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Kent & East Sussex Railway


RCD’s Overview

This railway runs through beautiful Kent countryside and is perhaps the finest example of a light railway in preservation that exists today. The Light Railways Act of 1896 facilitated the building of railways in rural areas. These could be built and operated at low cost as neither an Act of Parliament nor many of the complex provisions of standard railways applied to them. Around 15 light railways were built, the Kent & East Sussex Railway being one of the most famous.  At Tenterden visitors can explore the Colonel Stephens Museum, and at the other end of the line admire the castle ruins at Bodiam. Visitors looking for a branch line experience, winding through idyllic Kent countryside, are recommended to visit this line. 

The current length of the lne is about 10.5 miles, however the Rother Valley Railway proposes to restore the missing rail link between Bodiam and Robertsbridge to connect with Network Rail, about 2.5 miles away. In May 2023 the Secretary of State determined to make the neessary Transport and Works Order, and accordingly active work to restore the missing link is likely to commence in the near future.

The support group operates directly via membership of the Railway.


Happening This Month on the Railway

  • Go to 'Homepage' and click into 'Railway Club Calendar'

Key Facts (where and when)

Extent of Railway (where to where):

Tenterden to Bodiam (Kent)

Principal Visitor Centre:

Tenterden station (TN30 6HE)

Period of Operation*

- February: Half Term service, and occasional Saturday and Sunday

- March: Occasional Saturday and Sunday

- April: Easter Holiday service (typically runs over 2 weeks). Also Weekends

- May: Near daily (except most Mondays and Fridays)

- June: Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

- July: Daily, except Mondays and Fridays

- August: Daily, except selected Mondays

- September: Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

- October: Weekends

- December: Special event trains

 [* This is a summary. Please go to the railway’s website for definitive operating days] 


Key Facts (what you’ll see)

Services usually steam or diesel?

Mix of steam and diesel on operating days

Type of Steam / Diesel Locomotives Used:

Mid-sized steam and diesel locomotives/units

Length of Line:

10.5 miles

Time taken for a round trip:

2 hours

Number of trains per day:

Up to 5 in each direction

Number of Stations:

5 stations

Prices (advance online):

Adult £26.50. Senior: £23.50. £17.20 Child: From £1. Family of 3: £53. Family of 4: £53

Time to allow for Visit:

Half day





Picnic/Play areas:


Preservation Established:


Car Park Facilities:

Car park at Tenterden station


Key Facts (Galas/Events/Dining)

Dining Trains:

- Saturday Evening Dinners: April to Nov

- Sunday Lunch: April to Oct

- Sparkling Afternoon Tea

- December Evening Dinners 

Event Trains:

- Santa Specials: December 

Principal Galas:

- None currently advertised 


- Railway Experience Days



Telephone:                                                           01580 765155


Social media:                                              

                                                                                Also on Twitter/ Instagram/ LinkedIn


Brief History of the Railway and its Preservation  

Although there had been several proposals to join Tenterden to the railway network, by 1900 it was still isolated. The passing of the Light Railways Act 1896 gave impetus to a new proposal for a line from Robertsbridge to Tenterden (the Rother Valley Railway). Permission to build the line was granted under the Light Railways Act, the work being overseen by Holman F. Stephens, and the line was opened in 1900. It was then proposed to extend the line from Tenterden to Headcorn, where it would connect with the Tonbridge - Ashford main line. The extension was built and opened in 1905. The line runs through a lightly populated area and was never well used, and it closed to passengers in 1954. Hop-pickers' specials operated until 1958 and the line was finally closed in 1961. Preservation attempts ensured soon thereafter, however issues relating to road crossings frustrated re-opening, although this was finally achieved in 1974 between Tenterden and Rolvenden. The line was subsequently extended, to Northiam in 1990; then to Bodiam in 2000.


Principal Aspiration

To support the Rother Valley Railway as approriate to assist in restoring the missing rail link between Bodiam and Robertsbridge to connect with Network Rail.


Steam Operational Locomotives:

(1) LBSC Class A1 ‘Terrier’ (Stroudley) - No 70 ‘Poplar’ (KESR No. 3 ‘Bodiam’)

(2) LBSC Class A1 ‘Terrier’ (Stroudley) - No 78 (KESR No. 8 ‘Knowle’)

(3) Peckett 0-4-0 - No. 12 ‘Marcia’

(4) Hunslet Austerity Bucket Class l (KESR No. 25 ‘Northiam’)

(5) Hunslet - No 15 ‘Hastings’ (may still be out on loan)

(6) Hunslet - 75008 ‘Swiftsure’ (visiting)

(7) Hunslet - WD132 ‘Sapper’ (visiting)


Steam Locomotives Under Overhaul:

(1) SECR Class P (Wainwright) - 753 (No.8 P Class)

(2) Manning Wardle - No. 14 ‘Charwelton’

(3) USATC Class S100 tank - No. 21 ‘Wainwright’

(4) USATC Class S100 tank - No. 22 ‘Maunsell’

(5) GWR Class 16xx Pannier tank (Hawksworth) - 1638


Diesel Operational Locomotives:

(1) BR Class 03 shunter - D2023

(2) BR Class 14 D9504

(3) BR Class 33 - 33202

(4) Heritage BR DMU - M50971 and M51571

(5) Ford diesel electric - No.40


Diesel Locomotives/Railcars Under Overhaul:

GWR Railcar - No.20 (subject of appeal)


Stored/ Under Restoration/ Out of Service:

- Norwegian State Railway - No.19 ‘Norwegian’

- Hunslet Austerity (KESR No. 23 ‘Holman F Stephens’)

- GWR 56xx Class - No.6619

- GWR 42xx Class - No.4253

- BR Class 03 shunter - D2024



Name of Support Group:

Kent & East Sussex Railway has its own membership which provides support.

Annual membership fee:

Adult: £35. Senior: £30. Child: £16. Life: £750


Benefits of membership:

-          One First Class and two Third Class tickets to ride on the railway annually

-          Life members are entitled to five free First Class tickets and unlimited Third Class tickets at 50% discount

-          FREE Admission at Tenterden Town Station on all normal operating days

-          Reduced fares on Gala Days

-          Discount (5%, 10% for Life Members) in the Railway Gift Shop (sale items and specials offers excepted)

-          Discount on entry to the National Trust Bodiam Castle

-          Magazine, ‘The Tenterden Terrier’, issued 3 times per year.


How to Join:                 


What They Say About Volunteering:

Almost everyone you see at the Kent & East Sussex Railway is a volunteer and behind the scenes there are many more. The Trustees are all volunteers, as are many of the people who are restoring and maintaining the locomotives, coaches, signalling, track and stations. Without the commitment of our volunteers we would not exist. Can you help? We would love to welcome you! There are some incredible volunteering opportunities available that will broaden your mind, your circle of friends and teach you new skills too. Studies have shown time & again that volunteering is good for you – it can give you a fantastic sense of pride and achievement. Whether it is one day a week or one day a year, everybody’s contribution is gratefully received.


How to Volunteer:                                               Go to


How to Donate:                                                    Go to


WHY JOIN: Help the railway achieve its ambition of reaching Robertsbridge.



Those interested in this railway may also be interested in the following railway societies also listed on this



Traditional Railway Societies:

- Colonel Stephens Society

- South East and Chatham Railway Society

- Gravesend Railway Enthusiasts Society


Model Railway Clubs:

- Ashford Model Railway Club

- Hastings & St Leonards Model Railway Club

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