In 15 pictures: Sussex steam railway celebrates half a century

The golden age of steam was being relived at the weekend when the Kent and East Sussex Steam Railway held a big gala to mark its 50th anniversary.

The railway has its main base at Tenterden Station in Kent, close to the Sussex border, but runs trains to stations in East Sussex at Bodiam, Northiam and Robertsbridge.

The original line was a victim of the Beeching cuts in the 1950’s but miles of it have been lovingly restored by an army of enthusiastic volunteers over the years.

A big gala at the weekend saw a number of guest locomotives joining the railway’s own engines.

Former Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman attended a special turntable dedication at Robertsbridge Junction, involving the classic steam locomotive Brittania.

Britannia was built at Crewe in 1951 and was the first British Railways standard locomotive to be built and the first of 55 locomotives of the Britannia class.

Also making an appearance at the Gala was a GB Railfreight owned Class 73/1 historic electro-diesel locomotive from the 1960’s which was resplendent in new livery.

The official opening ceremony for the line was conducted by the then MP for Ashford, the Rt Hon William Deedes, on 1st June 1974

Current railway general manager Robin Coombes said: “"The Kent and East Sussex Railway has come a long way in the last five decades so we have much to celebrate in all that has been achieved, despite the challenges we have faced and will continue to face.

"In our golden year, we will be looking forward as well as back, including towards the exciting prospect of a reconnection to the national rail network at Robertsbridge."

The Kent and East Sussex Railway is a heritage railway which also operates as an educational charity. Built by Holman F Stephens, it was the first light passenger railway in Britain in the early 20th century and is today one of Britain’s most loved and original heritage lines.

The railway offers visitors an authentic steam and diesel-powered railway experience through 10½ miles of countryside in the beautiful Rother Valley, a designated National Landscape (formerly known as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, the railway prides itself on preserving railway heritage, operating a diverse range of locomotives, and providing a unique glimpse into the golden age of rail travel.

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Pictures by Kevin Boorman and Kent and East Sussex Steam Railway.