Kent & East Sussex Railway

CFBS Report – Steam Festival

Alan Pallard & CFBS colleagues perform an unofficial 25th twinning ceremony. Photo: CFBS

Despite the ongoing Covid pandemic, the long awaited eleventh CFBS steam festival was able to go ahead over the weekend of 3rd & 4th July 2021. The event also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first public service CFBS train in July 1971. It was also intended that the 25th anniversary of twinning with the Kent and East Sussex Railway would be marked with a special ceremony but, for the first time since 1996, we were not able to be present. It is hoped that the twinning celebration will be held at a later date.

For obvious reasons, the 2021 festival was a more modest affair than we have been used to but nevertheless CFBS put on a very impressive programme. 

Cavalcade of eight metre gauge locos on ‘Mont Blanc’. Photo courtesy of Yves Dreux.

Although not advertised in advance, the weekend celebration was preceded, on the Friday afternoon, by an event for enthusiasts with a cavalcade, of metre gauge CFBS and guest locomotives, up the ‘Mont Blanc’ incline from St Valery Ville station. Each of the eight metre gauge locomotives took its turn to climb the incline and once all were at the top they were coupled together and the octet descended with much blasting of whistles.

The Brohltalbahn Mallet locomotive heads the ex BOB set on a festival service train. Photo courtsy of Jocelyne Bourneuf.

During the weekend motive power was provided by four of CFBS’s and four visiting metre gauge steam locomotives plus two CFBS diesel locomotives and their diesel railcar. On the standard gauge front, three visiting locomotives were in use. An intensive timetable was in operation with 38 scheduled train services each day, between the hours of 09:45 and 20:05. For the first time at a CFBS steam festival the organisers were able to factor in the use of the passing loop at Morlay, on the Le Crotoy branch, enabling a more intensive service over that section of track than had been seen before.

Festival poster

The excellent programme for the steam festival provided full information about the participating exhibitors and rolling stock, along with a schedule showing which locomotives and coaching sets would be used on each train service, a particular benefit for railway photographers.

The aforementioned timetable of trains was operated by four sets of metre gauge stock – two rakes of ‘Somme’ timber bodied coaches, a Swiss set of mainly ex Yverdon St Croix vehicles and the ex Berner Oberland Bahn metal bodied coaching set. A demonstration freight train also operated. The standard gauge train was made up of four Chemin de Fer des Mouettes balladeuse coaches, topped and tailed by two standard gauge locomotives.  

The Marc Segouin replica locomotive, made a return to the festival after several years absence, operating over a standard gauge siding at Noyelles. Also on display was the amazing Le Fardier de Cugnot replica steam powered vehicle; the original was claimed to be the first vehicle capable of moving without ‘animal traction’. At Cayeux, in the Avenue Carnot, a Decauville 60cm gauge locomotive, from the Petit Train de la Haute Somme (Froissy-Dompierre Railway) and three balladeuses (open sided) coaches operated over 300 m of portable railway’ track.

The standard gauge train, topped and tailed by the Cockerill and Bagnall locos, waits at St Valéry Port. Photo courtesy of Yves Dreux

A Paris bus with open rear platform, from the RATP vintage collection, was in operation throughout the festival. 

Although the weather was described as “variable”, CFBS reports that 19,000 people visited their four main station sites with 4200 people travelling on the trains. On a more general note, CFBS’s service train season ended on 13th November 2021; they had carried 160,000 passengers during the year.

Four metre gauge locos await their turn of duty at St Valéry Canal depot. Photo courtesy of Damien Dollé

Although unable to be at the festival myself, I have compiled these notes from reports and photographs received from many friends associated with CFBS and I extend particular thanks to Yves Dreux, Geoffrey Nickson and Jacques Poré. If anyone would like further information, or a copy of the festival programme pdf, please contact me by way of e-mail – mike.bunn@hotmail.co.uk;

Michael Bunn

CFBS/K&ESR Twinning Committee

Share this page