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Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

Opened 1927 as "The smallest public railway in the world" and operated continuously, with original infrastructure and locomotives, ever since.


Region:
Kent
Red Wheel Site:
Yes
Transport Mode(s):
Rail
Address:

Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

New Romney Station

 

Postcode:
TN28 8PL
Visitor Centre:
Yes
Website:

About Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

History
Planning
The railway 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, he 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.

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.[3] 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).

During construction, the railway was visited on 5 August 1926 by the Duke of York, (later King George VI), who drove the Northern Chief hauling a train of approximately 100 passengers from Jesson Halt to New Romney and back.

 

Opening
The railway was opened on 16 July 1927 by Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp. The locomotives were designed by Henry Greenly who was commissioned by Howey to work on the construction of the entire railway 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, with guests including the mayors of the two towns and General Sir Ivor Maxse.

Howey was not satisfied with just 8 1⁄4 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 1⁄2 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 on 3 August 1928. 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.

Second World War

Troops from the Somerset Light Infantry manning the armoured train in October 1940.
In 1940 the railway was taken over by the military during World War II, and a miniature armoured train was used on the line.[9] 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.

 

Post war

Hythe station with train in 1962
The line re-opened between Hythe and New Romney in 1946, the New Romney to Dungeness section following with a formal opening by Laurel and Hardy on 21 March 1947. Regular services started on 29 March 1947.

In June 1947 the Duke of Westminster’s railway from Eaton Hall, Cheshire was transported by the Great Western Railway and Southern Railway from Balderton, Cheshire to New Romney in Kent. It comprised an engine, nine coaches and trucks, and track totalling 222 tons.

In 1949, Captain Howey bought the Duke of Sutherland's private train including engine Dunrobin and 60 feet (18 m) coach for the museum at New Romney. It was transported there in 1950 and displayed until sold in 1963.

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.

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.

The railway, which carries over 150,000 passengers each year, celebrated its 90th birthday in 2017 with the unveiling of a Transport Trust Red Wheel plaque by Sir William McAlpine, Chairman of RH&DR and also of  The Transport Trust

 

This entry based on Wikipekia , photos (c) Peter Boulter - with thanks to all contributors

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