History of East Kent Railway Trust
The East Kent Railway was constructed between 1911 and 1917 to serve the growth of the Kent Coalfield that was being developed in East Kent. The consortium of Kent colliery and land owners envisaged a line that would link the collieries with the main line and a new port at Richborough.
Although Richborough became an important port during WWI, the line did not cross the River Stour until after the war, by which time the port was in decline. Branch lines to Canterbury, Deal and Birchington were planned, but never completed.
The line was built to light railway standards by engineer, Colonel H .F. Stephens. The first passengers were carried in 1916, with just a few facilities being provided for them. Passenger services between Eastry and Sandwich Road Halts were withdrawn on 31st October 1928. When the railways were Nationalised, the line became part of the British Railways Southern Region and all passenger services were completely withdrawn on 1st November 1948.
However, the line from Shepherdswell to Tilmanstone Colliery remained operational until the 1984/85 Miners Strike. Tilmanstone Colliery reopened for a short while, but eventually ceased production in October 1986. Inevitably closure of the line followed in 1987.
In November 1985, the East Kent Railway Society had been formed with the intention of saving and reopening the remaining two and a quarter miles of line, but it was not until 1989 that the volunteers were able to start the massive task of clearing the tangle of shrubs, trees and other vegetation that had claimed the railway since closure. The East Kent Railway has transformed the station area and its environs at Shepherdswell, with a replica of the original station building and platform being built, along with new access roads, car parks laid, and the addition of toilet blocks, a café and picnic areas being provided.
In 1993, the Light Railway Order was obtained, allowing regular passenger trains to run on the East Kent Railway, after an absence of over forty years. Since then a new station has been built at Eythorne. In 2003, the East Kent Railway became a Charitable Trust.
The image below shows where the railway used to run. Picture courtesy of www.hfstephens-museum.org.uk