Everyone is always welcome, family fun environment
This unique line was built in 1905 for the transportation of the raw materials required for the manufacture of paper and, of course, the finished product.
The line which is built to a gauge of 2’ 6”, continues to use the steam engines and rolling stock that were supplied to operate the railway in its working life prior to preservation in 1969.
Trains depart hourly 1-4pm on Sundays from Sittingbourne Viaduct, which is within Sittingbourne Retail Park and has free parking (for sat nav please use ME10 2XD).
The journey takes 15 minutes from end-to-end so a
round trip can be completed in less than an hour, however, at least two hours are recommended for the visit.
History of the Line
The Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway is the preserved southern half of the former Bowater’s Railway built to move the raw materials for paper making and also the finished products around the
mill at Sittingbourne.
Edward Lloyd, the newspaper owner and publisher, built Sittingbourne Mill in 1867 to supply his empire with paper. The railway was originally horse drawn and was centred around the wharf on Milton Creek with lines into storage sheds and the mill. In 1905 the first steam traction arrived in the form of 2 Kerr Stuart ‘Brazil’ class locomotives – ‘Premier’ and ‘Leader’.
The locomotive fleet grew and by the time of the system’s heyday there were 14 steam locomotives including two fireless engines, plus one diesel and one battery electric engine.
The mill at Sittingbourne relied heavily on raw materials being brought in by barge. Milton Creek had gradually been silting up and always had a white colour due to the amount of clay and other by products of the papermaking process that were discharged into the creek. By 1913 this, together with the need for a greater volume of raw materials, saw plans for the building of Ridham Dock and Tramway. Building of this was hindered by the First World War, but the tramway was completed by 1916 and the dock was finally finished by the end of the war.
This included a viaduct which, although originally designed as a steel construction, was actually built in reinforced concrete. This viaduct is over ½ mile long and is still in use today, but over the last 10 years more than £100,000 has had to be invested on its repair.
Special events with additional trains
Four days of Steam over Easter Weekend, Jack the Station Cat & Edward Bear Weekend (30th April/1st May), Teddy Bears Picnic (28th May), Steam & Beer (1-2nd July), Art in the Park (19th August), Ivor the Engine Weekend (27-28th August) and Gala Weekend (23-24th September).
During August trains run 1-4pm on Wednesdays and 11am-4pm on Sundays. Additional trains operate on event days.