The above picture shows the SNBR from far above!!!
The SNBR is set in the picturesque Swanley park, which contains apart from the railway, a large family boating lake, sand pit, paddling pool, café, bouncy castle, kiddie electric bikes and an excellent play ground, all inside the 60 acre park. The railway however is not a pure pleasure line, with most of its custom coming from its primary function as a transportation service of visitors and there bulky luggage.
The SNBR is probably unique in the way it moves people from the main car park on new barn road, up the hill and a quarter of a mile away to centre of the parks attractions. The main station Lakeside resides between the main playground and the café and is opposite the boating lake. This is why people coming to the park, use the railway as a means of transport and also leads to the SNBR with a rush hour style head ache on most high season afternoons.
Lakeside station also boasts an Ex-BR signal box, with its 36 lever frame. (for more information about the signal box please use the link below). These levers are miniature style levers, giving the impression that the signal box levers are in keeping with the railways diminutive size. Lakeside station itself is a 4 road, 3 platform station, the 4th road being an engine release line. The station also has a 16’ turntable at the far end, this is used to turn every engine after arrival, so it can shunt round to the front of the train for its next departure. On busy days it is often the case that a turn round engine is available, this being a spare engine. The turn round engine would come off its arrival train, turn round and wait for the following trains arrival to take its coaches. By using this method, on very busy days it is likely that a signal or a point in the signal box is being moved on average every 15 to 20 seconds, and a locomotive being moved also at a similar interval. This makes lakeside one of the most busiest stations and signal boxes in miniature anywhere in the world. On gala days when a yard shuttle is being operated, and up to 7 trains on the main line, the signal box is one of the most manic and hectic places to be. It is common on busy days for the SNBR to require to strengthen or increase the trains on the track at going home time, normally around 3.30pm. During our peak period, trains are often sent out full and frequently to New Barn halt but will return empty, as the visitors head home for the day, the rush normally ends about 4.30pm. During these busy times, to accommodate the queuing public, we often close platform 1, and place all services on platforms 2 and 3. This allows us to keep the queue in order and also allows people to see the trains as they run around for the next departure. On these busy days, even with a queue of 50 people, the time waiting for a train is normally only a maximum of 5 minutes. The SNBR’s normal busy service sees a 3 train service with 4 engines (a turn around engine), this leads to an average frequency of a train every 2 to 3 minutes around the circuit, with a total train departures in this situation normally in excess of a 100 trains in a day.
The railway boasts a very demanding track, and although our trains on the flat are very powerful, the SNBR only normally run a standard 5 coach train, 4 coaches for passengers and 1 coach for luggage. Each of our 4 sets are painted in a different livery, and from the spares of each set and 5th set can be made, often referred to as a patchwork set. We also boast a set of American wagons, which are only used by our American engine, and thus are only seen on Sundays.
The SNBR circuit is 1km in length (just over ½ mile in old money) and is notorious for its heavy and hard grades. Straight from leaving Lakeside, the engine has to haul its train which can be anywhere up to 10tons in weight up the 1 in 80 gradient to the summit, before then descending down new barn bank at a ruling grade of 1 in 50 to New Barn halt, a careful hand on the brake, is needed to make sure the train stops at New Barn halt which is relatively flat by SNBR standards. After leaving New Barn Halt the railway continues to fall at about 1 in 100 to what is known as cherry tree. This is the tree which is also the closest to the main running line. From here it’s a steady 1 in 100 all the way back to Lakeside, hard work for any engine. Every year a “wrong road running” day is held, on this day the trains run the opposite way round the circuit, meaning that each engine has to climb the 1 in 50 1/8 mile long new barn bank to the summit, tough work for any engine.
The SNBR is also renowned for its fine collection of Diesel engines, which supply the back bone of our revenue. Although we have a large collection of steam engines, the diesel engines are the life blood of the railway. The Diesel engines not only do all the winter work when we are relaying track or other such repairs, but during the open season and especially during the summer holidays, our diesel engines will clock up around 30 trips every day moving people around the park. Unlike steam engines which require water stops to refill the tanks with water, as well as time to rebuild the pressure and often the fire, due to the heavy trains and demanding gradients, our diesels are able to just shunt and go. Although our steam engines get the majority of the attention by the public, being a transport service rather than a pleasure line, most of our passengers are not fussed by form of motive power, they prefer to just get to the car park as easily and as quickly as possible and so our Diesel fleet is essential for this type of work. It is predicted that to do the same service (ie frequency of trains) as offered by 4 diesels, we would require in the region of 5 or 6 steam engines of the similar size of Sir Goss, and thus we would require not only more members, but also more money to not only purchase or even build these engines, but running costs would be substantially higher. Perhaps in years to come, we will be in the position to run an intensive service with an all steam fleet, but until then the diesels have a home, a use and a demand at the SNBR. Of the diesels the two most popular by drivers and passengers alike are the Deltic Tulyar and the experimental Kestrel. But our other diesels Hymek, 47 and the SNCF are all extremely hard working, for more information about these engines and other engines in the fleet the please go to the engines button the left.
Over the years the SNBR has matured (for the history of the railway see link below) and grown, from a 1 engine service, to a peak of a 7 train service, and for this our infrastructure has had to not only grow but also come reliable. Over the years improvements to points and signals to make them further reliable, as well as a complete reconstruction of the inside of the ticket office has had to occur. To accommodate more and more engines and carriages a loco shed was built and bigger and better workshop tools acquired to help maintain and improve the infrastructure.
The SNBR is also proud of its youth members, and many of our adult members started off as teenagers, helping to clip tickets, guard trains, logging train movements and even shunt the trains. Since 1987 the membership has grown from the founders to somewhere in the region of 50 members, with all these members helping the SNBR at least 3 days a year, whether it be driving or replacing sleepers on the track, our membership is the most important part of the railway. As a voluntary organisation, we play trains with our giant 00 train set, for pleasure and relaxation; this is why more often than not the driver has the biggest smile on his face!!!
In 2007, the SNBR held a special Birthday party celebrating 21 years as a railway. With visiting engines, model layouts, special train services to the yard and road steam vehicles. An event that was opened by the Mayor of Swanley, and was despite the weather still enjoyable. For more information see the link below