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Carriages of the EKR

For a railway that never owned more than a dozen carriages, the East Kent railway has always had an element of confusion about its coaching stock and published lists have always had a considerable uncertainty about them.

In sorting out some of the murkier corners of the Colonel Stephens’ Railway Archive, the author has however come across three loose leaf lists written in the early to mid 1920s that shed a good deal of light on the origins and numbering of the coaching stock. Together with other sources published and unpublished some sort of accurate story is now possible.

Although the East Kent did not commence official passenger operations until October 1916, it started acquiring coaching stock much earlier, indeed almost as soon as the railway was being constructed, for it was expected to complete works very quickly. Official returns show five carriages plus a brake van from 1912 until 1916. This figure dropped to three carriages in 1917 and 1918, increased to four carriages in 1919 and eight in 1920. These figures can almost be squared with available facts although it is not clear why the railway chose to operate for three years from opening with so few carriages.

The initial carriages for the EKR were purchased from the K&ESR railway that was discarding them as it re-equipped with steam heating and electric lighting. From KESR records it seems the sold carriages were patched up and despatched from June 1911 onwards. One third class carriage was sold in the second half of 1912. The 1913 accounts record the sale of carriages to the value of £210 and this may well be the settlement of account for the carriages supplied. All but one seem to have kept their brown and ivory livery for some time.

No 1 was one of the specially designed and unsuccessful Pickering bogie carriages. It was brake composite K&ESR No 17 dating from 1905. This coach was better used on the EKR and operated regularly till well into the 1930s and was extensively repaired in 1939/40 being painted grey thereafter. A report in the Locomotive Magazine for 1917 states clearly that another of these carriages, the all 3rd K&ESR No 14, was also there. An undated photograph exists of an ivory and brown Pickering in Shepherdswell station and as No 1 had been painted the EKR standard colour of Indian red on arrival at the EKR there may be some substance to this. Certainly one interpretation of the official returns would suggest it might have been on the railway from 1912 till 1916. However this carriage is recorded as having been sold back to Pickerings in 1910 and was certainly on the Longmoor Military Railway by the end of the war, so this issue must remain open.

Pickering bogie coach on a characteristic mixed train 1933

LSWR bogie coach on train

No 1 was probably accompanied by a 4-wheeled ex-North London full brake (No 2 ex KESR 14) and later in the year by two ex-Cheshire Lines Committee 4-wheeled carriages. The first was a 4-compartment composite (No 3 ex K&ESR 12) and the second a 5-compartment third (No 6 ex K&ESR 11). They were joined by another 4-wheeled third of Great Eastern railway origin (K&ESR 13) but this was totally destroyed in an accident early in 1916. If this carriage received a number it was before the numbering system used in the traceable records was established.No 1 was one of the specially designed and unsuccessful Pickering bogie carriages. It was brake composite K&ESR No 17 dating from 1905. This coach was better used on the EKR and operated regularly till well into the 1930s and was extensively repaired in 1939/40 being painted grey thereafter. A report in the Locomotive Magazine for 1917 states clearly that another of these carriages, the all 3rd K&ESR No 14, was also there. An undated photograph exists of an ivory and brown Pickering in Shepherdswell station and as No 1 had been painted the EKR standard colour of Indian red on arrival at the EKR there may be some substance to this. Certainly one interpretation of the official returns would suggest it might have been on the railway from 1912 till 1916. However this carriage is recorded as having been sold back to Pickerings in 1910 and was certainly on the Longmoor Military Railway by the end of the war, so this issue must remain open.

No 1 was probably accompanied by a 4-wheeled ex-North London full brake (No 2 ex KESR 14) and later in the year by two ex-Cheshire Lines Committee 4-wheeled carriages. The first was a 4-compartment composite (No 3 ex K&ESR 12) and the second a 5-compartment third (No 6 ex K&ESR 11). They were joined by another 4-wheeled third of Great Eastern railway origin (K&ESR 13) but this was totally destroyed in an accident early in 1916. If this carriage received a number it was before the numbering system used in the traceable records was established.

The Pickering Bogie apart these were rather basic carriages which would certainly have served in the construction phase and workmen’s services. The railway opened to passenger traffic in 1916 but it was not until after World War 1 that two 6-wheeled composite carriages arrived to became the backbone of the main passenger services. They had certainly arrived by 1920, a date supported by official returns. One was a Midland Railway 4-compartment composite brake (EKR No 4) which was sold by the Midland railway in 1919 and the second was a London South Western Railway 3-compartment third brake (No 5). These two carriages seem often to have worked together during the early to mid-1920s. Both designs date from the mid-1880s. The Midland carriage was of considerable interest as it was one of thirty built in the 1880s to Midland diagram D831 as a special brake for particular use as a slip carriage and was equipped with an extra viewing window at the guard’s end and a handbrake. The London South Western carriage was a standard third mainline brake of the period to Drawing DB67 but it had lost its birdcage lookout (caboose in LSWR parlais).

Most of these vehicles were condemned in the 1909-12 period and two went to the K&ESR in 1912 but a few hung on to be sold to the War Department during the First World War. One (No 724) was noted simply as sold in August 1916, two months before EKR commenced public services, but we have no evidence that this was the carriage. Incidentally composites must be treated rather cautiously in the case of East Kent. Although compartments were labelled 1st, the company never admitted to ever booking a first class ticket and staff do not recall issuing any.

No 7 was a once beautiful 4wheeled first class LCDR carriage of the 1870s that had fallen far from grace. Standing out for the quality of its construction and ornate door panels this did not save it from use in the workman’s trains. A further example was used as a grounded body at Staple station but whether this ever ran on the EKR is doubtful. One of these, probably the grounded one, was SECR 2410 of 1878. We are fortunate that a beautifully restored sister carriage still exists at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

No 8 was a more basic LCDR third class 4w compartment carriage of the 1880s probably SECR 2737 of 1886.

No 9 was a South Eastern Railway 4 wheeled brake 3rd complete with Birdcage dating from about the mid-1870s most likely SECR 2410 of 1878. Alone of the workmen’s carriages, this one may have seen occasional use after workmen’s trains ceased.

Carriages 7, 8 and 9 together with No's 3 & 6 already mentioned were clearly obtained for workmen’s trains. Such trains, the backbone of passenger revenue in the early years, were advertised from opening day. However the three all arrived in 1919/20 and it seems likely that the numbering system used as the basis for this article was created at this time. No's 3,6,7 & 9 all seem to have been painted grey in the late 1920 s although No 8 was probably always red. The carriages were used (often attached to the back of coal trains) till workmen’s tickets ceased to be issued in 1929. After this they were dumped and rarely, if ever, used again. No 3 went to Staple station as grounded body in 1937. No's 2, 3,7,8 & 9 were for sale in May 1946 . 6 was sold to Ganger Lawrence for use on his plot at Staple on 7 June 1946 for £2 and the others were finally broken up at Shepherdswell during the winter of 1947/48.

The mid-1920s were a time of some optimism. Extensions and branch openings were in the offing, particularly the Canterbury extension and two London Chatham and Dover 6-wheeled brake carriages were obtained in 1926 and 1927.Such carriages were being rapidly displaced on the Southern at this time and carriages of this type were freely available.

Many went to the Isle of Wight where their centre wheels were removed and they worked as 4-wheelers. The Isle of Wight railway is now retrieving a number of these carriages that had been sold as huts. The two new EKR carriages took the numbers 10 and 11 and both seem to have become the carriages of choice for passenger trains throughout the 1930s although the earlier six wheelers continued to be used regularly. They were painted red on arrival but No 11 was painted SR Sage green in 1937 and No 10 followed around 1946.

Passenger traffic continued in terminal decline and although these carriages plodded on with virtually no passengers on board they did finally need replacing by the end of World War 2. In February 1946 two very grand ex London South Western 56-foot corridor composite carriages arrived to convey in some comfort the odd passenger who might turn up in these last days. The carriages were numbered 5 (even though the earlier 5 still existed for a few more months) and 6, replacing the ex CLC carriage that had been grounded at Staple. British Railways ordered the breaking up of the remaining older carriages (Nos 1,4, old 5,10 and 11 ) on takeover. Not surprisingly they rapidly withdrew passenger services and the bogie carriages departed, no 6 was last seen at Steatham on 10 August on 10 August 1946and No 5 Was used as on Office at Worthing goods yard a month later.

 

EKR No.

Type

Body length

Opp company

previous owner

Built

Arrived

Withdrawn

Unknown

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

5 (2nd)

6 (2nd)

 

4w 4c 3rd

open comp Corridor

4w brake

4w 4c Comp

6w 4c brake comp

6w 3c brake comp

4w 5c 3rd

4w 4c 3rd ex 1st

4w 4c 3rd

4w 3c brake 3rd

6w 3c brake comp

6w 3c brake comp

bogie 5c corr brake

bogie 5c corr brake

 

26' wb15' 3''

41' 1'

18' 6" wb11'

27' 8" wb17' 2"

31' 6" wb 22'

34' wb 20'

27' 2" wb 17'2"

25' wb 14'

26' wb15'

25' wb15'

27' 10" wb18'

27' 10" wb18'

56'

56'

 

GER No 279/KESR 13

KESR 17

NLR/KESR No14

CLC/KESR No12

MR

LSWR

CLC/KESR No11

LCDR

LCDR

LCDR

LCDR

LCDR

LSWR

LSWR

 

3/1876

1905

unknown

c1873

c1885

c1885

c1873

1879

1886

1880

1893

1891

7/1911

7/1911

 

c1912

c1912

c1912

c1912

1919

1919

c1912

1921

1921

1920

1926

1927

2/1946

2/1946

 

c 1917

1948

1946

1946

1948

1948

1936

1947

1947

1947

1948

1948

10/48

10/48

 

 

Sources and acknowledgements

Colonel Stephens Railway Archive

Carriage Stock of Minor Standard Gauge Railways, R W Kidner

Article by John Watling, The Colonel No 11

Article by Robin Fielding, The Colonel No 72

Stephen Garrett