The Premium journey badge is a sign that this journey has has achieved the highest level of accreditation by our team in our review of its customer experience.
Step back in time and immerse yourself in a bygone era of Southern Railway green, of leafy steam trains bustling through quintessentially glorious East Sussex countryside.
7 places to visitView journey Attractions
Approximately 40 minutes in each direction
The frequency depends on the day of the week and time of the year, please check out https://www.bluebell-railway.com/timetables-and-calendar/
East Grinstead Railway StationHow to get here
The railway played a significant role in the evacuation of children during World War 2. In September 1939, it transported over 7,000 children from London to safety in the countryside. This activity was known as the “Operation Pied Piper” and was one of the largest and most ambitious mass evacuations of children in British history.
Step back in time and immerse yourself in a bygone era of Southern Railway green, of leafy steam trains bustling through quintessentially glorious East Sussex countryside. The Bluebell Railway was the first preserved standard gauge, steam-operated passenger railway in the world to operate a public service, running its first train on 7 August 1960, less than three years after the line from East Grinstead to Lewes had been closed by British Railways. Today, it has the second largest collection of steam trains in the UK, after the National Railway Museum in York, with 30 steam locomotives and over 150 carriages and wagons, many of them pre-dating 1939!
The Bluebell Railway, one of the most famous of its kind in the world, is more than just a scenic journey pulled by a classic steam or diesel locomotive – it’s a whole day out and wonderful experience with so much to see and do. From a fascinating museum with engaging and intriguing exhibits, through to activities for children, a model railway, special events…. there’s a breathless array of activities and something for everyone, of all ages.
Starting in East Grinstead, it’s clickety-clack all the way over the majestic Imberhorne Viaduct, with views overlooking a mix of countryside and houses. Soon, though, buildings are very much left behind as the train is plunged into lush countryside and the sprawling Ashdown Forest – the very forest that inspired AA Milne to create Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s natural beauty pretty well all the way now – gentle green rolling hills, slight, meandering curves cutting through soft undulating fields, passing human life every so often, of well-wishers at stations or folk on foot waiting to traverse the track at West Hoathly and Birch Farm foot crossings.
The stations are idyllic, perfectly manicured gardens and floral displays, alongside architecture and features that have an eye for detail and yesteryear, that you’ll be hard pushed to find as microscopic and authentic on any railway or form of transport elsewhere. Sheffield Park is a throwback to the 1880s whilst the refreshment room catapults folk into the 1920s and thence to the 50s at Kingscote.
The glorious scenery is punctuated by the sight of semaphore signals, working signal boxes, vintage carriages and locomotives, old-fashioned signs, ornaments and tools of the job – flags, luggage trolleys and ticket clippers. This is as much an insightful time-machine back to an industrial era, as it is a journey through wonderful countryside, with views of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
As the train pulls into Horsted Keynes, look out for the Bluebell Railway Carriage Shop, where pre-loved collectors’ items are on display and aplenty. Meanwhile, at the end of this incredible journey at Sheffield Park, there both a Bluebell Railway shop and museum and also the Bullied Society shop on platform 2, which is a haven for those who have a penchant for railway memorabilia. You could lose yourself inside, so too the incredible Museum which has an incredible collection of photographs and artefacts, as well as invigorating displays and activities for youngsters. The Bluebell Railway is the ultimate reference point for the history of the Southern Railway.
There are so many ticket options to choose from, from a simple ride to private compartment for your family and lavish evening meal to afternoon tea. The railway is also perfect for kids, offering regular family-friendly deals and exciting little ones with steam engines and historic train stations.
Sheffield Park harks back to the 1880s, while the refreshment room at Horsted Keynes transports you to the 1920s, and Kingscote evokes rail travel in the 1950s.
At the 1930s-themed Horsted Keynes, you’ll find the Bluebell Railway Carriage Shop, where you can browse pre-loved collectors’ items inside a historic carriage. All proceeds go towards funding projects at the railway, including wagon restoration. Plus, you can watch carriage restorations in front of your eyes at the Carriage and Wagon Workshop at Horsted Keynes. They take care of metal fabrication, woodwork, marquetry, upholstery and painting.
Sheffield Park features both a Bluebell Railway shop and incredible museum, as well as the Bullied Society Shop on platform two, where folk can peruse vintage transport books and railway magazines, railway memorabilia including timetables and models, and old photographs, DVDs and videos.
A Fab Day Out!
No day out is the same on the Bluebell Railway and there’s an action-packed programme of different types of trains for your journey or events taking place on the route, varying in theme and era. There’s various events run throughout the year – from special visits from different engines, through to family fun days, Santa Specials, Afternoon Tea, Silver Service Dining evenings, Supper Specials and Real Ale evenings! There really is something for everyone!
In terms of a fabulous day out, East Grinstead is a great starting point, with its connections on Southern Railway from London, Surrey and Sussex. The East Grinstead Museum is well worth a visit and showcases local artifacts and exhibits. The High Street is great too, lined with charming shops, cafes and restaurants. One of the most popular attractions in East Grinstead is the Sackville College, a stunning Elizabethan almshouse founded in the late 16th century. Visitors can explore the historic building and its beautiful gardens. For families with children, the nearby Tilgate Park is a great option. The park features a large lake, a children’s playground and a nature centre that houses a variety of animals, including wallabies and meerkats. For the more adventurous, or those enjoying a longer stay, the surrounding Ashdown Forest is worth exploring, with its vast heathland and scenic walking trails.
In Horsted Keynes, folk can visit the beautiful St. Giles Church, which dates back to the 12th century and is a fab example of English Gothic architecture. Check out on the station, the fabulous model railway display and Elephant Van Indoor Soft Play – a great place for children to let off steam! There’s also the carriage and wagon viewing area, where restoration activities can also be perused.
Back on the train and arriving at Sheffield Park, there is the brilliant Bluebell Railway Museum, situated on platform 2, which is one of the highlights of the day! It is a fascinating museum with exhibits to engage and intrigue all visitors from small children upwards.
Many visitors can still remember travelling on steam trains and a few can even recall being evacuated during the Second World War. The museum is a wonderful place to evoke memories and immerse yourself in nostalgia – there’s fab insights into the history and science of the industrial age, whilst families can enjoy hands-on fun at the interactive exhibitions, partake in quizzes and also just delight in stepping back in time to see railway staff in period clothing, look at original working signal boxes and board vintage carriages. The museum also has one of finest collections of material recording the history of railways in Southern England, including an Archive department containing a collection of over 12,000 photographs. It is regularly visited by railway enthusiasts and researchers from the UK and overseas and is an emporium of vintage transport books and railway magazines, timetables, models and old photographs, DVDs and videos.
Once you’ve caught your breath, a great place to relax is Sheffield Park, with its serene lakes, stunning vistas and colourful blooms. It’s a horticultural work of art, a paradisical setting, of meandering paths, woodland walks, delightful bridges, lakes and lovely picnic areas. This is one of the most idyllic gems in Sussex and a ‘must visit’ any time of year.
How to get here...
By train from London, Sussex and parts of Sussex to East Grinstead to join the Bluebell Railway. Many local buses serve the Bluebell RailwayVisit National Rail