It may not be the Ritz or have been awarded any stars, but to the volunteers of the Kent & East Sussex Railway, it’s top-class accommodation that provides welcome comforts after a hard shift.
In what Shaun Dewey, the railway’s general manager, describes as the “biggest step change in volunteer facilities for many years,” two blocks of single-bedroom units have been opened at the railway’s Tenterden base for the use of anyone working on the railway, especially volunteers who live a distance away.
The two blocks comprise six single bedrooms – complete with double-glazing and blackout curtains – showers and toilets, and kitchens with cooking facilities. The charge to stay is £5 per night to fund heating, cleaning and maintenance, while the normal maximum stay is seven nights.
“A great deal of effort and resources have been put into providing this facility, and I must thank all those concerned for bringing the project to fruition,” said Shaun. “Many of the installation team gave up their holidays to work on site in some of the hottest temperatures for years.”
Part of the heavy work was carried out by the railway’s Ransomes & Rapier 36 ton steam crane No. 81S, which was built for the Southern Railway in 1926. “This fascinating machine could be viewed close-up by our passengers and caused a great deal of interest,” said Shaun.
The first volunteer to use the facility was Steve West from Lincolnshire, while KESR chairman Ian Legg, who lives in Suffolk, was another early ‘guest.’ He said: “A massive amount of hard work went into achieving the project in a very short space of time.”
The railway is also celebrating the return of BR Mk.1 coach E4355, which has been overhauled in crimson and cream – a livery not seen on the line for many years. Built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co in 1956, it saw service at York, and towards the end of its career was used as a special instruction coach for SAS training, based at Morton-on-Lugg in Herefordshire.
Numbered 68 in the KESR fleet, it arrived on the line in 1999 and was used as a static buffet at Bodiam station, before entering service after restoration in 2010. Its latest overhaul was completed in time for it to be used for this year’s summer season.