Page 1

The Phoenix

Issue 67


Spring 2014

Journal of the Rother Valley Railway Supporters’ Association – Phoenix No 67 1

RVR Supporters’ Association Committee for 2013/14: Peter Brown (Chairman) David Felton (Treasurer) Geoff Wyatt (Lottery manager) Bruce Bassam Trevor Streeter (Membership secretary) Steve Griffiths (Secretary & editor of the Phoenix)

The Rother Valley Railway Robertsbridge Junction Station, Station Road, Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5DG telephone: 01580 881833 RVR e-mail: RVR website: Membership:

Plus: Shop manager: Mark Goodrum Mess van manager: Peter Brown

Rother Valley Railway Ltd Directors: Gardner Crawley (chairman) Mike Hart OBE (deputy chairman) David Felton (managing director, finance dir, & company secretary) David Slack (operations director) Roy Seaborne (non-executive director)

Co. Managers:

Reg. Office: 3-4 Bower Terrace, Maidstone, Kent, ME16 8RY

(e-mail etc as above)

Trevor Streeter (Webmaster) Mark Yonge (Press Officer)

Rother Valley Railway Heritage Trust Trustees: Gardner Crawley (Chairman), Mike Hart OBE (Deputy Chairman), Peter Davis, David Felton, Roy Seaborne. Address etc as above

Any uncredited articles and text have been produced by the Editor Material for the Summer issue - to the Editor by 1 July please

Phoenix copyright: The Rother Valley Railway Supporters’ Association


Editorial The wettest winter for 100 years has drawn to its close now, and it’s had a major impact on the railways. RVR has not been immune to this: its still new trackwork between Bodiam and Junction Road was flooded to a considerable depth by the River Rother at the low-lying stretch across Quarry Farm (see page 17), though it does not appear to have done any harm now that the waters have receded. A thorough inspection will be made before trains run over this stretch, naturally. Fortunately this incursion seems to have been the only major incident during the various storms. It is a great relief that the work to repair the embankment at Northbridge Street was completed well before this winters flood season arrived. The restored floodways along this stretch of the line have more than justified their existence, dealing effectively with local floodwaters. The Hastings mainline was not so lucky, with major landslips near Battle (Mountsfield), Stonegate and Wadhurst causing ongoing disruption, leading to line closures and replacement bus services, one of which was in operation until the end of March. Exposure to any rail-replacement service at least helps to remind us of how much better railways are (normally) at transporting people over longer distances. And also how disastrous it would have been if the Hastings line had been closed down, as was widely rumoured before its electrification was finally started in the mid 1980s. It seems clear the main cause of the landslides has been the large amount of rain falling on already saturated ground. In the month to January 1st, Wadhurst for example had 188mm of rain - or more than twice the normal amount for December. January and February were no different. Unfortunately for today’s rail travellers, the South Eastern Railway’s engineers built rather steep-sided cuttings which were cheaper to excavate, and the same went for the embankments. Slopes would today be designed with gentler maximum angles and would have better drainage. Finally, birthday congratulations are due to our K&ESR colleagues. At 11.30 am on Sunday the 3 rd of February 1974 the first stretch of the line, between Tenterden and Rolvenden (Pope’s Cottage), was reopened with the first public train service being provided by the GWR Railcar. This was a real achievement by the line’s pioneering preservationists after a long hard struggle, and a milestone in the heritage railway movement. Of course, we hope it will not be too long before their original dream (and ours) comes to full fruition and trains run right through from Tenterden to Robertsbridge once more. Due soon are our annual AGM, and the model railway exhibition –more inside. Please don’t forget to renew your membership if you haven’t already done so. Editor

April 2014 Cover photo:: Contractors landscape the eastern slope of the RVR station site (PB) 3

John Snell, RVR Trustee - an obituary by Mark Yonge John Bernard Snell died at the age of 82 years at his home in Dymchurch in January, adjacent to the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, one of many lines that he was involved with during his long career in the history of railway preservation. Widely known and respected for his sharp intellect and wry humour, and as the author of many books, he will be greatly missed by all who know and admired him. Born in Fiji and spending his early days in New Zealand, where he experienced his first love of railways before moving to England, he attended Bryanston School and Oxford University where he trained as a barrister. His first experience in railway preservation was when he joined the Talyllyn Railway in 1951. John was reputedly its first volunteer and this was the first fledgling line to attempt preservation following the nationalisation of the railways in 1947. The Ealing comedy film ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’ was loosely modelled on this early railway. In L T C Rolt’s history of the line (Railway Adventure), he refers to John Snell thus. ‘John had written to me after leaving Bryanston and wanted to volunteer prior to going up to Oxford. Though fresh from school and quite unskilled, in looks, manners and sheer height, he seemed much older than his age. He was one of our keenest of volunteers and proved a valuable addition to what might loosely be called, paid staff ’. On leaving university, John never worked in the legal profession, preferring to work initially for London Transport and then British Railways. Always remaining an interest in preserved railways, John subsequently worked as managing director of the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway from 1972 to 1999. Inheriting a very run-down operation, he was responsible for investing much into its infrastructure, locomotives and rolling stock, turning the railway into the fine attraction that it is today. A director of the Paignton & Dartmouth Railway, he was also vice chairman of the Heritage Railway Association until his retirement a few years ago. Apart from his salaried working life, he wrote several notable books as well as extensively filming and photographing railways. Following his retirement from RH&DR, John spent a short time as a director of the Kent & East Sussex Railway before joining the Rother Valley Railway at Robertsbridge. The remaining years of his life were spent with the RVR in the role of director of the company in 2005 and trustee of the Rother Valley Heritage Trust in 2007. John’s wealth of experience during a lifetime spent in the railway industry, has proved invaluable to the RVR, which gratefully acknowledges his contribution to its aims and objectives. (Ed: see RVR website for a Daily Telegraph obituary ).


News from Robertsbridge Junction RVR’s main contractor, Andrew Wood, spent the first few weeks of the new year over at the Rolvenden carriage shed project, but by February work at Robertsbridge had restarted. Bricklaying for the leading edge of the new platform advanced rapidly southwards, as did the rear edge of the new platform, heading towards the ‘locker room’, the small portable building that sits next t the VSOE building. The site of the new station building was then cleared ready for marking out of the footings. On the opposite side of the site, the embankment down to our neighbours’ property, Culverwells, was cleared of vegetation and this was soon followed by new perimeter fencing along this eastern edge, done in traditional wooden picket style for the stretch from the water tower piers to Station Road. The bank has now been turfed, as our cover shows. It’s opened up some views of the village.

Footings for the station buildings started in early April, by Andrew and his team. The photo shows the site of the toilet block which will be erected later this summer. (PB)


The new station foundations are deep! In the background are buses for the rail replacement service to Battle (PB) 6

As for the volunteers’ efforts, exceptionally heavy winter rains have somewhat curtailed activity over the last few weeks. Nevertheless they have been able to progress a few tasks both indoors and out, and make some inroads into the long list of jobs.

The gardening group’s first project gets under way (JE)

In particular, the new gardening group volunteers got off to a flying start with the removal of much of the chain link fencing alongside the new RVR platform. This allowed soil to go in and planting to begin between the Network Rail car park and the RVR’s new railings, to provide an attractive mix of hedging and small trees to landscape this previously rather bleak western boundary to the railway. This now looks very neat and the concrete edging to the car park tarmac has been repaired and the border pebbles restored. The platform flower beds themselves are also being planted up. With the departure of the ballast regulator, a bit of a shunt took place at Robertsbridge, to clear the southern stretch of the run-round of all stock. As a result, all but two vehicles are currently in the platform – the exceptions being the Maunsell coach and the BY van. This provided the contractors’ ro-rail machine with free passage to organise growing stocks of secondhand rail. This rail, which is of high quality generally arrives in 20-foot lengths, and is being steadily welded up into standard sixty-foot lengths, after cleaning up the often messy ‘torched’ ends. Our grateful thanks to everyone involved in this major exercise in supplying and prepping the trackwork needed for the next big RVR extension! 7

Restoration continues steadily on the BY (above) and all three banana vans (TEDS & PB)


The British concert pianist returns from Canada with the sole purpose of playing in Fairlight. Here is the opportunity of hearing another stunning recital at Fairlight Church, Coastguards Lane, TN35 4AB

SATURDAY 10th MAY 7.00 pm The programme will include Chopin, Liszt, Debussy & Gershwin ÂŁ16.00 to include free programme Wine and beverages extra - modestly priced

All profit to Fairlight Church Tickets:- Fairlight Post Office (cash only) or by post from G.Wyatt, 33, Waites Lane, Fairlight, E.Sussex. TN35 4AX Make cheques to Fairlight P.C.C, plus a stamped addressed envelope please


The eastern embankment at RBJ is cleared ready for fencing and landscaping (SG)

People We were pleased to hear that Association member and volunteer Paul Hutchinson has been awarded the MBE for services to the Royal Navy, the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. Congratulations Paul! He also joined the K&ESR Board recently. In the previous issue, the caption to the upper photograph on page 11 was incorrect. It is of course Jack and Bob Evans, not Edwards, standing on the left of the picture. We’d like to offer our grateful thanks to member David Post, who recently offered the railway a considerable quantity of useful tools including an almost new wood-working lathe, which has now been installed in the refurbished main workshop at Robertsbridge. Geoff Wyatt has decided not to stand for re-election to the RVRSA committee this year. This means there will be at least one vacancy (see AGM details elsewhere in this issue).


Rolvenden carriage shed With the site and footings prepared, together with extensive drainage works given the location of the site in the Rother Valley, work on erecting the new RVR funded shed at the other end of the railway at Rolvenden has forged ahead. The prefabricated components went up in a matter of weeks. By the end of March the structure was pretty much complete, and it looks like the main running line outside the shed will be back in action in good time for the resumption of train services after the usual winter break.

The first ten bays of the new Rolvenden shed take shape (photo: Alasdair Stewart)

Prior to re-opening, K&ESR had to brief its locomotive drivers on the new track layout in the immediate vicinity, and associated signalling changes. Once all the construction works are completed later in the year, K&ESR will have gained some very welcome additional siding and storage space to relieve the overcrowding at Tenterden, as well as shelter for more of its carriage stock. The passing loop at Rolvenden has also been extended in the process. All in all, about a mile of track and eight sets of points are being laid or relaid by K&ESR volunteers to complete this complex project, Latest RVRSA prize draw winners 1st prize

2nd prize

Dec H Brett (ball 11)

S Griffiths (ball 21)

Jan A Stokes (ball 12)

T Long (ball 13)

Feb C Ashfield (ball 2)

A Stokes (ball 12) 11

A mobile crane and two cherry pickers assemble the Rolvenden shed (AS)


Almost complete: Roller-shutter doors and trackwork to come. All thanks to our sponsors! (photos PB)


The eastern bank at Robertsbridge Junction (SG)    

The Rother Valley was one of a fascinating empire of light railways built under the direction of Holman F. Stephens. Join us, and help preserve the history and artefacts of his many lines. You will also receive our quarterly newsletter ‘The Colonel’, packed with news, articles and scale drawings. For a membership form write to:

David Powell (CSS Mem.Sec.) Gateways, Bledlow Road, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Bucks., HP27 9NG telephone 01844 343377 e-mail website


Robertsbridge Enterprise Group public meeting An open meeting about the Railway’s plans was held in the Ostrich pub, Robertsbridge, on 5 March. This was organised by the Robertsbridge Enterprise Group (a body which aims to promote local businesses and enterprise). A number of local residents attended and heard the latest RVR presentation about the project to reopen the line to Bodiam, and took the opportunity to put questions directly to the Railway management. A number of issues were discussed ranging from the prospects of financial viability of the extension, through local traffic and parking issues, economic benefits, visual impacts, pedestrian safety, to land acquisition.

RVRSA Membership If you have not yet renewed your membership, now is the time to do so! Incidentally, the final figures now show total paid membership for the 2013/14 period as 140 full members, plus 30 honorary members. Compared to 2012/13, we lost 19% of members but gained 25%! The adult membership subscription (renewals) remains at £15 for 2014/15.

Dates f or your diary Saturday 10 May, 2.30 pm: RVRSA Annual General Meeting (see notice) 17& 18 May - SAMREX 2014: our annual model railway exhibition (see ad, and request for help below). 25 and 26 May – K&ESR 40 th Anniversary Gala, including rides through to Junction Road.

SAMREX 2014 – call f or helpers 17 & 18 May Our annual model railway show is quite a labour intensive business. We need people to make and serve the food, wash up, and generally help keep everyone happy and contented! If you can help out with arrangements on the show days and/or the setting-up day on Friday 16 th, please contact organiser Alan Bone on 0208 310 5018 .


RVRSA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING, 2.30pm, 10 MAY 2014 RVR ROBERTSBRIDGE Agenda 1. Chairman’s welcome 2. The Trust’s plans and progress (including questions) 3. Apologies 4. Minutes of 2013 AGM (including matters arising) 5. SA Chairman’s & Officers’ reports 6. Update on the future of the RVRSA 7. Approval and adoption of accounts for year ended 31 March 2014 8. Election of officers 9. Any other business

The mystery of Eltham Well Hall Station waiting room We have been asked if anyone knows what happened to the wooden waiting room from the old Eltham Well Hall station in south-east London. The station platforms were demolished in the 1980s as part of a scheme to divert the A2 trunk road (Rochester Way). A wholly new replacement station (Eltham) was built further east. The small platform building was rescued by the Thameside Group of the K&ESR, dismantled and brought to Kent with the hope that it could be re-used on the railway. Does anyone have any information as to its subsequent fate? Please contact the Phoenix editor if you can add to the story. 16

Spot the railway - winter flooding submerges the RVR trackwork at Quarry Farm (DS)

RVRSA minutes A set of the minutes of the regular RVRSA meetings is held in our office in the mess van at Robertsbridge. All members are welcome to view the minutes during our normal working days.


Robertsbridge Junction looking south, showing new fence. Trackwork and buffer stop to be added. Water tower piers on the left. Platform to be completed on the right. (SG)



Saturday & Sunday 17 & 18th May Open 10am, closed 5pm. Access for the disabled. Free parking. RVR’s shop will be open both days Admission £3.00 (child £1.00) Presented by the Rother Valley Railway Supporters Association – all profits to the railway


Letters - from Dana Wiffen ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---

I have been meaning to write for some time as a member of RVR and a visitor to K&ESR. Earlier on in the year I was visiting K&ESR, and there was a massive queue - mainly because the ticket office at Tenterden cannot cope with numbers quickly. They of course held up the train, so that side of it was OK. But when you eventually answer the questions about tax relief etc, you then get this awful printed ticket which does not go with the wonderfully restored K&ESR. This got me thinking, and having seen the tickets issued for the Return To Robertsbridge event in September I am wondering whether, when the line is fully open, RVR will continue to offer the normal heritage cardboard railway ticket, or go to the horrible K&ESR system? I would love to hear other RVR members’ thoughts on this, and wondered if you could include in our next magazine/newsletter. Response from David Felton, for RVR Ltd Once the rebuilding of the Robertsbridge - Bodiam section has been completed and the lines joined, it will be the Kent & East Sussex Railway that will operate all services. Robertsbridge will no doubt be linked into their ticketing system. I asked Graham Baldwin (General Manager of the K&ESR) for his response, and he ad ded: “K&ESR introduced a computerised booking system 5 years ago as part of driving an increase in Gift Aid income. This was extremely successful, increasing Gift Aid by some £40,000 per annum. It is fair to say that the theatre style tickets are not popular with railway enthusiasts but we get next to no adverse comment from the vast majority of our visitors. As part of our preparations for opening to Robertsbridge we are changing the ticketing system and will be printing credit card sized tickets in “Network” style. They will not of course have the heritage appeal of Edmondson tickets but they will look much more like railway tickets. Continuing to be able to claim Gift Aid is an essential part of our income. We do make Edmondson tickets available as souvenirs on request and I expect we will continue to do this. We may also issue them for special events.”


Update on Thameslink In the Autumn 2012 edition of the Phoenix, we mentioned that the overall roof at London Bridge Station (Brighton side) was being dismantled as part of the massive Thameslink project. The other day I accidentally discovered what had happened to it, and (small world!) there is an RVR connection in the story. The roof structure at London Bridge originally erected by the LBSCR, formed the major part of the Grade II listed building1. There was great concern that a new use should somehow be found for the classic cast iron Victorian structure, rather than see it melted down as scrap. The Vale of Rheidol Railway, the famous narrow gauge railway based at Aberystwyth, have recently taken delivery of dismantled components and there are plans to re-erect them in the form of a railway museum. The plans have been drawn up by Stephen Langer Associates Limited. If this name sounds familiar to you, it’s because these are also the architects for the RVR’s project at Robertsbridge. More details of the dismantling work at London Bridge, and also the Robertsbridge plans, can be found on the architects’ website at and also Walks in Salehurst and Robertsbridge For any of you contemplating a visit to the area, a new publication may be of interest. Copies are available in the RVR shop priced just £2. This is a booklet, updated from the original 1993 version, featuring eight different local walks, with full descriptions and sketch maps and a brief local history. David Allen is the author.

Another view of the landscaped eastern bank at Robertsbridge Junction (SG)


English Heritage is the government agency responsible for maintaining the listfor England, on behalf of the Secretary of Stat e. Some 90% of the 374,000 listed buildings in England are classified as Grade II, ie “buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them”.


Robertsbridge Junction 1939

This evocative photograph by Richard Wyndham shows the view northwards from the end of the bay platform at Robertsbridge Junction in 1939. A Terrier – possibly ‘Stepney’ – is just beyond the old iron footbridge and concrete lower quadrant signal post, both now long vanished. A board erected by the company advertises to passing trains on the mainline the development opportunities along the route of the Kent and East Sussex Railway, with right hand side reading as follows: ‘why not plan your depot or works adjoining the railway where land is available at low rates’. The centre panel consists of a list of K&ESR stations. The left hand panel advertises.....’Consign your goods by rail. Let us quote a rate for collection and delivery’. Invisible behind the loco, the line curves away to the east. The bank and its vegetation to the right of the photo remains, though chunks have now been removed to allow for the construction of our proposed new carriage shed. The main platforms at Robertsbridge have been extended since this photo, but the bay platform face remains the same length. The crossing has been moved further away and the headshunt has had to be shortened in recent years because of instability. Note the absence of trees close to the line. Only with the decline of steam was mother nature able to colonise railway embankments and cuttings with myriad trees! 22

RVRSA prize draw accounts f or the year ended 31 December 2013 TICKET MONIES RECEIVED
























EXPENSES; Lottery Registration fees Postage & sundry expenses

£ £

20.00 13.00

Report on the accounts – Geoff Wyatt (RVRSA Lottery manager) With this most recent set of the prize draw accounts (above), it can be seen that we have had a reasonable year with only a slight reduction in participants. However, it would be nice to welcome a few more wishing to have a modest flutter. The item of £260 expended was for the benefit of the supporters’ mess van, the GBLV. All money raised by the lottery is used for the benefit of the supporters.


IT’S BUSINESS AS USUAL DURING REBUILDING OF THE STATION! Our shop is open every Sunday, from 10 – 4pm, offering a huge range of railway books, magazines and models, as well as the visitor centre displays. We also sell hot and cold drinks. Please e-mail stock







RAILWAY MAGAZINES (Secondhand) We have what is probably the best collection in the south-east of England. Try us for that issue you’re missing. Many are old…some are virtually new. RAILWAY BOOKS From historic to modern, biography to photo collections, we have a wide range of second-hand books at bargain prices. MODEL RAILWAY ITEMS We have a collection of used models and trackwork, mainly 0, OO, and N gauges. We also have some road vehicles and small buildings etc. REAL RAILWAY ITEMS Lovely cast iron rail chairs from pre-1923 companies and later, plain or lightly painted. Plus some 3rd rail insulators. SELLING SERVICE Items can also be sold for you on commission (15%), or simply donate them to us. PRICING POLICY Pricing second-hand items is an art not a science, so all sensible offers are considered for most goods in the shop! We have an Ebay account, so you may occasionally find some items listed online. Look for our seller name: ‘rothervalleyrailwayltd’ (no spaces). 24

14q1 phoenix  

John Snell, Gardening Group, Banana vans, Rolvenden carriage shed, Robertsbridge 1939

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