Bodiam as 32670 pilots a train at Newmill Bridge in October 1985 picture copyright H.Nightingale

Hirings and Firings by Stephen Garrett

Kent & East Sussex Locomotives in the Thirties and Forties
First published in issue 29 of The Tenterden Terrier Winter 1982
Reproduced with permission of present editor Mr P D Shaw

A considerable collection of papers and memorabilia relating to the Colonel Stephens railways was retained by the Colonel’s successor, Mr W H Austen, when the Tonbridge office from which these lines were run was closed. These papers were passed to his son, William H Austen, whose death was reported in our Winter edition and have generously been made available to the Tenterden Railway Company. Many hitherto unknown details of the Stephens railways have come to light as a result and it is hoped to make these available in forthcoming editions of The Tenterden Terrier. This article deals with details drawn from a register headed ‘Steam Train Mileage Commencing 15 August 1932’.

The Register runs from August 1932 to May 1948 and is therefore of particular value in that it covers the Second World War period when security considerations prevented detailed reporting of railway matters and when the Kent & East Sussex had to rely heavily on locomotives hired or lent by the Southern Railway. The Register starts with simple daily statements of the total miles run with no indications of the locomotives involved but acquires additional interest with the entry into service on 01 September 1932 of the newly arrived saddletank No.4 as the daily miles run by this one locomotive are given as a separate sub-total. From 01 July 1933 a further column was added for saddletank No.8, presumably re-entering service after overhaul, and from 27 December 1934 a third column was added for the newly rebuilt Terrier No.3. Locomotives 3, 4 and 8 clearly ran the bulk of the services in 1935 and 1936 as their combined sub-totals usually add up to the total mileage run each day.

No further columns were added until November 1936 when the Kent & East Sussex hired P class tank No.1556 (now our No.11 ‘Pride of Sussex’) for two months and this locomotive’s daily mileage was thought fit to be recorded. With four columns of sub-totals in use the management must have decided that they might as well ‘go the whole hog’ and as from 01 January 1937 daily mileage was given for every locomotive and railcar in use. These figures are summarised in the accompanying table (which has been re-formatted for inclusion in the footnotes) which shows the locomotives in use in each quarterly period from September 1936 to May 1948 (No.2 and the railcars were of course not specified in 1936Q4 in the Register).

As can be seen from the table, only locomotives No.3 and No.4 out of the Kent & East Sussex’s own stock survived to see service during the War. The last dates of operation for the other Kent & East Sussex stock were as follows:

Ford Railcar set 27/08/1937
Shefflex Railcar set 08/03/1938
No.2 Northiam 22/08/1938
No.8 17/03/1939

An incidental aspect of the above dates is that No.2 was the last named locomotive to bear its nameplates in Kent & East Sussex ownership as both No.3 and No.8 had lost their names before returning to service in 1934 and 1933 respectively. Of course it should be remembered that No.2 actually bore two names in it last years of service as it starred as ‘Gladstone’ in the film ‘Oh! Mr Porter’ made on the Basingstoke & Alton Light Railway in 1937.

Locomotive No.3 also appeared on film during the period under review in ‘The Loves of Joanna Godden’ mad on the Lydd branch in 1946. Whereas No.2’s film role was something of a last fling, No.3’s performance was just one incident in a marathon 136300 miles run between December 1934 and May 1948 with more to come under British Railways ownership and eventual preservation. This total mileage is all the more remarkable in that No.3 was out of use from 08 March 1941 to 07 March 1944, the last six months being spent being rebuilt to A1X standards at St Leonard’s. A further absence for overhaul at Brighton took place between April and September 1947.

Almost as creditable performance was put in by No.4 which managed 123159 miles between August 1932 and March 1948. No.4 also had extensive boiler repairs during this period and had its Beyer Peacock boiler replaced by a Drummond-pattern boiler at a date previously believed to have been September 1939. However, the Register shows No.4 to have had only brief absences from duty in September 1939 and the reboilering seems much more likely to have taken place the previous year when No.4 returned to service on 31 August (1938) after a year out of service.

No.4’s mechanical defects in her later years have been well chronicled elsewhere but it survived long enough to see some service for British Railways in January and March 1948 before being laid aside at Headcorn prior to being cut up at Ashford in August of that year. In 1949 a similar fate was to befall its fellow ‘0330’ Class No.3334 at Eastleigh. No.3334 had been hired to the Kent & East Sussex from September 1938 to January 1939 and was the least successful of all the locomotives hired as it travelled no more than 9.5 miles in September and January and 92 miles over two days in November. As 3334 had been in store at Eastleigh since 1933 it is not easy to see why it was thought suitable for resurrection on the Kent & East Sussex in 1938. It has been suggested that it came to Rolvenden on approval with a view to purchase by the Kent & East Sussex but there is no known evidence to support this.

Equally unexplained is the lengthy presence on the Kent & East Sussex of ex-L&SWR ‘0395’ Class No.3440 for most of the period from 1940 to 1948. This was the first tender locomotive to have run on the line since the Kent & East Sussex’s ‘Ilfracombe Goods’ were laid aside in the 1930s but most of its time seems to have been spent sitting snugly in the shed at Rolvenden. Between August 1940 and January 1948 No.3440 only managed to run 15149 miles. Yet there must have been some affinity between No.3440 and the Kent & East Sussex as it was the first locomotive to return to the line in British Railways livery as No.30576 in April 1948.

No mystery attends the hiring of the three Terriers, numbers 2655, 2659 and 2678 as this was a class with which the Kent & East Sussex was familiar and which could be relied on to handle most types of traffic likely to be encountered. Unlike No.3440 the three Terriers ran on nearly every working day they were present on the line and No. 2678 almost exceeded No.3’s mileage with 134616 miles run between February 1939 (NO, it was 1940 – see footnotes) and May 1948. Both 2655 and 2678 are, of course, still in existence, the former as (ex-LB&SCR) No.55 Stepney on the Bluebell Railway and the latter as (ex-LB&SCR) No.78 Knowle on the West Somerset Railway.

Even No.2678 could not run forever and it was absent from the line for brief periods of attention on several occasions. One such occasion led to the breaking of the Kent & East Sussex First Commandment, “Thou shalt not let a locomotive with an axle loading exceeding 12 tons to run between Rolvenden and Robertsbridge”. From October 1943 to January 1944 this rule must have been broken every working day as the only locomotives available were No.3440 with an axle loading of 13 tons 10cwt and ex-SE&CR ‘01’ Class locomotives numbers 1373 and 1426 with an axle loading of 13 tons 15cwt. The operations of the line during these months was therefore entirely in the hands of overweight tender locomotives. Whether any special caution was exercised during this time goes unrecorded and there is no known record of official sanction of what was happening.

Law-breaking apart, the presence of the ‘01’ locomotives on the line set a pattern which was resumed after nationalisation with services between Tenterden and Headcorn usually entrusted to an ‘01’ and services between Tenterden and Robertsbridge entrusted to Terriers. However, the wartime use of ‘01’s numbers 1248, 1370, 1373 and 1426 was relatively limited, falling between December 1942 and January 1945, and may have been related to heavy war traffic passing over the line at the time. It was not until No.3440 went away to Ashford in January 1948 that an ‘01’ returned to the line in the shape of No.1434.

Charity No. 1050480

The last class of locomotives to be considered amongst those hired by the Kent & East Sussex, the ex-SE&CR ‘P’ Class numbers 1325, 1555 and 1556, are of interest in that although No.1556 was the first locomotive hired, running for two months (at the end of) 1936 and nine months in 1938, no further members of the class ran on the line until July 1945. Possibly they were well suited to light peacetime traffic between Rolvenden and Robertsbridge but were not considered sturdy enough for the heavier loads in wartime. Like the Terriers, the P Class engines were in use nearly ever working day during their periods on the line. It would be interesting to learn the reason why, after No.1555 had run from March to September 1947, it was decided to hire No.1556 instead for the final fortnight of that September.

The Register gives no details of any other locomotives running on the Kent & East Sussex and it may therefore be assumed that claims that ‘E1’ Class 0-6-0T No.2129, ex-P&SWJR 0-6-0T No.756 or Terrier No.2640 (ex-LB&SCR No.40 Brighton) worked on the line during this period may be discounted unless they were present on War Department business for the Register does not record the movements of the three War Department ex-GWR ‘Dean Goods’ numbers WD195, WD196 and WD197 which were in use on the line in connection with the rail-mounted guns.

The usual daily pattern of operation throughout the period of the Register was for there to be two locomotives in use on weekdays and Saturdays with one locomotive in use on those Sundays when any sort of service was run. However, it was not uncommon for three engines to be in use and on 19 July 1937 some unrecorded event led to the use of four locomotives, numbers 2, 3, 4 and 8, with the Shefflex railcar set in use as well for good measure. The most common total daily mileage recorded in the Register is 144 miles but this was often exceeded, the highest total being 223 miles recorded on 07 August 1939 between locomotives number 3 and 2655. As a final statistic the lowest total daily mileage appears to have been six miles on two Sundays in November 1943 by No.1426. We regret that we are unable to offer a prize for the most likely, or unlikely, suggestions as to why or where these six miles were run.

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This article is without doubt one of the finest and most important ever published in the illustrious history of The Tenterden Terrier. It emphasises the vital role played by hire locomotives in general and 2678 in particular helping the line to see out the economically troubled thirties, grab the lifeline afforded by the Second World War, stagger on to nationalisation and then survive just, but only just, long enough into the preservation era to be rescued

As anointed in the text, please note that 2678 first came to the K&ESR in 1940 not 1939

As ever, dates have been changed to the accepted modern format and the odd typesetting error amended without comment

The most logical conclusion concerning the hire of 3334 is that someone had more than a pipedream of an idea to combine the best of both in the future as had been done with the Terriers

Regarding 3440, perhaps there were past echoes of the original No.4 Hecate; arguably repeated by one or two locos based on the line in earlier preservation days. Without doubt in war-time there was considerable justification in having such an engine on stand-by rather than delay war traffic due to lack of locally available and suitable motive power. Possibly this was proved in 2678’s absence and it would be interesting to find out just how many miles the engine worked in that period. Certainly the regular single-tender-engine philosophy has continued with Norwegian

Stepney has had an uncanny knack of popping up for brief yet spectacular appearances in the history of the K&ESR since 1938Q3; the first of the three Terriers to be hired. With Knowle the loco featured strongly immediately prior to passenger close and was the last Terrier used in passenger service on 02 January 1954. It went on to be Bluebell’s first acquisition in 1960. Knowle was not suitable for WSR use and was eventually returned to service on the K&ESR in 1999, though eventually visited the former in 2004. Because of the close association Knowle has had with the K&ESR since 1940, there is possibly little justification in the engine ever appearing other than as Southern 2678 or BR 32678. Restoration of the Isle of Wight bunker would be more correct however and this may present alternative livery options in the future. Brighton is now based on the Isle of Wight Railway

On page 29 there is a table of locomotive and railcar use by year and by quarter. Starting with the home fleet from 1936Q4, motive power saw use as follows with hire locos in the order they were first recorded in service. The symbol // is used to indicate continued (but not necessarily continuous) service between dates indicated.
Terriers are given with their names first

No.2 Northiam 1937Q1//1938Q3
No.3 Bodiam 1936Q4//1937Q1 1937Q3//1941Q2 1944Q1//1947Q2 1947Q4//1948Q2

No.4 1936Q4//1937Q3 1938Q2//1940Q1 1941Q2//1943Q2 1944Q3//1947Q1 1947Q3//1948Q1
No.8 1936Q4//1937Q4 1938Q2 1939Q1
Ford Rail Unit 1937Q3
Shefflex Rail Unit 1937Q1//1938Q1

P-class 1556 1936Q4 1938Q1//1938Q3 1947Q3
Stepney 2655 1938Q3//1939Q4
0330-class 3334 1938Q4//1939Q1
Cheam 2659 1939Q4//1942Q4
Knowle 2678 1940Q1//1948Q2
0395-class 3440 1940Q3//1940Q4 1941Q3 1942Q1//1942Q3 1943Q1//1948Q2
01-class 1426 1942Q4//1944Q2
01-class 1373 1943Q4//1944Q1 1944Q3
01-class 1370 1944Q1//1944Q2
01-class 1248 1944Q4//1945Q1
P-class 1325 1945Q3//1945Q4 1946Q2//1946Q3
P-class 1555 1947Q1//1947Q3

01-class 1434 1948Q1//1948Q2