A small boy’s memories of a little railway that ran through Bodiam on Kent and Sussex border - Photos

Contributed by editor on Oct 26, 2014 - 01:45 PM

Michelham Priory House

Kent and East Sussex Railway (K&ESR) member Tim Spafford looks back to when many years ago, he spent his holidays at Bodiam.



...the 01 class 0-6-0 was only used on the section from Tenterden to Headcorn.....


I was born in November 1947 and my family lived for a while in East Finchley North London.


My father’s mother and my great aunt lived in half of a huge house called Ockham which overlooked Bodiam Station. Great aunt ran the administration of the Guinness hop farms in the area, a very high powered job for a lady in those days.

Many times when I was young the family stayed there for holidays.


Christmas’s there were magical and my dad used to set up my 'O' gauge Hornby train set in the hall which divided the house into two parts.


Goodness knows how he squeezed it into the back of our old Austin 7 called Lizer.


Ockham House, Bodiam  Photo: Tim Spafford

I used to get up early in the morning to see and hear the single coach train, Terrier hauled, on its journey up to Robertsbridge.


I was allowed free roam of the hop farms and regularly took their cocker spaniel called Simon for walks around the Bodiam and Udiam farms.


I can remember the day when they replaced the farm horses for new-fangled contraptions called tractors. I had rather poorly legs but Simon always kept me safe.


Our regular route was along the farm tracks which ran parallel with the railway up to Junction Road.


Robertsbridge Yard in the 1960s Photo: Tim Spafford


Sometimes we used to venture down the hill to Bodiam station .I used to chat away to the stationmaster, I think his name was Harry Baitup.

All the freight and short passenger trains were Terrier hauled.


As many (K&ESR) members will know, the 01 class 0-6-0 was only used on the section from Tenterden to Headcorn. In those days one always thought things wouldn’t change, but of course they do and, of course, early in 1954 the passenger service was no more.

The Terriers from St. Leonards shed continued to haul the short goods trains and there remained the Hodsons Mill traffic at the Robertsbridge end of the line.


RH Class no 30263 with KESR rolling stock on the site of what is now Robertsbridge Junction  Photo: Tom Spafford


Then the Drewry shunters arrived, suddenly the terriers were redundant and I can remember seeing two of them in the goods yard at Robertsbridge.


The diesels continued hauling what was left of the goods traffic and Drewry No.11223 hauled the very last goods train through Bodiam on 10th June 1961.

During my stays at Ockham House as a small boy I regularly had to be taken up to The Middlesex Hospital in Goodge Street have treatment on my feet.


My Mum used to take me up to London by Schools class 4-4-0 hauled trains. An ambulance used to meet us at Cannon Street. and took us up to the Hospital.


Terrier photo 32650 (later K&ESR No 10 Sutton) at Robertsbridge in the 1960s  Photo: Tim Spafford


On one memorable hospital visit the ambulance crew drove us back to Cannon Street where they convinced the train crew I needed space so they tucked me up in one of the Hastings Gauge Pullman Cars which doubled up as a Buffet Car.


Mum and I benefitted from First Class service. Can you imagine the present NHS giving such facilities!


Two of the six Hastings Gauge Pullmans, Barbara and Theodora, are today the mainstay of the K&ESR’s ‘Wealden Pullman’ and one of them may perhaps even be the one in which I travelled in all those years ago.

A few years later just before my relations moved from the Bodiam area I remember taking photos at Robertsbridge of two Terrier tanks and a H class 0-4-4 T in the old goods yard – today the site of the exciting new Robertsbridge Junction development.


The H class was to be used on the proposed line at Westerham which came to nothing because of the building of a new-fangled thing called a motorway. Would you believe the dreaded M25.


The H Class went to the Ashford Steam Centre and when that too failed moved on to the Bluebell Railway where it can today be seen in service.

This article by Tim Spafford (K&ESR Member) was originally printed in Kent & East Sussex Railway Members Magazine-"Tenterden Terrier" Spring 2014 edition, and is reproduced with both Tim Spafford and Nick Pallant, KESR Secretary (for Tenterden Terrier), kind permission to Dana Wiffen.


© Hawkinge Gazette and Channel Coast News 



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