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.


  1. When steam was ‘live’, we never saw Merchant Navy locos on the Kent coast line, allegedly because they were too heavy. Can one of your railway experts explain how it is possible now?

  2. I do wish that they would publish these events before rather than after. I would have loved to have seen it! These Merchant Navy class locos did pass through Gillingham in the early ’50s en route to Dover/Folkestone. I used to watch them from the bridge in front of the station as a child. They were cowled at the front and swept back.

      • I do not know where it was published, but I do know that in Thanet it is usually difficult to know what is going on even at Government Acre. Publicizing events is not good!

        • Lots of events are advertised on here Mike. Pre-covid we did a what’s on at the weekend list every Friday and will probably resume that at some point (it is very labour intensive with just me running the site but now things are picking up a little I’ll look to restart it)

  3. The first I heard was it passing the end of my garden on its way to Ramsgate unfortunately the trees are all in leaf so hear it was all I could do. Wonderful though. I would appreciate knowing where can we find out about this long enough before to get somewhere if we don’t have a car.

  4. please can you let know when the steam trains are passing through Broadstairs station a few days before as we all love the steam trains and we would love to take our grandchildren to see them.Mervyn and Rosemarie Gidman

  5. I did not realise that you do all this on your own. Having a list of Thanet activities is a key part of tourism and local community involvement. I would have hoped that some help would come from TDC and the local Council, but they do not seem to have a strategy that defines Thanet as a tourist location. Go to any resort in Spain and Portugal and you will find it to be so much more managed and organised and focussed towards community events and publicaiton thereof.

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