Wings and Wheels Society.

Bluebell Railway 60+1 Anniversary Gala 7-8-2021.

The Covid situation meant the Bluebell's 60 anniversary in 2020 was a very low key affair but a year on they planned a bigger 60+1 celebration. This promised to be very different, adding live music from across the last 60 years to the usual Steam Gala format. A long day trip needing too many tightish connections to come off if it wasn't to become a slog. Still the lure of those classic pre-grouping engines meant it was surely worth the gamble? Amazingly cross London connections got me to Victoria with 2 minutes to spare. My old commute across South London looked much as I remembered it from the 90s, although East Croydon seemed a hive of new skyscraper building. Arrival at East Grinstead was on time allowing for a comfortable stroll to the Bluebell's newish terminus. One of the joys of the Bluebell is their ability to match locomotives with coaching stock of the appropriate age. First up was 1956 BR tank 800151 complete with a Bullied and BR Mk1 carriage set. The music element consisted of a lady dolled up in best Carnaby Street style belting out Pop and Eurovision hits of the 60s. Stopped myself from humming along long enough to grab a quick photo and got on board. A quick bit of train changing then saw me sample two veterans locos in their gloriously ornate SECR liveries. First up was H class tank SECR 263 and Maunsell non-corridor set, and while stopped at Kingscote the sounds of the early 60s filtered in courtesy of a Jazz quartet on the platform. While I didn't recognise the song the old girls in my compartment did and joined loudly in! Following this jolly knees-up I switched to ride behind C class SECR 65 with the Chesham set, and swanned down to Sheffield Park on my own in a first class compartment (complete with air raid warning advice notices from 1940). Sheffield Park was busy and progress on the new builds was observed. The new BR standard 2-6-2 tank seems to gaining momentum, and the Brighton Atlantic really looks close to being finished. The music continued with the Bluebell's own brass band, great on the Floral Dance but not Bon Jovi and Madonna (I kid you not Missus!). Then home with BR Standard 80151 in the front coach with another compartment to myself (only second class this time mind). A brief stop at Horstead Keynes revealed that a mini rock festival was now on outside the station with 70s prog rock filling the air until 80151 launched stridently into the climb to East Grinstead! Tight connections were made all the way back home via Gloucester in good time for Match of Day. My thanks to all at the Bluebell for putting on such an imaginative event, a fitting tribute to their achievements over the last 60+1 years.

Copyright of all pictures in this gallery belong to N Clarke.