KESR Pullman chef serves up signwriting treat


By Geoff Courtney

Meg Gooch is a dab hand in the kitchen, having cooked for royalty, but she has another skill that is serving up a treat for visitors to the Kent & East Sussex Railway – that of signwriting rolling stock, an art which requires a steady hand and a lot of patience.

Tenterden-born Meg, who lives just yards from the line’s base in the town, was influenced by the railway from an early age: “My parents had a house on Rolvenden hill, in a small development known as ‘Tintown’ built by Colonel Stephens for KESR staff, and latterly my father Brian worked in the timber yard built on the site of the railway’s original locomotive shed at Rolvenden.”

Sign of the times: Meg Gooch shows a steady hand as she signwrites Kent & East Sussex Railway coach CK5618 in readiness for the line’s Santa Specials which started on December 1 and run until Christmas Eve, while coachpainter Peter Bolton works in the background. The coach, which has received a comprehensive overhaul, was built in 1931 for the Southern Railway’s Eastbourne and Kent coast services and worked between Tonbridge and Reading during its final BR years. ANDRE FREEMAN

Her personal association with the KESR came about as a result of a late-night discussion in a local pub in 1989. “Some of the regular railway staff were talking about the challenges of rostering volunteers, and I said: ‘I’ll drive the train.’ My bluff was called a few days later when I was invited onto the footplate, and it wasn’t long before I was bitten by the railway bug,” she recalled.

Having always been of an artistic bent, she soon found herself painting rolling stock in Tenterden carriage and wagon works. “Over time my confidence grew, and I progressed to signwriting and lining locomotives, carriages and wagons. Although I have had no formal training, I found I was able to accurately re-create that all-important traditional finish,” Meg continued.

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