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'Devastating' arson at Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway last night sparks appeal for volunteers

By KentOnline reporter

Railway chiefs are today launching a £75,000 appeal after a fire destroyed a ticket office.

Last weekend's blaze at Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway (SKLR) is being investigated as arson.

The building was destroyed, and now railway bosses are using the loss as the catalyst for a fund-raising drive.

Fire destroyed a ticket office at Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway

It's the second major blaze at the railway in 15 months following a fire in March last year, when the old mess room was completely gutted.

The railway, which receives no public funding, is using the Steam and Beer Festival today to help kickstart the campaign.

Paul Best, a trustee at the railway, said the SOS campaign would help achieve "ambitious plans" to sort out the station at Sittingbourne.

Cash would be used to provide wheelchair access and an extra platform at Sittingbourne; wheelchair access at Kemsley Down, and improvements to the Milton Regis area.

He said: "We have lost our two buildings at Sittingbourne.

What's left after the 'devastating' fire

"It's really hard work. We have built up this railway for the last 45 years and it's a real struggle at the best of times.

"We could really do without losing things to fire."

Last weekend, staff at the light railway appealed for volunteers to join a clean-up operation.

Crews from Sittingbourne and Teynham were called at 9.45pm last Saturday, with the portable building "well alight" when they arrived.

The office was completely destroyed.

This picture of the fire was posted on the Sitingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway site

Sittingbourne watch manager Matthew Barney said crews saw an "orange glow on the horizon" as they approached the fire.

To gain access to the flames they had to break padlocks to two large gates.

He said it was "difficult to tell" how the fire started as there was no power to the building and no one was seen leaving the scene. He confirmed it is being treated as suspicious.

The steam and beer festival runs today, with trains running until about 11pm, and tomorrow - when services finish at 5pm.

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