Full steam ahead for Bluebell Railway’s telephony transformation

Key Achievements

  • Successful migration from an on-premise Panasonic PBX to a feature-rich modern VoIP phone system (3CX) without any business disruption or an increase in costs.
  • Improved insight into their customer experience when calling the Bluebell Railway
  • Enhanced service availability for users and customers.

The Challenge

Bluebell Railway is one of the top heritage railways in the UK with over 160,000 visitors per year. The railway line has been open since 1960, and in recent years the team of volunteers behind the scenes have been working on transforming the “heritage” technology.

Paul Baker, John Dawson and Nigel Page are all highly experienced IT professionals who volunteer at Bluebell Railway in their spare time. They lead an ongoing transformation project to modernise the Railway’s IT estate.

One of the major tasks the team wanted to tackle was the communications setup across the stations and with their customers. A legacy Panasonic PBX was in place, but they would often encounter issues with outbound calling when demand was high. This downtime resulted in too many missed customer calls and general communication challenges across the railway, so finding a reliable replacement was crucial.

The Project

With the current technology no longer fit for purpose, the implementation of a modern hosted phone system would provide access to new features and drastically improve service reliability.

The IT leadership team at Bluebell were looking for a system that offered functionality such as call queueing and reporting with a commercial model suited to their budgets and business; accommodating both infrequent users making internal calls and the customer service team who leverage the system daily. The mix of use cases meant that a simultaneous call-license model would be favourable, providing the commercial flexibility they desired.

Like many similar projects – moving from an on-premise PBX to the cloud – Bluebell Railway had a myriad of options to consider, receiving proposals from 12 suppliers in total. With many of the options being put forward having similar functionality and features, what made the decision was the project management and service elements of the proposals.


“There were two key criteria in the decision-making process. Firstly, is it a good product that provides the essential features for a price close to what we pay now. Secondly, the supplier must understand our transformation project and help us do things differently. Once we had come down to the final two, Gradwell were the obvious choice for this project’’

John Dawson, IT Manager
Gradwell were thrilled to be selected following the highly competitive tender process. Carl Fletcher, our Head of Sales explains how Gradwell’s service offering differs from other resellers:


“In order for any new solution deployment to be considered a success, we must keep the user experience and change management at the forefront of our minds. It is important to arrange the deployment into appropriate stages, rather than enabling all features in the new platform from day one. Following system reviews and site visits, we build a feature matrix that outlines what an initial, “like for like” or feature parity migration would look like. Then, post-implementation, as the users become more accustomed to using the platform, we work to add additional features and ensure customers get the most out of 3CX. We take the following actions to achieve this…
  • Have regular account management meetings.
  • Send over new feature releases as they come and suggest the relevant use case for the feature.
  • Annual site meetings to run through phone system performance and any challenges the organisation faces.
  • Adding core telephony members of staff to our mailing list for both feature and strategic based contacts.

The Results

Prior to go-live, Gradwell provided the team with access to a 3CX environment; giving them the opportunity to configure the system and familiarise themselves with the administration portal and dashboards. As a result of this, alongside use of the 3CX content library and forums, the team felt comfortable administrating the system from day one. 

Bluebell Railway set an ambitious objective of having the new system go-live in January 2023, rolling out access to 3CX for 79 extensions across 4 railway stations. With the additional support of on-site engineers, the project successfully went live and users across the organisation enjoyed a seamless migration to the new system.

By considering all users’ needs and adopting a phased implementation approach, the changeover was smooth and – with all previous communication processes retained – there was minimal disruption or interruption to the organisation.

In conclusion, Bluebell Railway’s migration from legacy technology to a new, feature-rich modern VoIP phone system was a success. 3CX now provides them with a flexible, cost-effective solution that eliminates downtime and keeps them connected to their customers.

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