How many of you live near to or regularly travel close to a famous attraction and yet have never been there? The sort of place that you would definitely visit if you were a tourist, but despite or maybe because it is just there on your doorstep you forget about it. The Spa Valley Railway is, or should I say was (until this visit) such a place. I moved out of Kent some time ago when the preserved line was in it’s infancy but never stopped by for a visit. I frequently return to Kent to catch up with family and if I squeeze in a steam railway visit, it is usually my old haunt that gets the attention; the Kent and East Sussex Railway. Yet the Spa Valley Railway is the more conveniently located line and is very close to our route to and from the family.
Funnily enough, this visit very nearly didn’t happen. Mrs Locoyard and I were fast running out of time during our weekend in Kent and rather typically it had started raining. But I was determined to at least stop by, even if just for a fleeting moment. This is particularly because of this blog – not only for the sake of variety but also for publicity of this line. The heritage movement has some big fish in it’s pond – the Bluebell Railway, the Watercress Line, the Severn Valley Railway and Great Central Railway to mention just a few. All of these fully deserve the attention and publicity they get, however the smaller fish often struggle to be noticed and I felt duty bound to visit this line, particularly as it is so conveniently located for me! Unfortunately I am still yet to ride the line, but I’m determined to do that another time in the future.
So what of the line? It runs from Tunbridge Wells West station which has a wonderful engine shed (above) structure to Eridge, a length of 5 miles. It runs through some beautiful countryside, particularly the famous High Rocks and Groombridge Place. The line is a former route of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and connects to network rail at Eridge. A preservation movement began in 1985 with the aim of preserving the site at Tunbridge Wells West and line to Eridge. A major setback was to the movement eventually provided a lifeline – a Sainsbury’s was opened on the former goods yard. The positive outcome of this was that the developer had to pay for the construction of a new station platform and restoration of the (listed) engine shed. The line reopened in 1996 after the North Downs steam Railway moved from Dartford.
The first I learned that the railway had reopened was when the owner of terrier tank 32650 Sutton (above) relocated it from the Kent and East Sussex Railway. This was due to it being low-down on that railway’s queue to be overhauled. The terrier tank is arguably the Spa Valley Railway’s “jewel” in it’s crown. However the line is home to a number steam and heritage diesel locomotive’s (below).
One industrial locomotive on the line is RSH number 62 Ugly (below) – the locomotive I had the pleasure of seeing in steam. In my opinion this industrial locomotive chunky looks are not Ugly, but then I am also found of the Q1 class!
Other industrial locomotives on the line include such as Pecket 0-4-0ST 1636 Fonmon (below) that was to be found in the engine shed. The railway also has a working ex-Midland Railway 3F Jinty tank and a couple of Polish locomotive’s also make up the numbers.
The little I saw of this line on this wet day has been a good teaser and enough to make me want to visit properly in the future. I hope it has also been enough of a taster for all of you to also put it on the radar. It proves that there need not need be a large fleet of big steam and diesel engines for a railway to be of much interest. I am not sure when I will be able to visit the line properly, but it will happen, so as ever, watch this space! Thanks for reading folks 🙂