Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway. The only public miniature railway that went to war.
The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway (RH&D) is a 15in gauge heritage railway situated in Kent. The 13¾ mile line runs from Hythe via Dymchurch, St. Mary's Bay, New Romney and Romney Sands to the vast shingle beaches of Dungeness and its Lighthouse (and today the huge nuclear power station).
It is classified as a “Light Railway” not as a toy or an “amusement” train. It runs a public service route between several small towns and villages and is under contract to transport children to and from The Marsh Academy in New Romney which is a coeducational secondary school having its own station at New Romney. The Academy specialises in Business and Enterprise and benefits from the sponsorship of Microsoft, Kent County Council and the Tonbridge School.
The railway is nicknamed: “the smallest public railway in the world” and in the past, has had some branch and side lines for industrial purposes although there is little suitable industry in the area now.
Construction of The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway started to take place during the mid-1920 and it eventually opened on the 16th July 1927. It was the brainchild of millionaire friends and racing drivers, Captain Jack E.P.Howey and Count Louis Zborowski. (famed for “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang “ a 23 litre six-cylinder 300 bhp Maybach Zeppelin engine race car.)
Zborowski had previously started construction of a private railway at Higham Park, which was his home at Bridge, (near Canterbury) Kent, and agreed to donate the existing rolling stock and infrastructure to the project. Sadly Zborowski was killed in a motor racing accident at Monza before the Romney Marsh site was chosen and consequently Howey continued the project alone.
Infrastructure complete the great day finally dawned and a Mountain Class locomotive 'Hercules' hauled the inaugural train from Hythe to New Romney with a notable passenger list which included the mayors of both towns, and the Great War General Sir Ivor Maxse. However, an enthusiastic Howey was not satisfied with just an 8 mile run from New Romney to Hythe, and he purchased another 5½ miles to extend it from New Romney to Dungeness. This section was originally built as double track, but was reduced to single track due to extensive damage caused during World War II, when the line was taken over by the military. After the war the line was quickly re-opened between Hythe and New Romney in 1946, with the single track New Romney to Dungeness section being reopened in 1947 by the Hollywood screen comics Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
This was not just a hobby train set and extensive infrastructure was built with signalling, bridges and Terminus stations at Hythe and Dungeness and intermediate stations and halts at:
Dungeness - Pilot Halt - Lade Halt - Romney Sands - Greatstone on sea - New Romney - St Mary’s Bay - Dymchurch - Burmarsh Road - Botolphs Bridge - Hythe.
Locomotives and Rolling stock:
No.1 “Green Goddess” 4-6-2 steam (serial No. 15469) painted LNER Apple Green built 1925 by Davey Paxman & Co Small Chime whistle. Normally stored in the winter.
No. 2 “Northern Chief” 4-6-2 steam (serial No. 15470) painted Brunswick Green built 1925 by Davey Paxman & Co. Bulleid whistle. Normally year round operation.
No. 3 “Southern Maid” 4-6-2 steam (serial No. 16040) painted RH&DR Green built 1926 by Davey Paxman & Co. Ex Isle of Wight Hooter. Currently boiler off for inspection.
No. 4 “The Bug” 0-4-0 steam (serial No. 6378) painted LB&SCR 'Brighton Umber' (Properly called "Stroudley's Improved Engine Green") built 1926 by Krauss, Munich RH&DR whistle. Normally year round operation. (note: originally sent for scrap but rescued from the heap and re-built)
No. 5 “Hercules” 4-8-2 steam (serial No. 16041) painted Midland Rly Maroon built 1927 by Davey Paxman & Co. GWR Hall whistle. Normally year round operation. (this was the engine that was armour plated and pulled the armed bogie train)
No. 6 “Samson” 4-8-2 steam (serial No. 16042) painted Great Eastern Blue built 1927 by Davey Paxman & Co. US Crosby whistle. Out of operation awaiting overhaul
No. 7 “Typhoon” 4-6-2 steam (serial No. 16043) painted Southern Railway Malachite Green built 1927 by Davey Paxman & Co. BR Duke of Gloucester whistle. Out of operation awaiting boiler lift/inspection
No. 8 “Hurricane” 4-6-2 steam (serial No. 16044) painted LNER Garter Blue built 1927 by Davey Paxman & Co. Chrome LNER A4 whistle. Out of operation, boiler away being retubed.
No. 9 “Winston Churchill” 4-6-2 steam (serial No. 2294) painted Maroon with yellow lining, built 1931 by Yorkshire Engine Company. Crosby whistle. Normally stored in the winter.
No.10 “Dr Syn” 4-6-2 steam (serial No. 2295) painted Black with Yellow lining, built 1931 by Yorkshire Engine Company LNER A4 whistle from Commonwealth of Australia. Normally stored in the winter.
No.11 “Black Prince“4-6-2 steam (no serial number) painted DB Black/Red built 1937 by Krupp, Essen Bulleid whistle. Normally stored in the winter. (formerly 'Fleißiges Lieschen' = 'Busy Lizzy') (Firebox door had Nazi swastika cast in - since removed)
No. 12 “John Southland” Bo-Bo 112 bhp 6 cylinder Diesel-Mechanical painted Black/Yellow built 1983 by TMA Engineering 2-Tone Horn (AirChime, Ltd) Normally year round operation.
No. 14 “Captain Howey” Bo-Bo 112 bhp 6 cylinder Diesel-Mechanical painted Blue/Silver built 1989 by TMA Engineering 2-Tone Horn (AirChime, Ltd). Normally year round operation
Non mainline traction
No. PW1 “Simplex” 0-4-0 Diesel-Mechanical painted green built 1938 by Motor Rail Ltd. (Simplex Wks.) just a warning horn used for shunting only.
No. PW2 no name 0-4-0 Scooter, Petrol-Mechanical painted WD Grey built 1949 by RH&DR Ex Fire Engine horn used for shunting only.
No. PW3 “Red Gauntlet” 0-4-0 Petrol-Mechanical painted red built 1975 by Jacot / Keef Halfords warning horn used for shunting only.
(Note) another engine of the same class as No.12 and 14 was built in the years between them and exported to the Shuzenji Romney Railway in Japan; this locomotive is No. 3 in their fleet and carries the name "John Southland II".
One needs to remember that the railway was conceived and constructed as a public service, not as a tourist attraction. However, the railways main source of income is presently the tourist trade, but it is still not exclusively a 'tourist railway' or a 'preserved railway', in the sense that it was built to provide public transport and has continued to do so. School children are transported under contract to Kent County Council to The Marsh Academy (known as Southland's Comprehensive School until 2007); this service is provided throughout the year during term time. Mostly these school trains are diesel hauled. Local residents are transported to shopping centres and the railway has operated frequent 'shopper’s specials'.
Holiday camp trains have operated with the popular camps at Romney Sands and St Mary's Bay. Special charters for private events such as weddings etc.are also available.
Apart from a regular passenger service, the RH&D railway offers many special events throughout the year, including days with Thomas the Tank Engine (mostly using engine No. 4 The Bug), Santa special and Steam Driver Experience Days (see details at the end of the article.)
The RH&D railway provides 20-seat and 16-seat open and closed coaches. The coaches had both steam heating and electric lighting for winter use. Over the 8 decades of operation the coach livery changed from green and cream to brown and cream. During the 1970s and 1980s, they adopted red and cream. From 2000, a new colour scheme was applied to complete rakes of coaches (trains of around a dozen coaches) being painted in individual liveries. Today you will see green, blue, crimson and preserved teak coaches. Of course in addition to the main everyday stock, there is a heritage set, made up of the preserved Clayton Pullman (the last remaining examples of a set built in 1930s of vehicles offering super comfort and design), a preserved 1950s 12-seat special coach named 'Ruth', the “Royal Saloon” (used by Queen Elizabeth II and members of the royal family), and the licensed bar car (an observation coach with a bar selling alcoholic drinks) named 'Gladys'. So that all may enjoy the railway there are also the disabled access vehicles, 601 'Elsie', 602 'Winn', 603 'May' and combined driving trailer/disabled access vehicle 'Marjorie'
Goods and commercial stock.
Right from the beginning, the railway's owners and designers planned to offer a freight services. Two of the original locomotives (No 5 'Hercules' and No 6 'Samson') were built to the 'mountain' wheel arrangement (4-8-2), to give extra traction for heavy goods. This is pretty unheard of in British railway history, because this wheel arrangement whilst lacking speed can haul heavy freight. Ultimately the planned freight services never came to fruition, although, from time to time the movement of freight has featured in the railway's history.
Uncrushed shingle transport. This was where the railway had their greatest freight success in handling uncrushed ballast. The shingle is deposited naturally by the movement of the sea and this is what forms the ever increasing land mass at Dungeness. Following the withdrawal of War Office operations on the War Department Branch Line, the railway utilised the infrastructure to operate ballast trains and in 1937 a subsidiary ballast company was formed. Special tipper wagons were loaded with shingle and transported along the branch line, and then up the main line to Hythe, often waiting in the sidings at Dymchurch to prevent delay to passenger trains using the same tracks. At Hythe the wagons were winched mechanically up a ramp built on concrete pillars, and their contents tipped into road trucks. In 1951, after 14 years, the subsidiary company switched entirely to road transport and closed both the branch and the freight incline at Hythe; leaving the concrete pillars still visible at Hythe until the early 1980s.
Dungeness Beach fish trade. In 1937 a short branch line was laid to the east of the mainline near Dungeness, running, over the shingle, for about a quarter of a mile to the beach, where the fishing boats unloaded. Platform 1 at Hythe was modified to give the ability to transport fish from Dungeness to Hythe and from there to transfer it to road transport. To meet the demand RH&D built some four-wheel fish wagons, stencilled with the words "Fish Only", and the service prospered from 1937 particularly following the closure of the South Eastern Railway's Dungeness full size line that year. However the fish trade never developed sufficiently to become viable and was eventually withdrawn. A part of the fish branch line is still in place on Dungeness beach and is used by fishermen with trollies to transport fish locally many years after the service was withdrawn.
Postal service. The railway is licensed by the Post Office for rail postal services, and is entitled to issue postage stamps. A number of first day covers have been issued and together with sheets of stamps can be purchased at the various shops and letters can be posted to get the unique postmark. A four-wheel secure postage wagon was constructed, to carry the mail.
Parcels service. The railway operates a local casual parcels service. Parcels can be handed in to one station for delivery to another for collection.
There is no current freight work although from time to time the railway is awarded a temporary freight contract, such as that in 1975 for transport of drainage pipes. The railway operates its own engineering and permanent way trains, which form the majority of non-passenger services.
The railways permanent way and engineering stock include the platelayers' mess coach, assorted tipper wagons (primarily left over from ballast business), secure tool trucks, and flat wagons. There are also four-wheel wagons, both box vans and open trucks, including vehicles surviving from the fish trains. They have also a few tank wagons, used primarily for spraying weed killer on tracks.
Armoured train WW2
At the outbreak of World War 2 the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch railway was requisitioned by the MOD and taken over by the War Department. It was operated by Somerset Light Infantry as a military railway and used extensively for the rapid transport of soldiers, who had been billeted at the various holiday camps, in the area.
Engine No. 5 “Hercules” was fitted with boiler plate armour and two bogie wagons were purchased from Ravenglass and Eskdale railway and similarly fitted with armour plate and equipped with a Boys anti-tank rifle and several sets of WW1 0.303in Lewis guns and used to patrol the coast in case of invasion. The train was credited with shooting down at least one German aircraft (Dornier 17) but there is some doubt whether the aircraft was hit by gunfire or misjudged its altitude due to the miniature size of the train.
Operation Pluto - The undersea fuel pipeline.
The RH&D railway played a major part in the construction of the pipeline network. The railway platforms were used to lay out pipes for welded together and the passenger coaches had their bodywork removed and the chassis used to transport the welded sections of pipe into position. This was found to be too slow and consequently the pipe sections were dragged across the shingle destroying much of the permanent way. The pipe lines from Dungeness were part of a network called Dumbo and ran to Ambleteuse in France, carrying petrol (gasoline) and lubricating oil.
In the days leading up to the war, a series of concrete “sound mirrors” were built before radar became perfected. These were large precision made dishes which concentrating the sound of incoming aircraft to detect range and direction. The 20', 30' and 200' mirrors still stand at Denge, although gravel extraction has exposed the foundations and the listening chamber for the 200' mirror had to be demolished because it became unsafe. Denge is about half way between New Romney and Dungeness Point and about two thirds of a mile west of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. The MoD had a dedicated branch line from this railway serving the mirrors; however since their closure the track bed has now become a footpath. Alight from the RH&D Railway at the first halt after Greatstone and head inland towards Lydd. If you can find the point where the former Southern Railway passed over the RH&D branch line you're very close, but the mirrors are quite large and easily spotted.
Current expansion policy
Rather than concentrate on its leisure activities the railway is planning to expand its original role as part of the public transport network. Warren Halt re-opened in 2009 to provide a transport link to the Romney Marsh Visitor Centre, and discussions are under way with local councils for the expansion of Burmarsh Road and the provision of a new station at the gravel pits in West Hythe, both to provide transport for the proposed extensive new housing construction in the area and the need to provide alternative transport to the A259 coast road, which would become overloaded.
At present the line carries 100,000 passengers each year and celebrated its 80th birthday in 2007 with a week of celebrations including reconstructions of scenes on the railway over the previous eight decades.
From 1926 to 1978, the RH&D railway held the title of the "Smallest public railway in the world" (in terms of track gauge). The title was lost to the 12¼ in (311 mm) gauge Réseau Guerlédan in France in 1978 and regained it again from 1979, when the Réseau Guerlédan closed, until 1982, when the 10¼ in (260 mm) gauge Wells and Walsingham Light Railway opened. The railway was featured in an episode of the BBC series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.(I will add the episode number as soon as I can find it out)
Notes on locomotive names: Nameplates on the engines are usually cast in upper case letters.
No 1 was named 'Green Goddess' after the 1921 stage play and 1923 silent film by William Archer, (there is also a 1929 sound version) which Capt. Howey had enjoyed.
Nos. 2 & 3 were to be called 'Northern Chief' and 'Southern Chief' and these nameplates were fitted at the works; however No 3's name was changed to 'Southern Maid' before delivery of the locomotive.
No 4 left the railway after construction and ran in Belfast with the new name "Jean". This engine regained its original name on return to the RH&D railway and restoration in the 1970s. It bears the colloquial name "Basil the Bug" in its role as mascot of the railway's children's supporter group.
Nos. 5 & 6 were originally to be called 'Man of Kent' and 'Maid of Kent', but due to their special tractive power (4-8-2 having an extra driving wheel) the names 'Hercules' and 'Samson' (for strength) were substituted during construction. Henry Greenly, the designer, was involved in construction of a locomotive on the nearby Saltwood Miniature Railway a decade later, and this engine used the 'Maid of Kent' name. A name change is once again on the cards after much deliberation in winter 2008/2009.
Nos. 7 & 8 were constructed for an express passenger services, and had an extra cylinder (3 instead of 2), hence their names 'Typhoon' and 'Hurricane' for speed. The third cylinder was found to be unreliable and was removed. Originally, these locomotives were going to carry 'Samson' and 'Hercules' nameplates; however Howey gave the mountain classes these nameplates before the 3 cylinder locomotives had arrived. Following an accident when Howey was at the controls, No 8 was renamed 'Bluebottle' between 1938 and 1946.
No 9 was originally 'Doctor Syn', but its name was changed to 'Winston Churchill' in 1948 during its tour of Canada, and afterwards remained unchanged as it was considered more suitable.
No 10 was originally 'Black Prince', but took the 'Doctor Syn' name in 1949 to maintain a link with local history and legend. (The Rev Dr Christopher Syn is the smuggler hero of a series of novels by Russell Thorndike set in and around Dymchurch)
No 11 took over the redundant 'Black Prince' name upon transfer to the RH&D railway in 1976, in place of its German name 'Fleißiges Lieschen', meaning 'Busy Lizzie' in English.
No 12 is named John Southland after the founder of the local secondary school in New Romney.
No 13 this number was never assigned probably due to superstition. Another engine of the same class as 12 and 14 was built during the same period and exported to the Shuzenji Romney Railway in Japan; this locomotive is No. 3 in their fleet and carries the name "John Southland II".
No 14 ran nameless for 12 years until it was named after the line's founder, Captain Howey.
PW1 carried the fleet number "4" for about ten years from 1961, as a replacement for the Rolls Royce engine, which in turn had inherited the number from 'The Bug' which had been sold for scrap. The engine was renumbered PW1 shortly before the return of 'The Bug', meaning that the fleet number 4 was again available for its original holder.
PW2 was constructed, as shown, in 1949. However, the bulk of this construction involved the rebuilding and re-use of the former War Department locomotive (see below), which had been in service since 1929.
There were several Locomotives withdrawn from service including engines sold, scrapped, failed in trials, or otherwise withdrawn. All were internal combustion locomotives.
Fordson engine, Bo'2' built by Theakston operated 1928 to 1935 this was a very early experiment with internal combustion power. Large passenger locomotive with fully enclosed 2-seater cab. Operated on winter passenger services. Judged to be too slow and ugly in appearance.
Super-Scooter (JAP Scooter) Ultra-light 4-wheel scooter RH&DR operated 1929 to 1945 Light, open-cabbed, track inspection scooter, powered by 6 hp JAP motorcycle engine. Capt. Howey recorded a run from New Romney to Hythe in 8 minutes, using this vehicle.
Light engine. War Department Locomotive. 4-wheel scooter, War Department operated 1929 to 1949. The only privately owned locomotive to have seen long-term service on the RH&DR. Stabled at Hythe engine shed, it worked on the War Department branch line. Remained in RH&DR service briefly after the branch line closed. Its parts were used extensively as the basis for construction of locomotive PW2 (still in service)
Rolls Royce Locomotive, Bo'2', RH&D railway operated 1932 to 1961 Built using parts of Capt. Howey's Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost motor car. Large, fully enclosed cab, 2-seater, express passenger engine. Fully rebuilt in 1946 with streamlined body-work. Replacement-engine (Ford) fitted in 1947. It is suggested that the RR speed trials were conducted with empty coaches; however, the company's own 1935 "Official Timetable & Guide" states (page 5): "During the tests carried out by Captain Howey...the wonderful speed of 60.2 miles per hour was achieved, easily and smoothly, hauling four coaches containing 48 passengers”. This engine was numbered "4" in the locomotive fleet (three engines have used that number at different times) and briefly carried the name "Bluebottle" from 1947.
“Firefly” 0-6-0 built by HCS Bullock (re–built RH&DR) in 1936 (re–built 1945) transferred 1947. Although a 10¼ in (260 mm) gauge engine, Firefly was liveried and lettered as a RH&DR locomotive, and operated the post-war shuttle service when part of the line from New Romney to Warren Halt was temporarily re-gauged to 10¼ in (260 mm) gauge. From 1947 the engine formed part of Howey's alternative project which became the Hastings Miniature Railway.
Motor Cycle Scooter this was an Ultra-light 4-wheel scooter RH&DR operating from c1949 to 1952 Designed as a light, open-cabbed, track inspection scooter, powered by motorcycle engine. The only RH&DR locomotive ever built of which no known photograph exists. Its existence is attested by former railway staff.
'Royal Anchor' - Built by Charles Lane of Liphook and operated only during 1956. Diesel Hydraulic double-ended (two cabs) locomotive, built for RH&DR service (as the Rolls Royce locomotive was near withdrawal). Royal Anchor failed trials due to lack of power. The project was abandoned and the locomotive returned to Liphook. It operated on the R&ER 1960-1977, and then at Carnforth 1977–2000. It is now operating privately in the USA.
Locomotives on site.
In addition to the railway's own 16 locomotives, one additional engine is currently housed at New Romney. This is a partially constructed third-scale reproduction of an LMS Princess Coronation Class locomotive, commonly known as the 'Duchess' type (although of the 38 engines of this class, only 10 were named after duchesses). The replica was commissioned by Paul Riley, a Director of the railway, as a private project, and is currently stored in an engineers' depot. Following the unexpected death of Mr Riley on 4 June 2008 the future of this locomotive is currently unknown. It is understood that construction is more than half complete
Proposed extension to Sandling.
Sandling Junction - in the late 1920s and again in the late 1980s plans existed to meet with the main BR line at Sandling. The station was to be called Sandling Park - and the intention was to serve a housing estate at Pedlinge
Nickolls Quarry - the construction of a new station was also to serve a new housing development at the West Hythe site of Nickolls Quarry and this was formally included in the planning application to Shepway District Council.
Although still called the "Sandling Extension", the 1980s plan was for a single-track line from the Willop, 2 miles (3.2 km) short of Hythe, to provide a more gentle route to Sandling Park and on to Sandling Junction, and would therefore have been a branch line rather than an actual extension to the existing mainline. Once again, the project was finally abandoned.
Over the years the performance of the original tenders were found to be inadequate. In 2003, the small, unbraked, original Greenly tenders were withdrawn from mainline service due to concerns over safety and coal/water capacity. They were the only two of this design still running. Both were pulled behind the two mountain locomotives, one of which was out of service following the Burmarsh Road level crossing incident; the other soon to be withdrawn from service for an intermediate overhaul. Once both locomotives were back in service, the railway was faced with a tender shortage. 'Samson' was kept from mainline service while 'Hercules' was kept in service with the tender from 'Green Goddess' during its storage for overhaul. During the 2007 period 'Samson' was in service using the tender from 'Hurricane' while she was undergoing an overhauled. As of 2009, both 'Hercules' and 'Samson' have been fitted with new tenders. In 2008, the tender of 'Black Prince' was made redundant due to its low coal/water capacity and the fact that it had no brakes. The new tender has extra capacity for coal and water and has kept the original bogies, now modified to accept vacuum brakes. The new tender was tested at New Romney on 27th September and on 4th October; Black Prince completed a 28 miles (45 km) non-stop run without the aid of another tender, a first for this Locomotive. 2009 was the last year that the tender tank on Green Goddess's tender would see active service. A new tender tank would be needed as hers sprang a leak in the coal-shute. The frames, bogies and brake gear will be used from the old tender and will feature more storage space. In 2012 Typhoon received a new tender tank, and during the overhaul of Winston Churchill in 2013 a new tender tank was also fitted. Winston Churchill’s tender was also fitted with brakes for the first time
A level crossing just west of Romney Sands has yet to be fitted with barriers. Over the many years of operation there have been a number of serious accidents. On 27th May 1963, a train from Hythe to New Romney, hauled by locomotive No 5 Hercules developed a fault in its brake system the driver managed to get the train running, but at only 3 miles per hour (4.8 km/h). The train was hit from behind by the following train, hauled by Typhoon, derailing several carriages and causing a number of casualties.
On 3rd August 2003 a car and train were in collision at an ungated level crossing, protected by flashing warning lights. The train driver, 31-year-old Kevin Crouch, died; some passengers were treated for shock and minor injuries; locomotive number 5 Hercules was seriously damaged. The female car driver, whose baby was a passenger in the vehicle, had ignored or failed to see the warning lights. The woman and her baby were taken to hospital, but luckily were not badly hurt. The railway and the Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident and the woman was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. Although acquitted, she was found guilty of the lesser charge of careless driving.
On 10th July 2005 a car and train were in collision at another level crossing under similar circumstances. The driver of the train, Suzanne Martin, wife of the railway's general manager, Danny Martin, was killed; several passengers were treated for shock; locomotive number 8 Hurricane was seriously damaged. The car driver, 20-year-old Richard Isted, had ignored or failed to see warning lights and was arrested at the scene by Kent Police. He subsequently appeared in court charged with driving without due care and attention, to which he pleaded guilty. Following the two level crossing incidents detailed above, the railway has begun a programme of level crossing refurbishment.
T A Drivers Vigilance Device (DVD). has been installed on all "main line" locomotives except No 6 which will be fitted during its upcoming overhaul. The Driver Safety Device (DSD) Vigilance Unit is a key component of the DSD vigilance system suitable for use with Diesel or other railway traction units. DSD Vigilance Systems help ensure that the train driver remains alert whilst in a position to control their locomotive. It achieves this by monitoring the state of certain resetable or variable inputs - e.g., DSD Foot Pedal, Direction Selector, Power Controller, Brake Controller, Warning Horns, Automatic Warning System (AWS) caution acknowledgement. A warning is issued to the driver requiring positive action to prevent the system applying the emergency brakes, when state changes of the system inputs do not occur within a pre-set time interval. The DSD Vigilance Unit meets all relevant performance and environmental specifications required by the rail industry and are service proven.
There are a number of 'occupation crossings' where the railway meets farm tracks, with local control; but of the eighteen junctions of the railway with public highways, five are road bridges, and the other thirteen are level crossings. All level crossings have been protected since the 1970s by flashing warning lights (AOCL); the refurbishment programme will see the additional installation of lifting half-barriers, upgrading the crossing to ABCL status, each refurbishment costing around £90,000. Those already altered in this manner are Burmarsh Road (site of the 2003 accident), Battery Road (site of the 2005 accident), Botolph's Bridge Road, St Mary's Road in Dymchurch and Jefferstone Lane. East Bridge Road level crossing, adjacent to Dymchurch station is being upgraded and should be commissioned in September/October 2013. This is the first crossing to use the PLC based level crossing control system developed in house by the RHD railway Ownership and operation.
Ownership of the railway.
The railway is owned by the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway plc, whose shareholders (of whom there are several hundred) only return is travel free of charge on trains. They elect annually to take no financial dividend on their shareholdings, but instead to re-invest all operating profit back into the company. The public limited company is a subsidiary of the older parent company Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Company. It is usual for the two companies to have the same Board of Directors. The day to day operation of the railway is in the hands of a small but dedicated full-time permanent staff of around 35 people. These include a General Manager, departmental managers (engineering, commercial, operations) and a large number of engineering staff (from locomotive fitters to permanent way gangers) and waitresses (the New Romney and Dungeness cafes are open throughout the year even though some of the railway's other commercial outlets are more seasonal). In addition to this core staff, seasonal employees are taken on through the summer period, particularly to increase the staffing of shops and cafeterias, and to provide the required levels of staffing at all stations. Finally, but importantly, the railway depends upon a dedicated team of fully trained, but totally volunteer (unpaid) staff members, who work on the railway in their own spare time. Volunteer staff work throughout the railway, in engineering posts, operating positions, commercial outlets, and manual roles concerned with maintenance and improvement.
Various fortunes of the railway.
After the war most of the railway was found to be physically intact, although very overgrown and run down but was rapidly restored to service, although the Dungeness extension needed substantial rebuilding. Some labour for this work was supplied by un-repatriated prisoners of war. Shortage of raw materials in this-post war period lead to the use of the surviving equipment to restore a single track line to Dungeness and this situation remains today.
With peace restored, the RH&D railway was keen to reopen. Hythe to New Romney was back in service in 1946 and the Dungeness section a year later with Laurel and Hardy cutting the ribbon, as mentioned previously.
After the war the locomotives were the centre of attention and were always superbly maintained but Howey was tight fisted in funding the maintenance of almost everything else. When Howey died in 1963 and the railway passed into new hands, bridges, permanent way and coaches started to receive all needed urgent work.
The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RHDR) was purchased by two bankers in 1964, who sold it after four years to a group of twenty one local businessmen. Restoration of the track, carriages and buildings was made but this severely drained, already depleted finances, leaving them in a dire state. Attempts were made to sell the railway but with no interested parties coming forward closure beckoned. This brought matters to a head but W.H. McAlpine of McAlpine Contractors pledging interest in the line. In 1972 the new owners took over, major expenditure was made to bring the line back to a high standard.
The extent of the RH&DR’s suffering became apparent under a succession of new owners. Bridges were in poor condition, rolling stock was ageing and locomotives were costly to maintain. A new consortium, headed by Sir William MacAlpine, saved the day in 1973 since when much investment has taken place. New bridges were built, rolling stock replaced and two new diesel locos purchased. School trains were introduced, demonstrating that the railway could play a true public transport role. The RH&DR Association plays a key part in supporting the railway both financially and . with volunteer staff throughout the year.
History and Origins
Both Howey and Zborowski were wealthy men and Howey, rather than let the dream die with his friend, determined that the railway they had dreamed of together would be built. Howey also considered purchasing the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway and extending it to Ambleside by boring tunnels under the Hardknot and Wrynose passes, which would have been a formidable undertaking as anyone who has ever seen the areas would know that the massive landscape built of unyielding rock would have yielded a spectacular railway indeed.
The railway continued as a commercial business, but made little profit, until, in 1972, the threatened complete closure and sale for scrap brought matters to a head. A group of local people raised finance from several sources with W.H. McAlpine being a notable benefactor, and managed to purchase most of the shares. The railway has seen many improvements over the years and still thrives in this quiet corner of Kent as a monument to two men and their extraordinary dream.
Directions to the railway.
By train - The RH&D railway can be accessed from London St Pancras via the new high speed route to Folkestone, then by bus. Stagecoach buses serve the railway from Ashford, Canterbury, Hastings, Rye, Folkestone and Dover.
By Car - The stations at New Romney, Dungeness and Hythe are all on or near the A259. Hythe Station is only 3 miles from the M20 junction 11, New Romney and Dungeness are 30 minutes from the M20 junction 10 via the A2070 and A259. Most routes are signposted with brown tourist signs; all the major stations have car parks (see below).
For a 15” gauge railway, 13½ miles is a lengthy route, the journey from Hythe to Dungeness takes 65 to 70 minutes. There are loads to see and do along the way so you can easily spend all day or even longer. The area has many notable and excellent fish and seafood restaurants.
The flat and almost straight route gives the locomotives a chance to stretch their legs, just watching the little trains at full speed from the line side is entertainment in itself. The RH&D railway is a stark contrast to the next longest 15” gauge line in Britain, the 7 mile Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway which threads through the Lake District with sharp curves and steep gradients. For the railway enthusiast this is also a first class experience.
The shingle peninsular at Dungeness is a fabulous place to visit, officially the only desert in the UK. Rather than being eroded as much of the British coastline is, the peninsular is actually getting bigger. Everything there seems to be extreme in size, the sky and the power station are very big and they dwarf the roads and trains and various fishermen’s houses, which are all very small and some of which built from old railway coaches. Despite seeming rather run-down, property in the area is very expensive.
Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
New Romney Station, New Romney, Kent TN28 8PL
Telephone: +44(0)1797 362353 Email: email@example.com
Route: Hythe to New Romney Journey Time: 1hr 5mins
Service: February - Saturdays, Sundays, 18 - 22 / March - Saturdays, Sundays, 25 - 29 / April 1 - October 31 / November - Saturdays, Sundays, 1 / December - Saturdays, Sundays, 20, 23, 24
Tickets: Adult £16.00, Child £8.00, Family £43.50 (2 adults & 3 children) unlimited travel on day of issue
Large car park at Hythe station CT21 6LD,
Dymchurch TN29 0PJ,
New Romney TN28 8PL,
Dungeness TN29 9NB
Web Site: www.rhdr.org.uk
Facilities at various stations
Hythe Station: Refreshments, souvenir shop, locomotive turntable.
Dymchurch Station: Refreshments, souvenirs, picnic tables.
New Romney Station: Refreshments, souvenir shop, engine shed, children's playground, picnic tables, model railway.
Dungeness Station: Refreshments, souvenir shop, picnic tables.
Toilet facilities for the disabled passengers are currently available at New Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch and Dungeness stations.
The railway has coaches especially adapted to carry wheelchairs. With on-board ramps, panoramic windows and four seats for accompanying helpers, these coaches are available on any train by prior arrangement.
Please telephone 01797 362353 or send an e-mail for details.
There is a highly skilled and dedicated team of Drivers and Signallers who are keen to provide a fulfilling learning experience to each and every course participant. They freely give their expertise and technical knowledge in a good humoured and highly professional manner. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for these guys.
A full range of courses are now offered ranging from half-day to one and two-day courses to suit all levels of driving ability and pockets.
Over the years, literally hundreds of our courses have been purchased as gifts for family members, friends and colleagues. You can purchase an Open Voucher (undated and valid for one year) from an on-line shop or call on +44(0)1797 362353 for available dates or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Peter Geekie 2014
Victorian pleasure gardens
- Rosherville: Victorian Pleasure Gardens 1837 and the tragic sinking of the SS Princess Alice.
Victorian Pleasure Gardens became very popular during the 19th century and none more so that the Rosherville Gardens at Gravesend. This wonderful garden and entertainment centre eventually closed in 1914 following the disaster of the SS Princess Alic
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© 2014 Peter Geekie
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