On entering the Ticket Office you can spot the genuine railway windows on either side of the door that came from the waiting room at Christ's Hospital Station. Whilst the window from the General Waiting Room had plain glass that from the Ladies Room was frosted to preserve their modesty.
We take our seats on the train and wait for the guard to blow his whistle and wave the green flag. The driver acknowledges, checks that the signal is off, sounds his whistle and opens the regulator. There's a great deal of steam from the front of the engine, which is because the cylinder drain cocks are open to dispel any water that may have condensed in the cylinders while the engine was stationary (failure to open the drain cocks can lead to serious damage being done).
The line curves to the left over the crossing to the swimming pool display area and, as the train gathers speed, we run parallel to the main road. The line now takes a sharp turn to the left past Hardham Crossing Signal Box where "Ted" is on duty and we re-enter the station on the inner loop. As the gantry signal is off the driver sounds his whistle and we pass the swimming pool entrance once more. Now the train goes over a bridge and turns left again through some trees where, on the right, we see a building used for the first time in December 2014 as Santa's grotto. This is the new North Pole Station at Christmas time and Hardham Halt for the rest of the year. A further multi-purpose building has been erected here. Leaving this station we pass over Hardham crossing again and head north.
Immediately on our right we see the engine shed with its traverser, coal store and water crane. The line is now rising gently and the driver has the engine working harder as we pass the Carriage Shed on our right. The line divides here with a loop branching off to the left but we stay on the main line and go through the white gate and out into the country. The gradient becomes much steeper (it's 1 in 47) and the exhaust note from the engine echoes back from the trees. There's a glimpse, over the fields, of Pulborough Church. The cutting now becomes 14 feet deep and we can see the walls that have been built from reclaimed railway sleepers to stop the banks from slipping and the rabbits from digging deep burrows.
When we reach the summit (there's a gradient post here) the driver sounds his whistle as we plunge into the darkness of the tunnel.
Emerging into the daylight again our train slowly descends through high banks on either side (it's cold here in the winter!) and comes to a stop at a colour light signal that protects the road crossing ahead. When the light changes from red to yellow the train draws forward and re-enters the Garden Centre, curving first to the left and then on a long right hand curve to arrive back at the station.
Here there will be time to have a look at the engine and a chat with the driver as he tends the fire, fills the tanks with water or goes round the engine with his oil can.
Then, after a short break, it will be time for the train to depart once more.
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© South Downs Light Railway, 2018.
South Downs Light Railway Society Ltd
Stopham Road Station
Pulborough Garden Centre
West Sussex. RH20 1DS
A company limited by guarantee number 6426315