Tenterden celebrates record Christmas trains sell-out


By Geoff Courtney

THE ‘no seats available’ sign went up early on the Kent & East Sussex Railway at Christmas when, for the very first time, every one of the railway’s 67 Santa Special trains was sold out in advance.


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Rolvenden rush hour: Busy Rolvenden station on the Kent & East Sussex Railway has an international flavour on December 10 at the height of the Christmas season. On the left, in the shed yard, is GWR 0-6-0PT No. 1638, in the centre on a Santa Special is 2-6-0 No. 376 Norwegian, built in 1919 by the Swedish firm Nydqvist & Holm for the Norwegian State Railway, and on the right USA class 0-6-0T No. 30065 departs with the 1.25pm Tenterden to Bodiam Santa Special. Behind the photographer two other 0-6-0Ts are in steam on standby, A1X ‘Terriers’ Nos. 32670 and 32678, the former on its final spell of duty before being taken out of service for a 10-year overhaul. GEOFF COURTNEY

Indeed, there was no seat available by the end of November, three days before the first special on December 3, followed by trains on eight more days leading up to Christmas Eve.

The packed trains carried 7½% more passengers than the previous year with bookings running a month ahead of 2015, a result that thrilled general manager Shaun Dewey. “We were delighted that the Santa Specials proved to be so popular,” he said.

“We have a new commercial team, and a big ‘thank you’ goes to them as well as all the staff and volunteers – and of course Santa and his elves – who together made these days so special for kids both big and small, young and old.”

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Operating steam locos included three of the railway’s stalwarts – GWR 0-6-0PT No. 1638, SR USA class 0-6-0T No. 30065, and 2-6-0 No. 376 Norwegian – while ‘Terriers’ Nos. 32670 and 32678 simmered in the shed yard at Rolvenden ready to provide back-up were it to be needed.

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