Behind the Scenes at Rolvenden, Part 2

Kent and East Sussex Railway Rolvenden tour 2016 (30)No. 11 SE&CR P Class 753 framesFollowing from yesterdays blog post, we continue the report on the behind the scenes tour at Rolvenden works on the Kent and East Sussex Railway (K&ESR).  The focus this time is on locomotives out of service, that include one that (like the two Terrier tanks) has a historical connection with the railway in pre-preservation days.  Indeed, the locomotive class itself is very similar to the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway’s small A1/A1X Terrier design.  The South Eastern and Chatham Railway P class were designed and built by Harry Wainwright after he had been impressed by the terriers.  The K&ESR’s locomotive, SECR 753, was hired by the K&ESR during Southern Railway days (when numbered 1556).

753 is being overhauled, although it’s not as high a priority as the more powerful USA tank and Austerity also in progress.  As can be seen in the picture above, it has been stripped down to its frames, whilst the boiler sits outside in the picture below.

Kent and East Sussex Railway Rolvenden tour 2016 (06) No. 11 SE&CR P Class 753 boilerIn the foreground in the picture above are the saddle tank and cab of Hunslet Austerity no. 25 Northiam.  Northiam is undergoing a heavy overhaul and it is planned to be returned to Longmoor Military Railway blue.  She is one of two Austerity tank engines on the railway, although there have been seven based here during preservation years.  My guide, Bradley, explained that they have proven to be strong and reliable machines capable of hauling five carriages up Tenterden bank.  Not only that, they run well and cope using almost any coal. No.25’s boiler is pictured below, turned upside down.

Kent and East Sussex Railway Rolvenden tour 2016 (29) Hunslet Austerity No. 25 Northiam (WD 197, ARMY 197 Sapper) boilerThe line’s second Austerity, no. 23 Holman F Stephens, is withdrawn from traffic and is temporarily stored in the new carriage storage shed alongside ex-GWR 56xx 6619.  6619 is also withdrawn and awaiting overhaul, one of two 56xx class locomotives on the K&ESR – the second, no. 5668 is awaiting restoration.  6619 and 23 are pictured below.

Kent and East Sussex Railway Rolvenden tour 2016 (96) New carriage shelter - Ex-GWR 56xx 6619 and Hunslet Austerity 23 Holman F StephensAlso temporarily located in the carriage shed was the railway’s smallest locomotive, no. 12 Marcia.  Marcia is a tiny 0-4-0 tank engine built by Peckett and Sons.  Weighing just 12 tons, with a top speed of 10mph, Marcia is not capable of hauling passenger services – not even the lighter pre-grouping carriages.  She is nevertheless full of character and popular with visitors.  If you get up close to her boiler, you’d be forgiven for thinking that she was built for use on a narrow gauge locomotive.  Unfortunately, after a prolonged period out of service spanning 1982-2011, she only ran a few times before being withdrawn in 2013 due to a defective firebox.

Moving onto a locomotive that is more capable and also in process of overhaul is the railway’s second USA Tank engine, DS238 Wainwright.  Bradley explained to me that the USA dock tanks are very useful and reliable performers.  Wainwright is to return into BR green colours once its overhaul is complete.

Kent and East Sussex Railway Rolvenden tour 2016 (38) USA Dock Tank No. 21 Wainwright (WD No. 1960, SR No. 70, BR Nos. 30070, DS238) - tanks and cabOur last steam locomotive to be mentioned here is by no means the least.  GWR 42XX 4253 is a gigantic beast compared to anything else on the railway.  But, it will be very useful in hauling heavy trains, particularly once the K&ESR completes its extension to Network Rail at Robertsbridge.  You couldn’t help but be impressed by the ingenuity and pace of the team working on restoring the 2-8-0 tank engine back to life.  This is even more significant when you consider that this is the teams first locomotive restoration.  The frames are outside but under the cover of what was once a cover at Ashford’s Designer Outlet village.  The remainder of the locomotive is in an impressively ingeniously built temporary structure.

The restoration team are not only progressing well working on the loco, but also are finding novel ways to fundraise.  Old boiler tubes are used to create merchandise such as clocks and egg timers to sell on.  To read more about this locomotive and donate or purchase a related gifted, please check out their website

Kent and East Sussex Railway Rolvenden tour 2016 (17) crane boilerAs if the various steam locomotive overhauls were not enough, there was also work being completed on the vertical boiler of a steam crane (see above).  If I remember correctly, the same chap who overhauled 16xx 1638 is now working on this.

Kent and East Sussex Railway Rolvenden tour 2016 (24)As you can see, there is plenty going on at Rolvenden.  We still haven’t looked at the new carriage shed in any detail, but that will have to await a future blog post.

Thanks for reading!

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