Brian Janes has been trawling the Colonel Stephens Archive and discovered that many previously published accounts of EKR locomotive history have been misleading. His re-examination of the early years is set out in the first of a three-part description of this fascinating line’s locomotives.
Part 1: Early Years
This tale, like that of Hesperus (published in the Tenterden Terrier 86), starts in the South West Corner of Wales. The ending of the 7 foot gauge in Wales opened the way for light railway development and not a couple of miles from Hesperus’ first home railway another little line received its second locomotive. In 1875 a nice little Fox, Walker and Co saddletank (works No 271) arrived from its Bristol makers to help work the Whitland and Taf Vale (later the Whitland and Cardigan) railway that had opened in 1873. Here again the consolidation of Great Western Railway interests centring on its need to improve the Irish connection swept this railway and its 3 locomotives into the GWR net in 1886. Our Fox Walker was renumbered 1386, westernised in 1896, and like Hesperus went to St Blazey and later worked on the Weymouth Harbour tramway from May 1909 till March 1911. The GWR’s standardisation drive then led to its sale to the Bute Works Supply Co.
At that time hugely ambitious plans for exploiting the Kent Coalfield were in hand and H F Stephens had secured the potentially lucrative, but ultimately frustrating, engineering and managing contracts for new railways in the area. These railways were to serve a deeply rural area that was expected to become industrialised in the very near future. To make a start a temporary railway was constructed from the main SECR line at Shepherdswell to the site of Tilmanstone colliery and in September 1911 Stephens secured the little Fox Walker from Bute Works Supply. Technically she probably belonged to the associated East Kent Contract Company building the line but she went on formally to become East Kent Railway No 1 and she was given the then characteristic Stephen’s oval logo and number on her tank. Weighing only 24 tons she could go anywhere and was useful for construction. She hauled a special to Tilmanstone colliery and over the temporary contractor's track in 1912 when the directors went for a spin. She also was involved in a potentially nasty collision when the crew propelled a single 4-wheeled carriage back from Eastry one evening only to destroy it on the front of an oncoming goods train. The single passenger was not hurt but the working practices of the EKR were obviously pretty lax during this construction phase.
Although she may have worked passenger trains when public services started in 1916, much of No 1’s time was probably spent at Tilmanstone Colliery as the EKR was contracted to provide shunting there. Her use on construction work however may well have carried on till the late twenties as the system intermittently extended. It changed its appearance to some extent over the years. A wooden cab roof and back were added very soon after arrival to protect the crew from the winds and snow common in this part of the Kent Downs. The roof and sides were made permanent in steel in the next year or so but the wooden cab back was retained and the round rear spectacle plate windows remained. These were replaced in about 1930 when square rear openings appeared. Some time in the early twenties the loco lost the smaller of the two whistles fitted by the GWR .The engine also had a remarkable propensity to change chimneys. On arrival it had a tall slim copper capped one but, at an early date, certainly before 1919, this was replaced with a shorter one very possibly one of the original chimneys off one of the K&ESR 2-4-0Ts.The original chimney reappeared by July 1923 only to be replaced in December 1932 by a new fatter chimney of distinctly GWR appearance. Her time was however virtually run and she remained in service only a little longer, latterly possibly in a stationary boiler capacity. Last seen in steam on 22 September 1934 , she was in official returns till 1934 and R W Kidner in the Southern Railway Magazine for September 1935 reported 'Old No 1.has been broken up'.
One always gets the feeling that Stephens was never as fond of the East Kent as he was of his other lines. It always had an unfinished feel and he never named the engines or repainted them in his favourite blue livery. Engines seem to have kept the livery they arrived in until the opportunity arose to paint them black. It was not until the late twenties that a green livery with broad black line was introduced for two engines to be more in keeping with Stephens’ normal pride in his lines and working locomotives. Austen later introduced his smart dark green livery with a broad black border edged white with yellow lettering.
Walton Park No 2
The next acquisition however was already distinguished with the name Walton Park and may have kept its original Midland red livery for a time. It had been bought in 1908 by the Weston Clevedon and Portishead Railway from Hudswell Clarke (Works No 823). However, it was always too heavy for the line and did little work after the first year. After Stephens became manager in August 1911, he bought a replacement locomotive from Bute Works Supply Co (later becoming another Hesperus). At some unspecified date Walton Park was loaned to the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire. This may have been in 1911 as in the autumn of that year Stephens was desperately seeking motive power for that line, probably as a result of problems with the new Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-2Ts. Whatever the arrival date the engine definitely left that railway on 28 April 1913 to go to the East Kent* and it was delivered as their No 2 engine. Production at Tilmanstone Colliery had started one month earlier and a larger engine was probably needed to shift the coal. The engine was loaned to the PD&SWJR for 10 weeks in April and May 1917. Perhaps she was temporarily spare in one of the many interruptions in the coal production or in the wake of the KESR’s Hecate’s arrival on the line. Thereafter she seems to have been supplanted on coal traffic by larger engines and she frequently worked the passenger and mixed trains. The only visual change was the removal of her builder’s plate from cabside to bunker at some time prior to July 1927 to make way for the initials EKR. She was also repainted green edged with a broad black line.
By 1936 she was worn out and she was overhauled with a patched up and somewhat different chimney and smart repaint but without her name. Emerging from overhaul in autumn 1937 she seems to have worked intermittently from early in the Second World War filling in when No 4 was unavailable. Early in 1943 she pottered about for 12 days and then on 23 August 1943 made a heroic last effort working 44 miles when No 100 seems to have failed and nothing else was available. She never worked on the EKR again. Disappearing from the Locomotive Mileage Ledger in early 1944 she is reported to have been sold to T W Ward & Co as scrap in 1943.
In wartime however Ward could still turn a profit and by December 1945 Walton Park had turned up at Purfleet Deep Water Wharf, Essex. In 1952 she underwent a strange transformation acquiring the characteristic boiler saddle tanks and somewhat spindly chimney and dome from an ex -brewery 0-4-0ST. The donor locomotive had been built for Bass, Radcliff &Gretton, brewers, of Burton on Trent by a local builder Thornewill & Warham in 1876. Requisitioned by the Government in 1917 she was sent to Purfleet and remained there until her upperworks were perched on the Hudswell Clarke’s frame and cab. This odd hybrid acquired the name 'Churchill' and ambled around the wharf for a further 5 years until she ended her days in July 1957.
The Ilfracombe Goods
No 3 on passenger service
Two new Hawthorn Leslie O-6-0T tanks (see Terrier 83 Page 28) would have supplemented in style the two original engines during 1913 but finance was not available. Engine No 3, when it came, was not new but a mid-Victorian relic. The only remaining unrebuilt example of the “Ilfracombe Goods” that Stephens was so very fond of, it had been withdrawn by the LSWR in December 1913. After the EKR opened for passenger traffic to Wingham on 16 October 1916, a good passenger engine was needed. The LSWR offered this ancient relic to Stephens for the outrageously large sum of £1000, although this price may have included an overhaul. It was subject to a hire purchase agreement the payments for which were usually in default and the terminal sum was finally paid off as part of an overall settlement of the railways debts with the Southern in 1926. No 0394 was delivered in November 1918 and proved a fair investment. Her worn cylinders were bushed down by one and half inches in 1921 and thereafter she must have been a fairly feeble puller, but she ran most of the passenger trains and in late 1925 she was overhauled. The only external change thereafter was a new chimney riveted on to the old base. But age was not on her side and she was stored, probably in late 1927. In the wake of the withdrawal of workmen’s trains in 1929 and the closure of the Richborough branch in 1928 she was never again needed. Withdrawn at the end of 1930 she rapidly disintegrated outside Shepherdswell Shed and was reported on 24 April 1934 as sold for scrap, yielding £45.
The early days of the EKR were characterised by gross shortage of capital and Stephens was always short of locomotives for the traffic on offer, so engines were hired from the K&ESR. The little Hawthorn Leslie 2-4-0T Northiam worked on construction trains from September 1912 till at least 1914 and came again for an extended spell starting on 10 September 1921, initially probably working turn about with No 1. Oddly no hire charges are shown in the EKR accounts for 1924-28 although surviving tax returns show the annual payment of £312. Hire charges are shown for 1929 and 1930. Salford Terrace’s accounting practices were obviously flexible. Repair work was undertaken on the engine at Shepherdswell with a new leading axle fitted in November 1922 and a new tubeplate and tubes in March 1925 and photographs exist from these years so there is no doubt of her continuous use on the railway. Nothiam finally left in 1931.
To shift the coal, the K&ESR’s white elephant, Hecate, came on 25 November 1916 and stayed, at an apparent cost of 30 guineas a month. A heavy overhaul was undertaken at Shepherdswell which was completed in January 1921 but the job was poorly done and after one week’s trial she was set aside eventually to be returned to Rolvenden on August 5 1921. She never returned.
*There is a fascinating letter in the Archive written on a sheet of lined foolscap that reads
In train ex Shrewsbury to Euston
Sat April 26th 1913
H F Stephens Esq.
Managing Director & Engineer
Loco Walton Park “Salop to Shepherdswell”
It is being arranged for the above to be transferred at Meole Brace junction on Monday next the 28th inst. at 10.30 am en route to Shepherdswell, providing the above loco runs cool after the trial trip this afternoon, the result of which I was unable to get at the time of leaving our Salop Station this afternoon at 4.30 p.m. although I tried to get Kinnerley several times before leaving. Mr Stanton has promised to wire me result at Euston Station which I shall get on arrival and will enclose herewith. I have seen the correspondence which has passed with reference to the transit of this loco and should like to make a suggestion.
I certainly think that one of our men should travel with the loco to see it has every attention, I suggest you let Driver King travel with it. I am sure he will give every attention to it. This can be arranged if you agree to the following. Let Driver Taylor work main line trains with Fitter Leakes as relief, Night Cleaner-Fireman Jones do the Branch driving, this man is quite capable of doing this having been loco driving several years for Mr Rigby before he came with us and myself should not hesitate to put him in charge of a loco.
I have arranged this course in the event of you agreeing. If you do will you wire to Mr White or Stanton first thing tomorrow morning (Sunday) so that wire reaches Salop before office closes at 10.0 am subject to following “ Driver King accompany Walton Park Salop to Shepherdswell, Taylor drive main line, Jones branch line, Leakes arrange”
This matter can then be arranged in time for Monday morning providing you agree.
W H Austen
General report re S&M to follow
This letter gives great insight into working practices of the time as well as confirming Walton Park ‘s movements. What a shame the Report on the S & M hasn’t survived
Brian Janes continues his examination in the second of a three-part description of this fascinating line’s locomotives.
Part 2: More Odds and Ends
No 4 as built
A hefty engine well suited to colliery work arrived from Richborough in October 1919 to replace Hecate and she came to be regarded as the best loco on the line. No 4 was second (works No 3067) of a batch of 10 0-6-0Ts built in 1917 by Kerr Stuart as its “Victory ‘’ class for the Inland Waterways and Docks Department (Royal Engineers) where she was numbered 11. The engine was a well-constructed load shifter weighing a hefty 50 tons. All the class ended up short hauling coal, including 3 in South Wales that came into the GWR’s net in 1923.
The cost of £3050 was too much for the impecunious EKR so although Stephens selected the loco she was actually purchased by the East Kent Colliery and the Golford and Waldershare Colliery jointly, and bore a plate to that effect. This is in Tenterden Museum. At first known by her IW&D number and apparently working on the EKR for free an arrangement was formalised in November 1920 and a hire purchase agreement signed backdated to the 22 April. Monthly payments of £79 12s 7p were due over the ensuing four years but the railway defaulted in 1921. Payments were rescheduled to be completed on 1st August 1927. However events, not least the General Strike and its associated prolonged coal strike and the receivership of both colliery companies, intervened. The engine seems only to have been finally paid for in 1929 when for a terminal payment of 1shilling the engine became EKR property.
Due to her weight No 4 was always restricted to the Shepherdswell to Tilmanstone run. She soldiered on, ever steady and reliable. Her steel firebox was replaced with a copper one and her smokebox and chimney rebuilt in South Eastern and Chatham style during an overhaul by the Southern in late 1932 /33, re-entering traffic on 23 June 1933. Despite a prolonged period out of traffic from April 1943 till May 1945 she kept shuttling coal from Tilmanstone and came into BR stock in 1948. Two of her sisters, BR Nos 666 and 667, were still hard at work on BR in South Wales and the other 7 were still hard at work in the Coalfields. However the Southern Region had no time for what they saw as a one-off and scrapped her in 1949 before she could be re-numbered 30948, the first of her class to go (the last went in 1969)
No 5 in early days
No 5 was a very odd choice for a rural light railway with pretensions to be a major coal haulier but miraculously she is still with us. She was one of the famous Adams Radial tank engines, LSWR No 0488, a 4-4-2T built for suburban traffic in 1886 by Neilson and Co. Made redundant like virtually all her sisters in 1916 by the effects of electrification she was the second of the class to be withdrawn. She was bought by the Government in September 1917 and then worked at Ridham dock near Sittingbourne either as a rather unsuitable dock shunter or more likely on staff trains. Reported by many to have arrived on the EKR in April 1919 at a cost of £800 both presumptions seem wrong. Dick Bradley has pointed out that she was still advertised for sale in August 1920 and the EKR Loco Register records that she was purchased from the Ministry of Munitions Disposal and Liquidation Commission in March 1923 and delivered at Shepherdswell on April 13 1923. Charles Klapper, who knew Stephens well, reported the price as £360. The author always considered this low price as probably right, as the Commission was abolished that month, there was a very limited market for the engine and Stephens knew the system. Very recently accounts have been discovered in the Museum Archive that show that the price paid was actually £375.
Seemingly little suited to the East Kent’s needs the new addition was a pure passenger engine whose only likely role might have been on the abortive Canterbury extension finally authorised in 1920. Dick Cash, a long-time EKR employee, reported that she rarely went further up the line than Eythorne as she had a tendency to derail on the sharp curve out of Eastry (an odd fact that in view of her later use on the ferocious curves at Lyme Regis). She was only used when absolutely necessary and then largely on coal trains taking 14 wagons (No 4 took 18) on the Tilmanstone shuttle. In truth her axle load of some 15 tons was far too heavy for the EKR beyond Tilmanstone and she would probably have spread the track whenever she ventured that far. Nevertheless she was repainted and probably overhauled at least twice during her time at Shepherdswell, the last time in 1935 when amongst other bits she seems to have received a replacement chimney provided by the SR for £1 10s. Reputedly worn out by 1939, she was in fact used thereafter, with Walton Park, as a regular substitute for the colliery shuttle engines and seems to have worked about once a month. She was last used on 29 May 1943 but was then somewhat mysteriously kept on throughout the war years until in March 1946 the Southern Railway purchased her for £120. They were desperate for another engine for the Lyme Regis branch where two of her sisters had kept services going for over 20 years. After extensive overhaul she went into service there and, charmed engine that she was, she survived long enough for the Bluebell Railway to save her. Perhaps one day she might run again as a guest on the EKR or the K&ESR.
Beattie Saddle Tank
No 7 very soon after arrival in 1926
No 7 was a “Beattie” saddle tank built in 1882 to a Beyer Peacock standard design that was a near relative of the Ilfracombe goods. They were the earliest standard LSWR Shunters and were obsolete by the 1920s. Newly overhauled at Eastleigh ex LSWR No 0127 left for its new railway on 9 January 1926 and after a day or two on the K&ESR en route arrived at Shepherdswell on 15 January. Initially she seems to have been stored and a rough sketch in the archives of her fitted with a shorter chimney suggests some doubt about clearances. This must have been resolved fairly quickly and she was soon at work on mixed and passenger trains, seeming to supplant No 3 .She was reported initially as working coal trains but did so very infrequently through most of her life. During a heavy repair at Shepherdswell in 1936/7 her worn out sloping front smokebox was replaced by a new smokebox with the later chimney from the by then dismantled No 1. She re-entered service in a smart green livery but was worn out by the middle of the war. Used for 3 months from October 1943 she saw only 2 days further service until there was some sort of locomotive crisis in September 1944. This brought No 7 out of disuse for a final heroic fling. For 12 days she worked the mixed trains but so dire was her state that on her last day, 28 September, she seems to have been relieved in mid shift by hired help. She never worked again. Disappearing from the register at the end of 1945 she was sold to the Southern for £70 and scrapped at Ashford on 23 March 1946..
Going straight into traffic on arrival the hired help was a great rarity, a T class 0-6-0T No 1604. This neat little engine was built for the LCDR at Longhedge in 1891 to an 1879 design and was one of a class of 10 that worked around Victoria and other London yards on empty stock and goods workings. Withdrawn in 1939 she was reinstated when war broke out. Probably officially too heavy for the EKR this engine, unobserved by scarce wartime enthusiasts, stayed on until 13 January 1945.
Brian Janes completes his three-part description of this fascinating line’s locomotives with the engines that to many typify the EKR.
Part 3: East Kent Standards
The O’s and O1’s
No 6 rebuilt 11 July 1933
Back in 1923, one month after the Adams Radial, No 5, was acquired, the EKR bought the first of the engines that were to do most of the work on the railway through to dieselisation in 1960. The newly formed Southern, who shortly acquired a majority shareholding in the East Kent, sold for £409 6s 1p one of a dwindling number of their 0 class engines, No 372, as EKR No 6. Built in 1882 as one of James Stirling’s mainline goods engines for the SER she was modernised with a slightly raised boiler in 1902. After an overhaul at Ashford she started work on the EKR on 11June 1923. She was a success and perhaps under the influence of the increasing Southern shareholding in the railway another O followed on 22 September 1928, No A376, which at a cost of £1,085 (spread over two years) became No 8. This engine could always be identified from no 6 on the EKR as she sported lamp brackets on each side or the smokebox. No 6, also unique amongst the O’s, had the steam reverser moved from the cab to running plate. Both of these engines had domeless boilers and were specially fitted with Canterbury & Whitstable style short chimneys to cope with restricted clearance. This could have been in Golgotha tunnel. This tunnel had been added to the original plans at a late stage and had several constructional oddities .It had been built in such a way that it could be systematically enlarged both in height and width. It was almost certainly altered in height sometime in the 1920s although it was never opened out to double track. However, taller engines like No 7 were operating through the tunnel by 1926. Another restricted clearance, possibly on the Tilmanstone or Guilford Colliery branches must have been present for a year or so after that otherwise No 8 would not have required alteration.
Although whenever possible Tilmanstone coal traffic was left to No 4 these capable little 36-ton engines began to take up a wide range of duties and became the EKR standard. No 6 was rebuilt at Ashford with a second-hand H class domed boiler and full height chimney in October 1932 to become a 01 and re-entered service on 9 November. This reboilering process had started in 1903 with her mainline sisters but she was the last engine by a 5-year margin to be so rebuilt and she was always unique in retaining a Stirling cab. Reportedly this work was paid for by exchanging a second hand Terrier Boiler with the Southern and although the transaction is well minuted the mystery is why EKR would have acquired this boiler and where it had been located since purchase in 1926. We simply do not know.
The O’s and O1’s
Two O1s, Nos A385 and A390, were reported as loaned to the EKR for a short time during 1932 presumably helping out whilst 6 was being rebuilt. No 8 fell by the wayside and in May 1935 she was reputedly part exchanged for another 01, No 1383. No 8 is however thought to have been dismantled at Shepherdswell and records however show that the EKR paid £850 for the new engine on 25 June . She had arrived on 23 June grandly numbered 100 by the Ashford painters who reputedly in the absence of better instruction opted for the lowest number they thought might not duplicate others! She retained this number for some years, becoming the second No 2 on 9 February 1946 after an overhaul at Ashford. Nos 6 and 100, with No 4, did the majority of the work on the Line in the 1930s and 40s. By 1948 No 6 had run 94,765 miles after rebuilding and No 100 73,447miles. Good figures for a railway where latterly no daily turn exceeded 45 miles.
Although only two engines were needed daily, availability was tight and in the war years and immediately after essential overhauls could be protracted; No 6 was at Ashford for 3 months in 1943 ( when she probably lost the green livery bestowed on her in early 1939) and 6 more months in 1946 overlapping with a three month overhaul for No 100. To cover for this and the non-availability of the tank engines other O1s were hired from the Southern .No 1426 came for a month in 1942 and a succession of 3 more (1430, 1066 and 1437) covered from April 1943 to March 1944. Following this lengthy period of hiring the East Kent bought a final 01 No 1371 which arrived in March 1944 at a cost of £1125. By then the Tonbridge office had clearly given up in East Kent and she never acquired an EKR number. Even then another O1 No 1373 arrived on hire on 25 January and stayed till May, returning again in December and staying till No 100 (renumbered 2) returned from overhaul in the following February.
The surviving 3 EKR 01s came into BR ownership early in 1948 and were allocated 31383 (No 2), 31372 (No 6) and 31371 but there was a holocaust of O1s at this time and they did not last. Withdrawal came in 7 April 1951 (cut up 21 April), 12 February (cut up 26 February) and January (cut up 19 March)1949 respectively. Their remaining mainline sisters, who were kept especially for EKR and K&ESR duties, replaced them. Numbers 31065, 31258, 31425/30 and 31434 came in over the years to handle the Tilmanstone coal shuttle. The Author remembers them well for in childhood they woke him with their whistles every morning when he stayed with his aunt at Shepherdswell. They kept continuity of East Kent motive power until the all-conquering diesel Shunters (subsequently classified 08) arrived in 1960 to finally extinguish the last remnants of the Tonbridge influence.
Sources and Acknowledgements
Locomotives of the SER, D L Bradley, RCTS
LSWR Locomotives, D L Bradley, WSP
The Weymouth Harbour Tramway, G Beale, WSP
Brewery Railways of Burton on Trent, C Shepherd, IRS
Mainline to Industry F Jones, Lightmoor Press
Colonel Stephens Railway Museum Archive
These articles have previously appeared in The Tenterden Terrier the house magazine of the supporters of the Kent and East Sussex Railway