Another Colonel Stephens Railway secure!

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Shepherdswell as opened, today’s track layout (click pic) is virtually identical, though laid with heavier section bullhead rail than the original flat bottomed rail employed by Col. Stephens.

The Col. Stephens railways, such as: the East Kent, Kent and East Sussex, Rother Valley, Festiniog and Welsh Highland, Snailbeach, Rye and Camber, and Ashover (click for complete list) had a Emett-like charm all of their own. Most have succumbed to ‘progress’ although – the Kent and East Sussex and Festiniog were taken over by preservationists, the Welsh Highland is being completely rebuilt from scratch, the Rother Valley is acquiring land and laying track, the Snailbeach revival was until recently making cautious progress and the East Kent survives in part as a diesel-operated heritage railway.

Until its closure in the mid-1980s, the East Kent Railway linked Tilmanstone colliery to the main line at Shepherdswell. A preservation scheme was initiated by the former East Kent Railway Society and in 1993 the Society obtained a Light Railway Order. This authorised the British Railways Board to lease or sell the railway to the Society and to transfer to the Society its statutory powers to maintain and operate the railway. However, following the privatisation of British Railways the Society were told that BRB (Residuary) Limited, successors to the British Railways Board, would not be prepared to sell the freehold to an unincorporated body. The East Kent Railway Trust (EKRT) was set up as the successor to the Society, but then needed to apply for an Order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 to authorise the transfer of the railway to EKRT as such an eventuality was not provided for in the 1993 Light Railway Order.

In spite of a number of objections received from local residents, on 10 October 2007 the Secretary of State announced her decision to grant the order. An important consideration was the submission in favour of the order submitted by David Morgan, Chairman of the Heritage Railway Association.

On the 23 April the EKRT was able to announce the purchase of the freehold of its two-mile trackbed from Shepherdswell to Wigmore Lane as well a 16-acre woodland and meadow plot at Shepherdswell, the site of the line’s original locomotive and carriage workshops. The railway wants to rebuild the workshops on the site while preserving the woodland, which is designated as being of nature conservation interest. The £42,000 needed to buy the land at Shepherdwell was raised within an 8 week deadline.

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