Yesterday I enjoyed a fantastic visit to what is still my favourite place in the railway world. My decision to visit the railway was fairly spontaneous. I try to visit when I can, which unfortunately is usually only once a year. It would be much more frequent if it wasn’t for it being a long drive – in terms of hours it’s a four hour round trip. The frustrating thing is that isn’t actually that far (in terms of distance) to drive, but involves slow and usually busy roads. Having a spare day in the bank holiday and seeing as the Watercress line were hosting their “Days out with Thomas” and had also reclaimed their 9F class from the Bluebell Line for a few weeks, I thought it a good time to go. I didn’t want to make the long journey to see a 9F class that is usually based not too far from where I live.
Since my childhood, Sheffield Park has always been a place I’ve loved to visit. I’ve covered much of the reasons why previously (click here); but suffice to say that I was very excited to be returning! This is despite the fact that Sheffield Park station does not meet one of my usual criteria when looking at a station – that is should (or conceivably could) serve a place. I usually uphold a philosophy that a railway, like any other means of transport needs to take you from one place to another and thus to have a purpose. This station could only serve what is now a National Trust garden and although these Capability Brown gardens are stunning; they do not quite warrant their own railway station; in my humble opinion. Fortuitously my opinion was not shared by the Earl of Sheffield in 1877; who was a considerably influential figure (not to mention a local landowner and resident of Sheffield Park House and Gardens) who was responsible for authorising the construction of (what was) the East Grinstead to Lewes Railway. For his part in creating this railway he wanted a station to use and for that reason we have what is now one of the most important sites of Railway preservation! The station has become an attraction in its own right and a place of pilgrimage for steam enthusiasts to travel to, for it (and not anywhere nearby), alone. There’s no denying that Sheffield Park station now has a very important role in preserving the heritage of the United Kingdom and it is for that reason that I’ll quietly let this one drop…
Without even considering the engine shed at Sheffield Park; that houses, operates and restores a large proportion of the railway’s collection of locomotives (many of which are unique); the station has plenty of interest. The station is well worth close scrutiny; the buildings are beautifully constructed in the style of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR), with period posters, fixtures and fittings festooned wherever you look. The main station ticket office and waiting room building is fairly substantial. More recently a carriage shed was built (using Heritage Lottery funding) to house some of the equally fantastic rolling stock (though most of the rolling stock is to be found at Horsted Keynes). Another new addition is a lovely little museum on platform 2. Sheffield Park is busy, but very friendly with helpful staff and indeed other equally enthralled enthusiasts!
Three locomotives were in steam during the visit and these will be be looked at in more detail in future posts – click here for the next post in this thread. For now I invite you to share my love for this station and hope you enjoy the pictures!