Bluebell Railway launches £500k appeal to revamp station that appeared in Downton Abbey and Poirot

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The Bluebell Railway has launched an appeal for £500,000 to help restore a station that has featured in many popular films and TV programmes.

The heritage line is seeking public support to repair leaking roofs and replace rotting beams at its Grade II-listed Horsted Keynes station.

“The station buildings were built in Victorian times and are now showing signs of wear and tear,” said appeal co-ordinator Trevor Swainson.

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“We view Horsted Keynes as our ‘jewel in the crown’ and we hope this appeal puts the sparkle back into the station,” he added.

The Downton Abbey cast at Horsted Keynes station on the Bluebell Railway. Picture: Mick Blackburn.The Downton Abbey cast at Horsted Keynes station on the Bluebell Railway. Picture: Mick Blackburn.
The Downton Abbey cast at Horsted Keynes station on the Bluebell Railway. Picture: Mick Blackburn.

The Horsted Keynes station has featured in a variety of period dramas thanks to its vintage look.

Film crews and production companies have used it for filming scenes in Downton Abbey, Poirot, Grantchester, The Woman in Black film and a remake of The Railway Children.

The station’s long history of filming dates back to 1961, and Daniel Radcliffe, David Suchet, Dame Maggie Smith and Jenny Agutter are among the stars that have visited.

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The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway built Horsted Keynes station in 1882 as part of the Lewes-East Grinstead line.

It was purchased by the Bluebell Railway in the 1960s and has been decorated and maintained in the style of a Southern Railway junction station from the 1930s.

A major survey of the station shows that the first phase of repair work will cost at least £500,000.

The initial repairs will be to the station house and Platform 5 while later work will cover the other platforms.

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Members of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society have already pledged £20,000.

The railway’s charitable arm has promised to match-fund on a pound-for-pound basis all public donations between now and the end of January up to a total of £150,000.

The station’s other famous visitors include the Rev W Awdry, British Railways chairman Dr Beeching, former Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan and broadcasters Michael Portillo and Michael Palin.

The Bluebell Railway is the oldest heritage railway of its type and opened in August 1960, running on 11 miles of track from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead.

To find out more, or to donate, visit www.bluebell-railway.com.

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