being established, consisting of both exotic and native trees.
- In 1876 the third Earl of Sheffield laid out a cricket pitch. It was used on 12 May 1884 for the first cricket match between England and Australia. The Australian team won by an innings and 6 runs.