Re-enactment of last passenger train journey on the Kent & East Sussex Railway

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The Kent & East Sussex Railway want to know if you, or someone you know of was on the last passenger train which travelled between Robertsbridge and Tenterden on 11 June 1961.

Passengers from this historic day have been invited to contact the Kent & East Sussex Railway to be part of a re-enactment journey taking place on 11 June 2011 to mark the 50 year anniversary of this event.

Those who remember the railway’s historic last journey and want to relive the experience again, will be able to do so on the 10.40am departure from Tenterden on 11 June 2011.

The same locomotives from 11 June 1961 will be used to haul the passenger train again for the re-enactment event. The locomotives Martello No 32662 and Bodiam No 32670 will be painted black to ensure complete authenticity. On this date the railway will also be celebrating the formation of the Preservation Society, which restored the Railway after its closure in 1961 due to lack of passengers.

After a thirteen year struggle the Railway was saved and the society set about restoring the line, reaching Tenterden in 1974, Wittersham Road in 1977, Northiam in 1990 and finally Bodiam in 2000 – one hundred years after it first opened.

Today, the Kent & East Sussex Railway is a historical landmark, which welcomes 100,000 visitors each year to experience the nostalgic past of steam train travel, when travelling by train was the superior form of transport. Over 400 volunteers give their time to keep the Railway alive and help preserve this important legacy in British history.

In 1896 proposals were put forward to construct a railway from Robertsbridge on the Tonbridge-Hastings line to Tenterden. The engineer appointed to build the new light railway was Holman Fred Stephens. Opened in 1900, success quickly saw the line expand, with stations opened at Tenterden in 1903 and Headcorn in 1905; offering a much needed service to local residents.

Despite proposals for further line extensions, the Railway’s prosperity was short lived and by 1931 financial losses, bankruptcy and the growing threat of more convenient transport on the roads threatened the Railway’s future. Nevertheless, maintaining its independence under the care of Colonel Stephens, (as he was then known) the Railway continued to provide an essential service.

Following the death of Colonel Stephens in 1931, W H Austen engineered the Railway’s survival throughout the 1930’s and the Second World War, until 1948, when the Railway lost its independence following the nationalisation of every railway. Although nationalisation of the railway companies brought material benefits to the railway, traffic was slowly ebbing away to the roads and on 2 January 1954, traffic was stopped on the Tenterden and Headcorn lines and they were pulled up.

Goods continued to be hauled on the original line, along with occasional passenger trains for ramblers and hop pickers, until 1961 when nearly all traffic had stopped and the Railway was finally closed.

To reserve your place please on this historical journey please contact the booking office for details on 01580 785155.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I am trying to track down a DVD of the last train to Tenterden, as my wife’s aunts Husband is thought to on it (he is now dead but was a guard at the time). Do you know of this DVD?

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