Early October saw half of the preserved production Deltic fleet drawing the crowds at the Bluebell Railway, which for so long was a no-go area for diesels, writes Robin Jones.
THERE was a time, not so long ago, when the mere mention of the word ‘diesel’ on the Bluebell Railway was nothing short of sacrilege.
However, largely fuelled by the arrival of modern traction during the building of the northern extension to East Grinstead, there was a slow begrudging acceptance that diesels had their part to play in an exclusively steam-operated domain, even if only under strictly limited conditions.
Soon, the occasional foray of a diesel to Sheffield Park was welcomed by more than a few linesiders, and it became clear that the Bluebell was missing a trick. No, it does not have to have diesels running every day or on off-peak weekends, but the occasional full-blown gala was another string to the bow of the line’s revenue stream.
Far from shunning diesels, on Friday, October 6, to Sunday, October 8, the line hosted the 40th anniversary celebrations for one of the most widely-respected heritage traction groups in the Deltic Preservation Society.
On October 4, West Coast Railways took a convoy of Class 55s from York to the Bluebell.
The National Railway Museum’s D9002 The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the society’s D9009 Alycidon ran to Barrow Hill to collect No. 55019 Royal Highland Fusilier before continuing south via Loughborough, Peterborough and the North London Line to East Grinstead.
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