Man of Kent rail tour to come through Thanet today

Clan Line at Victoria Photo John Horton

By John Horton

Today (September 15) sees the return of Merchant Navy Steam Loco 35028 “Clan Line” on the rails through Thanet. It will be hauling the “Man of Kent” rail tour, organised by Pathfinder Railtours, on the Southern leg of its journey.

Originating from Newport, South Wales the train departs at 5.40am being diesel hauled, heading for the London suburbs via Severn Tunnel Jcn,  Gloucester, Stroud, Swindon, Didcot and Reading before traversing the route to North Pole Jn at Willesden via Acton Wells.

At Mitre Bridge Jn diesel power gives way to the mighty “Clan Line”. Making her way through Kensington Olympia, towards Stewarts Lane Jcn, Brixton, Nunhead, and Bromley South before stretching her legs on the main line, through St Mary Cray and Swanley, then down the Chatham main line, passing slowly over Rochester River Bridge and Rochester itself, through Chatham and up the bank to Gillingham.

Photo John Horton

She will once more get into her stride as she races through Sittingbourne ( due to pass at 11:42am), slowing down for Faversham, (due to pass at 12:05pm) bearing left for Thanet and the Kent coast. She is due to pass Herne Bay at 12:20pm, Birchington at 12:27pm, Westgate at 12:30pm and finally arriving at Margate at 12:35pm.

These timings may now be later after a 25 minute delay earlier in the route today.

The train sits at Margate platform 1 until departing back for Newport at 3,20pm, taking a different route via Minster, passing Broadstairs at 3:25pm, Ramsgate 3:29pm, the train swings right at Minster East Jn, and heads for Dover, passing through Sandwich at 3:48pm, Deal at 3:54pm, and arriving at Dover Priory at 4:14pm where the train takes a break until heading off at 4:34pm for Mitre Bridge Jn once more via Folkestone, Ashford, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Orpington, bearing left for Bromley South,  where it stops briefly to permit passengers to alight, arriving at Mitre Bridge Jn at 7:27pm, where Clan Line will be detached. It will then head back to its home depot of Stewarts Lane.

Designed by O.V.S Bulleid during World War II for mixed duties of freight and passenger services, 30 locos were built at Eastleigh Works. In their early days in streamline form, they were used to haul the prestigious “Golden Arrow” to Dover, but were deemed more suited to the London and South Western Railway with services to and from London Waterloo.

Photo John Horton

They were rebuilt to a better design again at Eastleigh emerging in a new guise and went on to give sterling work. Withdrawn by British Railways at the end of steam on the Southern Region in 1967, they were sent for scrap, some ending up at the infamous Barry IslandsScrap yard.

Many survived into preservation, 35028 Clan Line never saw a scrap yard, having been purchased by the Merchant Navy Preservation Group before her official withdrawal. 35018 “British India Line” is preserved and has main line status, whilst others preserved include 35005 “Canadian Pacific”, 35006 “Orient Line”, 35008 “Peninsular and Oriental”, 35010 “Blue Star”, 35011 “General Steam Navigation, 35025 “Brocklebank Line”, 35027 “Port Line” and 35029″Ellerman Line” which resides at NRM YORK as a sectioned static exhibit.