Bluebell Railway launches virtual tours

One scene on the Bluebell Railway 360 Virtual Tour – Horsted Keynes Station from above.

The Bluebell Railway, near Uckfield, has launched new virtual tours of the heritage railway.

A festive 360 tour of Horsted Keynes and Sheffield Park Stations is now available via the railway’s website.

Popular Santa Specials and the new big hit – SteamLights – are running at  the railway at the moment but the release of the first tour could not have come at a better time – as some prospective visitors are unable to visit the railway this Christmas due to new tier restrictions.

Inside the locomotive shed at Sheffield Park Station – there’s chance to get on the footplate of the Stepney and C Class locomotives.

Ruth Rowan, marketing and communications manager said: “It’s been a difficult year for many people and not everyone has been able to visit the Bluebell Railway as planned. We wanted to create something that would bring the railway to the visitor’s home in an interactive way.”

She added: “We wanted to keep connected to our members, visitors and volunteers and thank them for their continued support. We wouldn’t have reached our 60th birthday in August 2020 without them.”

The preserved steam railway in Sussex, also known as ‘the line to the stars’ due to its appearances in many famous film and television productions, responded quickly to audience needs during the first lockdown by increasing its online presence.

Stand on the footplate of one of the locomotives and look around on the 360 virtual tour.

The railway produced video story times, a #SteamingThrough60 social media campaign to celebrate its Diamond anniversary, and The Bluebell Times, a new digital publication for the whole family.

The new 360 tour starts with a view of Sheffield Park Station from the air. You can swoop down into SteamWorks! to explore some of the railway’s collection of steam locomotives.

Hop from one spot to another in the locomotive shed and turn 360 degrees to fully appreciate your surroundings. There are superb views of engines, and you can even get on the footplate of Stepney and C Class locomotives. The tour includes snippets of information, film clips and links.

Inside the signal box at Horsted Keynes Station.

From there you can fly to Horsted Keynes Station and explore the many waiting rooms on platforms accessed by subway and get an exclusive peek in the signal box. The current tour includes a Santa hunt for younger members of the family.

You can step inside the tour by popping on virtual reality glasses. Affordable VR viewers which use your mobile phone to facilitate the tour are available from online stores and the tour works brilliantly with these.

360 Virtual tours is a project funded by the Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage. It has been produced by the railway in collaboration with Stef van Vuuren of Stef’s Photography.

The project enables more people to access their cultural heritage in a Covid-19 safe way, learn a little more about the history and science behind steam and plan their visit in 2021.

More Tours to come in the New Year

The Bluebell Railway is working to increase the tours by including its museum, a working booking office, carriage interiors, and a tour of the carriage and wagon workshop. Look out for new additions in the New Year.

Follow the link to try the tour. Viewing is best on a large screen:

Another view of the Bluebell Railway’s locomotives.

See also:

Covid-19 infections rise in Tier 2 Uckfield and Wealden district

Decision on Uckfield Solar Electric Forecourt plan is deferred

Job vacancy – Cover Supervisor at Uckfield College

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