Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

'Northern Chief' at New Romney
Type Light railway
Locale Kent
South East England
Termini Hythe
Stations 8
Opened 1927
Operator(s) Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Co.
Depot(s) New Romney
Line length 13 12 miles (21.7 km)
Track gauge 15 in (381 mm)
Operating speed 25 mph (40 km/h)
Route map

The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, 1927 and 1928 sections, showing the location within Kent, and proximity to other railways. The red line is the boundary of Kent.

Romney, Hythe &
Dymchurch Railway

proposed extension
to Sandling
Prince of Wales Halt
Prince of Wales Bridge
over Burmarsh Road
Freight siding
Botolph's Bridge Halt
Botolph's Bridge Road
New Cut
proposed extension
to Sandling
Burmarsh Road
Burmarsh Road
Eastbridge Road
St Mary's Road
Golden Sands Halt
St Mary's Bay
Jefferstone Lane
New Sewer
Duke of York Camp
branch sidings
Warren ballast pit line
Warren Halt

Romney Depots
New Romney
Greatstone Dunes
Baldwin Road
Seaview Road
Maddieson's Camp
Romney Sands crossing
Romney Sands
War Department Halt
Derville Road
Hull Road
Taylor Road
Williamson Road
Kerton Road
former turning triangle
Battery Road
The Pilot Inn
Dungeness Road
Beach Fish Line
Britannia Points Halt

Britannia points

Hythe station with train in 1962

The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR) is a 15 in (381 mm) gauge light railway in Kent, England, operating steam and internal combustion locomotives. The 13 34-mile (22.1 km) line runs from the Cinque Port of Hythe via Dymchurch, St. Mary's Bay, New Romney and Romney Sands to Dungeness, close to Dungeness nuclear power station and Dungeness Lighthouse.


Construction began in late 1925 and the railway opened on 16 July 1927. It was the dream of millionaire racing drivers Captain John Edwards Presgrave ("Jack") Howey and Count Louis Zborowski. The latter had constructed a railway at Higham Park, his home at Bridge, Kent, and agreed to donate the rolling stock and infrastructure to the project. However, he was killed on 19 October 1924 in a motor racing accident at the Monza Grand Prix before the Romney Marsh site was chosen, and Howey continued the project alone.

After Howey had unsuccessfully attempted to buy the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway and extend it, investigated a greenfield site between Burnham-on-Sea and Weston-super-Mare in Somerset and offered to buy the Hundred of Manhood & Selsey Tramway in Sussex, Henry Greenly drew Howey's attention to the potential for a 15-inch gauge line between New Romney and Hythe. Howey first visited New Romney on 8 September 1925 and decided there and then that it was an ideal location for his proposed railway [1]

Because it involved crossing public highways and acquiring land from a number of different owners a Light Railway Order made under the Light Railways Act 1896 was necessary and application for this was made in November 1925. A Public Inquiry was held by the Light Railway Commissioners in the Assembly Rooms at New Romney on 15 and 16 January 1926. The Minister of Transport indicated his intention to approve the application on 19 February 1926 and The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Order 1926 was made on 26 May. This incorporated the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Company as a statutory public utility undertaking, gave it powers to construct and work the proposed railway and also included compulsory purchase powers over the land required (which ultimately had to be used to acquire six plots of land on the proposed route).[1]

The locomotives were designed by Henry Greenly who was commissioned by Howey to work on the construction of the entire railway [2] and became the railway's first chief engineer until his abrupt resignation in March 1929.[1]

Mountain Class Hercules hauled the inaugural train from Hythe to New Romney on 16 July 1927, with guests including the mayors of the two towns and General Sir Ivor Maxse. Howey was not satisfied with just 8 14 miles (13.3 km) of track from Hythe to New Romney and plans were in hand for an extension even before the original section had opened. The line was to be extended 5 12 miles (9 km) from New Romney to Dungeness, double-tracked throughout apart from a balloon loop on which the station at Dungeness was sited.

A Light Railway Order for this extension was applied for and, following a Public Inquiry on 18 April 1928, the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway (Extension) Order was granted on 12 July 1928. Ahead of this the line between New Romney and The Pilot had actually opened on 24 May 1928 and the rest of the line through to Dungeness opened in early August 1928.[1] Since it was laid directly onto the shingle forming the Dungeness peninsula it has been suggested that the extension was the most cheaply constructed railway in the world.[3]

The railway was taken over by the military during World War II, and a miniature armoured train was used on the line.[4] It was also used by the Department of Petroleum Warfare in the construction of PLUTO ("Pipe Line Under The Ocean") intended to supply fuel to the Allied forces after the D-Day Normandy landings. During the latter stages of the construction of PLUTO considerable damage was caused to the track on the extension when, to speed up the work, lengths of pipe were dragged along the trackbed by bulldozers, resulting in its reduction to a single track after the war.[1]

The line re-opened between Hythe and New Romney in 1946, the New Romney to Dungeness section following with an opening by Laurel and Hardy on 28 March 1947.[5]

From 7 September 1977 until 24 July 2015, the railway provided school trains to transport children to and from the Marsh Academy in New Romney. The service was finally withdrawn due to falling usage.[6]

The railway's role as part of the local public transport network was extended when Warren Halt re-opened in 2009, providing a link to the Romney Marsh Visitor Centre. Further discussions with local councils took place regarding the possible expansion of Burmarsh Road and the provision of a new station at the gravel pits in West Hythe, in connection with both the proposed extensive new housing construction and the need to provide alternative transport to the A259 coast road.[7]

The railway, which carries over 150,000 passengers each year,[8] celebrated its 80th birthday in 2007 with a week of celebrations including reconstructions of scenes on the railway from the previous eight decades.

Smallest public railway in the world

From 1926 to 1978, the RH&DR held the title of the "Smallest public railway in the world" (in terms of track gauge). The title was lost to the 12 14 in (311 mm) gauge Réseau Guerlédan in France in 1978[9] and regained in 1979 when that line closed. It was lost again in 1982 when the 10 14 in (260 mm) gauge Wells and Walsingham Light Railway opened.

The railway has featured in several television and radio shows including an episode of the BBC series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries in 2006,[10] Harry Secombe's Highway on 8 September 1991,[11] Michael Bentine's It's a Square World in 1964,[12] BBC's Multicoloured Swapshop (filmed on 20 February 1978) [13] and children's show Rainbow.

The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Association

Formed in 1967 as a supporters association, and regarded with some suspicion by the railway's management of the time, the Association has become a significant contributor to the railway's continuance and refurbishment. It is now the largest single shareholder in the railway and its members provide a significant input of voluntary labour on both operating and maintenance work. It became a registered charity on 23 January 2009.[14] At 31 December 2015 its membership stood at 3,355.[15]


Stations currently open

Stations in full or limited use:

Stations closed

Those shown as 'halt' never had a higher status; all stations below became halts prior to their closure.

Stations proposed

Stations which never existed but were at one time proposed by the directors or are currently under consideration:

Way and Works

Permanent Way

The line was originally laid using second-hand First World War surplus rail. Most was 25 lb/yd material rolled in the USA, the rest was 12 kg/m rolled in Belgium when the country was under German occupation.[19] In the late 1960s and early 1970s the railway managed to obtain supplies of good second-hand 30 lb/yd rail on the closure of the Sierra Leone Government Railway;[19] these are the oldest rails on the line, some of which date from the 1890s.

During the mid-1980s the company began obtaining brand new 25 lb/yd rail from Luxembourg before switching to 30 lb/yd material produced British Steel Track Products in Scunthorpe and later obtained further supplies of the same from South Africa. The present standard rail for re-laying work is 35 lb/yd obtained from a manufacturer in Spain.

The original sleepers were creosoted Baltic fir spaced at 22 inch centres.[17] These have now been entirely replaced by second-hand standard gauge sleepers cut into thirds, creosoted douglas fir, or jarrah and karri (Australian hardwoods from the eucalyptus family).

The railway has a Permanent Way team, with a full-time staff of platelayers. It forms part of the larger Engineering Department. Some platelayers work all year round, whilst others are diverted to other seasonal employment within the engineering department, for example as summer drivers, when more drivers are required than during the out of season periods. Additionally, the permanent way team is strengthened on many days of the year, especially in the winter months, by volunteer workers.

Way and works data

The longest underline bridge is Collins Bridge, with a span of approximately 60 ft.[19] The summit of the line is 20 ft above Ordnance Datum, located between Hull Road and Taylor Road, Lydd-on–Sea.[20] The ruling gradient is 1 in 75 at the Dungeness end of New Romney Station rising from the Littlestone Road Tunnels.[21] The tightest curve measures 6.8 chains radius and is at the Hythe end of 'The Deviation', a dogleg section of track at Pennypot on the outskirts of Hythe.[22]

The ruling gradient and tightest curve are the results of post-1972 reconstruction work. Pre-1990 references to these give out of date figures. Statements in a number of books claiming the summit of the line is at Star Dyke (a point approximately mid-way between Burmarsh Road level crossing and Willop Sewer) are only partly correct; whilst it is the highest point between Hythe and New Romney [23] it is not the highest on the entire line.


Signal boxes

There were originally six signal boxes on the first section of the line to open (Hythe to New Romney). All were equipped with Greenly designed fully interlocked lever frames constructed by Jackson Rigby Ltd at New Romney. These were:

Hythe - 16 levers controlling points and signals within the station area. Now the only original Jackson Rigby lever frame in existence.

Palmarsh - although this building is known to have existed there is doubt about whether the 8 lever Jackson Rigby frame it contained was ever fully connected up. The frame was later transferred to Greatstone (see below). The box itself had vanished by the late-1940s.

Burmarsh Road - 2 levers located in the booking office and controlling signals. The station building had vanished by the mid-1950s.

Dymchurch - confusion surrounds the number of levers in this box, with different sources quoting 10,[24] 12 [25] and 16.[26] The box had vanished by 1963 and signalling is controlled here today by a push button electronic panel in the booking office and a 2 lever ground frame released by an Annett's key normally held in the signal panel.

Holiday Camp – this building is known to have been erected on land owned by Allnatt Ltd since it is marked on the plans accompanying a combined conveyance/lease concluded by the railway with that company and is shown as measuring 12 ft by 6 ft.[27] Some rather poor quality photographic evidence of the existence of this box also exists. There is uncertainty as to whether it was ever brought into use though and if so how many levers it contained.

New Romney – 17 levers controlling points and signals within the station area. The lever frame was enlarged to the present 24 levers when the line was extended to Dungeness in 1928.[17]

The extension to Dungeness led to the enlargement of the lever frame at New Romney (as mentioned above) and also the opening of two new signal boxes:

Greatstone - the 8 lever frame originally at Palmarsh was transferred here and installed in the booking office.[28]

Dungeness - like Dymchurch it is uncertain how many levers this box actually contained.

Arrangements for working the temporary turning wye at The Pilot are not known.


All ten original steam locomotives remain in service, each covering up to 10,000 miles (16,000 km) a year.[29]

The fleet, already the largest of any 15-inch (380 mm) railway in Britain,[1] was expanded in 1976 with the addition of German-built Krupp locomotive No 11 Black Prince (formerly Fleißiges Lieschen (Busy Lizzie)).

The RH&DR is still the only user of the 4-8-2 Mountain type locomotive in the UK, with No 6 Samson and No 5 Hercules in regular service.

The fleet includes two diesels, No 12 J B Snell (delivered in February 1983, and renamed from its original John Southland in May 2014) and No 14 (delivered November 1989, and later named Captain Howey).

Locomotives in service

Including engines serviceable, under overhaul, awaiting overhaul, or reserved to shunting or engineering duties.[30]

No Name Picture Livery Locomotive type Wheel
Builder Year built Whistle In Traffic?
1 Green Goddess LNER Apple Green Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1925 Small Chime No (out of service for repair)
2 Northern Chief Brunswick Green Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1925 Bulleid Yes
3 Southern Maid RH&DR Green Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1926 ex-Isle of Wight Hooter Yes
4 The Bug LB&SCR Improved Engine Green Steam 0-4-0 Krauss, Munich 1926 RH&DR Yes
5 Hercules Midland Railway Maroon Steam 4-8-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1927 GWR Hall No (boiler repairs)
6 Samson Great Eastern Blue Steam 4-8-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1927 US Crosby No (under overhaul)
7 Typhoon Southern Railway Malachite Green Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1927 BR Duke of Gloucester Yes
8 Hurricane Caledonian Railway Blue Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1927 Chrome LNER A4 Yes
9 Winston Churchill Maroon with yellow lining Steam 4-6-2 Yorkshire Engine Company 1931 Crosby Yes
10 Dr Syn Black with Yellow lining Steam 4-6-2 Yorkshire Engine Company 1931 LNER A4 from Commonwealth of Australia Yes
11 Black Prince DB Black/Red Steam 4-6-2 Krupp, Essen 1937 Bulleid No (awaiting boiler retube)
12 J.B. Snell (formerly John Southland) Black/Yellow Diesel-Mechanical Bo-Bo TMA Engineering 1983 2-Tone Horn (AirChime, Ltd) Yes
14 Captain Howey Blue/Silver Diesel-Mechanical Bo-Bo TMA Engineering 1989 2-Tone Horn (AirChime, Ltd) Yes
PW1 Simplex Green Diesel-Mechanical 0-4-0 Motor Rail Ltd. (Simplex Wks) 1938 None Shunting only
PW2 Scooter WD Grey Petrol-Mechanical 0-4-0 RH&DR 1949 Ex Fire Engine Shunting only
PW3 Red Gauntlet Red Petrol-Mechanical 0-4-0 Jacot / Keef 1964 / 1975 Halfords Shunting only

A Drivers Vigilance Device (DVD) has been installed on all "main line" locomotives except No 6 which will be fitted during overhaul.

Locomotive names

Locomotives withdrawn from service

This list includes engines sold, scrapped, failed in trials, or otherwise withdrawn. All engines were internal combustion locomotives.

Name or designation Wheel
Builder Year built Year withdrawn Notes
Theakston Fordson Bo′2′ Theakston 1928 c.1935 Very early experiment with internal combustion. Large passenger locomotive with fully enclosed 2-seater cab. Operated on winter passenger services. Judged too slow, and ugly in appearance.
Super-Scooter (JAP Scooter) Ultra-light
4-wheel scooter
RH&DR c.1929 c.1945 Light, open-cabbed, track inspection scooter, powered by 6 hp JAP motorcycle engine. Captain Howey recorded New Romney to Hythe in 8 minutes, light engine.[34]
War Department Locomotive 4-wheel scooter War Department 1929 1949 The only privately owned locomotive to have seen long-term service on the RH&DR. Stabled at Hythe engine shed, worked the War Department branch line. Remained in RH&DR service briefly after the branch line closed. Used extensively as the basis for construction of locomotive PW2.
Rolls Royce Locomotive Bo′2′ RH&DR c.1932 1961 Built out of Captain Howey's Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost motor car. Large, fully enclosed cab, 2-seater, express passenger engine. Fully rebuilt in 1946 with sleek body-work. Re-engined (with Ford engine) in 1947. Tested at 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) with (possibly) empty coaches.[35] 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.[36]
Firefly 0-6-0 HCS Bullock (rebuilt RH&DR) 1936 (rebuilt 1945) 1947 Although a 10 14 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 10 14 in (260 mm) gauge.[37] From 1947 the engine formed part of Howey's alternative project which became the Hastings Miniature Railway.
Motor Cycle Scooter Ultra-light
4-wheel scooter
RH&DR c.1949 c.1952 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 B-B Charles Lane of Liphook 1956 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 17 own 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.[38] Following the unexpected death of Mr Riley on 4 June 2008 the future of this locomotive is currently unknown. It is understood that the machine is more than half complete.[39]

Passenger traffic

Passenger services

The railway was conceived and constructed as a public service, not as a tourist attraction, although it now relies on tourist trade.

School children were transported under contract to Kent County Council to The Marsh Academy (known as Southland's Comprehensive School until 2007); this service was provided all year during term time. The contract ceased due to falling passenger numbers after the summer term in July 2015. Local residents are transported to shopping centres and the railway has operated 'shoppers specials'. Holiday camp trains have operated with camps at Romney Sands, St Mary's Bay and Dymchurch. Charters are operated as required. During the Second World War the railway was operated by The Royal Engineers and later the Somerset Light Infantry as a military railway and there was extensive transport of soldiers on troop trains.

Passenger vehicles

At the outset the railway was equipped with four-wheeled 8-seater coaches designed by Henry Greenly and his son Kenneth. 117 of these had been built by 1928.[1] With only half height doors and no glazing except in the end bulkheads these were totally unsuitable for winter operation, especially to Dungeness. In 1928 the railway took delivery of eight fully enclosed 12-seat bogie coaches built by the Clayton Carriage & Wagon Company of Lincoln which incorporated electric lighting and steam heating.

In 1934 Howey decided to scrap all the original four-wheelers and replace them with fully enclosed bogie vehicles. The 16 foot underframes for these were constructed by Robert Hudson Ltd of Leeds and the bodies were built locally by the Hythe Cabinet & Joinery Works Ltd. By June 1936 54 of these together with two matching vans had been taken into stock.[1]

The RH&DR now operates 20-seat and 16-seat open and closed coaches. These have been built on four different types of underframe:

The first batch of 20-seater closed coaches were bodied with utile (an African hardwood - pronounced "you-till-eye") and numbered 51 to 61 inclusive. From coach 62 onwards aluminium has been used.

Over 80 years the coach livery has changed from all-over green to brown and cream, blue, blue and cream, green and cream, chocolate and cream, and red and cream in the late 1980s. From 2000, rakes of coaches (trains of around a dozen coaches) have been painted in individual liveries and there are now maroon, green, blue, crimson and teak coaches; 'Heritage' coaches are chocolate and cream.

The railway has built several coaches to accommodate wheelchair users, starting with driving trailer coach 105 (heavily re-built after extensive accident damage in 1993 and later named Marjorie) followed by 601 Elsie, then 602 Winn and 603 May.

A new coach design featuring a lower floor, for easier loading, and a higher roof-line, giving better headroom for wheelchair users, was introduced in 2015. The first, Phylis, is painted lined brown and normally runs with the teak coaches. Two further coaches, Iris for the green set and Edith May for the teak/chocolate set, are under construction and will carry batteries in a compartment over one end bogie for coach lighting. As well as the wheelchair compartment, which has tip-up seats, each will have a guard's compartment with (emergency) brake valve, vacuum gauge, side ducket lookouts and a standard seating compartment. The guard's compartment has four seats and may be used by passengers when not in use by the guard

In addition to the main stock, the 'Heritage' set is made up of:

Freight traffic

Freight services

From the outset, the railway's owners and designers envisaged freight services. Two of the original locomotives (No 5 Hercules and No 6 Samson) were built to the 'mountain' wheel arrangement (4-8-2), unique on any British railway and giving the ability to haul heavy freight with only a small loss of speed when used on passenger work. In the early years the railway carried a limited amount of freight (mainly shingle and fish traffic). A goods shed was built at New Romney and featured dual gauge track allowing easy transfer between the standard and 15 inch gauges. This was seldom used and was demolished in about 1934.

The greater part of the railway's freight traffic in the early years was carried for the War Department, who made extensive use of the line to convey materials and equipment for the construction of the reinforced concrete sound ranging detectors they were experimenting with near Greatstone. A special siding was laid in joining their working site with the RHDR main line (the course of which can still be traced today [2016]) and the WD constructed their own locomotive to work their trains.

From time to time, the railway has had short term ad hoc freight contracts, for example one in 1975 to transport drainage pipes. The most recent freight workings involved delivering gas mains from New Romney to Greatstone in 1989. As a publicity stunt the first gas main train was steam hauled using No 4 The Bug, which appeared on the local TV news that evening.

The railway operates its own engineering and permanent way trains, which now form the majority of its non-passenger workings.

Dungeness fish trade

There are several disused sidings on the beach at Dungeness. These were used by fishermen to help move their hauls across the shingle. This joint provision was to allow transport of fish from Dungeness to Hythe and there to transfer it to road. The company had four-wheel fish wagons, stencilled "Fish Only". The service was developed from 1937 following closure of the South Eastern Railway's Dungeness line that year. The fish trade developed in a small way and was withdrawn. Two such sidings are still in place but are both in a very poor state of repair although they were used by fishermen to transport fish across the beach for many years after the main railway service was withdrawn.

To facilitate the transfer of this traffic from rail to road on its arrival at Hythe the track serving Platform 1 there extended into the car park for some years.[3]

Uncrushed shingle transport

The most successful freight service was the uncrushed ballast service. Following withdrawal of War Department operations over their siding near Maddieson's Camp, the railway utilised the infrastructure to operate ballast trains. In 1937 a subsidiary ballast company was formed. Tipper wagons (skips) were loaded with shingle and transported along the branch line and then up the main line to Hythe, often lying over in the sidings at Dymchurch to prevent delay to passenger trains using the same tracks. At Hythe the wagons were originally pushed by the locomotive up a concrete ramp and the wagons tipped into a large concrete holding bin or directly into waiting lorries, a precarious practice which was later replaced by mechanical haulage up the ramp. After the war the Hythe workings were cut back and the wagons were unloaded in a siding (in what is now New Romney station car park), the remnant of which is now used for loading coal into loco tenders. This practice didn't last long and a purpose built siding and ramp was installed south of New Romney on the Dungeness line. The fence line can still be seen. In 1951, after 14 years, the subsidiary company switched to entirely road transport and the company closed the branch and the freight incline.[1] At Hythe, the concrete pillars were still visible until the early 1980s when they were demolished to allow access to the car park extension along the former platform 4 and engine release siding.

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. A four-wheel secure postage wagon was constructed.

Parcels service

The railway operates a casual parcels service. Parcels handed in at one station will be delivered to another for collection. This is the last remnant of the railway's freight services.

Some of the freight wagons behind No 2

Freight vehicles

The railway has permanent way stock, examples of which include:

Armoured train

Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway armoured train, October 1940

During World War II, a miniature armoured train was used on the line to patrol the coast in case of invasion. The train was armed with a Boys anti-tank rifle and Lewis guns.[4][40]

Proposed extension to Sandling

Objectors to the railway's first Light Railway Order advocated an extension from Hythe to Sandling (2 miles (3.2 km) away) to meet mainline services at Sandling Junction which they claimed would provide a more useful transport facility than the original proposals. Henry Greenly undertook a preliminary survey which demonstrated the scheme was impracticable.[41]

Supposition that the 4-8-2 locomotives Hercules and Samson were ordered for the project, which involved steep inclines, is unfounded as the engines were intended for freight traffic, in particular a contract with Kent County Council to transport up to 30,000 tons of ballast a year from their pits at Palmarsh. In the end this contract failed to materialize.[42]

In the 1980s, the directors reconsidered proposals to extend the line to Sandling and detailed surveys were undertaken. Again, consideration was given to motive power with new locomotives discussed. Although still called the "Sandling Extension", the 1980s plan was for a single-track line from Pennypot, 300 yards (270 m) short of Hythe, to provide a more gentle route to an area known as The Roughs, where a more powerful locomotive would take over for the heavy climb to Sandling station. It would therefore have been a branch line rather than an actual extension to the existing mainline. Again, the project was abandoned mainly because of the same obstacles as before.[43]


The tender from Hurricane behind Samson at Dungeness

The following tenders are in use;

Greenly tenders

Of the seven Greenly tenders supplied new with locos 1–8, two are still in service albeit with new bodies to the original design. Originally built with vacuum brakes and a handbrake, both brake systems have been removed, leaving them as through-piped only. They were coupled to Hercules and Samson but withdrawn from mainline service due to concerns over safety, and their coal and water capacity.

Ashford tenders

The Southern Railway's Ashford works built four tenders in 1946–7. Ashford No 1 ran coupled to Hercules, but was built too high because John Iron, the Southern's draughtsman sent to New Romney to "measure a loco", took his measurements from a Canadian-type Pacific and not a British outline one. The design of subsequent tenders was altered hurriedly after this and the second one, Ashford No 2, was coupled to Typhoon. The design was further refined and two more were constructed. Ashford No 3 was coupled to Green Goddess and Ashford No 4 to Southern Maid. Ashford No 1 last ran in 1974 when Hercules was withdrawn for overhaul. Ashford Nos 2 and 3 are still in service with new bodies. Ashford No 4 was withdrawn when Southern Maid was overhauled in 1983.

Until 1959, when its tender was cut down in size, Hercules ran with the cab roof raised on blocks of wood to match the height of the tender.[44]

Tender shortage

Hercules was out of service after the Burmarsh Road level crossing incident in 2003, and Samson was withdrawn from service for an intermediate overhaul shortly afterwards. Once both locomotives were back in service, the railway was faced with a tender shortage. Samson was kept from mainline service while Hercules was coupled to the tender from Green Goddess while it was stored prior to overhaul. During the 2007 season, Samson saw service using the tender from Hurricane while it was being overhauled (a situation that had also happened in 1949 when Samson was used for ballast train duties).


The level crossing at Botolph's Bridge was the first to be converted to an ABCL
Hull Road level crossing just south of Romney Sands before barriers were fitted

The railway has an exceptionally good safety record, and all staff (both employed and volunteer) undergo extensive training.


There have been a number of serious accidents over the railway's 90 year operation with an extensive mainline timetable. The majority of these have been related to level crossings, and in every documented case the road user has either admitted liability, or been found to have been in the wrong by the subsequent investigation. Despite the presence of large numbers of visitors and tourists, almost all recorded level crossing incidents have involved local car drivers. The more serious incidents, including those at level crossings, have been:

Level crossings

Following the two fatal accidents in 2003 and 2005, the railway began a programme of level crossing refurbishment. There are a number of occupation crossings with local control, where the railway meets farm tracks, but of the eighteen junctions of the railway with public highways, five are road bridges and the other thirteen are level crossings. During the late 1970s to early 1980s, all thirteen had been converted to automatic open crossings (AOCLs)[69] by installation of flashing warning lights. Between 2006 and 2016, twelve of them were upgraded to Automatic Barrier Crossing Locally Monitored (ABCL) status. This involved the decommissioning of the life expired AOCL control equipment, the installation of lifting half-barriers and totally new control and train detection systems, at a cost of around £90,000 per crossing.[66][70]) Only Romney Sands crossing protecting the private entrance road to the holiday centre remains as an AOCL. This will be one of the more challenging crossings to upgrade as well as space constraints the crossing is next to a passing loop that has approach control signalling. As of April 2016 work is underway to develop and build the necessary control equipment, to upgrade and integrate the crossing and signaling systems. During the single line crossing upgrades the Road Signal heads (Wig Wags) have either been replaced with new ones (Battery Road and Dungeness Road) or had their existing heads refurbished.

Ownership and operation


The railway is owned by Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway PLC, which was originally incorporated as a private limited company on 15 November 1971 under the name RH&D Light Railway Holding Company Limited, adopting its present title on re-registration as a "new" public limited company under Section 8(3) of the Companies Act 1980 on 10 May 1982.[71] Its shareholders (of whom there are now over a thousand) travel free of charge on trains, but receive no financial dividend on their shareholdings, instead re-investing all operating profit back into the company. At 14 June 2015 there were 25 "Gold Medallion" shareholders owning 5,000 or more shares each and 119 "Silver Medallion" shareholders owning between 500 and 4,999 shares each. The remaining shareholders owned between 100 and 499 shares each. The PLC's issued and fully paid share capital at that date was £508,858 in £1 Ordinary Shares.[72]

Shares in the PLC remain available to the public at a cost of £4 each. The minimum holding is 100 shares, but above this number potential shareholders may purchase any amount. Further details can be obtained from the Company Secretary, Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway PLC, New Romney Station, New Romney, Kent TN28 8PL.

The two largest shareholders in the PLC are the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Association with 78,604 shares (15.45%) and Sir William McAlpine Bt (leader of the "consortium" which saved the railway from closure in 1972) who holds 38,837 (7.63%).[72] The PLC controls the entire share capital of the older statutory Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Company, incorporated by The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Order 1926. It acquired a controlling interest in the Statutory Company on 14 February 1972 for £106,947.64 when it purchased 50,447 of the 51,000 Statutory Company shares then in issue.[1] Since February 1972 it has bought out all of the minority shareholders in the Statutory Company which is now a wholly owned subsidiary.

The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway (Amendment) Order 1974 [73] altered the capital structure of the Statutory Company, allowing its issued share capital and borrowings to amount in aggregate to £400,000 (instead of the previously completely inadequate £68,000). On 1 October 1975 the Statutory Company created a further 24,000 new shares, bringing its issued capital up to £75,000 in £1 shares. The PLC subscribed for 23,950 of these new shares and the remaining 50 were acquired by a director of the Statutory Company in order to bring their holding up to the minimum for directors of 250 shares specified in the 1926 Light Railway Order.[74] Directors' shareholdings in the Statutory Company are subject to rights of pre-emption by the PLC and are therefore treated for most purposes as being owned by that company.

It is usual for the two companies to share the same board of directors; with the anomaly that whilst the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Association has been granted a seat on the Statutory Company's board it has no direct representation on the PLC's board.


The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Order 1926 [75] restricted the maximum number of directors of the Statutory Company to five and named Captain John Edwards Presgrave Howey, Gladys May Howey, Captain John Alexander Holder, Major William Bertram Bell and Henry Greenly as the first directors. Greenly never owned more than 50 shares in the company so was ineligible to sit on the board and Holder did not achieve the qualifying holding of 250 shares until 30 December 1929.[1] Gladys Howey was also ineligible until 1931 when her shareholding reached 250 and she was able to join the board.

Section 5 of The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway (Amendment) Order 1974 [76] increased the maximum number of directors from five to 10 and also set the minimum number of directors at three.


The day-to-day operation of the railway is in the hands of a full-time permanent staff of around 35 assisted by 5 part-time permanent staff.[77] These include a General Manager, departmental managers (engineering, commercial and operations) and a large number of engineering staff (from locomotive fitters to permanent way gangers) and catering staff (the New Romney and Dungeness cafes and the Light Railway Restaurant adjoining Hythe station are open all year round; 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 season, particularly to increase the staffing of the shops and catering outlets and to provide the required levels of staffing at stations. At the height of the operating season there are over 60 staff on the payroll.[1]

The railway depends upon a dedicated team of fully trained but unpaid volunteer 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.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Snell (1993)
  2. Steel & Steel (1973)
  3. 1 2 3 Davies (1988)
  4. 1 2 "Liberal England: The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch goes to war". Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  5. Hythe Reporter Friday, 28 March 1947
  6. "Boat trains, but no more school trains...". Narrow Gauge World (106). Atlantic Publishers Ltd. September 2015.
  7. Denham, Chris (30 October 2008), "Railway on track with more stations", Kentish Express, retrieved 16 April 2009
  8. Company's annual report and accounts 2014, p6
  9. Hollingsworth, Brian (1982). Railways of the World. London: W H Smith. pp. 54, p79. ISBN 0-86124-023-5.
  12. - includes a 6 minute 14 second video of the broadcast
  13. The Marshlander, issue 121 (Winter 1997)
  15. Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Association, Annual Report and Accounts 2015 p 3
  16. Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 14 January 1928
  17. 1 2 3 Morris, 1946
  18. Details from Kentish Express newspaper.
  19. 1 2 3 Snell, 1993
  20. Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 125 and The Marshlander, issue 90 (Spring 1990) p10
  21. The Marshlander, issue 90 (Spring 1990) p10
  22. The Marshlander, issue 90 (Spring 1990) p15
  23. Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 138
  24. Morris, 1946 p29
  25. Davies, 1975 p157
  26. Ransome-Wallis, 1962 p35
  27. Title deeds and leases held by the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Company
  28. Davies, 1975
  29. The Marshlander (various issues, 1967 to date)
  30. Crowhurst and Scarth (2004)
  31. The Marshlander, issue 71, Summer 1985
  32. Ransome-Wallis (1970)
  33. Ransome-Wallis (1970) p42
  34. Snell (1993), p. 54
  35. It is suggested that the RR speed trials were conducted with empty coaches; however, the company's own 1935 "Official Time Table & Guide" states (page 5): "During the tests carried out by Captain Howey...the wonderful speed of 60.2 miles per hour (96.9 km/h) was achieved, easily and smoothly, hauling four coaches containing 48 passengers."
  36. See locomotive list in "RH&DR Timetable & Guide" (1947 edition).
  37. Article by Derek Smith, with photograph, available at this web location.
  38. The Marshlander magazine, edition 165, page 31 (with illustrations).
  39. The Marshlander magazine, edition 164, page 30.
  40. p.100 Balfour, G. The Armoured Train: Its Development and Usage Batsford, 1981
  41. Letters written by Henry Greenly held in the railway company's archives
  42. Material in the railway company's archives
  43. including map of proposed extension
  44. The Marshlander, Issue No 56
  45. The Marshlander, issue 92, Autumn 1990, P 16
  46. Reference to the accident at the Railways Archive.
  48. See "Romney Remembered - the first 75 years of the RH&D Railway", published by RHDRAssoc 2001, accident report on page 12.
  49. Accident reported on this Southern Maid webpage.
  50. Recorded on the railway's official website. (Retrieved 19 October 2014.)
  51. "One Man's Railway", by J.B.Snell, second edition, published by David St John Thomas, 1993, ISBN 0 946537 80 1, pages 77-78.
  52. File MT 114/75, National Archives and Snell (1993)
  53. File ZSPC 11/281/11, National Archives and Daily Mirror 12 August 1952
  54. Extensive detailed report by drivers George Barlow and Bob Hobbs, published in "The Marshlander", issue 56, Autumn 1981; and re-published in Maidstone Model Engineering Society Magazine, Christmas 2003 (facsimile available on-line).
  55. "The bank holiday railway trip that ended in terror". The Folkestone Herald. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  56. Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (August 1963). "Holiday Crash". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 109 no. 748. Westminster: Tothill Press. p. 564.
  57. Report with photographs, The Daily Mirror, 10 August 1967.
  58. See detailed report "The Marshlander", published by RH&DR Association, edition 11, May–July 1970.
  59. 1 2 Folkestone Herald newspaper, edition of 30 August 1975, article entitled "Girl,14, trapped as train and car crash"
  60. Referenced on the locomotive page "Samson" of the railway's official website.(Retrieved October 2014).
  61. ITN Archives have video footage and photo stills from this incident.
  62. See detailed report "The Marshlander", published by RH&DR Association, edition 103, summer 1993, page 2 (and photograph, page 3).
  63. Information based on news reports in the Daily Express and The Daily Mirror, 4 August 2003.
  65. Sapsted (2004)
  66. 1 2 BBC News (2005)
  67. The BBC News report of the conviction.
  68. Browning, Bess. "Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway train derails". Kent Messenger. KM Group Ltd. Retrieved 10 September 2016. and The Marshlander, issue 196 (Autumn 2016) p12
  69. "Types of level crossings | Office of Rail and Road". Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  71. Companies House file for company number 01031179 Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Public Limited Company
  72. 1 2 Company's 2016 Annual Return to Companies House
  74. Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Company Register of Shareholders and Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway Order 1926
  75. S.R. & O. 1926/741
  76. Statutory Instrument 1974 No 1024
  77. Company's annual report and accounts 2014


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Coordinates: 51°2′N 1°0′E / 51.033°N 1.000°E / 51.033; 1.000

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