Many of my older collection of photographs have featured on this website before, but visits to my childhood home often unveil new finds, some good, some not so! The picture featured in this blog post fits into the latter category, but is the only one I’ve found of a particular former locomotive of the Kent and East Sussex Railway.
Hunslet Austerity tank engines for many years were the mainstay of the preserved Kent and East Sussex Railway, but as this blog post goes to press, the line has none in operational condition and only two in total in its’ stock list. No 26 Linda was Austerity tank engine number four on the line in the 1990’s but it’s life at the K&ESR was to be short lived and disappeared almost as quickly as it had seemed to appear. The railway has since diversified its fleet further by gaining some GWR locomotives and losing another Austerity tank (no 24 Rolvenden.) Finding the picture of Linda made me wonder what had became of her. I was shocked to find out that I had in fact seen a lot of this locomotive in the intervening years. Because Linda moved to the Mid-Hants Railway and converted to side tank engine no 1 Thomas. I had presumed that Thomas had been converted from another one of the 70 surviving Hunslet Austerity’s, not one that I had seen in my youth. It was quite a revelation!
No. 26 Linda aka works number 3781/1952 had worked until 1977 for the National Coal Board, a fairly typical industrial career for the type. Up until leaving the Kent and East Sussex Railway and becoming the Watercress Line’s Thomas the Tank Engine, the locomotive had had an inconspicuous life. Indeed, a quick google search has provided very little and unfortunately the poor picture taken by me in the 90’s is probably going to be the locomotive’s virtual image for the immediate future! However, as Thomas it has become a superstar and will be responsible for creating a legacy for steam traction in the younger generations. Which is a nice thought! So I therefore say a belated goodbye to Linda and a new hello to Thomas the Tank Engine!
Thanks for reading!