John Speller's Web Pages Isle of Sheppey Light Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - SE&CR
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Although engineered by Colonel Stephens, the Isle of Sheppey Light Railway was not run by the Colonel, but from the start was worked by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway. It ran for 9 miles from Queenborough on the LD&CR's Sheerness line to a terminus on the east coast of the Isle of Sheppey at Leysdown-on-Sea. The single line had intermediate stations at Sheerness East, East Minster on Sea, Minster-on-Sea and, Eastchurch, and opened in 1901. The only passing loop was at Eastchurch. Additional halts at Brambledown and Harty Road were added after the SE&CR purchased the line in 1905. "Light Railway" was in this case something of an understatement, and there was at first some difficulty finding suitable motive power for the branch. The SE&CR had difficulty finding a locomotive small enough for working the goods traffic on the line, and in the end had to resort to the expedient of purchasing a diminutive A-1 "Terrier" Class 0-6-0T from the LB&SCR. The locomotive concerned was No. 54 "Waddon" and was numbered No. 751 by the SE&CR and nicknamed "The Little Tich," after Harry Relph (1867-1928), a leading comedy actor of the day.It is now preserved in the Canadian Railway Museum in Quebec. For passenger service trials were made with an 8-seater petrol railcar, but this proved to have an inadequate capacity even for the Isle of Sheppey line. A 16-seater railcar was then tried and proved more satisfactory, but it proved impossible to find a mechanic capable of servicing it, so this gave way to 56-seater steam railmotors, of which a total of 8 were built for service on the SE&CR. In around 1914 the locomotives were separated from the coach sections of the railmotors and two coach units were combined as two-car articulated unit No. 514 that was used on the line until closure. The tiny locomotives that had formed part of the railmotors were put in storage around the end of World War I and discarded by the Southern Railway in 1924. Meanwhile in 1910 Harry Wainwright designed the "P" Class 0-6-0 tanks as an updated version of the LB&SCR "Terriers." They were designed primarily with the Isle of Sheppey line in mind and were used on the line for several decades. In British Railways days Kirtley LC&DR Class "R-1" 0-4-4 tanks Nos. 31698 and 31705 were in use on the line. The Isle of Sheppey Light Railway was never a financial success, and it is perhaps surprising that it survived beyond nationalization, finally closing on 2 December 1950.
Map of the Isle of Sheppey Light Railway
Leysdown station showing "Waddon" with a horsebox and one of the steam railmotors
The diminutive size of the LB&SCR "A-1" Class tanks is easily apparent from a comparison of the locomotive with the standard goods wagons in this 2010 view of No. 72 "Fenchurch" on the Bluebell Railway. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Queenborough station with the Isle of Sheppey railmotor in the bay on the left
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