On Tuesday August 26th myself and my family visited the famous 15" Gauge Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent. It has always been one of my ambitions to go there BUT its always been a little "too far" for just a day out! So we decided to stay the night and come back Wednesday afternoon. Tuesday saw "Rise & Shine" at 4am(!!) ready to leave at 5am for Hythe.We arrived just before 9am in the car park at Hythe Station after a good run with a 30 minute or so stop 100 miles in. The first train from Hythe was due to leave at 9:50am and the station itself opened at around 9am.After buying our "Rover" tickets we headed out onto platform 2 where at least 10 coaches were waiting to form the first train. At around 9:40 Bo-Bo Diesel No12 "John Southland" arrived from New Romney ready to haul the train. After turning she was coupled up and was raring to go!...
|Coaches Linked Via Couplings and Vacuum Pipes As Per Standard Gauge Practise|
With the coaches being linked via chains then you do feel a slight jolt every now and again, especially when setting off from a standing start. Anyway, back to the day. With No12 at the head of train we set off,2 minutes late but this was to be made up in the journey - and believe me, it was! The main thing to remember is that the RHDR is double track for 8 miles of its length! It is very much a mainline in miniature! Leaving Hythe on double track the trains run behind houses and passes many foot crossings. There is then a low bridge and a level crossing (or two!!) before the train leaves this suburban environment and heads out onto the Romney Marsh. Views of open fields and rolling hills are to be enjoyed as the train heads towards the first station along the line,Dymchurch,5 miles from Hythe. The trains do actually have a speed limit of 25mph and, as they are 1/3 scale, when they are doing 25mph it feels like they are doing 75mph! It is a very heart-racing experience from the start! We left the train at New Romney, where the diesel is captured...
Dymchurch seems to be the most popular town on the railway's route.Here there is a two-platform station and in the town itself there is a nice Beach,a Fun Fair,a few quaint shops etc. From Dymchurch,the line continues double track to St Marys Bay.And,from there,the line continues to New Romney,8 miles from Hythe.Here,we left the train to await the days first steam service from Hythe.At New Romney there is a Model Railway exhibition,Cafe,Shop, Engine Sheds,a 4-Platform Trainshed,a Carraige Shed,Erecting Shop,Signalbox and more. Once we had left the train,"John Southland" left for Dungeness:-the end of the line.Meanwhile, we had a look around the impressive model railway exhibition which also includes alot of information regarding the railway's construction and history as well as displaying a few live steam models. It is well worth a visit. After pausing afterwards for a snack we awaited the arrival of our steed which would haul us the remaining 5.5 miles to Dungeness...
|4-8-2 Mountain Class No5 "Hercules" Arrives At New Romney|
|Dungeness Nuclear Power Station|
Once in the loop the trains reduce speed a little as they approach the station. Opposite the station building is a Lighthouse Museum.Visitors can climb the stairs and enjoy spectacular views across the Romney Marsh and the sea.The station only includes on platform but boasts a shop and cafe.The imposing nuclear power station looks quite un-nerving in a way but seems to fill a hole in the landscape.Dungeness is very bracing indeed! There is a shingle beach and alot of railway visitors leave the train at Dungeness to visit the lighthouse and the beach itself.Trains only wait at Dungeness for 5 minutes and soon depart for New Romney via Romney Sands once again...
|A Slippery Departure by No8 "Hercules" from Dungeness|
We visited the lighthouse at Dungeness and another train duely arrived behind the locomotive I had been so eager to see,No6 "Samson",the other Mountain Class 4-8-2.I took this picture in passing but it is my favourite of the 200 or so I took over the two days!...
|My Favourite Shot - No6 "Samson" Barks Into Dungeness|
We took a walk onto the beach before returning to the station ready to board the next train back to Dymchurch.This train was hauled by No8 "Hurricane".Now,another interesting fact about the RHDR,it has one of the longest light railway vehicles anywhere!At 32 feet long,"Gladys" is a very special coach.She is a fully licensed observation/bar car with facilities such as a central serving area and gas stove(!) for boiling a kettle! She is a 15" gauge Buffet Car! We managed to sit in the first half of the coach and enjoyed a nice cup of tea each! Anyone who visits the RHDR, try and catch a ride in "Gladys",she is so comfortable to ride in.Meanwhile,"Hurricane" hauled us back to New Romney via Romney Sands.Here she was relieved by No6 "Hercules"."Samson" stood in the trainshed on one of the stock storage roads simmering between turns.The RHDR seems to timetable locomotive workings by trying to make sure that each loco only does two full round trips or there abouts each day.This is of course a good idea to save on loco wear and it allows the drivers to take a break.Not only that,it allows visitors to travel behind many different locomotives.At Dymchurch,we alighted for lunch."Hercules" continued to Hythe...
|No8 "Hercules" Departs Dymchurch|
After a walk around Dymchurch and a spot of lunch we headed back to Dymchurch ready to catch another train to Dungeness.As luck would have it it was "Hercules" again! She took us to Dungeness and from there, she left for New Romney where she would be disposed.At Dungeness,we alighted and enjoyed a cup of tea in the cafe.Soon,No3 "Southern Maid" arrived from New Romney and she would take us all the way back to Hythe.After a chat with the driver I found that all of the locomotives on the line operate at a 180psi maximum boiler pressure. The driver promised us a good run and he was true to his word! "Southern Maid" 'flew' back to New Romney,and after taking water at New Romney powered the final 8 miles back to Hythe. Built in 1926,"Southern Maid" was the RHDR's 3rd locomotive.The driver did give us a good run indeed. The top speed recorded on the speedo according to his recollection was 24mph.Not bad at all! At Hythe I was told that he is nicknamed the "Flying Reverend" as he is also a Vicar! A very nice person to talk to indeed. From Hythe we left for our hotel after an enjoyable day...
|"No3 Arrives at New Romney"|
After catching up on alot of sleep overnight I managed to persuade my family to drop me off at the railway for a few hours before we went home! The only thing that I had not managed to do the day before was have a ride behind No6 "Samson".And as luck would have it, she wasn't rostered for service on the Wednesday.I stood waiting on Hythe station wondering what would turn up,knowing it wouldn't be "Samson". However, dissapointment turned to joy when "Samson" arrived pulling the train!!It turned out that "Hercules" had failed and "Samson" was deputising for her! I then rode "Samson" from Hythe to Dungeness and back to New Romney. She had 14(!) coaches on and still managed a fair turn of speed!...
|No6 "Samson" Rolls In From New Romney|
At New Romney I had another look around and was offered a tour of the sheds and of course I jumped at the chance.No5 "Hercules" (failed with a broken gauge glass) and No8 "Hurricane" graced the main running shed whilst in the storage shed behind the running depot was No4 "The Bug" (a tiny 0-4-0) & 4-6-2s No9 "Winston Churchill" (limited mileage) and No10 "Dr Syn" (out of ticket)...
|No4 "The Bug"|
From here we caught No3 "Southern Maid" back to Hythe with the "Flying Reverend" once again.In the car on the way home I had time to enjoy the memories of the railway.It was a very good experience and a 5-star first visit! Here is some information for you regarding the railways steam locomotive fleet:-
4-6-2 Pacific No1 "Green Goddess" (Under Overhaul At Hythe)
4-6-2 Pacific No2 "Northern Chief" Built 1925 (In Service)
4-6-2 Pacific No3 "Southern Maid" Built 1926 (In Service)
0-4-0 No4 "The Bug".Heavily involved in the building of the railway.She was then sold due to her slow speed.She then ended up on a scrapheap in Belfast before being bought again by the RHDR and restored to working condition.(Working Order But Not Used On Mainline).
4-8-2 Mountain Class No5 "Hercules".During WWII this engine was heavily armoured and formed the RHDR's armoured train who's crew always claimed that they shot down at least one enemy aircraft.(In Service).
4-8-2 Mountain Class No6 "Samson".(In Service).
4-6-2 Pacific No7 "Typhoon".This engine was built as a 3-cylinder machine but the 3rd cylinder has long since been removed.(In service).
4-6-2 Pacific No8 "Hurricane".This engine also had a 3rd cylinder but this has also been removed.They has always been thoughts of making her a 3-cylinder machine once again but none have materialised as yet! (In service).
4-6-2 Pacific No9 "Winston Churchill".Along with her sister No10,these two locomotives were built as American style Pacifics. No9 has a boiler ticket but has a limited mileage allowance due to her needing an overhaul.
4-6-2 Pacific No10 "Dr Syn" - She is out of ticket pending overhaul.
4-6-2 Pacific No11 "Black Prince" - The most recently acquired steamer,arriving in the 1970s.Currently in the erecting shop at New Romney.(Condition unknown).
|"Samson" On The Hythe Turntable|
Sorry I wrote so much folks but I hope youve enjoyed reading this if you managed to get to the end without getting bored! I just had so much to say about this fantastic railway.If you ever get the chance to go and visit then I would definately 100% recommend it!All of the staff are very friendly,the journey is very exiting and the locomotives are superbly kept.Thanks for reading everybody.