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Go back to the heyday of rail at Kent and East Sussex Railway

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work on a real life steam railway, you’ll love to know about the behind the scene tours at Kent and East Sussex Railway.

go back to the heyday of rail at kent and east sussex railway 1

Kent and East Sussex Railway are one of only 2 heritage railways which offer HMRI approved tours. Each tour comprises of only 5 people which means it’s a lot more personal and customised to the individual. Our tour was guided by retired London taxi driver Jim Williams.

Jim Williams works as a volunteer with Kent and East Sussex Railway and is qualified to carry out most of the functions on the Railway. The tour commenced with a safety briefing and refreshments in the on site restaurant. Visitors are required to wear sturdy shoes and hi visibility vests.

steam engine

We started off in the Carriage Work where we saw 10 craftsmen (all volunteers) working on carriages. We saw the 1950s British Railway stock, pre-war GWR rail cars and vintage district line carriages.

The next part of the tour saw us embarking on the first service train to Rolvoden where we visited the signal box. Here the Bobbies (a term dating back to policemen from the 1850s) explained the procedures which had to be followed to ensure safe operation of the Railway.


After discovering how vital the signal box is we visited the Locomotion Works. This is pretty much the engine of the Railway and has full term employees, apprentices and volunteers carrying out fabrication and repairs of the locomotives. It became apparent to me just how many people are required on an operational day at Kent and East Sussex Railway. Jim said it could be 75 people, out of a volunteer group of 600.

From the Locomotive Works, we returned to Tenterden Town for a visit to Colonel Stephens museum. The Colonel was the owner of the Railway until nationalisation. We all got to have a much earned hot meal in the restaurant as part of the day.

diesel trains

After lunch it was time to get back to business. In the afternoon we went on a trip in a Craven diesel multiple unit. Each member of our group had a opportunity to sit next to the driver on the ride through Rolvenden, Northiam and Bodiam. The rail car ran back to Tenterden Town where we had a hot drink and discussed our day with Jim.

For me the highlight of the day was definitely Jim Williams. He has the gift of the gab and there were no flat points in the tour as he was always providing anecdotes about his 21 years as a volunteer. The Kent and East Sussex Railway tour is perfect for anyone who would love to go back to the heyday of the Railway.

If you’ve got a male in your life who would love this, you can find it as part of the Fathers Day range at Buy a Gift.

Guest post by Ian cakebread

Want some more Fathers day inspiration?

go back to the heyday of rail with kent and east sussex railway