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Awards and Loans

The Trust offers financial assistance to individuals or groups to carry through restoration or improvement projects to completion. The Trust also invites enquiries about sponsoring one or more Awards.

Chris Cooper2

Chris Cooper was member number 32 when the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society was founded in 1959.  His early life was in the Croydon area, which was rich in all types of transport from the bustling Southern Railway electric traction, freight yards and the private sidings of the power stations and factories.  Then there were the countless central and country bus and trolley bus routes that criss-crossed this part of South London; Croydon Airport was still operational.  Chris did not have to travel far to indulge his transport enthusiasm.

His career was in retail but in those pre Sunday-trading days, Chris would always be found at Sheffield Park often arriving in the early hours to clean and prepare the coaching stock.  Like most people at the beginning of the movement, Chris helped as an all-round volunteer: weeding the track, greasing points and signalling.  At the opening ceremony on the 7th August 1960 he was hand-signalling trains out of Sheffield Park. On such occasions he could always be relied on to appear in full Victorian dress.  On the 26th December, 1962, Chris made history as the first Santa on board a preserved steam-hauled train!

A few years after operations began, Chris was asked to take overall responsibility for the cleaning of carriages and thus began a lifetime's passion to maintain both interior and exterior of the coaching fleet in good condition.

He left his retail career to become the Bluebell's full-time carriage cleaner building up a regular team, still very much in existence today.  This ensured the carriage fleet was being maintained in top order; the locomotive at the front might be the spectacle but passengers spend their journey in a carriage and the quality of this environment is the impression they take away.

Leading the team, Chris set a very a high standard, so much so that the feedback  from passengers and visitors became a key feature of the Bluebell to the point where other Heritage Railways would send their cleaning teams over to learn from Chris!

During his time, Chris has served on several committees, was an elected Bluebell Society Trustee and led the Croydon Area Supporters Group, for whom his country-wide coach trips became legendary, including a private visit to Fawley Hill!

In March 2019 at the Bluebell's 60th anniversary dinner, Sir Peter Hendy presented Chris with an award celebrating his 60 years of service to the Bluebell and in December 2020 he celebrated his 80th birthday but sadly, circumstances prevented any celebrations.

Whilst not attending everyday of the week now, Chris still regularly drives from Dorking to the Bluebell to continue sweeping, mopping, cleaning windows and polishing the brass to ensure the coaching stock continues to be renowned for its presentation.

To everyone at the Bluebell Railway, carriage cleaning and Chris Cooper are synonymous.  The Bluebell is grateful to Chris for everything he has done and it's not a bad record to still be cleaning carriages with such passion after 60 years.



A Semple 

Andrew Semple has been actively involved in the steam preservation movement for over 50 years.  Born and brought up in Settle, North Yorkshire in a home backing onto the railway line, it was inevitable that a lifelong interest in steam would be fostered from an early age.  As most of the local railway drivers and staff drank in the hotel bar he was regularly to be found on the footplate "helping out". 

At the age of around 14 he learned of John Crowther who lived in the next village and had a collection of Traction Engines.  So he got on his bike and set off to find him.  Andrew was made very welcome and a lifelong friendship developed.  John had quite a collection of Traction Engines including Aveling Tractor 'Oberon' which was the first engine that Andrew drove single-handed at the age of 16.  When he said he didn’t have a licence John simply said "Who's going to ask you for one?"  A more relaxed age!

After school Andrew studied agricultural engineering and a career with International Harvester followed.  By 1975 a Ruston Tractor arrived at joined the Semple collection of vintage tractors, a threshing machine, and a unique Ruston Traction Wagon found filling a gap in a hedge in Herefordshire.  The wagon was fully rebuilt including the wooden wheels an art that Andrew learned himself.  The Ruston was rallied extensively for 20 years all over the UK and Ireland with annual visits to the Netherlands and one memorable trip to France.

He was also very involved with the early days of the Welshpool Llanfair Railway being both driver and fireman during the years 1967-68-69 and still remains a member to this day.   He has been a long time member and keen supporter of the National Traction Engine Trust, holding various positions including Chairman of Rally Organisers, NTET Vice Chairman, Chairman, Vice President and now President.  He is one of the founding members of the Boiler Engineering Skills Training Trust, a training trust set up to help pass on the boiler-making skills to future generations.

He is particularly well known on the steam rally circuit as a commentator at events including The Great Dorset Steam Fair, Welland, Cerney, Bath and West Show, Langport, Abbey Hill, and here at Fawley Hill.  A very full half a century of service to transport preservation.


The National Transport Trust makes loans to groups, associations and individuals at advantageous rates for the restoration of artefacts - whether mobile or part of the infrastructure.  Applications must be supported by a simple business plan which demonstrates the financial viability of the project. A sample business plan is available on request from the Treasurer.


The Trust does occasionaly make Awards for schemes which further the preservation movement. Again if you wish further information please contact the Treasurer.


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