East Kent Light Railway

For other railways with similar names, see East Kent Railways (disambiguation).

East Kent Light Railway

Kent Coast Line
to Ramsgate
Richboro Port(built but never opened)
River Stour
Kent Coast Line
to Dover Priory
Sandwich Road
Roman Road
Poison Cross
Hammill Colliery
Ash Town
Eastry South
Wingham Colliery
Wingham Town
Tilmanstone Colliery Halt
Wingham (Canterbury Road)
Tilmanstone Colliery
Eythorne Heritage railway
Guilford Colliery
Golgotha Tunnel (477 yards)
Chatham Main Line
to Canterbury East
Former main line connection
Shepherdswell (EKLR) Heritage railway
Shepherds Well
Chatham Main Line
to Dover Priory
The East Kent Light Railway, shown with other railway lines in Kent.
A 1945 Ordnance Survey of Sandwich showing the location of the mainline station and the branch of the light railway

The East Kent Light Railway was part of the Colonel Stephens group of cheaply built rural light railways in England. Holman Fred Stephens was engineer from its inception, subsequently becoming director and manager. The line ran from Shepherdswell to Wingham (Canterbury Road) Station with a branch from Eastry through Poison Cross to Richborough Port. Built primarily to serve colliery traffic, the line was built with many spurs and branches to serve the mostly unsuccessful mines of the Kent coalfield, with cancelled plans to construct several others. The success of Tilmanstone colliery allowed the main line of the railway to continue operation until 1986, when the remainder of the line became a heritage railway.

History of the Railway

The East Kent Light Railways (official title) was originally conceived before the First World War as a network of lines in East Kent linking at least nine proposed collieries in the newly discovered Kent coalfield to a new coal port at Richborough Port. However, most of the collieries were either flooded out or abandoned before reaching production, and the EKLR only served one productive mine. Richborough Port was a failure, and the EKLR became a truly rural railway with a heavy coal flow for a few miles only at one end between the working colliery at Tilmanstone and the SECR main line at Shepherdswell.

It was originally called the East Kent Mineral (Light) Railways[1] when first proposed in 1909. The progenitors were Christopher Solley of "Sandwich Haven Wharves Syndicate" at Sandwich, who dreamed of his town becoming a great port again, Arthur Burr of "Kent Coal Concessions Ltd", the original promoter of the Kent coalfield.[2] and the "St Augustines Links Ltd", which was meant to have laid out a golf course.

On tickets etc. and in publicity the railway referred to itself as the "East Kent Railway". This was technically illicit, but nobody seems to have complained. The company logo was "EKR" (no heraldry).

Opening to freight traffic was in stages after authorisation in 1911 from Shepherdswell to Port Richborough, and from Eastry to Wingham (later renamed Wingham Colliery). The process was casual and without formality, hence exact dates are not easy to ascertain. Passenger services from Shepherdswell to Wingham started on 16 October 1916. The initial proposal was to build a line to Canterbury goods yard via Ickham, but authorisation was only granted to build the line as far as the Wingham parish boundary. (Why this terminus was chosen, near where the direct footpath between Wingham and Ickham crosses the Port Rill, is a puzzle. Perhaps another collery was hoped for.) A major stumbling block to completion was the fact that Canterbury City Council was against a level crossing over the A28 at Sturry Road.[1] The official year of opening of the line between Eastry and Richborough Port was 1925, but this is probably incorrect (see below on Richborough Port). The company's bridge over the River Stour, and hence its traffic over it before then, was illegal, since it had built a fixed-span high-level bridge instead of the low-level swing bridge authorised.

A double-track tunnel was bored at Golgotha near Eythorne, and famously Colonel Stephens did not remove all the material from the double bore as a "temporary" economy. (The railway was single-track throughout.)

In 1920 there was a short extension to Wingham Town, whereupon the original terminus was renamed "Wingham Colliery". This extension had a short spur running south to Wingham Engineering Ltd's works. (The date is uncertain, because no authorisation was applied for.) A further extension followed to Wingham Canterbury Road in 1925. Also,there was the start of a passenger service from Eastry to Sandwich Road on 13 April 1925, which lasted until 31 October 1928.

An open wagon in the livery of Tilmanstone Colliery

Hopes of extensions were raised when the Southern Railway invested £44,000 in discounted shares (£220,000 at par) in 1926,[3] but dashed when it lost interest (although remaining friendly and having directors on the Board). The railway settled down to running coal trains for Tilmanstone Colliery as its only profitable activity. The colliery company objected to its rates, and opened an aerial ropeway in competition to the Eastern Arm of Dover Harbour in 1930. This was a failure, as the coal did not sell on the export market and mostly found a market in London. However, it was only dismantled in 1952.

Colonel Stephens died in 1931, and was succeeded as General Manager by his long-time assistant W.H. Austen, who served until nationalisation. His period in office initially saw a tidying-up and some rationalisation of activities, together with a badly needed rebuilding of the engine shed finished in 1938.

The only known movements at Richborough Port were the importation of timber for pit-props at Tilmanstone Colliery, and the export of some coal from Snowdown.

Three rail guns were operating on the line to Staple during the Second World War, 1940-2.[4]

After an extended period of increasing decrepitude, the final passenger service of two trains each way on weekdays (down from three) ran on 30 October 1948 following the nationalisation of British Railways. Freight services from Eastry to Port Richborough ceased officially on 27 October 1949 (although no train had run there for some time and track was missing on the river bridge), west of Eastry on 25 July 1950 and north of Tilmanstone Colliery on 1 March 1951.

EKLR at Port Richborough

The sources are vague and contradictory, and more research needs to be done.[5][6]

Before 1911, Richborough Port was known as "Sandwich Haven". There was a gravel pit (now a lake) and a quay on the Long Reach of the River Stour, used during the construction of the Admiralty Harbour at Dover by S. Pearson & Sons Co. This firm built a tramway, nicknamed "Pearson's Railway", from a junction with the SECR at Richborough Castle to the pit and to "Pierson's Quay" (also known as "Old Quay" or "Stonor Quay").

It is not known why the first coalfield promoters chose this place for a coal port instead of the more obvious Dover. However, before WW1 Dover was intended to be the harbour of refuge for the Royal Navy's Channel Fleet, and so it was apparently feared that there would be little room left for coal ships. Unfortunately, Krupp in Germany were already making steel cannon which could fire across the Channel by 1905, which ruled out any Royal Navy presence at Dover and made Richborough Port commercially rather pointless from the beginning.

The EKLR was authorised in 1911 to build a wharf on the later site of the War Office's "New Quay". This was to have been built by "St Augustine's Links Ltd", which initially planned a golf course but then diversified into planning a coal port and (via its subsidiary "Ebbsfleet Coal Syndicate") a coalmine. A boring in 1911 proved the coal seams to be too thin,[7] and the First World War stalled the port project. (The golf course was built, and is still there.)

The War Office took the port site over for an enormous transhipment camp during World War I, starting in 1916. The Royal Engineers abandoned the Pierson's Railway and built a new line, with miles of siding trackage, from "Weatherlees Junction" on the SECR. The line ran along the north side of the derelict power station (pace recent publications, this line was not the same as the power station spur), crossed the Thanet to Sandwich road just north of the filling stations and arrived at the New Quay behind Pfizer's sports ground. It then ran down the east side of the road, crossed the Stonar Cut and split in two at the Red Lion pub, about where the entrance to the recycling plant now is. One branch crossed the road, and both ran along the road verges to army camps where Pfizer's now is. The eastern branch also served Pierson's Quay.

Some anonymous army official coined the name "Richborough Port".

After the war, the SECR took over as temporary managers in 1919, until the port was sold to Pearson & Dorman Long (as the founding company had become) in 1925. It was in this period that the EKLR arrived, but the date is not known. Maps of 1918 do not show it. The War Office signed an agreement with the EKLR allowing junctions in June 1920, and an Army map in the Guildhall, Sandwich (discovered 1995) shows the EKLR in place. Hence it arrived between 1920 and 1922.

However, Lawson-Finch's book[8] gives documentary evidence showing construction on the line and bridges continuing until the first official goods traffic to Richborough Port in 1929. It may be that the EKLR laid its sidings at Richborough Port in isolation before anything could cross the bridge, in order to establish its presence. The mystery remains as to when the first actual train ran to Richborough Port.

After crossing its river bridge, the EKLR followed roughly the course of the Sandwich Bypass. Here were the goods sidings, with a track either side of the line.[9] Just before the roundabout on the old Thanet road it picked up the course of the former Pierson's railway and turned east to its passenger station. Then it crossed, in immediate succession, the western line to the camps, the road, the eastern line and a siding before a junction with the port's wharfside line at Pierson's Wharf. A spur ran north before the station for about 20yds to a junction with the port lines. This was the access route to New Quay, as well as to the SECR at Weatherlees (although there is no evidence that the EKLR ever exchanged traffic over this connection).

Some modern maps show the junction spur extending as far as the Red Lion crossing. This is probably erroneous,[10] but needs to be researched. The error may arise from the War Office having built the final stretch of line to New Quay that was authorised for the EKLR in 1911.

Pierson & Dorman Long wanted to build a steelworks at Richborough Port, with new towns to house the workers at Woodnesborough and Ash and using coal from its colliery at Betteshanger. It regarded the EKLR as a nuisance, and never encouraged it. However, the EKLR did ship coal for export from Snowdown from 1929 to the mid thirties, and pit props in the other direction.[11] All plans were abandoned at the Depression. A main line link for coal traffic was actually authorised for Dover Eastern Harbour via a tunnel under the castle in 1933, just about the time when it was finally realized that the Kent coalfield was a commercial failure.[12]

Before the Second World War, only certain buildings were being used for colliery machine maintenance and the port railway network had been, in effect, abandoned before being inherited by the National Coal Board in 1948. The EKLR river bridge had become unsafe before then, on an unknown date, and had had its rails removed.[10]

Stations on main line

All stations were basic, featuring a platform, seat, nameboard and hut (usually wooden). None had a toilet. Lighting was by one or two oil lamps on posts at staffed stations; unstaffed ones also initially, but it is unclear how long this was kept up.

Mileages in miles and chains, from Shepherdswell for the main line and Eastry for the branch.[13]

Stations or sidings served:[14]

There is anecdotal evidence that passenger trains stopped unofficially on request at the private farm sidings at Ash, also that goods vans were left loose on the running line between stations overnight for farmers to load.[17]

Shepherdswell, Eythorne, Eastry, Woodnesborough, Staple and Wingham Canterbury Road were staffed. Otherwise tickets were sold by the train guard.[18]

Richborough Port Branch

Other branches and spurs

At Shepherdswell a connecting spur was begun to a north-facing junction on the SECR main line but never finished (earthworks survive); instead, a very sharp curve to a junction was provided near the terminus. A siding was laid on the route of this abortive junction spur. Why this happened is a mystery. It was not as a result of hostility from the SECR, since they built a signal box at the site of the proposed junction.

There was initially a branch from Eythorne to Tilmanstone Colliery, which was then extended to re-join the main line north of Elvington at some stage (apparently illicitly, as the extension is not listed as authorised). The northern junction had a loop, but this and the junction was removed by 1926, leaving the line north of the colliery as a siding.[20] This north part vanished under the colliery waste tip some time after 1959, since it featured on the OS map of that year. The map in Lawson Finch, p132, has the colliery layout.

There was a platform at Tilmanstone Colliery for the use of miners' services, which operated from 1918 to 1929. This was described in timetables and on tickets as "Tilmanstone Colliery", thus causing obvious confusion with what later became Elvington Halt. This seems to have been deliberate, as the EKLR had no authority to run passenger services over the branch and issuing tickets was technically illegal. It should have contracted with the colliery company instead for these services, as was standard practice in coalfields elsewhere, instead of collecting a subsidy.[21]

This was part of the original proposal of 1911, and ran south from Eythorne before curving east to the colliery site on the edge of Waldershare deer park (the colliery was named after the owner of the park). Despite a full set of colliery buildings being provided and three shafts started, the whole colliery was abandoned by its French owners in 1922 before it produced any coal. A section of the branch near the junction was used for stabling empty wagons before the track was lifted in 1937, and this section was re-laid in the Second World War as a place for stabling the rail-guns. The junction was with the bypass loop at Eythorne, facing Wingham.

Colonel Stephens is on record as stating that the Guilford branch was to have a passenger service once the colliery opened.[22]

The Guilford branch was authorised with a triangular junction, and the earthworks for the Shepherdswell-facing curve were completed. There is one intriguing piece of evidence that the track for this triangular junction was briefly in use. Early photos of Locomotive No. 1 show it either facing Shepherdswell or Wingham; the EKLR had literally nowhere on its system where a locomotive could be turned except for this triangle! Not to be confused with another proposed triangle at Eythorne, from the proposed Deal line to Elvington to give a direct route from Canterbury to Deal. No work was done on this.

A triangular junction was authorised at Eastry, but not finished. The land for the curve allowing running from Wingham to Port Richborough was purchased and fenced, but no track was laid.

This ran from south-east of Woodnesborough station to Woodnesborough Colliery, which mine failed and became Hammill brickworks. This spur survived until 1951. A narrow-gauge line was parallel to it on the west, between brickworks and clay pit, and this still featured on the 1959 OS map, five years after the EKLR had been pulled up.

This ran to Wingham Colliery, from a junction with loop just short of the original terminus and running south. The mine was a failure and the spur and loop were removsed in 1921, but the buildings were taken over in 1947 by a successful animal feed merchants' now called "Grain Harvesters".[23] Apparently the EKLR did not own this spur, because it proposed its own spur in 1913.

Engine shed

The access line to this was from the western line of the goods yard, and threw off a carriage siding before bifurcating and running into the shed. There was a short spur parallel to the west side of the shed entrance, which was used for major refits in the open air. Next to this was an open-fronted shed.

The original shed was a rickety wooden structure with walls of Kentish weatherboarding and a tin roof. It fell into hopeless disrepair and was replaced in stages with a more substantial structure in corrugated asbestos with five brick smoke vents which was finished in 1937. This was pulled down by British Railways at an unknown date by 1953.

The workshop was a brick lean-to on the west side of the engine shed, and contained the following tools powered by a steam engine: Six-inch lathe, two-inch lathe, vertical drill, gear cutter, bench grindstone, forge and large grindstone (treadle powered).

The carpenter's shed was attached to the north end of this, but not to the engine shed. It had a circular saw powered by the workshop steam engine.

In between the engine shed and the carriage siding was a pair of wooden sheds side by side forming an "L". The western was an open-fronted fitter's store, and the eastern was the platelayers' headquarters.

The original locomotive water supply was by means of a row of tanks supplied from an open cistern under the wooden floor of the carpenter's shop. This grossly unsatisfactory arrangement (especially for the carpenter in winter) was replaced by a concrete covered reservoir in the woods, supplied from a well by means of a diesel pump and which fed two standpipes by gravity.

There seems to be no evidence for locomotive coaling facilities at Shepherdswell, and tenders were probably filled from the screens at Tilmanstone Colliery.

For the purposes of modelling, see "Shepherdswell" in Chapter 14 of Lawson Finch with the large-scale map on page 254, together with photo 40 in Mitchell & Smith. No published photograph seems to show the outside of the workshop.

Expansion plans

The original main line from Shepherdswell to Port Richborough was authorised in 1911, together with the Wingham branch (which became the main line in practice). Also authorised in 1911 and 1913, but not built, were the following lines:

A massive expansion was authorised in 1920, but with little result:

These schemes were prepared but not authorised:[27]

The Deal and Canterbury lines were re-authorised in 1931, the former being given a more direct route and the latter being shortened to run through Ickham, after the Southern Railway indicated its willingness to invest (which it initially did, but later chose to support local bus services instead after 1930).

The hostility of the owners of Richborough Port after 1925 led to a scheme for a coal dock north of Deal, near the Chequers pub. It would have taken half of the Royal Cinque Ports golf course.


This was the railway's reason for existence. It charged a fixed rate per ton for taking loaded coal wagons from Tilmanstone Colliery to Shepherdswell (no further) for switching onto the main line and for returning empties. Since the colliery possessed no locomotives, it also performed necessary shunting duties at the mine, including taking coal from the screens to the power station that ran the electric drainage pumps. Tonnage was over 200,000 after 1926. Rates agreed in 1932 were £0.0315 per ton to Shepherdswell, internal shunting at the colliery at £0.0126 per ton, 1,000 tons of free coal per year for railway use and £0.90 per ton over that. In return, the railway had to obtain all its coal from the colliery, and bad quality was to be a problem. The Southern Railway credited the EKLR £0.042 per ton of coal forwarded to them.

Export traffic from Snowdown Colliery to Richborough Port from 1929 to c1937 was greater than previously thought, peaking at c30,000 tons in 1933.

Tilmanstone coal was taken to customers elsewhere on the main line in the EKLR's own wagons. The major ones were Hammill brickworks and Wingham Engineering. Since Kent coal was friable and not suitable for all purposes, the railway also handled coal ordered from other coalfields. There was a coal merchants' located at Staple station.

Tilmanstone coal was also taken to Shepherdswell for the locomotives and for the steam engine running the lathes, etc. in the workshops. Kent coal was not very suitable for steaming, tending to break up and form dust, and this may account for anecdotal evidence that the engines sometimes had difficulty maintaining steam pressure while on service.

The nature of these are not identified in the records, but fireclay and gravel are noted as having been carried from time to time. Colliery spoil had some value in surfacing country paths and lanes. Sugar beet was listed as a "mineral", probably because it could be shipped loose and tipped.

Something called "Stonar Blue" was shipped from a pit at "Richborough" to potteries at Stoke-on-Trent. Published sources variously describe this as clay or flints, from the castle or the port. Obviously no-one knows for certain what this was or where it came from.

This was between 5,000 and 8,000 tons per year. The train guard was expected to do the shunting at unstaffed stations.

Fruit, vegetables and flowers were important in season, the traffic concentrating at Staple where there was a wholesale greengrocers'. These were carried in boxes and baskets in open wagons, the empties being returned. Some potatoes, grain and hops were carried in sacks.

The Hammill brickworks shipped some bricks, but their product was of high quality and vulnerable to the jolting it might endure on the railway. Just under 4,000 tons were carried in 1930, but output after that tended to go by road.

Wingham Engineering received their supplies of steel plate, bar etc. by rail.

There was almost no livestock traffic, since the area has no tradition of stockbreeding. Twenty-two cattle were carried in the EKLR's lifetime. In 1935 336 pigs were carried and in 1936 353, which looks like the establishment or liquidation (or both, in quick succession) of a pig farm. Some wool was carried, because sheep were used to keep the grass down in orchards.

The railway is known to have stabled wagons not in use on the "North Bank Spur" at Shepherdswell, also on the Guilford spur near the junction. The sidings at Richborough Port were also probably used.

After passenger services ceased on the Richborough Port branch, it was worked "on demand" to the facilities at Sandwich Road and Richborough Castle. The siding at Poison Cross amounted to Eastry's goods yard, so main line train engines ventured this far to handle vehicles if necessary (the short distance was a separate block section). Alarmingly, towards the end main line trains could be left waiting, even if they had passengers, for the engines to run as far as Richborough Castle and back if need be.

Interest obviously focuses most on passenger traffic, but it was of secondary importance and towards the end was trivial (three passengers every four trains in 1947). The established timetable pattern was three trains each way daily to Wingham and another to Eastry, running on to Wingham on Saturdays. When miners' trains ended in 1929 there were four each way, terminating in the colliery yard. (In previous years, before 1927, some of these ran on to Eastry, in which case they stopped at "Tilmanstone Colliery Halt" at Elvington -a serious source of confusion.) The basic service became two each way in 1931.

Mostly, except in the early years, there were no proper passenger trains but a passenger coach attached to a goods train (forming the so-called "mixed train"). Since the EKLR had no guard's vans until the 1940s, the passenger coaches performed this function (being independently braked). The obvious disadvantage was that shunting made the passenger timetable a work of fiction. One way of making up time was by not stopping at stations where no passengers were waiting. There is anecdotal evidence that sometimes train crews ignored prospective passengers anyway if no goods traffic was to be handled at that stop.

The service from Eastry to Sandwich Road involved one train each way on weekdays in 1926, two on Wednesdays and Saturdays 1927, and one only on Saturdays 1928.[30] Since the passenger coach doubled up as the brakevan, the published assertions that it was left at Sandwich Road (while the rest of the train went on) need confirmation (this statement may have been for official ears). It is likely that anybody actually wishing to go on to Richborough Port would be allowed to travel free "at own risk", although there is no actual evidence that anybody did.

The EKLR never ran passenger trains on Sundays, nor did it sell First Class tickets (even though some carriages had first-class accommodation).

Oddly, given the volume of traffic, the EKLR did not use paper tickets but proper Edmondson card ones, of different colours according to the destination. Return tickets had the two appropriate colours. Train guards had to carry these for issue, since only the two terminal stations held stocks.

Ticket arrangements for the Richborough Port branch service are unknown.

There was a sixpenny (£0.025) catch-all ticket for dogs, bicycles, items of luggage and prams. Apparently the EKLR did not forward luggage.

There was no through booking onto the main line; passenger travelling to, say, Dover had to buy another ticket at the SECR/SR station at Shepherdswell.

The famously frugal Colonel Stephens made a point of selling the hay resulting from the mowing of the railway's verges.

A row of three bungalows at Golgotha, above the tunnel, were built by the EKLR in 1933 and rented to employees. These have recently been demolished and redeveloped.[31] Some land purchased for the Deal extension was also rented out, notably a terrace called "Fairlight Cottages" at Sholden.

A Chevrolet lorry was purchased in 1933 for a collection and delivery service at Staple, especially for the fruit and vegetable farmers. This was apparently a success, but the service seems to have ceased in the early part of the Second World War. The Station Agent at Staple used his own lorry after that, but was sacked in 1947 for moonlighting; he had been driving produce to the London markets overnight instead of forwarding it to the railway at Staple.[32]

Advertising rights along the right of way were rented to "Partington's Kent Billposting Co" in 1934. As a result, the stations at Canterbury Wingham Road, Richboro Port and Sandwich Road received double-sided roadside billboards.[33]

The EKLR attracted no shop or pub to any of its stations. In fact, there is no evidence of any retail activity at any of them, not even a newspaper stand. Only three businesses seem to have been set up in response to the presence of a railway, all at Staple. A coal merchant operated there (elsewhere they stayed in the villages), and a trug basket manufacturers briefly operated in a large corrugated iron shed next to the sidings before this was taken over by a wholesale greengrocers' (C.W. Darley Ltd).[34]

Permanent way and signalling

This was usually sufficient for double track on the main line, including the bridge and tunnel, but earthworks were for single track. Hence the revenue from haymaking. The fencing was post and wire. Nobody seems to have noticed any gradient posts. Anti-trespasser notices were in enamel. This was the text:[35]

"EAST KENT RAILWAY. PUBLIC NOTICE NOT TO TRESPASS. The East Kent Railways Order, 1911 (Section 87) provides that any person who shall trespass upon any of the lines of the Railway shall on conviction be liable to a penalty not exceeding Forty Shillings, and the provisions of the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, with respect to the recovery of damages not specially provided for and of penalties and of the determination of any other matters referred to justices, shall apply.

Any person or persons damaging or removing any portion of the Company's property shall be vigorously prosecuted. BY ORDER. H.F. Stephens, Engineer and General Manager. Penalty for destroying or defacing this notice, Five Pounds."

Initially, the rails used were flat-bottomed, 80 lb per yard (90 lb in areas where heavy wear was expected), spiked directly on to the sleepers of creosoted Baltic pine. Only the sharp curve at Shepherdswell had the rails bent to shape; elsewhere, short straight lengths were used on curves. Colonel Stephens obtained various job lots of rails from the salvage dump at Richborough Port, and these included 60 lb rails which were used for the Wingham extension and the Richborough Port branch. The ballast used was colliery waste and ash. There was a universal speed restriction of 25 mph.

These were steel girders on brick abutments, unless specified. On the main line, there was one over the road at Eastry. The Richborough Port branch had a low one over the Goshall Stream north of Sandwich Road station, and the famous high-level pair over the SECR and the river. The river bridge had no abutments, and wooden trestles. There was a wooden bridge over the bridlepath from Coldred church to Shepherdswell on the Guilford branch, and the road from Coldred church to the village went over the branch on a bridge. Finally, there was a bridge over Wigmore Lane on the Tilmanstone Colliery branch.

The free-draining soil of most of the EKLR's locality meant that there are few streams and hence few culverts. There is a brick-built example accessible west of Ash Town station, and another one on the private track north of Sandwich Road station, over the North Poulders Stream. East of Wingham Canterbury Road the railway crossed the Wingham Stream, and merely dropped a concrete pipe in the streambed and piled the embankment on top. Amazingly they got away with it; the arrangement survives.

These were ungated, with wooden cattle grids, except for the crossing at Sandwich Road station which had gates which protected only one side of the line.

These were the level crossing listed with speed restrictions and requiring the whistle:[37] "Shepherds Well" (on Eythorne Road, now part of the preserved line and gated). "Eythorne" (on Shooters Hill, by station. As above.) "Wigmore Lane". "Occupation Road" (back entrance to Beeches Farm, a bridleway). "Thornton Road" (by Knowlton station). "Eastry South Halt" (on Heronden Road). "Drainless Drove" (by Woodnesborough station, on Hammill Road.) "Ringleton" (on Fleming Road). "Poulton" (on Poulton Lane, a byway). "Durlock" (by Staple station). "Occupation" (on Brook Farm Lane, a byway.) "Danbridge" -sic (by Wingham Colliery station, double on Staple Road and Popsal Lane). "Session House" (on Goodnestone Road, Wingham). "Adisham Road" (by Wingham Town station). "Canterbury Road" (by station).

Richborough Port branch "Poison Cross" (double on Drainless Road and Foxborough Hill, the station in between.) "Woodnesborough Road" (at Roman Road station). "Ash Road" (at Sandwich Road station). "Ramsgate Road" (at Richborough Port).

The Guilford branch had a level crossing on Long Lane east of Golgotha, and the Richborough Castle spur had one on Richborough Castle Road, although there is no evidence that a train ever used it.

There weren't any, either turntables or triangles, anywhere on the EKLR. So engines ran tender first for half the time.

The EKLR had no signalboxes or signalmen (although the ground frame at Eastry was in a shed until it fell down). Initially, there were ground frames controlling semaphores at Shepherdswell and Eythorne, but another one was installed at Eastry in 1925.

Elsewhere, signals controlling sidings were controlled by keys which simultaneously locked or unlocked the point levers. Thus there was no point rodding.

There were five block sections. The three on the main line, Shepherdswell-Eythorne, Eythorne-Eastry and Eastry-Wingham, were controlled by electric tablet, the first by Tyler's system and the other two by Webb & Thomson's. The Richborough branch had two sections, Eastry-Poison Cross and Poison Cross-Richborough Port, controlled by simple tablets kept in two boxes at Poison Cross (one with the notorious label "Poison Sandwich").

The junction spur had no signals, and was shunted over as an exchange siding.

There seem to have been no signals on the Richborough Port branch beyond Poison Cross. The junctions and crossings with the harbour sidings at the port seems to have been completely unprotected, except that photographs of the putative passenger station there show that the crossing over the harbour line immediately to the east, on the west verge of the road, was provided with a gate which was presumably opened and closed by the train crews.

At nationalisation, the electric tablet systems were out of order and the block sections were operated as "one engine in steam". The semaphores north of Eythorne were reported as derelict.



The EKLR is one of the best examples of how a railway can dissolve back into the countryside after abandonment, leaving only a few isolated landscape features.[42]

Track removal north of the northern junction of the Tilmanstone Colliery loop occurred in May 1954, and most of the trackbed has since been ploughed out. (Sometimes this left a surviving boundary.) The main line between this point and the southern junction, through Elvington Halt, was apparently kept on for a while as part of the internal colliery rail system. The final section of line to Shepherdswell was abandoned after the closure of Tilmanstone colliery in 1986.[19][43]

Unless specified, all surviving trackbed is occupied by shrubs (some very thorny) and mature trees.

Main line:

Richborough Port branch:

Any surviving remnants at Richborough Port have vanished in the recent massive developments there.

The parish boundary between Sandwich and Woodnesborough follows part of the route of the Richborough Port line.


A ghost of the proposed Deal line survived as a property boundary on the west side of Sandwich Road in Eythorne, at "The Outback", but has been lost through development.[47] A shallow cutting was started in Willow Wood; a belt of scrub along the southern edge of this otherwise flower-rich ancient wood is the only evidence left for the scheme.


A historic railway preservation society operates trains between Shepherdswell and Eythorne.


The East Kent Light Railway had a total of ten locomotives.[19]

SECR O1 Class

Only one class of these is known to have operated on the EKLR during the Second World War for the rail-mounted guns based there, being the Great Western Railway 0-6-0 "Dean Goods". It is known that some of them had condensing gear, which would have put them well over the safety limit for the track to Staple and helps explain the compensation payments for track damage to the EKLR by the War Office.

There is one mysterious reference in 1931 to the Southern Railway being paid for the loan of a locomotive.

During the Second World War, the following O1 locomotives were hired: 1426, up to 24 September 1942 (duration of hire unknown). 1430, 19 April to 7 December 1943. 1066, 20 December 1943 to 7 March 1944. 1437, 7 March 1944 to 27 March 1944. 1373, 23 March 1945 to 23 May 1945, again 3 December 1945 to 11 February 1945.

Also a T-class 0-6-0T, 1604, 28 September 1944 to 13 January 1945.

There was no one livery for engines and carriages under Colonel Stephens, but under Austen a livery of Southern Railway mid-green with yellow lettering was being introduced as and when repainting was required.

Chapter 15 of Lawson Finch's book includes pictures and descriptions of liveries sufficient for modelling purposes.

Carriages, wagons etc

The East Kent Light Railway had a total of 14 carriages during its history.

Built March 1876 by Brown Marshall, ex GER No. 279 and KESR No. 13. To EKLR 1912, destroyed in accident at Shepherdswell in 1917 or 1919 (sources vary)[19][63]
Built 1905, ex KESR No. 17. To EKLR c.1912, withdrawn 1948.[63]
Ex NLR and KESR No. 14. To EKLR c.1912, withdrawn 1946.[63]
Built c.1873, ex CLC and KESR No. 12. To EKLR c.1912, withdrawn 1946. Body to Staple for use as a bungalow.[63]
Built c.1885, ex MR. To EKLR c.1919, withdrawn 1948.[63]
Built c.1885, ex LSWR. To EKLR c.1919, withdrawn 1948.[63]
Built July 1911. ex LSWR, SR no. 3126. To EKLR February 1946, withdrawn 1948. Body used as an office at Worthing goods yard from September 1948.[63][64]
Built c.1873, ex CLC and KESR No.11. To EKLR c.1912, withdrawn 1936. Body grounded at Staple station in 1937 and used as an office.[63][64]
Built July 1911. ex LSWR, SR no. 3128. To EKLR February 1946, withdrawn 1948.[63]
Built 1879, ex LCDR and SECR No.2410. To EKLR 1921, withdrawn 1947.[63]
Built 1886, ex LCDR and SECR No. 2737. To EKLR 1921, withdrawn 1947.[63]
Built 1880, ex LCDR and SECR No. 3268. To EKLR 1940, withdrawn 1947.[63]
Built 1893, ex LCDR and SECR No. 2663. To EKLR 1926, withdrawn 1948.[63]
Built 1891, Ex LCDR, SECR and SR No.2691. To EKLR 1927, withdrawn 1948.[63]

Goods Vehicles:-

These were basically wooden boxes on four wheels, some with drop sides, and were used to carry everything from cut flowers in baskets to coal. Tracing of individuals is impossible, but apart from four new ones at the start of operations they were all second-hand. Numbers started at 15, reached a maximum of 35 in the 1930s, then 29 during the Second World War.

Tilmanstone Colliery had its own fleet of motley and disgraceful coal wagons (one job at the colliery was to check that returning empties still had floors).[66] There is a strong rumour that several of these were buried in the waste tip.[67]

For the carriage of parcels. The EKLR had two for most of its life.

These were basically bogie wagons with metal bar restraints. There were three, reputedly from the Highland Railway.

The EKLR did not use these for most of its life, which meant that all trains depended on the engine and passenger coach (if one attached) for brakes. However, it purchased three after 1942.

There was a little ten-ton breakdown crane, and several (at least four) hand-operated pump trucks for the permanent way staff to use. Two were noted at Eastry, and two at Wingham. Miller trucks (the L-shaped things with two wheels) were noted at Eastry and Staple.


  1. 1 2 "The Keys to Canterbury". Stephens Museum. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
  2. Butler 1999, p.2ff.
  3. Lawson Finch (2003) p137.
  4. Beddall (1998) p15.
  5. Butler 1999
  6. For example, the map at Butler (1999) p33 contradicts the text.
  7. Lawson Finch p57.
  8. Lawson Finch p131ff.
  9. Course (1976), p104.
  10. 1 2 BR 1948 diagram.
  11. Lawson Finch p447.
  12. The Railways of Southern England: Independent & Light Railways, p72
  13. Course 1976, p75
  14. Lawson Finch (2003) p253ff.
  15. Lawson Finch 2003 p273
  16. Archaeology Data Service
  17. Lawson Finch p293.
  18. Lawson Finch p459.
  19. 1 2 3 4 The East Kent Light Railway
  20. Lawson Finch p132.
  21. Lawson Finch p273.
  22. 1 2 Lawson Finch p152.
  23. Lawson Finch p300.
  24. The Railways of Southern England: Independent & Light Railways, p76
  25. Lawson Finch (2003) p70.
  26. Lawson Finch p59
  27. Beddall (1998) p32
  28. Lawson Finch p81.
  29. Lawson Finch (2003) p447ff.
  30. Lawson Finch (2003) p315.
  31. Lawson Finch p173.
  32. Lawson Finch pp173, 207, 223.
  33. Lawson Finch p177.
  34. Mitchell & Smith pic 106.
  35. Lawson Finch p185.
  36. Lawson Finch p487.
  37. Lawson Finch p458.
  38. Lawson Finch p455.
  39. Lawson Finch p229.
  40. Mitchell & Smith, pic 80.
  41. Mitchell & Smith pic 32.
  42. Google Earth 2008 and OS Explorer sheets 138 and 150.
  43. Kent Rail
  44. Lawson Finch (2003) p459.
  45. Lawson Finch p305.
  46. Company website.
  47. OS "Explorer", sheet 138, 1997, TR286498.
  48. 1 2 3 "Locomotives Of The East Kent Railway, Part 1: Early Years". Stephens Museum. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
  49. 1 2 Myweb
  50. British Railways Locomotives 1948-50. Part 2—10000-39999. Shepperton: Ian Allan. 1973 [1949]. p. 17. ISBN 0-7110-0401-3.
  51. 1 2 3 "Locomotives Of The East Kent Railway, Part 2: More Odds and Ends". Stephens Museum. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
  52. Neale, Andrew (2 October 2008). "Must we let this be swept away?". Heritage Railway. Issue. 116: 42–46.
  53. Bradley 1967, pp. 23,25–27
  54. 1 2 3 4 Bradley 1985, pp. 153,159
  55. 1 2 3 "Locomotives Of The East Kent Railway, Part 3: East Kent Standards". Stephens Museum. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
  56. Lawson Finch & Garrett 2003, p. 396
  57. Lawson Finch & Garrett 2003, p. 398
  58. Lawson Finch & Garrett 2003, p. 401
  59. Bradley 1975, pp. 48–50
  60. Lawson Finch & Garrett 2003, p. 407
  61. Lawson Finch & Garrett 2003, p. 406
  62. Lawson Finch & Garrett 2003, p. 42
  63. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Stephens Museum
  64. 1 2 Stephens Museum
  65. Lawson Finch (2003) p433ff.
  66. Mitchell & Smith pic 72.
  67. Lawson Finch (2003) p445.


Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/11/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.