Yesterday we went to the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway to travel on their first trains to run in almost two years. The line which celebrates it’s 40th year as a heritage line this year had been forced to cease operations when the land it ran over was sold. There then followed 2 years ofÂ negotiations which resulted in a partial service running for one week only during the October half term. We had been following the news about the line via their website and facebook page but we only found out on Friday evening about the trains.
The instructions sounded more like we were off to a clandestine meeting rather than a day out with the kids! Access, we were told, is via the gate in the fence line at the far side of the Asda store car park in Mill Road. the reason for this was that the trains could only run over part of the track as the line between Milton Regis Halt and Sittingbourne is yet to be returned to service. So the trains were running from Milton Regis to Kemsley Down and back again.
The website had said that there would be a mixture of steam and diesel trains running and it was initially disappointing to see the train arriving at Milton Regis being pulled by aÂ dieselÂ shunter as we arrived. However we were told that the steam train was coming along behind us and sure enough a few minutes later we heard the whistle and saw smoke billowing above the hedges. Shortly around the bend came Melior, the line’s 1925 Kerr-StuartÂ Locomotive in full steam. In the end we were lucky enough to do both journey hauled by Melior.
At shortly after 2pm with a full set of carriages the whistle blew and the train set off down the track towards Kemsley Down. The line was originally built in the 19th century to move goods around the paper mill and was originally horse drawn. The line was then converted to steam in 1905 and ran until the mid 60’s when it was handed over to the Locomotive Club of Great Britain. The line opened as a heritage line in 1970 although the part of the line between Kemsley Down and Ridham Docks was closed.
The good news is that work will continue over the winter to reopen the rest of the line between Milton Regis Halt and Sittingbourne. All of which is good news and judging by the turnout on Sunday there is still plenty of interest in the line which, although it may not be the prettiest heritage railway in England, is still of significant historical interest and well worth preserving. A big thank you should go to all of those involved in getting the line up and running again.