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Journal of the Rother Valley Railway Supporters’ Association Issue 44

Summer 2008

Editor: Mike Pease ‘Penfro’, 5 Pembury Road, TUNBRIDGE WELLS, Kent, TN2 3QY. E-mail:

Managers: Buffet: Jo Weddell; Shop: Ian Sharp; Outside Events: Chris Sweatman

Copyright: The Rother Valley Railway Supporters’ Association and contributors as named.

Rother Valley Railway Ltd.

Communications: RVRSA phone no.: 01580 881833 RVR website:

E-mail: Web Master: Trevor Streeter

Directors: David Felton (Chairman & Co. Secretary); D.Rimmer; R. Seaborne; J. Snell Reg. Office: Bedford House, 3-4 Bower Terrace, MAIDSTONE, Kent, ME16 8RY Chief Mechanical Engineer: Dave Rimmer Civil Engineer: Gardner Crawley Health & Safety Consultant: Lesley Eves

Rother Valley Railway Supporters Association

Rother Valley Railway Heritage Trust:

Officers: Dave Rimmer (Chairman); Mike Pease ( Vice Chair & Secretary); David Felton (Treasurer); Helen Brett; Trevor Streeter (Membership Secretary)


Gardner Crawley (Chairman); Peter Davis; Roy Seaborne; John Snell


EDITORIAL …….. In the Spring issue, I marvelled at the regular volunteers who turned out in the worst of the winter weather to carry on with the vital work leading up to that all – important visit from Her Majesty’s Inspector and, hopefully, the granting of permission for us to run trains carrying members of the public. That dedication continued during our ambitious operation to recover track components and ballast from the former B.R. sidings at Ore, near Hastings, in April. Our workers carried on through some of the worst weather Mother Nature could have thrown at us. We started with bright sunshine, but this quickly gave way to winds, torrential rain and even snow! Nevertheless, we were able to recover a large amount of vital material, as the article in this issue shows. Well done to all concerned. Fortunately, this Spring has produced long periods of sunny, dry weather, and everyone has responded by putting in a huge amount of work which is quickly transforming our Robertsbridge base. The café/shop has undergone a complete external makeover, complemented by the repainting of the office and workshop. The platform is now almost complete, awaiting only the tarmac surface and the ramp fencing. Our ‘main line’ up to the first bridge is receiving its new ballast and concrete sleepers. The ‘mini digger’ is ready to receive its fully reconditioned engine, and the tractor will shortly also receive its own ‘transplant’. The brake van will soon be fitted with its repaired duckets, the Maunsell coach is being fitted with new partitions and window frames and the electrical inspection pit and its cover are now complete. In addition, a host of other minor tasks have been completed or are well under way. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all the new members who have joined since March, most of whom have turned up on Wednesdays and Sundays to lend a hand. Thanks to you and to all our regular workers, progress is noticeably speeding up! Mike Pease



OUR NEW PUBLIC IMAGE! First impressions are always important, and none more so for us than that first sight of our café/shop that people have when they step off a train or drive into the car park. Mike Pease’s project to give the building a complete ‘makeover’ is now nearing completion, with the new railway sign, stanchions with finials to support hanging baskets, a full repaint and that long-awaited canopy over the main entrance. Since this photo was taken, the roof has been stripped of its old waterproofing and all joints and seams have been sealed with fibreglass. Repainting in a medium grey heavy duty coating is well under way, and the doors and footings will be next to receive attention. That shabby piece of plywood in the rear door window is scheduled to be replaced with toughened glass.

TRACKWORK Thanks to the large amount of material recovered from Ore, we’ve made real progress since March. Gemma has taken the rehabilitated tractor in hand, and, following some practice sessions to familiarise herself with its improved handling, has now completed the ballast bed right up to the abutments of bridge 1. She is now preparing to lay the newly – acquired concrete sleepers on top, and the track itself will shortly follow. Better still, funds have been put aside for the acquisition of good quality clean ballast to be laid between the sleepers once the track is in place. The Trustees have kindly agreed to finance the purchase of fencing and drainage materials as part of the project to fill in the depression between 4

the present Network Rail boundary and our ‘main line’. Once this infill has been completed ( subject to the successful rebuilding of the mini digger ), our new boundary fence with Network Rail can be erected, and the new storage sidings installed. This will, at long last, enable us to clear the station yard and running line of unrestored stock.

WALKING THE LINE The stalwarts who braved sore feet and the elements to walk the trackbed of the former K. & E.S.R. from Headcorn southwards in early April were struck by the extent to which the remains of the railway had survived after well over half a century. Although only intended for a limited lifespan, timber station buildings, such as that at High Halden, had stood up well to neglect and the ravages of bad weather. In addition, long stretches were easily walkable.

Our thanks are due to Gemma Barclay for organising a day of fresh air and fun.

JACK LONDON DECEASED Readers will recall that Jack London’s death was reported in the July 2007 edition. There was a collection at Jack’s funeral and it was the wish of his widow Sonia that these donations be spent on providing something tangible for the Railway’s Information Centre building. As a result, the following items have been donated; 2 new Calor Gas Heaters A Dehumidifier New lighting for the shop area A gas Griddle for the kitchen A new water heater for the kitchen Our sincere thanks go to Sonia for these donations. A railway type seat in longer term memory of Jack has been commissioned and is presently in store pending completion of the platform. The seat will then be located on the platform together with similar seat in separate memory of former member Ted Ryley.


PLATFORM PROGRESS Things have really moved on apace, as this picture shows. Old ballast and other spoil material from Ore proved ideal for filling in the platform extension, and has now been firmly tamped down and allowed to settle. The ‘post and rail’ timber fencing has been completed, and a timber stairway accessed by a new gate provides an emergency exit at the far end. All are painted with a black bitumen coating for maximum durability. By the time this issue goes to print, the crane will have unloaded materials required for casting the new edging slabs and preparing the surface for its final tarmac surface, for which estimates have been received. In addition to Dave Rimmer’s usual hard work, thanks are due to Steve and Moses, as well as to Geoff for his brickwork.



Having himself only recently undergone major hospital treatment, Dave Rimmer applies his own brand of ‘intensive care’ to the replacement engine for the Railway’s mini digger which is urgently needed to create a firm foundation for our new storage sidings. The engine was supplied by Nick Hayward for a very reasonable £200, but required a major rebuild before it could be considered ready to be lifted into place. On arrival, the sump and the lower part of the casing were enclosed in a huge lump of earth ….. and prolonged pressure washing revealed that the roots of a sapling had entwined themselves around the mountings! Nevertheless, the removal of the top cover showed the internal moving parts to be in remarkably good order, and encouraged all concerned to press on. Engine attachments were either salvaged from the original engine block or carefully fabricated in the workshop. The climax to the whole project was a two and a half hour continuous running test, which the engine passed with flying colours. It won’t be long now before the digger receives its new power unit and is ready to be put to work. Next in the queue for rehabilitation is the tractor which, although performing reasonably well, is using a great deal of oil – not good news, bearing in mind the current price for this commodity! Nick Hayward has once again come to the rescue, with a replacement unit offered to us for £250. The engine will arrive on site shortly, and it has been agreed that we will only make the payment once it has satisfactorily completed a static test. Finally, our thanks are due to the former owner of the tractor, Tony Attridge, for generously donating it to Dave Rimmer.



In an increasingly health and safety – conscious world, it’s essential that commodities such as welding gases should be stored securely, safely, and according to regulations. With this in mind, we have completely reorganised our gas storage, providing a new concrete base at the north end of the workshop and installing three cages which are both thief and vandal-proof. The picture shows Steve and Moses preparing to move one of the cages into position.


Our diminutive P.W. trolley, known affectionately as ‘the tug’, had been causing concern of late. The wooden drag beams on its trailer needed replacing, and, rather than replacing like for like, the opportunity was taken to customise sections of steel girder for the job. This has now been completed, thanks to Brian Pierce, and the trailer is now fit for service once more.


For many months, volunteers leaving the rear of the café to reach the office or workshop have had to pick their way carefully around a circle of road cones surrounding a large hole. A sheet of wellworn plywood and a black bucket have completed the strange tableau. The hole marked the site of a proposed electrical inspection pit, while the bucket was there to take water from the kitchen sinks to relieve an overflowing cesspit. Thankfully, Geoff has now installed the pit and cover, and the waste lorry has come and gone!



With money now put aside for ballast to complete the main line, it’s becoming increasingly important that repairs are carried out on our hopper wagon so that the material can be delivered to the site. We’re pleased to report that a donation of £1,000 through the Gift Aid scheme is expected shortly which will be directed to this specific project. Once repairs are completed, the wagon will make the transport and positioning of track ballast far more easy and efficient.


As reported in our Editorial, good progress is being made on the brake van – essential to our plans to provide a passenger service for the public. The latest work has been carried our on the side ducket which enabled the guard to keep a lookout down the line without leaving the comfort of his seat by the stove. The removal of old paintwork and rust revealed deep pitting and holes, which have now been neatly patched by cutting and welding in the workshop.


We never thought we’d see this activity getting a separate paragraph, but the work put in by Helen Brett and Mike Pease, aided by the glorious Spring weather and the hosepipe, has paid dividends. Helen’s new vegetable patch is producing an impressive variety of crops, while Mike has converted the ‘dumping ground’ on either side of the ticket booth into a flower bed and hung flower baskets from the new stanchions along the front of the shop/café. Remarks about the weeds in the bed produced the retort that most of them were hardy annuals grown from seed. We’ll believe you, Mike ….. just this once!

AND ………


A warm welcome to John Boddicombe, who has agreed to oversee the project to rebuilt the historic Esso tank wagon. John is a skilled carpenter whose work includes the refurbishment of Admiralty Arch in London. His superb restoration of the T Stock coaches and numerous goods vehicles at the Spa Valley has been much admired. The grin on the face of his new ‘apprentice’ Chris Sweatman says it all!


MODEL RAILWAY EXHIBITION Our annual Model Railway Exhibition is a prime opportunity for us to welcome not only the general public but also our fellow enthusiasts, not only form our immediate area but often from far futher afield. For this reason, a great deal of time and effort always goes into organising and presenting this event, and this year was no exception.

Thankfully, we were able to return to the Village Hall for the 26/27th. April, enabling a wide and varied range of layouts to be displayed and allowing plenty of space for visitors to walk round and admire the exhibits. Our own site was, of course, open for refreshments, guided tours, and the opportunity to see our Musuem collection of artefacts and small relics. The Maunsell coach also afforded the opportunity to see Helen Brett’s ‘O’ gauge layout in operation,and to admire its locos and stock.

A further attraction was the presence of three trade stands, allowing hobbyists to purchase those much – needed ‘bits and pieces’ which are often so hard to track down, as well as both new and second-hand bargain stock. A highlight of the event was an ingenious two-tier layout which managed to incorporate a practical gradient between the two levels


while still being able to fold neatly in the centre, producing a rectangular box for easy transport.

Also attracting a great deal of attention was a northern city centre tram scene, including a complete tram shed with a working traverser – not only visually interesting but a valuable space saving device.

A very atmospheric 1960’s Southern electric terminus and a narrow gauge American industrial scene were also worthy of note, although the overall standard was very high.

Our own new set of display boards was very much in evidence, the five boards showing the usual mix of recent progress, historic photos and our Polish activities. Better still, they could be split up to hide the usual plethora of bags and boxes which are usually so hard to conceal at these events! Under Derek Masters’ capable command, volunteers were able to provide refreshments for all visitors and staff throughout the two11

day event. Some very favourable comments were heard, and our stock of membership leaflets was well down by the close of the weekend. Many thanks to all those who came to lend a hand, and especially to Helen Brett, who masterminded the whole event as usual.


RAILWAY PRESERVATION IN PAKISTAN In recent years, the organisation of package tours for railway enthusiasts has brought increasing numbers of British railfans to the Indian subcontinent. Paul Hayes has the advantage of longstanding friendships in Pakistan, and offers a personal viewpoint of the country’s attitude to its railway heritage. After the partition of India in 1947, most of the North Western Railway (N.W.R.) of that country was in Pakistani territory, and changed its name to the Pakistan Western Railway in 1961, while the remainder had become the East Punjab Railway in 1947 and was later incorporated into India’s Northern Railway. East Pakistan was in the territory of the Bengal Eastern Railway, the relevant lines of which became the Pakistan Eastern Railway. After East Pakistan became Bangladesh, the P.W.R. changed its name to Pakistan Railways. Stock of what is actually the same railway system can therefore carry different railway names and liveries, depending on when it was manufactured. Since I visit Rawalpindi in Northern Pakistan around once a year, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some of the preserved railway artefacts in the area. Rawalpindi station has recently been refurbished, and is now resplendent with a bright green corrugated iron roof ( typical of the British Raj ) and ‘Rawalpindi Station’ in large gold letters on the front of the building. I was quite impressed that the interior of the station was much more reminiscent of Europe than my experience of Indian stations when I had been there in 1982. Everything was orderly. There were no passengers walking along the tracks, and there were no stray animals! While I was there, I watched a long diesel-hauled tanker train go through with no fuss.

Outside the station is plinthed Pakistan Railways Z.B. class 2ft. 6ins. Gauge tender engine No. 203, built by Hanomag in Germany in 1932. There is a brass plaque beside it, giving its details. More interesting is the fact that it still has its cab fittings, down to the glass gauges, although these no longer have protective covers. Golra Sharif is a preserved railway station a few miles westward from Rawalpindi along the main line to Peshawar. Although it is 13

still the station for a small village on the outskirts of Islamabad, the buildings and the main platform have been modified to house the artefacts. As

Islamabad spreads, an area around Golra village has become a huge building site, with partly-built houses scattered thinly over a muddy wasteland that, in the dry season, becomes a rutted, postapocalyptic landscape.

The main island platform is completely shaded by trees, and supports all the station buildings, together with some surprisingly large preserved artefacts. The smallest and most fragile of these are inside a museum building, converted for the purpose, and situated at the Peshawar end of the station. At the ‘Pindi end is a whole narrow gauge train on its own track, topped and tailed by P.R. Z.B. class 2-6-2 No. 207 facing East and N.W.R. G.S. class 2-8-2 No. 64 facing towards Peshawar. The ‘Z’ of Z B is a code letter for ‘narrow gauge’, while the letter B is the class code itself. ‘G.S.’ stands for ‘superheated goods’.


On the other side of the station, towards Golra Village, is Pakistan Railways broad gauge 2-8-2 No. 5734 of the C.W.D. ( Canadian War Department ) class. I thought the sight of it, hiding behind ‘whomping willows’, gave it a certain atmosphere! Further on towards ‘Pindi is a siding with a collection of broad gauge rolling stock, headed by 25kv Bo Bo electric locomotive No. 7027 of the B.C.U. 30E class, built by British Rail Traction for the Lahore to Khanewal route in 1966.


Also to be seen on the platform are two hand-operated cranes, a weighing machine and a strange vehicle suggestive, on first impression, of a hand-propelled two-seater toilet! In fact, it was designed to carry large, round-bottomed water jars. There is also a model of class G.M.D. 30 ( GeneraL Motors Electro-Mechanical Division 300hp ) Co Co diesel No. 4734 of 1975. Just as I was about to leave the station, a Peshawar local arrived, hauled by G.M.C.D. 15 ( General Motors Canada 1500 hp diesel, made in Ontario ) No. 4913 of 1979, looking very similar to the G.M.D. model and still active after almost 30 years.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge assistance from Dr. Tahira Zafar in acting as chauffeur for me to the two sites described, and for lending me her digital camera when my ‘steam’ one produced a completely blank film! The details of the locomotive classes and the fragments of Pakistan railway history were taken from various volumes of ‘Indian Railways’ by Hugh Hughes and Published by the Continental Railway Circle.

Prize Draw Winners April 08

= £21 1st Glynn Davis 2nd Thomas Long = £14 Balls drawn by Marge Shape

May 08

1st Barbara Clinton = £21 2nd Derek Masters = £14 Balls drawn by new Buffet Manager – Jo Weddell

June 08

1st Barbara Clinton = £19.50 = £13.00 2nd Glynn Davis Balls Drawn by Peter French



The amount of planning gave us some idea of what the organisers of the D Day landings had encountered in the days leading up to 6th. June! In our case, Monday 31st. March was the day on which we rolled into action, with our newly-refurbished tractor transported to the site on a hired lorry, a portable toilet delivered to the site, and our ‘hard core’ volunteers turning up together with a rented panel van full of tools of all shapes and sizes. Previously, C Space, the property development company which had bought the disused electric stock sidings from Network Rail, had accepted our offer to clear the site at no charge, in exchange for all the trackwork, point components, sleepers, fixtures and fittings and ballast that we could remove within a fortnight. Their ambitious plan for the brownfield site, together with adjoining land, is to create an entirely new residential area, complete with shops and other facilities. We had agreed to create a loading/unloading pad for vehicles just inside the rail entry gates at the eastern end of the site, and ( after making sure the toilet was working and the refreshment area was set

up! ) Dave Rimmer lost no time in organising the force to carry out this task.

We soon fell into a rhythm of knocking out rail keys, using the special power tool to undo reluctant bolts, and fastening the lifting chains around the 60 foot lengths of rail. Nature had been allowed to get a grip on the trackwork … and a pretty tough grip that turned out to be in many spots. Worst of all were the tree roots, which seemed to have taken a perverse delight in winding themselves around point components in such a way that power saws risked blunting their teeth on adjacent metal fixings. We soon discovered that the majority of the wooden sleepers were Australian Jarrah rather than Scandanavian pine.

This was a mixed blessing: on the one hand, it meant that they were far more durable and in much better condition, but on the other hand it meant that far more hard graft would be needed to shift the timbers so that the lifting chains could be attached! Thankfully, we


were able to salvage a large number of them, as well as putting aside a pile for Network Rail which had been requested earlier.

All was going remarkably smoothly, until ‘Sod’s Law’ struck with a vengeance. Network Rail had assured C Space that there were no live cables on site. Nevertheless, Dave stopped the hired digger immediately when it uncovered a length of cable which had obviously been buried under the trackwork rather than enclosed in a proper covered cable duct. It turned out that it was live, and that the electricity supply to both Ore and Hastings stations, together with a section of signalling, had been knocked out! The subsequent maelstrom of phone calls, site visits and ‘finger pointing’ lost us several valuable days of work. Worse still, we had been informed that scrap metal thieves were active in the area, and we dreaded arriving back on site to discover that our neatlystacked piles of salvaged components had vanished. To our great relief, this didn’t happen.

Once we were back to work, the weather – good up to that point – decided to do its worst. Torrential rain threatened to shrink our overalls by several sizes, a bitterly cold wind sprang up, and finally the site was carpeted with snow! Despite this discomfort, we managed to get ready a set of wide radius point components destined for Ruddington on the Great Central Railway(Nottingham). The lorry from Osmonds turned up to take it away, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Sadly, the live cable incident meant that we had to cease operations on 24th. April with a considerable quantity of track material still unrecovered. Volunteers were desperately needed to set up and man the Model Railway Exhibition at Robertsbridge, and we had to make sure that all our newlyacquired components were safely stored where they could not obstruct the visiting public. All in all, we did very well out of the operation. Three sets of flatbottomed points were recovered, and a further two and a half sets of bullhead points. A mixture of flat and bullhead rail weighed in at about 12 tonnes, and well over 29 tonnes of Jarrah crossing timbers we retrieved. About 50 reusable sleepers – mainly Jarrah – can also be used in our upgraded trackwork, as can 168 tonnes of reuseable ballast. We also acquired a complete buffer stop.


Even unusable materials have contributed a great deal to our project. A large amount of dirty ballast mixed with soil now forms the basis of our platform extension, and is awaiting its final surface. Scrap metal sold to Jordans brought in £1,352.50p, and a further load was purchased by Bartletts for £5,047.50p.

The total revenue from the project (excluding the G.C.R. gift) is £10,520.00p. However, expenses – especially hire of transport – were substantial, totalling £6,440.87p. Nevertheless, that leaves us with a profit of £4,079.13p. in addition to all the materials brought back to Robertsbridge. Our thanks are due to all the volunteers who gave up their time to make the project a success, and, in particular, to Helen Brett and Geoff Wyatt who turned up for all the working sessions. We’d also like to thank Graham Preston of C Space ( who has invited us back to remove the remaining components and scrap ), G.C.R. (Nottingham) and, lastly, the fox that turned up for every meal break and cleared up all the scraps!

The turnout sold to the Great Central brought in £4,120.00. However, such was their delight with the deal that they are considering making a donation of another £1,000 to us through the Gift Aid scheme. This will enable us to claim back the V.A.T., thus considerably increasing the total sum.


FIRE INSTRUCTION FOR RVR STAFF INTRODUCTION; The best form of attack is defence – in other words, where fire is concerned, precaution and prevention is infinitely preferable to reaction and treatment. The whole RVR premises, including rolling stock vehicles, is a no smoking area and smoking is strictly forbidden anywhere on the site. However accidents & incidents will occur and we must always be prepared.

FIRES & EXTINGUISHERS; There are 5 basic types of fire categorised; A) B) C) D) E) F)

Fires involving freely burning materials, such as wood, paper, textiles etc. Fires involving flammable liquids, such as petrol and spirits but excluding alcohol and cooking oil. Fires involving flammable gases, such as propane and butane. Fires involving flammable metals. Fires involving electrical equipment, such as computers, photocopiers, fax machines etc. Fires involving cooking oil and fats.

All extinguishers on site are currently of the dry powder type, which are suitable for use on category A, B, C and E fires. Fire blankets are located in the buffet to deal with small category F, chip and fat pan fires. In the event of fire in any other category, no attempt should be made to fight it and everyone should immediately evacuate the premises and the fire brigade summoned. Note that extinguishers are colour coded and all have identifying signs. Dry powder signs are coded blue. The body of the extinguisher may be red but with of a block or banding of coded colour. Although you will not currently encounter other types of extinguisher on site, you must make and keep yourself familiar with the extinguishers, their location and in particular their operation. There is no merit in wasting seconds reading the label and operating instructions while a fire rages nearby. You must also make and keep yourself familiar with fire exit routes and fire exit doors of every building. A map showing the location of fire exits and extinguishers is displayed in the office window. For category A fires only (ie; wood, paper, textiles), there are also water taps located in the main yard at the rear of the visitor centre building, in the sidings opposite the grounded van bodies as well as in the buffet and the office. If anyone has cause to discharge an extinguisher or use a fire blanket, this must be immediately reported to the Fire Officer for replacement.


IN THE EVENT OF FIRE; The fire bell is located on a board at the back of the platform opposite the single door to the information centre building. In the event of a fire being discovered or suspected on site, the fire bell should immediately be sounded and all persons should immediately evacuate the site. Do not mess with fire. No attempt should be made to fight other than a very small fire. If evacuation is required, doors of buildings should if possible be closed but not locked. The fire brigade should be summoned. RVR staff are responsible for the safe evacuation of members of the public on site as well as themselves. Remember members of the public may not be familiar with the fire warning given nor the location of fire exits. The fire assembly point is the open space by the main yard gates. These gates should be opened for fire appliance access to the site. An emergency key to these gates is located on the board alongside the fire bell. No person is permitted to re-enter a building until the fire brigade has given clearance. Do not forget that it is not only the flames that are capable of injuring or killing you, you are also vulnerable to smoke and poisonous fumes and injuries that can occur whilst evacuating yourself and others. Such injuries may be physical but can also include mental injuries such as trauma and stress.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING; The various buildings are scattered around the site and members of the public are currently only permitted into the information centre. There are however a number of good housekeeping measures that we need to maintain. Fire hazards should be avoided or reduced wherever possible and all staff are charged with the responsibility of good practice and good housekeeping. Fires are caused not only by carelessness and accident but also by vandals and trespassers and by arson. Fire doors should be unlocked at all times when the site is occupied. All passageways and access routes must be kept clear of obstruction at all times and it is everybody’s duty to conform and to oversee this. Do not leave it to “the management” or “someone else”. Flammable waste materials must be safely stored away from all buildings, structures and rolling stock and disposed of as quickly as possible. All flammable materials must be handled, transported and stored safely. Flammable liquids and gases must always and only be stored in the locked cages provided when not in use. Bonfires are permitted but must be located well away from all buildings, structures and rolling stock. They must be tended at all times until fully extinguished. Extract from the RVR Rule Book which is reproduced here for members information.


TRULY KENT AND EAST SUSSEX! The number of light railway schemes which Colonel Stephens saw through to completion was impressive. However, his full ambitions for our own region were far more extensive ……….. The route which Col. Stephens’ light railway eventually took from Robertsbridge to Headcorn certainly justified its eventual title: ‘The Kent & East Sussex Railway’, since its services clearly connected these two counties. Yet, had his plans been implemented in full, the Company would have controlled and operated a complete network of lightlylaid rural lines, serving a substantial region of farmland in the South East of England and connecting with the mainline system at a number of interchanges. To explore the possibilities of the lines which were never built is to gain an insight into the true scale of the Colonel’s imagination and ambition. The headshunt at Headcorn would have led to a line crossing the South Eastern Tonbridge to Ashford route and continuing northwards to reach the county town of Maidstone via the spur to Tovil Street goods yard. The passenger interchange would thus have been Maidstone West. The line would have followed the course of the present A274, serving the farms and communities around Sutton Valance, Warmlake, Langley, Boughton Monchelsea and Loose. Moving southward, a link was planned between the station outside Cranbrook on the Paddock Wood to Hawkhurst branch ( also engineered by Colonel Stephens but operated by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway ) and St. Michael’s Halt, just north of Tenterden. Cranbrook Town station would have been built in the centre of the community, and the line would have proceeded eastward, north of the present B2086, with Sissinghurst, Benenden, East End and Parkgate forming its catchment area. It is interesting to speculate on the form St. Michael’s Halt would have taken, following its rise in status to a junction! The link from Cranbrook to St. Michaels would formed only part of a larger scheme to link Paddock Wood with Appledore on the line from Ashford to Hastings. Trains would have continued southward to Tenterden Town, where a further line would have closely followed the present B2080 through the Isle of Oxney, serving Leigh Green, Reading Street and Appledore Heath. The Colonel planned one final connection between the K. & E.S.R. and the Ashford – Hastings line. Starting at Northiam, this would have first run due east and then closely followed the southern bank of the Rother to the point at which it joins the Royal Military Canal. Here, it would have turned sharply southwards, connecting with the S.E. & C.R. at Rye. Through trains could thus have been run from Robertsbridge to Rye via Bodiam and Northiam. Colonel Stephen’s longest and most ambitious link would have connected Robertsbridge directly to the South Eastern’s arch rival: the L.B. & S.C.R. This scheme envisaged a line running south-westwards and serving the villages of Oxley’s Green, Brightling, Darwell Hole, Netherfield, Penhurst, Ponts Green, Boreham Street and Wartling before joining the mainline at Pevensey & Westham. Interestingly, it would also have been the local line for the Herstmonceux Observatory!

Had the full rural rail system been constructed, Headcorn, Tenterden and Robertsbridge would have grown in importance as rural railheads, with larger facilities for cattle and other produce, as well as a whole range of equipment bound for the


farms in the region. Rolvenden Works would have had to expand substantially, taking on an importance more akin to that of Melton Mowbray in East Anglia. Sadly, any profits for the Colonel’s Tonbridge-based business empire would have dwindled after the mid 1920’s when the first lorries and motorbuses would have offered faster and cheaper services. Nevertheless, imagine the pleasure that would have been offered to the diehard railway enthusiast by a long, slow, bumpy journey from Pevensey via Robertsbridge to Maidstone! Mike Pease







There’s always a large collection of used model railway equipment, especially in TT which is our speciality.


You’ll be amazed at what we have on offer: railway sleepers in jarrah and pine, historic railchairs from pre-1923 railway companies, electric 3rd. rail insulators, railway clothing, replica works plates and much, much more.


08q2 Phoenix  

The News and Views of the Rother Valley Railway

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