The Kent County Show has a rare and unique secret – a narrow gauge or miniature portable railway. The railway belongs to a preservation group based in Hadlow Down in East Sussex, called the Claude Jessett Trust. and originated from a private collection that the late Claude and Joyce Jessett started in the mid 1950’s.
The portable railway is coming for the second year to the Kent County Show, as 2014 proved popular with both young and old visitors alike. This year the team will bring additional track, locomotives and rolling stock and aim to be running in excess of 350 feet through the woodlands behind the Heritage Section. The mainstay of the motive power is and engine named “James”, an 040 tender engine built to the “Romulus” design of Roger Marsh with a wheel gauge of seven and one quarter inches.
This engine was built as a batch of six locomotives in 1976 by TMA engineering of Birmingham. James went from new to a large private estate railway where he saw regular use and proved a reliable loco. James returned to TMA Engineering in 1998 for a thorough mechanical overhaul which included the fitment of a new steel boiler. The engine then returned to the private railway and was in use until the owner passed away in 2004. The engine changed hands several times but saw only limited use until the Trust acquired it in April 2014. In the early part of 2015 James’ boiler required re-tubing, this work being carried out within the workshop facilities at the Trust. The decision to use copper tubes rather than steel tubes has proved a great improvement in the free steaming ability of the boiler, making the loco ideal for the busy three days of intensive train rides expected at the Kent County Show this year!
All the portable track that the volunteers from Tinkers Park will be using at the Show was constructed in March of this year, the reason being to increase the ride length and incorporate the new track bed laid out through the woodland area at the Kent Showground, all the new track weighs in excess of 700kg and consists of more than 400m of steel bar!
Visitors will be delighted to know that there is no age or size limit to ride on the locomotive and we are sure that there will be large queues of people who will be travelling down memory lane or new younger guests who will experience the miniature train ride for the very first time.
The volunteers from the Claude Jessett Trust believes that when people see these scaled down giants it allows us to almost recapture the tranquility of a bygone era. Miniature railway loco’s are as alive as the full size versions with the same smells and noises albeit smaller. The shear power these small machines provide amaze people all the time, a loco weighing approximately 90kg can often pull 30-40 adults and children. Finally they thinks that children seem to grasp how the smaller locomotives operate as they can get close enough to ask questions and observe without being put off by the overwhelming size and commotion of a full size engine. Please do find 20 minutes during your visit to the Kent County Show to take a ride and allow yourself the freedom to enjoy a rare and wonderful trip to a world without mobile phones and traffic jams.
When the railway is not out and about visiting fetes and other steam rallies, it can be found in action on selected days when the Trust is open to the public running along its permanent track in Tinkers Park, East Sussex. Click here to visit their website.