Posted 7 November 2012 by Andrew Gardner
October was a poignant month in the history of the Bluebell Railway, one of Sussex's best-known tourist attractions. The man who founded the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society, Bernard Holden, died at the great age of 104 and a special train carried his coffin from Sheffield Park to Kingscote for the funeral.
Now this might sound like a sad subject to blog about, but it's not: Sussex has good reason to celebrate Holden's life as the Bluebell is a real asset to this region - a great day out for railway buffs, children and families at any time of year, or for a special occasion (a romantic dinner, perhaps?) on certain days you can book a table in its period-piece dining car.
We went with some friends this time last year - the adults drank in the views of Sussex and golden autumn leaves, the kids adored the platform exhibits and the keen photographer in our party got some fantastic shots of the engines under steam.
Holden's society was formed in 1959 under a slightly different name. Originally the Lewes & East Grinstead Railway, when the line opened in 1882 it was mostly single track and had six stations. It was earmarked for closure in the early 1950s, even before the Beeching axe, and despite great efforts by those keen to save it this happened a few years later. The society originally hoped to reopen the whole line, but in the end managed to save only the section from Sheffield Park to Horsted Keynes, which reopened in 1960 as a steam railway and museum.
And this job it does extremely well. For a great day out from one of our Sussex holiday homes close to the railway it's easy to visit the engine sheds at Sheffield Park station and all three stations up the line have atmospheric museum displays and memorabilia. You might need to wrap up well at this time of year, but isn't there something truly evocative about that burst of steam from the engine cutting through the twilight on a chilly November evening?
To read more on the Bluebell Railway and its imminent re-opening to East Grinstead see the link from our East Sussex Places to Visit page.