Colonel Holman Fred Stephens’ Kent & East Sussex Railway (KESR) came to an end in 1947. A few months after this picture of Stroudley ‘Terrier’ No. 3 Bodiam was taken at Rolvenden on September 24 1947, the Robertsbridge-Headcorn line succumbed to nationalisation and was absorbed into the Southern Region of the newly formed British Railways, so ending nearly five decades of independent operation. Opened in stages between 1900-05, the 21-mile KESR was the best-known of all of the lines in Stephens’ light railway empire. Like so many other light railways, such as the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway (another of Stephens’ acquisitions), the KESR proved to be a safe haven for the ex-London, Brighton & South Coast Railway ‘Terriers’, which were rapidly being withdrawn by the turn of the century as larger engines took over the London suburban work for which they had been designed. The railway acquired two of them, Nos. 70 Poplar and 71 Wapping, in 1901 and 1905 respectively. The former became KESR No. 3 Bodiam and worked for the next 30 years until it was withdrawn along with No. 5 Rolvenden (formerly No. 71) in 1931. The latter was cannibalised for parts to return Bodiam to working order in 1933, and ten years later the ‘Terrier’ was rebuilt with an ‘A1X’ boiler. Nationalisation inevitably changed the nature and identity of the idiosyncratic and somewhat ramshackle line, one casualty being the delightful liveries and numbers applied to the KESR’s locomotives during the railway’s independent days. Bodiam would become British Railways No. 32670, with BR lined black and early ‘cycling lion’ crest eventually replacing the KESR blue livery and oval crest. After nationalisation, No. 32670 moved to Ashford and, in April 1963, ended up being transferred to the Hayling Island branch where it would remain until the line’s closure in November that year. The ‘Terrier’ would be reprieved a second time, for it was purchased privately and moved to the preserved Kent & East Sussex Railway in April the following year, entering revenueearning service on the revived railway ten years later, bringing its story full circle. One preserved ‘Terrier’ would escape nationalisation, for the very same month this scene of Bodiam was recorded, its classmate No. 82 Boxhill was saved for posterity by the Southern Railway and restored to Stroudley condition, complete with Improved Engine Green livery. The 0-6-0T would eventually become part of the National Collection.
KESR ‘A1X’ 0-6-0T No. 3, Bodiam, at Rolvenden on September 24 1947.