Steam trains of Kent: Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway Location: Warren Wood to Stoney Shaw (½ mile) Gauge: two feet Website:http://www.bwlr.co.uk
On the North Downs south of Sittingbourne, along lanes unserved by public transport, a diminutive steam railway plies its trade. The B&WLR started out in the 1970s, created by enthusiasts on land owned by one of the members. As such it has a minor footprint to play with, but almost half a mile of track has been fitted in, forming a horseshoe shape from the electricity pylon down to the bluebells. There are no bluebells at this time of year, alas, but on Sunday there was thickfog which gave the end of season Steam Gala a particularly magical feel. The main station is at Warren Wood, this round the back of the tearoom and shop, and kitted out in semi-Alpine style. The line then passes a fully functional signal box before bending round between field and forest, descending quite steeply to the terminus at Stony Shaw. If you can find the path you can walk down or walk back, which at this time of year means almost-mud and a carpet of russet leaves.
The balconied carriages used by the railway have been built on site, while the dozen or so engines are from all around the world. There's only room for two or maybe three train formations on the tracks at any time, so a significant proportion of operational time involves shunting and shuffling, which helps to keep the volunteers gainfully occupied. They're a friendly bunch too, aided and abetted by only coming out to play with the public on a handful of dates a year, of which this Sunday's gala was the last. As dusk fell at the end of the day and the electric lamps were lit at top and bottom of the line, it was time to stash each loco back in its appropriate shed. This meant that the turntable got a lot of use, as boilers emptied with a burst of pure steam before winding down for the winter. With the mist swirling atmospherically it was hard to imagine a greater contrast to the sunny RDHR earlier in the day, but both were beautifully special in their own way.