Spitfire above, steam trains below – KESR’s set to step back in time

By Geoff Courtney

The distinctive sound of a Rolls-Royce Merlin-engined Spitfire aircraft, Churchillian speeches, military vehicles, and steam-hauled passenger trains, will reverberate around the town of Tenterden on the weekend of May 19-20, as the Kent & East Sussex Railway holds a 1940s gala that will bring back memories to locals and visitors of a certain age.

Uphill task: Former SR USA class No. 30070 nears the top of Tenterden bank on the Kent & East Sussex Railway with a Santa Special on December 9 last year, wearing the livery of Longmoor Military Railway No. 300, in which guise it had appeared only days before following a major overhaul. The 1942-built 0-6-0T is to be one of the stars at a 1940s gala on May 19-20 that will include a Spitfire air display and other attractions recalling the years during and after the war. GEOFF COURTNEY

Trains will run every 45 minutes between Tenterden and Bodiam, with two of the rostered locomotives, 0-6-0T No. 300 Frank S Ross and 0-6-0ST No. 25 Northiam, both appropriately having strong military links.

The former was built by Vulcan Iron Works of Pennsylvania in 1942 for the United States Army Corps of Engineers and shipped across the Atlantic to operate in the UK as War Department No. 1960 until the end of the Second World War. It was then sold to the Southern Railway to become a member of the USA class as No. 70, became No. 30070 after Nationalisation, and in 1963 was transferred to departmental stock, to be finally withdrawn in 1967 and purchased by the then embryonic Kent & East Sussex Railway.

Last December it returned to traffic after overhaul in the guise – and blue livery – of Longmoor Military Railway No. 300, another member of the class that remained in the UK after the war and in the 1950s operated on the line in Hampshire.

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