The East Kent Railway was constructed between 1911 and 1917 to serve the growing number of coal mines that were being sunk in the East Kent area. The consortium of mine and land owners envisaged a line that would link the collieries with the main line and a new port at Richborough.
In fact, although Richborough became an important port during World War 1, the line did not cross the River Stour until after the war, by which time the port was in decline. Branch lines to Canterbury, Deal and Birchington were planned but never completed.
The line was built to light railway standards by the well known engineer, Colonel H.F.Stephens. Passengers were first carried in 1916, although few facilities were provided for them. With the collapse of the various coal mining ventures the railway was starved of revenue and this led to its closure following nationalisation in 1948.
However, the section from Shepherdswell to Tilmanstone colliery remained operational until the Miners Strike of 1984. The colliery itself reopened for a short while but eventually ceased production in 1986. Inevitably closure of the line followed in 1987.
The East Kent Railway was formed in 1985 with the intention of preserving the remaining section of line, but it was not until 1989 that the volunteers were able to start the massive task of clearing the tangle of shrubs, trees and other vegetation that had claimed the railway since closure. Since then the EKR has transformed the station area and its environs at Shepherdswell. A replica of the original station building and platform has been built, access roads and car parks have been laid and toilets and picnic areas provided.
In 1993 the Light Railway Order was obtained which allows regular passenger trains to run on the East Kent Railway after an absence of over forty years, and since then a new station has been built at Eythorne. In 2003 the EKR became a Charitable Trust.
The image below shows where the railway used to run (picture courtesy of www.hfstephens-museum.org.uk)