A 40-YEAR dream and a £6 million project to reconnect Sheffield Park to East Grinstead by rail is just metres from the finish line.

Just £200,000 and a mile of track are needed to complete The Bluebell Railway project.

Chris White, project controller and infrastructure director, said the end is “tantalisingly close”.

So far this year £600,000 has been raised towards the northern extension.

The final stretch of the line from Kingscote to East Grinstead has been worked on for 15 years.

A Christmas fundraising challenge launched yesterday, aims to raise £30,000 in less than two weeks.

Trustee John Walls said: “It really is an incredible amount to raise in a year.

“People are always giving, which is very nice.

“We also had a contribution of £25,000 from East Grinstead Council to build a good old-fashioned steam water tower.

“We have a picture painted in watercolour of what that might look like.

“This literally is reinstating the past that people remember from their childhoods.

“We have people working on and visiting the railway who used to travel on the line, including my father.”

Clear track

Once the final £200,000 is raised the railway will be completely reinstated with “temporary but completely adequate” facilities along the new section of the route.

More permanent buildings will be built further down the line when further funds are raised.

Mr White said: “We’ve got about 100 metres of material to clear and then we will finish off the track.

“Hopefully we will have the connection in place by mid-January.

“So far we’ve got it all the way from Kingscote station up to just short of Imberhorne Bridge.

“Soon we will have steam trains accessible to the UK’s rail network for the first time in 40 years.”

The volunteer-run line attracts about 170,000 visitors a year.

It has a turnover of more than £3 million, 700 volunteers, three Victorian stations and a collection of locomotives, carriages and wagons.

British Rail closed the Lewes-East Grinstead route in 1958.

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