Sittingbourne’s Steam Railway is an industrial heritage railway which operates between Sittingbourne Retail Park and Kemsley Paper Mill using the original steam locomotives, coaches and wagons. Trains have operated over this route since 1905 and the very first steam locomotive ‘Premier’ re-enters service in May 2022. The second locomotive ‘Leader’ retires from service the same weekend.
The quirky narrow-gauge railway (2ft 6in between the rails) used to link Sittingbourne Paper Mill (now Morrison’s supermarket and adjacent housing estate) to Kemsley Paper Mill (Britain’s largest) and Ridham Dock on the banks of the Swale Estuary. Since 1969, the Railway has been preserved between Sittingbourne Viaduct and Kemsley Down stations. The Railway is celebrating its 50th Anniversary as the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway this year.
The first section of the two-mile journey from Sittingbourne Viaduct, heads out of town on a century-old reinforced concrete viaduct, then passes through Milton Creek Country Park and across Church Marshes before arriving at Kemsley Down station, within Kemsley Paper Mill and on the banks of Milton Creek.
The 2022 Season starts on Sunday 3rd April and runs through to the last weekend in September. Trains will run every Sunday and Bank Holiday throughout this period and additionally on Wednesdays in August.
There are two main timetables in operation:
- Green timetable – the ‘usual’ timetable – trains depart Sittingbourne Viaduct station hourly on the hour 1-4pm and from Kemsley Down 1.35pm, 2.35pm, 3.35pm & 4.45pm
- • Orange timetable – the longer timetable – trains depart Sittingbourne Viaduct station at 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm and from Kemsley Down at 12.05pm, 1.35pm, 2.35pm, 3.35pm and 4.45pm. Please note: there is no 1pm train from Kemsley Down, passengers on the 12.30pm train can’t return to Sittingbourne Viaduct station until 1.35pm
- Some events have special timetables which will be published closer to the time on the Railway’s website – www.sklr.net
- The journey takes 15 minutes each way.
Highlights for this season include:
- Four Days of Steam – Friday 15th to Monday 18th April, plant potting on Good Friday and an Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday. The Orange timetable will be operating on Friday, Sunday and Monday, the Green timetable will be operating on Easter Saturday
- Three Brazils Weekend – Sunday 22nd May – we’ll be celebrating the return to service of Brazil class locomotive ‘Premier’ (the Railway’s first steam engine) and the retirement of ‘Leader’ with sister ‘Melior’ also working the trains. This is the first time for over 50 years that the three locomotives have operated together and it will only happen for this weekend. A special timetable will apply
- HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June – another four days of steam, come along and pose for a selfie with our cardboard cutout of the HM The Queen or just enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Kemsley Down. There will be a Teddy Bears Picnic on Saturday and Sunday. Orange timetable applies all four days
- Fish & Chip Supper – Thursday 2nd June – come along for an evening ride on the train and enjoy fresh fish & chips and maybe a drink before we take you back to Sittingbourne Viaduct. A special timetable and fare will apply, pre-booking will be essential so check the website for more details
- Steam & Beer – Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th June – catch the train to Kemsley Down to enjoy the real ale and ciders on offer, there will be live music on Saturday with trains running from 11am until late and family entertainment with Captain Jack Sparrow on Sunday 11am until 5pm. Special timetable and fares apply
- Jack the Station Cat Weekend – Sunday 14th August – there will be readings of the latest and final book of the series by one of the book’s illustrators, Roger Dilley, and we look forward to Jack the Station Cat’s antics on the day
- End of Season Gala Weekend – Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th September – there will be steam and diesel-hauled trains throughout the day, with a bar at Kemsley Down and other attractions such as a working steam roller.
The Railway has step-free access from the car park to the platform at Sittingbourne Viaduct and from the platform to the rest of the site at Kemsley Down, however, there is still a step to board the train – check the website for the accessibility statement. There are accessible toilets at both stations.
This year you won’t need to pre-book your tickets (other than for a few events), we will be operating a turn-up-and-go style service with tickets being purchased on the day at Sittingbourne Viaduct station. This does mean that you may have to share a coach or compartment with other passengers, we will also be providing at least one coach which is fully open or semi-open for the best ventilation. You may wish to wear a face covering on the train, that is entirely your choice.
2022 Fares are:
- Adult: £4 single (one way), £7.50 return (round trip), £10.50 rover (all trains, all day)
- Senior Citizen: £3.50 single (one way), £6.50 return (round trip), £9.50 rover (all trains, all day)
- Child (aged 3-15 years): £3 single (one way), £3.50 return (round trip), £6.50 rover (all trains, all day)
- Infants (aged under 3): free
- Family (2 adults and up to 4 children): £21 return (round trip)
- Special fares apply for Fish & Chip Supper and Steam & Beer events.
The Railway is also part of the Wheels of Time project, linking museums across Kent with an activity to earn an exclusive badge for each site. It’s free and for children aged 5 to 11, find out more at www.wheelsoftime.uk