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First guest locos confirmed for 50th Anniversary Gala


3 April 2024

First two guest locos confirmed for Kent & East Sussex Railway Anniversary Gala

The Kent & East Sussex Railway (K&ESR) has confirmed the first two guest locomotives for its 50thAnniversary Gala, taking place on Saturday 1stand Sunday 2ndJune 2024.

The first guest loco is a star of the original railway line - South Eastern Railway '01' Class steam locomotive No 65 - making an exciting return to its roots. Not only was ‘01' built at Ashford but it was frequently used on the original Kent & East Sussex Railway line during the 1950s, including the final timetabled public service on 2 January 1954 - another milestone to be marked by the railway this year.

01 No.65 will return to its roots at the Gala 

‘01' exited the Ashford works in 1896 as a Stirling Class ‘0' locomotive but was remodelled to a Class ‘01' in 1908. It then spent more than fifty years in service, finally being withdrawn in 1961. Just a couple of weeks before that final withdrawal, ‘01' took part in hauling the last rail tour over the Hawkhurst branch line.

The second special guest is British Railways Standard 4 locomotive 76017, which is on long term loan from its private owner and arrived at the K&ESR this week. One of a class of locomotives nick named ‘Mogul', No. 76017 was also originally Southern-based, working out of Eastleigh in the 1950s.

76017 arrives at the K&ESR

No. 76017 will remain at the railway until the end of the year and, as well as taking part in the 50thAnniversary Gala on 1stand 2ndJune 2024, it will join the fleet hauling this year's double award-winning* Santa Specials, which are also celebrating five decades as a popular family tradition.

The double announcement follows last month's confirmation that three guest locomotives would headline the Gala, together with arrangements with the Rother Valley Railway to enable Gala passengers to travel to Robertsbridge, via a vintage bus service, to see the progress being made for the planned line extension. Passengers will also be able to take shuttle rides hauled by RVR's guest loco ‘Britannia' from Robertsbridge Junction to Northbridge Street station: a stretch of line that has not been in operation since 2013.

K&ESR General Manager Robin Coombes said: "We are delighted to have two such iconic locomotives attending our Gala. It is particularly special to have ‘01' back at K&ESR where it was a familiar sight in the 1950s. Our Gala weekend will be an unforgettable experience for railway enthusiasts and families alike, with more surprises to come." 

Further announcements about the remaining guest loco plus other special features are expected in the coming weeks.

Tickets for the Gala are now on sale on the K&ESR website, with prices as follows (two-day ticket prices in brackets):-

  • Adult Freedom Ticket - £29.50 (£45.50)
  • Senior Freedom Ticket - over 60s only - £27.50 (£43.50)
  • Child Freedom Ticket - age 3-15 - £5 (£7.50) Children under 3 go free
  • Family Freedom Ticket - 2 adults, plus up to two children aged 3-15 - £59 (£85)


Both photos can be downloaded by using the linked captions under the embedded images.
Photo credits: both by Robin Coombes.
Additional photos available on request.

For further information please contact:

Alison Miles, Press Officer, K&ESR 07900 691116


Notes to Editors:

* K&ESR's Santa Specials received a Bronze Event of the Year Award from the Beautiful South Awards in December 2023 and the Santa Specials Quiet Day was Highly Commended in the Innovation in Business & Customer Experience category in the 2024 Heritage Railway Association Awards.

SER ‘01' Class No 65:More information about ‘01' can be found on the Bluebell Railway website: 

British Railways Standard 4 locomotive 76017:Just over 115 Standard 4 Moguls were designed by R A Riddles and built at the Horwich and Doncaster locomotive works between 1952 and 1957. No. 76017 was completed in June 1953 and allocated to the BR Southern Region, based at Eastleigh. In February 1960 she moved to Salisbury, where she worked until her withdrawal from service in July 1965, No. 76017 was then removed to Dai Woodham's yard in Barry, South Wales, from where she was eventually purchased privately. After a couple of relocations, she was restored to steam in 1984.

Britannia:Britannia was the first British Railways standard locomotive to be built in 1951 and the first of 55 locomotives of her class. She saw15 years of mainline service, until her withdrawal in 1966, including the historic duty of pulling the funeral train of King George VI from Norfolk to London, following his death at Sandringham in February 1952. In the event that Britannia is unable to travel to the Gala for some reason, another locomotive will visit in her place.

About the Kent & East Sussex Railway:The Kent & East Sussex Railway is a renowned heritage railway based in Tenterden, Kent, UK and operates as an educational charity. Built by Holman F Stephens, it was the first light passenger railway in Britain in the early 20thcentury and is today one of Britain's most loved and original heritage lines which celebrates the 50thanniversary of reopening in 2024. With a rich history spanning over 120 years, the K&ESR offers visitors an authentic steam and diesel-powered railway experience through 10½ miles of Wealden countryside in the beautiful Rother Valley, a designated National Landscape (formerly known as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, the railway prides itself on preserving railway heritage, operating a diverse range of locomotives, and providing a unique glimpse into the golden age of rail travel.

About the Rother Valley Railway:The Rother Valley Railway is a registered charity restoring the historic railway between Robertsbridge and Bodiam. Retaining where possible the original features of the line and using recovered equipment and materials, RVR will re-create a rural light railway to modern standards of operation. Funded by charitable donations, when complete, it will be handed over to K&ESR to run the trains.