The custom made heritage lanterns at Bluebell Railway serve as a prime example of William Sugg’s expertise as heritage lighting specialists, particularly in railways which are often considered sites of cultural significance.  This case study illustrates our team’s ability to design and manufacture an exceptional lighting solution that not only seamlessly blends with the heritage railway’s surroundings, but also offers modern energy efficiency benefits. This excellent project, that we were proud to be a part of, showcases the practicality of stunning heritage railway lanterns which are both unique and authentic to the train station’s history.

The customer

The Bluebell Railway is an historic tourist attraction in West Sussex that offers steam train rides, museum exhibits, and special events.  It holds a significant position in the history of the UK as one of the earliest heritage lines to be preserved.

Since its first train service in August 1960, the Bluebell Railway has been running steam trains along its route between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead, making stops at Horsted Keynes and Kingscote. Visitors can enjoy unlimited on and off privileges, allowing them to fully experience the charm and nostalgia of this iconic railway.

The Bluebell Railway boasts an exceptional collection of vintage steam locomotives and carriages, some of which were directly obtained from British Railways.  The Bluebell Railway enlisted the help of heritage lighting experts, William Sugg & Co. Ltd, to design, build, and install high quality heritage railway lanterns that replicated those already located in and around the station.

The challenge

The Bluebell Railway required a distinct heritage lantern for the railway bridge crossing that was visually coherent with the existing heritage railway lanterns in other parts of the station.

The lantern had to meet several requirements:

  1. To be visually indistinguishable from the other original lanterns, retaining the station’s authenticity as a much loved heritage attraction 
  2. To be manufactured to an exceptional quality ensuring longevity
  3. To be operated by gas, as per the other lanterns at the station

Specialist installation was required as the railway remained open to the public as a visitor attraction. The impact of getting this wrong could have been critical, potentially tarnishing the railway’s excellent long standing reputation as an excellent place to visit.  It was therefore important that the installation did not negatively affect the visitor experience. 

The team’s experience and mastery in the field of bespoke lighting made William Sugg the ideal choice for the job.  The lighting experts delivered excellent quality railway lanterns that accurately represented the railway’s rich history.  

 

Did you know?

“The Bluebell Railway preserved a number of steam locomotives before the cessation of steam service on British mainline railways in 1968. Today it has the largest collection – over 30 – of steam locomotives in the UK after the National Railway Museum (NRM).”  Find out more interesting facts about Bluebell Railway on the FAQ section of their website.

The solution/product

The construction of the bespoke heritage lantern was executed with meticulous care and attention to detail.  To begin, the team conducted a thorough inspection of the existing lanterns on-site at the station, capturing photographs and gathering measurements to serve as the basis for the new lantern design.

The new lantern was then designed and CAD plans were created for approval before the construction began.  Components were made by hand and tested in William Sugg’s Horsham factory.   The lantern incorporated a traditional pull chain to turn the gas supply on and off allowing for a fully operational, traditional, gas supply as per the other gas lanterns at the station.

Using their extensive knowledge and expertise in similar railway restoration work, William Sugg’s skilled craftsmen carefully crafted the new lantern and bracket to suspend the lantern centrally over the bridge at Sheffield Park Station. 

The railway lantern was then colour matched to the station’s existing dark red lanterns. A long-lasting RAL finish (in Oxide Red RAL3009) was carefully applied to ensure it not only looked fabulous, but was highly durable and built to last.

The bracketry was specifically designed to complement the station’s architectural design and era and made to fit in as though it had always been there.  Another important consideration was that the design needed to ensure the structure could withstand the wind and weather conditions on the bridge, and at height.

After all the components were appropriately tested the lantern, brackets, and gas supply, were installed and connected on-site. The installation was carefully and sensitively carried out to minimise disruption to visitors.  Follow-up site visits were then conducted to ensure that the installation was successful and all components were functioning correctly.

The results

The end result for the Bluebell Railway was a resounding success. Throughout the process, the team worked with great care and respect for the station’s history, ensuring that the station’s heritage design was preserved.

The final product was visually indistinguishable from the original railway lanterns, maintaining the station’s authenticity and adding to its charm. A testament to our expertise in heritage replica lighting.

These railway lanterns have been built to last, ensuring that the station’s enchanting heritage will endure for many generations to come. The solution provided to the Bluebell Railway met their visual and functional requirements and all components were made to the highest of qualities, giving them peace of mind.

If you or your business have any heritage lighting needs or special places that require bespoke lighting, we are ready to take on the challenge. Contact our team to discuss your lighting requirements.

Statistics

In 1960, the Bluebell Railway became the UK’s first preserved standard gauge passenger railway by re-opening a part of the old London Brighton & South Coast Railway’s Lewes to East Grinstead line. Over time, it has become one of the largest tourist attractions in Sussex while continuing to meet its objective of preserving a country branch line, its locomotives, coaches, signalling systems, stations, and operating practices for posterity. The Society, along with its Trustees and members, owns a majority shareholding in the Railway and sets its overall policy, while its membership has grown to over 10,000, requiring more volunteers to achieve its objectives.