Search This Blog

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:        15"

Length:    13½ miles

Opened:   16 July 1927

Location:

The location of the RHDR - Source: http://www.rhdr.org.uk/pages/images/location_map_2003_200.gif

Web:      http://www.rhdr.org.uk/

Date of visit: 6 April 2013 (preliminary visit)

 

Key Facts

  • The railway was the brainchild of two friends, professional racing drivers and railway enthusiasts - Captain J. E. P. Howey and Count Louis Zborowski
  • Having been impressed by developments of 15" miniature railways in the 1920s, their ambition was to create a double track mainline in miniature to provide an opportunity for the locomotives to show their mettle
  • Unfortunately, Count Zborowski was killed in the1924 Italian Grand Prix at Monza and so never saw his dream realised
  • Captain Howey pressed on with the venture, with assistance from miniature locomotive designer Henry Greenly
  • When the railway opened it had two locomotives and comprised an eight mile double track from Hythe to New Romney — the railway's main terminus. 
  • In 1928 the railway was extended to Dungeness.
  • By the end of the 1930s the line owned nine main-line express engines with high specification passenger coaches to handle the traffic
  • During the Second World War, the railway was requisitioned by the military and used to help support projects for the D-Day landings
  • An armoured train was built for the railway and the crew claimed to have shot down a German bomber aircraft. It is also thought that a German plane crashed when trying to shoot at the train, the pilot misjudging the height owing to the scale of the train.
  • After the war, the railway was in a sorry state, but with a tremendous effort principally from Howey, it was restored and opened to the public in 1947 by Laurel and Hardy
  • Following Howey's death in 1963, the railway faced an uncertain future, but was rescued at the last moment by Sir William MacAlpine
  • The railway is still open in its entirety with all ten of the line's original locomotives, thanks to the work of Sir William and many volunteers.

 

Route

The route of the RH&DR - Source: http://www.rhdr.org.uk/pages/images/staions_map_2003.jpg

My Impressions

My first (re)visit to the railway was as part of a family holiday in Kent (the county of my birth). I had seriously underestimated how much time I would need to take in the 13½ miles of the railway and so I had to satisfy myself with a quick tour around the station at New Romney and some lineside shots between New Romney and Dungeness.

On the afternoon of my visit to New Romney, a wedding ceremony was in progress with a train drawn into the platform awaiting the happy couple and their entourage.
 Their locomotive was one of the original 1925 Pacifics, Green Goddess looking resplendent in her LNER Apple Green livery.

A quick tour of the trainshed revealed another Davey Paxman Pacific, Typhoon, simmering quietly on the edge of the platform.

On another road, the line's Simplex diesel was ticking-over, awaiting its next round of shunting duties.....

..... while the yard and track to Hythe  stretched off into the East.

A quick look at the timetable informed me that a Down train was shortly expected from Dungeness and so a vantage point was found overlooking the Western approach to the station. The train hove into view hauled by diesel mechanical, John Southland.

After pulling into the station, Typhoon took over John Southland's duties.........

...... to continue the train's passage to Hythe.

Tracing the line to the West along the coast, another lineside vantage-point was found to watch another of the line's original 1925 Davey Paxman Pacific locos, Northern Chief, storming past on her way back towards New Romney.

With some reluctance, I then parted company with the RH&DR - but I will return and this time will give the railway the time and attention it deserves as an important milestone in the history of miniature railways in the world.

Video