Photo of Bagnall 0-6-2T “Triumph” on the SKLR, by stopem.
The Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway, a unique post-industrial preserved line in north Kent, is under threat of closure at the end of 2008. The 2’6″ gauge railway was opened in 1906 to serve a paper mill, running raw materials, products and staff to and from nearby docks and operated continuously (sometimes 24 hours a day!) until 1969 when it was taken over by a preservation group. According to a statement on the SKLR homepage the current owners of the (now closed) mill, M-Real, has served notice to vacate the land on which the railway is built and the licence to operate expires in January 2009.
Although the Sittingbourne line cannot offer the attractive scenery of many British preserved lines, it has a unique place as a private industrial railway operating in the context of the industry that created it. It also boasts a selection of attractive “large NG” locos and some great features including a long, precarious concrete viaduct. Although the challenge ahead seems insurmountable, a campaign is underway to save the railway and I urge you to visit the SKLR site and see what can be done to help – be it writing a letter to the landowner, local council or MP, or a donation if you are able.
To my shame I have never visited the line, despite having lived an hour or so away for the last four years, a situation I am planning to rectify on their Gala weekend at the end of September. Hopefully it will not be their last!