Recent record temperatures are forcing dramatic changes to heritage railway operations, and like other lines across the country, the Kent & East Sussex Railway is using diesel trains instead of steam in case a spark parasite of a steam locomotive starts. a major fire in dry fields of tinder.
As a result, the railway, which travels ten miles through the Rother Valley from Tenterden to Bodiam, found itself in dire need of additional diesel locomotives to fill its timetable.
The Kent & East Sussex Railway had already arranged for three of its volunteers to take their track maintenance machines to carry out heavy maintenance work on the Epping and Ongar railway infrastructure. While there, it was suggested to them that it was possible that the Mid-Norfolk Railway had a diesel locomotive available on loan.
Mid-Norfolk Railway has agreed Kent & East Sussex can hire Class 33 diesel-electric No 33202, currently named Dennis G Robinson. A few days later 33202 made the 150 mile journey by road to Tenterden where it was prepared for service on Kent and East Sussex. It made its first services this weekend and is rolling again today, Monday August 15th.
When new, 60 years ago, 33202 was first assigned to Hither Green depot in south-east London, then shortly thereafter to St. Leonard depot. At St. Leonard’s it would often have run between Tonbridge and Hastings via Robertsbridge, which was the junction of the Kent & East Sussex line.
Other Kent & East Sussex locomotives include Class 14 diesel No. D9526 from West Somserset Railway and the railway’s own Class 14 No. D9504 which is nearing the end of a period of repair work and restoration.
Kent and East Sussex rail operations manager Peter Salmon said: “It was a huge relief given the forecast. This means we have another diesel to ensure we can provide service during our peak month of main season operation.
“The continued period of extreme fire risk means it would be irresponsible to operate our usual steam service.
“Testing, commissioning and crew familiarization has been undertaken and with a number of our volunteers already proficient with this type of diesel locomotive, we were able to put it into service very quickly once all the checks had been passed. .”
“The 33/2 locomotives were built with a specially narrow body, which was necessary to operate through the narrow railway tunnels on this particular route, so we are delighted to welcome a locomotive with such local connections!”