S&KLR only 4 months to go?

by

Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway Campaign Poster

(Click on poster to download fullsize copy)

Dyspozytor is old enough to remember this line before it became the S&KLR. Opened in 1908 as the Bowater Paper Mills Railway, this 2ft 6in gauge line became the last industrial railway in the UK to be operated by steam locomotives. It linked the Bowater Paper Mills at the head of Milton Creek with Bowater’s own deep water dock at Ridham. After Bowaters switched over to hauling their raw materials and finished products by lorry in 1969, they generously handed over half the line to the Locomotive Club of Great Britain and the S&KLR was born. For forty years, it has been one of the principal tourist attractions in the area. Now, thanks to the lack of vision of the local council, this unique piece of Britain’s railway history may be destroyed for ever.

Old 1″ to the mile OS map showing the railway shortly after opening

From the SKLR website:

The very last train
to run on Boxing Day ??

On a day when the national rail network is virtually shut down and there will certainly be no main line services through Sittingbourne it is likely that the very last train will run on the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway. Unless circumstances dramatically change the last passenger service on a railway that has run for 102 years will steam out of Sittingbourne Viaduct at 14.00 on Friday 26th December, 2008, just nine months short of the 40th anniversary of the operation of the railway as a heritage line. One later train may run that day but only as a goodbye to the railway and exclusive to members of the railway.

Future trains are very unlikely unless the minds of officers and elected members of Swale Borough Council can be changed. The Council’s officers have recently produced proposals (‘The Green Clusters Report’) that totally exclude the Light Railway which is undoubtedly Sittingbourne’s biggest tourist attraction. In the total shambles of a consultation on the future of the town which Swale Borough Council has carried out, ‘heritage’ has been completely ignored, be it ourselves, the Barge Museum, the town’s Heritage Museum, or any other organisation.

As for the current land owners M-real, perhaps they were running Sittingbourne paper mill at a loss and did need to cease production but did this Finnish company have to have total disregard for the history that they were entrusted with? This history goes back nearly 150 years to the day when Edward Lloyd first started paper production in Sittingbourne and which carried on successfully via Bowater’s and UK Paper.

Sittingbourne’s Steam Railway was given notice to quit the land on which it operates at the beginning of 2008 when their landlords Messrs M-real decided to pull out of Sittingbourne including closing Sittingbourne paper mill, which is currently up for sale. The railways licence to operate on the land expires on 28 th January, 2009. By that date we are supposed to remove all the locomotives, coaches, wagons, buildings and all other paraphernalia. How can a charity that has struggled to survive for most of the 40 years it has operated afford to make such a move and where to?

Following on from an idea from one of the railways junior members a poster/car sticker campaign is being launched, you can download a SOS (Save Our Steam railway) poster here. We are asking the public to display these in their windows, on their cars, everywhere.

Details of how to contribute to the Fighting Fund to pay for legal fees, posters, advertisements etc will appear here soon, in the meantime, please send letters of support to us, either by email to info@sklr.net or by post to SKLR, PO Box 300, Sittingbourne, ME10 2DZ .

Only public opinion can save what is South East England’s only preserved former industrial narrow gauge railway. Your opinion counts.

Tomorrow, the battle to save the line.

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One Response to “S&KLR only 4 months to go?”

  1. John Palmer Says:

    Hi there, It is with regret that I read about the loss of the S&K Railway. I remember seeing it back in 1962 when it was still a working railway and it was evident then that the staff lavished a great deal of attention to the system, the trains and engines in particular were always immaculate. I live in Essex and I am sure, that if the line was in Essex it would be looked after and nurtured. There is something profoundly lacking in Kent’s attitude to its treasures, as witnessed by the total lack of concern for Faversham Creek as well as in this instance. It is a great shame that all the hard work put in by the people who had the foresight to preserve the line should count for nought. I wish you well in your efforts to preserve the line and thank you. Best Wishes John Palmer

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