The Bluebell Railway has been awarded a £1.1m grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to build an exciting new exhibition.
The work, which is part of the Bluebell’s ASH (Accessible Steam Heritage) project, will see substantial repairs and improvements made to its Running Shed at its Sheffield Park headquarters.
The building will be extended and refurbished to create a new exhibition hall, which will feature exhibits of how steam engines work, plus a footplate driving experience based on a mock-up of locomotive 55 Stepney.
The news has been welcomed by Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, who said: “The Bluebell Railway is a brilliant tourist attraction within Sussex, and I am delighted that the efforts of the team and all of the volunteers has been rewarded with this funding, which will allow important improvements to be made.”
In addition to the grant, the Bluebell Railway itself will contribute £388,000 plus a substantial amount of “effort in kind” to be put in by members of its 700-strong volunteer workforce.
The Bluebell hope to hope the open hall in Spring 2018 and say the project will run for a further two years with extensive plans to utilise the exhibition to engage the public and support the growth of visitor numbers.
The project also aims to increase the Bluebell’s capacity to work with schools in developing their Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) curriculum, with a target of increasing school visits by 150 per cent by 2020.
Founded more than 55 years ago, The Bluebell Railway is a pioneer of steam railway preservation. It operates more than 11 miles of track in Sussex from East Grinstead to its headquarters at Sheffield Park.
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