Todays post is the first part of a series of reflections and experiences of my journey of becoming interested in real and model steam trains. Not being old enough to have experienced steam trains running on day-to-day services, my early experiences of steam trains were as a result of having a father interested in steam engines who regularly took me on visits to preserved heritage railways. My (then) local heritage railway was the Kent and East Sussex Railway and my experiences visiting this line in the 1990’s is the subject of todays post.
The Kent & East Sussex railway is a light branch line with plenty of character. Their mainly tank-engine fleet had a core set of relatively powerful Hunslet Austerity and USA tanks. The line is more famous for its ex-LBSCR A1X terriers (and ex-SECR P class) that run a little less regularly.
I learnt to appreciate seeing the older pre-grouping steam engines working, particularly the A1X terrier which became one of my favourite classes of locomotive. The picture above shows one of my earliest decent photographs and the only one I have of 10 Sutton in olive green livery. This particular engine has since moved to the Spa Valley Railway.
A favourite haunt on the line was Tenterden Bank, where the locomotives have to work hard up the mainly 1 in 50 gradient (see above). It is so tough that the steam engines can be heard many miles away – we lived about 5 miles away and they could be heard on occasion. The picture above shows pannier tank 1638 being banked by USA tank DS238 Wainwright. Interestingly the pannier tank is a unique surviving member of the 16xx class.
Being a light railway, tender locomotives are few and far between on the K&ESR. The line’s only exception (in its home fleet) is the 2-6-0 mogul number 376 from Norway. Appropriately it is named Norwegian and it was very exciting when it was returned to steam in 1995! The picture above shows the engine being launched by the Ambassador of Norway and below, its inaugural run. Unfortunately it is no longer serviceable with a heavy overhaul in progress.
Another area of interest on K&ESR is its rolling stock – many of which are from the Victorian period. The picture above shows the lines ex-SECR P class 1556 hauling a train of fantastic pre-grouping vehicles.
No piece about the Kent and East Sussex Railway would be complete without a mention of the Hunslet Austerity saddle tank engines, of which there are three on the line. They are a common sight and have been a backbone to many preserved lines, being cheap and economical. Rated as 4f they are no lightweight either and they certainly make a lot of noise when pulling a train up Tenterden Bank!