Bluebell Railway heritage bid goes full steam ahead

Artist's impression courtesy of Matthew Cousins SUS-160305-164651001
Artist's impression courtesy of Matthew Cousins SUS-160305-164651001
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The popular Bluebell Railway’s bid for Heritage Lottery funding has received a welcome cash boost from Lewes District Council.

The council has agreed to £12,000 match funding, as a one-off payment to be made in two instalments of £6,000 if the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is successful.

The heritage railway line, which runs steam trains along an 11-mile track between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead, attracts more than 150,000 visitors a year.

It was the first preserved standard gauge passenger line in the world to operate a public service.

The Bluebell Railway Preservation Society ran its first train along the track on 7 August 1960, less than three years after the line from East Grinstead to Lewes had been closed by British Railways.

The railway is run and managed mostly by enthusiastic volunteers and has the largest collection of steam locomotives in the UK, after the National Railway Museum.

The Accessible Steam Heritage Project at Sheffield Park is seeking £850,000 of funding for the Bluebell Railway so they can build a new and interactive Locomotive Exhibition Hall at Sheffield Park.

The exhibition hall would ‘enhance and further improve their offer to visitors’, according to a council spokesperson.

Cllr Andy Smith, leader of Lewes District Council, said, “This is a fantastic project to convert the front part of the running shed into an exhibition hall, with digital technology where visitors can explore how steam engines work as well as providing the Railway with a new maintenance facility.

“Lewes District Council is delighted to be supporting Bluebell Railway’s bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund by granting £12,000 as a one-off contribution of five per cent towards the match funding required for the build phase of this exciting project.”

The Bluebell Railway has already been successful in securing £55,000 in 2015 for the Development Phase of this project which has now been completed.

They are now applying for the full grant of £850k to deliver the project, with partnership funding of £250k needing to be raised by August 2016.

If the funding is approved by the Heritage Lottery Fund then work will begin in 2017.

The Accessible Steam Heritage project includes plans to:

· Provide a new steam locomotive maintenance facility

· Protect and enhance the display of the unique collection of steam locomotives

· Create a new exhibition and display area

· Encourage new audiences to increase visitor numbers and encourage return visits

Trains run daily along the track throughout the summer until October 30.

Visit www.bluebell-railway.co.uk for more information.

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