The Great Bush Railway

Author David Vaughan

The origins of The Great Bush Railway are shrouded in mystery but they may date back to WW2. What is known is that Claude Jessett, his wife Joyce, and some of their friends, constructed a steam powered model railway in their garden at Tinkers Park in the 1950’s.

During the 1960’s Claude acquired a locomotive and some rolling stock from local two-foot gauge industrial railways including the Ludlay brickworks at Berwick, the cement works at Rodmell and the brickworks at Crowborough.

Claude and Joyce started the now famous Tinkers Park traction engine rally in 1966 and the railway proved a popular attraction. With the help of a small band of volunteers the track was gradually extended through a steep cutting (mostly dug out by hand) to run along in front of the steam engine line-up. Other loco’s and stock were purchased including two Avonside steam locomotives from the Sezela sugar estates in Africa. They subsequently proved too heavy for the track and were little used.

The railway was only open on 2 or 3 days a year and, in the end, was mainly kept alive by the efforts of two remaining enthusiasts. Subsequent to the formation of The Claude Jessett Trust Company a small group of volunteers was reformed and, over the past 12 months, much work has been carried out to maintain and improve existing facilities. With a look to the future the Sezela loco’s were sold and an Orenstein and Koppell 0-6-0 steam engine was purchased, fully rebuilt in Sussex and is now running on the line.

The aim of the line, apart from giving pleasure to visitors, is to show how narrow gauge industrial railways played an important part in the history of Sussex, and to preserve some of our local railway heritage as well as interesting locomotives and wagons from elsewhere.

Railway engines
Name Power Maker Engine N0 Year
Mild 20/28hp 4WDM Motor Rail 8687 1941
Alpha 44/48hp 4WDM Ruston 183744 1937
Albany 20hp 4WDM Ruston 213840 1941
Wolf 20/2hp 4WDM Motor Rail 7469 1940
Titch 0-4OBE BEV M7535 1972
R.J. Brown 40hp 4WDM Ruston 382820 1955
Sao Domingos 0-6-0 Well Tank Orenstein and Koppell 11784 1928
Drusilla 30hp 4WDM Motor Rail MR22236 1965
Aminal 20/35hp 4WDM Motor Rail & Tramcar Co. Ltd 50XX or 52XX 1930s