First Two Locos Confirmed for Kent and East Sussex Anniversary Gala

The Kent & East Sussex Railway (K&ESR) has confirmed the first two guest locomotives for its 50th Anniversary Gala, taking place on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd June 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′ 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 It then spent more than fifty years in service, finally being withdrawn in 1961.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 locomotive 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.

No. 76017 will remain at the railway until the end of the year and, as well as taking part in the 50th Anniversary Gala on 1st and 2nd June 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)