Published 19th June 2012
SWANLEY (KENT) - The Swanley & New Barn Railway opened in 1986 as a Council run venture, but soon fell out of favour as money became tighter. The late Chris Johnson changed it into a volunteer run organisation using a Battery Electric locomotive.
The main station is at Lakeside and the hub and headquarters of the line, with three platforms plus an engine only line used to run-round stock. A turntable and complex network of points and sidings are connected to the passenger line which operates in a clockwise direction only. There is a ‘park and ride’ station in the form of a small halt at New Barn where most passengers join or leave their cars.
The signal box controlling the line is particularly special, being part of the former main line Gloucester Road panel in Croydon. It has 35 levers controlling eight sets of points, two home signals, three starter signals and eight shunt signals. A special signal is provided at New Barn and can be used for a variety of reasons when an agreement is made with drivers.
A wide variety of traction works along the line, each taking around 6 to 8 minutes to complete a “lap” of the line, and each lap being around half a mile in length. From the early use of the battery electric locomotive things rapidly developed with various diesels being purchased.
Currently in the fleet are miniature diesel variants of a Class 25 “Rat”, Class 35 “Hymek”, Class 47, Class 55 ‘Deltic’, a European “CC40101” and a privately built locomotive, “Skipper”.
Steam is a major feature, although it does not appear frequently. Currently in operation are various privately built locomotives, including “Siusaidh” and “Zebedee” from Beevers Engineering (Sidcup), “Owd Rosie”, “Prince Sheian”, “Sir Goss” and “Montezuma”. From June, it is anticipated that one steam locomotive will be available for service each Sunday.
The railway operates inside Swanley Park which also offers various other attractions in addition to the railway. The Boating Lake is a picturesque feature, allowing users to see the various birds, as well as using Kayaks and Pedalos. Also available is the Café, Bouncy Castle, Electric Bikes, Play Parks and the Paddling Pools at the Water Park.
The railway is now open every weekend until the end of September with trains also running every Bank Holiday and on weekdays during School breaks. The first trains start at 11:00, with closing times fluctuating dependent upon the day. You are advised to check the website to see what times the railway will close on the day you visit, or speak with a member of staff.
Visiting the railway is easy. If you drive, a free Car Park is provided by the local council for park users with the address available from the railway’s website. For rail users, Swanley station is a short walk away, although you can use Sidcup or Eltham stations and thence take a 233 bus.
For those wishing to visit the railway during Special Events, you are advised to join the Swanley & New Barn Railway for their “Diamond Jubilee Event” between the 2nd and 5th June. An intensive service will operate, with Steam Hauled trains and an opportunity to drive one of their diesel locomotives. Services will operate between 11:00 and 18:00 each day.