Rye and Camber Tramway

Coordinates: 50°56′17″N 0°46′12″E / 50.938°N 0.770°E / 50.938; 0.770

The Rye and Camber Tramway was an English railway in East Sussex. It was of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge, relatively unusual amongst British narrow gauge railways. It operated from 1895 until 1939, connecting Rye to the coast. It was about 1+34 miles (2.8 km) in length, and had three stations - Rye, Golf Links and Camber Sands. It operated mainly to transport golfers to the golf links and holidaymakers to the coastal dunes.

Rye and Camber Tramway
Dates of operation1895–1939
Track gauge3 ft (914 mm)
Length1+34 miles (2.8 km)
Rye & Camber Tramway
Camber Sands
Golf Links
Rye and Camber Tramway - 'Victoria' with train crosses Broadwater Bridge (1914)
Map of the Rye and Camber Tramway
Rye and Camber Tramway - Rye Station
Rye Station
Rye and Camber Tramway - 'Camber' at Rye with the Bagnall coach (1895)
Rye and Camber Tramway - Original Rye Station (1895)


The railway was constructed between January and July 1895 and ran entirely on private land. It was the first designed by consulting engineer Holman F. Stephens, who went on to build and run small railways all over the Country.

The line was built to convey golfers to the Rye Golf Club and ran from Rye (R&CT) station to the golf club. In 1908 the first extension to Camber Sands station was opened and the intermediate station renamed "Golf Links". Camber Sands terminal was moved to a more accessible site and a tea hut was opened at the end of summer 1938, but this only used for a few months as the war intervened the next year.

Although initially quite successful, increasing competition from automobile and bus transport eventually caused the tramway to enter a gradual economic decline, as was the case with many small railways. Passenger service was ended at the outbreak of World War II but it was extensively used by the Government to convey parts for the P.L.U.T.O. (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) project for which a special siding leading to a new pier near Golf Links Station was constructed by Canadian troops.

The line was in such a run-down a condition by the end of the war that it was deemed irrecoverable and was sold for scrap in 1947. The Rye & Camber Tramways Co. Ltd was liquidated in February 1949.


A number of relics, including the frame and bogies of one of the carriages, can be seen at the Colonel Stephens Museum at Tenterden.

Golf Links station building survives virtually intact. Some track is embedded in concrete near the station as the trackbed was used as a roadway during wartime. Most of the route is a footpath, although a short section has been destroyed by gravel workings.

The line plays a prominent part in several novels by Rye resident E.F. Benson.

Rolling stockEdit


There were two small Bagnall steam locomotives, "Camber" and "Victoria", but in later years a small petrol locomotive was used exclusively.[1]

Name Builder Type Date Works number Cylinders Total wheelbase Boiler pressure Notes
Camber W.G. Bagnall 2-4-0T 1895 1461 5in x 9in 5 ft 6in 140 lb/sq in Scrapped at Rye in 1947
Victoria W.G. Bagnall 2-4-0T 1897 1511 6in x 10in 6 ft 512in 140 lb/sq in Sold in 1937
Kent Construction Company 4wPM 1924 1364 n/a n/a Based on the Motor Rail "Simplex" design. Sold October 1946


The tramway had two enclosed carriages, one built by Bagnall and the other by The Rother Iron Works, Rye. Two four-wheel wagons were also fitted with seats for passengers and several locally-built four-wheel wagons were used to convey sand from the beach for local builders. Several temporary sidings were constructed at the Camber end for this purpose, where the dug-out dunes can still be seen.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Welbourn 2000, pp. 62–5.


  • Cooksey, Laurie A (1995). The Rye and Camber Tramway: a Centenary History. Plateway Press. ISBN 1-871980-26-7.
  • Judge, C. (1995). The Rye and Camber Tramway. The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-473-3.
  • Thomas, Cliff (2002). The Narrow Gauge in Britain & Ireland. Atlantic Publishers. ISBN 1-902827-05-8.
  • Welbourn, Nigel (2000). Lost Lines: British Narrow Gauge. Shepperton: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2742-0.

Further readingEdit

  • Scott-Morgan, John (1978). The Colonel Stephens Railways: A Pictorial Survey. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0 7153 7544 X.
  • Smith, Martin, ed. (May 2011). "The Rye & Camber Tramway". Railway Bylines. Vol. 16, no. 6. Clophill, Bedfordshire: Irwell Press. pp. 318–9. ISSN 1360-2098.

External linksEdit