Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

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Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway
'Northern Chief' at New Romney
Type Light railway
Locale Kent
Opened 1927
Operator(s) Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Co.
Line length 13 12 mi (21.7 km)
Track gauge 15 in (381 mm)
Route map
Kent Railways.svg
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.
Hythe station with train in 1962
Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
1920s proposed Sandling extension (not built)
Prince of Wales Halt
Prince of Wales Bridge
Freight siding (closed & lifted)
Sheep Bridge (farm use only - now a ruin)
Botolph's Bridge Halt
Botolph's Bridge Level Crossing (ABCL)
1980s proposed Sandling extension (not built)
Burmarsh Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
Burmarsh Road (limited service)
Eastbridge Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
St Marys Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
Golden Sands Halt
St Mary's Bay
Jefferstone Lane Level Crossing (ABCL)
Duke of York Camp branch sidings
(closed and lifted)
Warren ballast pit line (closed and lifted)
Romney Warren Halt(limited service)
New Romney
Station Road
Greatstone Dunes
Baldwin Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
Seaview Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
Maddieson's Camp
Romney Sands Level Crossing (AOCL)
Romney Sands
War Department Halt & WD Branch
Derville Road Bridge
Hull Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
Taylor Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
Williamson Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
Kerton Road Bridge
Former turning triangle
Battery Road Level Crossing (ABCL)
The Pilot Inn
Dungeness Road Level Crossing (AOCL)
Beach Fish Line (closed and lifted)
Britannia Points Halt

The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR) is a 15 in (381 mm) gauge light railway in Kent, England. 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 J.E.P. 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.

The locomotives were designed by engineer Henry Greenly who worked with Howey[1] and served as the railway's first chief engineer.

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 happy with just 8 miles (13 km) of track from Hythe to New Romney and he extended the railway 5 12 miles (9 km) from New Romney to Dungeness, double-tracked throughout. The line was taken over by the military during World War II, and a miniature armoured train was used on the line.[2] During the conflict, damage was sustained on the extension which resulted in it being reduced to a single track after the war. 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.[3]

Between 1977 and 2015, the railway provided school trains to transport children to and from the Marsh Academy in New Romney. The last such train ran on 24 July 2015, with services ceasing due to falling usage.[4]

The railway role as part of the local public transport network was extended when Warren Halt re-opened in 2009, providing a transport 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.[5]

The railway, which carries 100,000 passengers each year[citation needed], 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[edit]

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[6] 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,[citation needed] Harry Secombe's Highway in 1991,[citation needed] Michael Bentine's It's a Square World in 1964,[citation needed] and children's show Rainbow.[citation needed]


Stations currently open[edit]

Stations in full or limited use:

Stations closed[edit]

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

Stations proposed[edit]

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

  • Sandling Junction, proposed in the late 1920s, and again in the late 1980s, to meet with the main line at Sandling.
  • Sandling Park, a proposal for a station to serve this estate at Pedlinge on the Sandling extension.
  • Nickolls Quarry; a proposal for a station to serve a new housing development at the West Hythe site of Nickolls Quarry has been formally included in the planning application to Shepway District Council.[7]


All ten original locomotives remain in service, covering thousands of miles each year.

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

The RH&DR is still the only user of the 4-8-2 Mountain class 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 1983, and renamed from its original John Southland in May 2014) and No 14 (delivered 1989, and later named Captain Howey).

Locomotives in service[edit]

Including engines serviceable, under overhaul, awaiting overhaul, or reserved to shunting or engineering duties.[8]

No Name Picture Livery Locomotive type Wheel
Builder Year built Whistle In Traffic?
1 Green Goddess Green Goddess LNER Apple Green Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1925 Small Chime Yes
2 Northern Chief Northern Chief Brunswick Green Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1925 Bulleid No (undergoing intermediate overhaul)
3 Southern Maid Southern Maid RH&DR Green Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1926 ex-Isle of Wight Hooter Yes
4 The Bug The Bug LB&SCR Improved Engine Green Steam 0-4-0 Krauss, Munich 1926 RH&DR Yes
5 Hercules Hercules Midland Railway Maroon Steam 4-8-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1927 GWR Hall No (boiler repairs)
6 Samson Samson Great Eastern Blue Steam 4-8-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1927 US Crosby No (awaiting overhaul)
7 Typhoon TyphoonNR Southern Railway Malachite Green Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1927 BR Duke of Gloucester Yes
8 Hurricane Hurricane LNER Garter Blue Steam 4-6-2 Davey Paxman & Co. 1927 Chrome LNER A4 Yes
9 Winston Churchill Winston Churchill Maroon with yellow lining Steam 4-6-2 Yorkshire Engine Company 1931 Crosby Yes
10 Dr Syn Dr Syn Black with Yellow lining Steam 4-6-2 Yorkshire Engine Company 1931 LNER A4 from Commonwealth of Australia Yes
11 Black Prince Black Prince DB Black/Red Steam 4-6-2 Krupp, Essen 1937 Bulleid No (awaiting boiler retube)
12 J.B. Snell (formerly John Southland) John Southland Black/Yellow Diesel-Mechanical Bo-Bo TMA Engineering 1983 2-Tone Horn (AirChime, Ltd) Yes
14 Captain Howey 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 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[edit]

  • Nameplates are usually in upper case.
  • No 1 was named Green Goddess after the 1921 stage play by William Archer, which Captain 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.
  • No 4 was sold in 1934 after construction because the proposed shunting and freight trains for it to work did not materialise. It ran in Belle Vue, Manchester, then Belfast with the new name Jean. The engine regained its original name on return to the RH&DR 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 to be called Man of Kent and Maid of Kent, but due to their tractive power (having an extra driving wheel) the names Hercules and Samson, with their allusion of strength, were substituted during construction. A decade later, Henry Greenly, the designer, was involved in the construction of a locomotive on the nearby Saltwood Miniature Railway , and this engine took the Maid of Kent name.
  • Nos 7 & 8 were constructed with an extra third cylinder for express passenger services and were given their names Typhoon and Hurricane for speed. The third cylinder was later removed from each due to unreliability. The locomotives were originally to carry the Samson and Hercules nameplates, but Howey gave the Mountain classes these names before the three-cylinder locomotives had arrived.
  • Following a mishap when Howey was at the controls, No 8 was renamed Bluebottle between 1938 and 1946, apparently as a punishment.
  • No 9 was originally Doctor Syn, but its name became Winston Churchill in 1948 for its tour of Canada, and remained so afterwards.
  • No 10 was originally Black Prince, but was renamed Doctor Syn in 1949 to maintain the link with local history and legend.
  • No 11 took over the redundant Black Prince name upon transfer to the RH&DR in 1976, in place of its German name Fleißiges Lieschen (Busy Lizzie).
  • No 12, originally named John Southland for the founder of the local secondary school in New Romney, has since been renamed after the railway's long serving managing director John Bernard Snell.
  • No 13 was never assigned, probably due to superstition. Another engine of the same class as Nos 12 and 14 was built in the years between them and exported to the Shuzenji Romney Railway in Japan where it 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. The engine was renumbered PW1 shortly before the return of The Bug, leaving fleet number 4 available again for its original holder.[9]
  • PW2 was constructed in 1949, mainly by the rebuilding and re-use of a former War Department locomotive which had been in service since 1929.

Locomotives withdrawn from service[edit]

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.[10]
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.[11] 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.[12]
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.[13] 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[edit]

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.[14] 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.[15]

Passenger traffic[edit]

Passenger services[edit]

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[edit]

The RH&DR operates 20-seat open and 16-seat closed coaches. 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.

Since the millennium, the railway has built several coaches for wheelchair users, starting with coach 601 Elsie, then 602 Winn, 603 May and combined driving trailer/disabled access vehicle Marjorie.

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:

  • the Clayton Pullman (built in 1928 and the last remaining example of a set of 8, with superior comfort and design with twelve seats in three compartments, originally with steam heating and coach lighting);
  • a preserved 1960s twelve-seat coach named Ruth;
  • the Royal Saloon (used by Queen Elizabeth II and members of her family when she visited the railway on 30 March 1957), a luxury version of a coach design introduced in 1934/5;
  • and the licensed bar car named Gladys (after Captain Howey's wife), an observation coach with a bar and 16 seats.

Freight traffic[edit]

Freight services[edit]

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), believed to be unique in British history and giving the ability to haul heavy freight at the expense of speed. 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.

Dungeness Beach fish trade[edit]

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.

Uncrushed shingle transport[edit]

The most successful freight service was the uncrushed ballast service. Following withdrawal of War Office operations on the War Department Branch Line, 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. 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[edit]

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[edit]

The railway operates a casual parcels service. Parcels handed in to one station will be delivered to another for collection. This is the only remnant of freight service although, from time to time, the railway has had 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.

Some of the freight wagons behind No 2

Freight vehicles[edit]

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

  • the platelayers' mess coach
  • assorted tipper wagons (largely left over from ballast operations)
  • secure tool trucks
  • flat wagons
  • four-wheel wagons, both box vans and open trucks, including vehicles surviving from the fish trains
  • tank wagons, used primarily for spraying weed killer on tracks.

Armoured train[edit]

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.[2][16]

Proposed extension to Sandling[edit]

In the late 1920s, shortly after the line opened, there were proposals for an extension from Hythe to Sandling (2 miles (3.2 km) away) to meet mainline services at Sandling Junction. Supposition that the 4-8-2 locomotives Hercules and Samson were ordered[17] for the project, which involved steep inclines, is unfounded as the engines were intended for freight traffic. The steep gradients, unstable sandstone hillsides and long spiral tunnel made the project unworkable and plans were abandoned.

In the 1980s, the directors returned to the proposals and had detailed surveys drawn. 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 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. Again, the project was abandoned due mainly to the same obstacles as before.


The tender from Hurricane behind Samson at Dungeness

The following tenders are in use;

  • Green Goddess (re-bodied in 2009) and Typhoon (rebodied in 2012) have Ashford 1947 tenders (see below).
  • Northern Chief and Southern Maid run with 1983–4 built TMA tenders which are similar to, but longer, than the Greenly tenders and have a greater coal and water capacity. Northern Chief recived a new tender tank as part of her overhaul in the winter of 2015.
  • The Bug's tender was newly built in the mid-1970s as the original had been cut up during its time in a Belfast scrap yard.
  • Hercules and Samson have, since 2009, been fitted with new tenders to a design resembling the Great Northern Railway 'high-sided' type.
  • Hurricane is coupled to the re-bodied Paxman-built 1934 large tender, complete with mock corridor connector (a feature of LNER locos used on the non-stop London–Edinburgh services allowing for crew changes en route).
  • Winston Churchill and Doctor Syn have re-bodied Gower tenders using parts from their original Vanderbilt tenders from 1931.
  • Black Prince received a new tender in 2008, using bogies and other parts from its original one which, like the Greenly tenders, suffered from low water and coal capacity. As built, the loco and tender were fitted with air brakes which were replaced at the RH&DR with vacuum brakes for the loco driving wheels only; the original tender was not altered. The new tender, fitted with vacuum brakes, was tested at New Romney on 27 September 2008. On 4 October 2008, Black Prince completed a 28-mile (45 km) non-stop run from Hythe to Dungeness and back again, without the aid of another tender, a first for this locomotive.

Greenly tenders[edit]

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[edit]

The Southern Railway's Ashford works built four tenders in 1946–7. Ashford No 1 ran coupled to Hercules, but was built too high. The design was altered hurriedly 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.

Tender shortage[edit]

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 with the newly installed half-barriers
A level crossing just west of Romney Sands yet to be fitted with barriers

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 vast 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 are:

  • 10 May 1934. A train hauled by the Rolls-Royce locomotive was in collision with a large car at Eastbridge Road level crossing in Dymchurch. The long-serving internal combustion locomotive (which carried no name at the time of the accident) was derailed and turned on its side, receiving significant damage and narrowly avoiding a fall into the dyke beside the road. The engine driver, Claude Webb, who was also Captain Howey's chauffeur, was slightly injured in the accident. An engineers' train was coincidentally nearby at the time, and quickly able to render assistance. The damaged locomotive was sent to Robert Hudson Ltd in Leeds for repair, and returned to service later in the same year.[18]
  • 1935. Northern Chief was struck by a lorry at Eastbridge Road level crossing. The locomotive fell onto its right side coming to rest on the canal bridge. The tender stayed upright. Having sustained minimal damage, the loco was repaired quickly and returned to service. The lorry was a write off.
  • May 1946. A train hauled by locomotive No 3 Southern Maid was in collision with a lorry at Eastbridge Road level crossing in Dymchurch. The locomotive was derailed, and fell into the drainage canal running beside the road. The engine driver was badly injured but survived. The lorry driver was killed. The locomotive was recovered from the water by an army crane, but required extensive repairs.[19][20][21]
  • Spring 1947. A train hauled by locomotive No 7 Typhoon was in collision with a large agricultural tractor at an occupation crossing near Prince of Wales, south of Hythe. The subsequent investigation found that the tractor had become stuck on the rails as it had smooth steel wheels, with no spikes, studs or tyres; the tractor driver made no attempt to contact the signalman or warn approaching trains. The engine was derailed and turned on its side, but was not badly damaged and returned to service later the same month. The tractor was split in two and destroyed.[22]
  • 2 May 1954. A train hauled by locomotive No 5 Hercules was derailed at half mile curve, between New Romney and Greatstone. The cause of the incident was severe gale-force wind. The train was the 14.50 from Hythe to Dungeness, and the leading vehicle (behind the engine) was a light guard's van, of a type nicknamed "jumping jacks", as their relatively light weight made for an uncomfortable ride for the guard. In the severe weather, as the train passed over the exposed embankment of half mile curve, the jumping jack guard's van was blown over, and smashed on the embankment. Fortunately the guard, Mavis Thomas, had decided to ride in another coach, and so avoided injury. As the van turned over in the wind, it also tipped the locomotive's high-sided tender, which in turn tipped the locomotive which ended on its side down the embankment. The engine driver, Bob Hobbs, who was a highly experienced driver, had been alerted to the sequence of events by noises behind him, and was able to jump from the footplate, sustaining only cuts and grazes. All "jumping jack" guard's vans on the railway were withdrawn from service and scrapped.[23]
  • 27 May 1963. A train hauled by locomotive No 5 Hercules from Hythe to New Romney was suffering from a faulty boiler pressure gauge which was showing erratic readings. The workshop staff at New Romney had recalibrated the safety valves that morning so that they lifted at what the gauge showed as 180 lb sq in. In fact the gauge was reading high. After this the boiler was unable to maintain sufficient pressure to keep the train's vacuum brakes off and they were dragging. The train stalled at Palmarsh, but the driver managed to get it moving again, but at only 3 miles per hour (4.8 km/h). The train was struck from behind by the following service train, hauled by locomotive No 7 Typhoon which had been allowed into the section by the Hythe signalman before he had received line clear from Dymchurch. A number of carriages in both trains were derailed (some telescoped) and there were a number of injuries.[24] The incident was reported in The Railway Magazine together with two photographs taken in the aftermath of the crash.[25]
  • 9 August 1967. A train hauled by locomotive No 5 Hercules overran the terminus at Hythe, resulting in a number of minor injuries. It is thought the engine driver was struck on the head at Prince of Wales Bridge, and lost consciousness, allowing the train to continue unchecked for the remaining mile and a half into Hythe station where it crashed through buffer stops and continued into the station car park, coming to rest before reaching the main road. The driver could not subsequently recall whether his head had struck the stonework of the bridge, or whether he had been hit by an object thrown from the bridge. The incident received national newspaper coverage.[26]
  • April 1970. A train hauled by locomotive No 2 Northern Chief was in collision with a car at Botolphs Bridge level crossing, south of Palmarsh. The swift action of the engine driver, Cyril Carter, resulted in a low impact collision, and nobody was injured. The locomotive was slightly damaged. The car, an Austin 1100, was damaged, but not destroyed.[27]
  • August 1972. A passenger train was in collision with a circus caravan at St Mary's Road level crossing, Dymchurch. Nobody was injured.[28]
  • August 1973. A train hauled by locomotive No 6 Samson was in collision with a stolen motor car at St Mary's Road level crossing, a short distance south of Dymchurch station. The locomotive was badly damaged and the engine driver, Peter Hobson, was killed. The locomotive was sent to Leeds for repair, returning to service the following year. Although not the first level crossing incident on the railway, it was the first to prove fatal to the engine driver, and initiated discussion which led to the gradual introduction of warning lights at all the railway's level crossings.[29][30]
  • 28 August 1975. A train hauled by locomotive No 7 Typhoon was in collision with a car on St Mary's Road level crossing, Dymchurch. The car, a Ford Corsair, was destroyed, and one of its occupants had to be cut free, having been trapped by her feet, but was not seriously injured. The train driver, Cyril Carter, was uninjured. The occupants of the car were a local young brother and sister, Roger Piper (20) and Belinda Piper (14) driving to the fish and chip shop, and witnesses reported that they had seen the approaching train but tried to race it to the level crossing. Their father John Piper was quoted in the local newspaper as having said, "Funnily enough, it is nearly always someone local who is involved", referring to accidents on Dymchurch's level crossings.[28]
  • 11 May 1993. A train propelled by locomotive No 12 John Southland was in collision with a white van at Eastbridge Road level crossing, Dymchurch. The train was an empty coaching stock (ECS) working which had earlier operated the daily school service for pupils returning home from New Romney. The locomotive was propelling from the rear, and the leading vehicle was Driving Van Trailer (DVT) No 105. The transit van and the railway DVT both fell into the dyke beside the road. The van driver was uninjured. The train operator, Simon Oldfield, was briefly trapped under water, but was able to free himself from the wrecked DVT and swim to safety. The DVT was written-off and had to be entirely rebuilt. Two other passenger coaches, 804 and 807, were damaged. The van driver admitted fault but claimed that his brakes had failed. The subsequent police investigation revealed that the brakes had operated correctly, but that the van driver had vainly hoped to beat the train to the crossing. Police also found that the van's tyres were bald, and that it had no current road tax. A large crane recovered both vehicles from the water.[31]
  • 3 August 2003. A train hauled by locomotive No 5 Hercules was in collision with a car at an ungated level crossing protected by flashing warning lights.[32] The engine driver, 31-year-old Kevin Crouch, died at the scene, and some passengers were treated for shock and minor injuries. The locomotive was seriously damaged and underwent extensive repairs, returning to service in 2005. 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 were not badly hurt. The railway and the Health and Safety Executive instigated an investigation, 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.[33]
  • 10 July 2005. A train hauled by locomotive No 8 Hurricane was in collision with a car at a level crossing near Dungeness. The driver of the train, Suzanne Martin (the wife of the railway's general manager), was killed.[34] Several passengers were treated for shock. The locomotive was seriously damaged and underwent extensive repairs, returning to service the following year. 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.[35]

Following the last two level crossing incidents, 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 open level crossings. During the late 1970s to early 1980s, all open were converted to automatic open crossings (AOCLs)[36] by installation of flashing warning lights. The new refurbishment programme, which started in 2006, has seen the additional installation of lifting half-barriers, upgrading the crossings to Automatic Barrier Crossing (ABCL) status. Each refurbishment cost around £90,000.[34] 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 (site of the 1973 accident) and Jefferstone Lane. Eastbridge Road (site of the 1934, 1946 and 1993 accidents) level crossing, adjacent to Dymchurch station, has been upgraded to ABCL and was commissioned in the winter of 2013/2014. This is the first crossing to use the PLC-based level crossing control system developed in house by the RH&DR. Work started in spring 2014 to produce the equipment to upgrade the remaining single line AOCL crossings to ABCLs. Baldwin Road Crossing was commissioned as an ABCL on 3 April 2015, and Seaview Road was commissioned as an ABCL 12 days later. Williamson Road crossing was upgraded to ABLC on 17 June 2015. Taylor and Hull Road level crossings were both commissioned as ABCL crossings on the 22 October 2015. Only Romney Sands and Dungeness Road AOCLs remain to be converted.

Ownership and operation[edit]

The railway is owned by Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway plc, whose 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. The public limited company 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 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 full-time permanent staff of around 35 people. 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 cafe serving 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 shops and cafeterias and to provide the required levels of staffing at stations. 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.


  1. ^ Steel, E. A. and Steel, E. H. "The Miniature World of Henry Greenly." (1973, Model & Allied Publications). (ISBN 0852423063)
  2. ^ a b "Liberal England: The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch goes to war". Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  3. ^ Hythe Reporter Friday, 28 March 1947
  4. ^ "Boat trains, but no more school trains...". Narrow Gauge World (106) (Atlantic Publishers Ltd). September 2015. 
  5. ^ Denham, Chris (30 October 2008), "Railway on track with more stations", Kentish Express, retrieved 16 April 2009 
  6. ^ Hollingsworth, Brian (1982). Railways of the World. London: W H Smith. pp. 54, p79. ISBN 0-86124-023-5. 
  7. ^ Details from Kentish Express newspaper.
  8. ^ Crowhurst and Scarth (2004)
  9. ^ See'World's Smallest Public Railway' by P Ransome-Wallis, published Ian Allan Ltd, SBN 7110 0156 1, which records this numbering, and illustrates it with a photograph of the Simplex bearing number '4'. Page 42 of the 6th (1970) edition.
  10. ^ Snell (1993), p. 54
  11. ^ 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 was achieved, easily and smoothly, hauling four coaches containing 48 passengers."
  12. ^ See locomotive list in "RH&DR Timetable & Guide" (1947 edition).
  13. ^ Article by Derek Smith, with photograph, available at this web location.
  14. ^ The Marshlander magazine, edition 165, page 31 (with illustrations).
  15. ^ The Marshlander magazine, edition 164, page 30.
  16. ^ p.100 Balfour, G. The Armoured Train: Its Development and Usage Batsford, 1981
  17. ^ See this on-line text reproduced from page 158 of Steam Nostalgia: Locomotive and Railway Preservation in Great Britain by Gerald Nabarro, published Routledge 1972, ISBN 0-7100-7391-7.
  18. ^ Reference to the accident at the Railways Archive.
  19. ^ See "Romney Remembered - the first 75 years of the RH&D Railway", published by RHDRAssoc 2001, accident report on page 12.
  20. ^ Accident reported on this Southern Maid webpage.
  21. ^ Recorded on the railway's official website. (Retrieved 19 October 2014.)
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ 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).
  24. ^ "The bank holiday railway trip that ended in terror". The Folkestone Herald. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  25. ^ Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (August 1963). "Holiday Crash". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 109 no. 748 (Westminster: Tothill Press). p. 564. 
  26. ^ Report with photographs, The Daily Mirror, 10 August 1967.
  27. ^ See detailed report "The Marshlander", published by RH&DR Association, edition 11, May–July 1970.
  28. ^ a b Folkestone Herald newspaper, edition of 30 August 1975, article entitled "Girl,14, trapped as train and car crash"
  29. ^ Referenced on the locomotive page "Samson" of the railway's official website.(Retrieved October 2014).
  30. ^ ITN Archives have video footage and photo stills from this incident.
  31. ^ See detailed report "The Marshlander", published by RH&DR Association, edition 103, summer 1993, page 2 (and photograph, page 3).
  32. ^ Information based on news reports in the Daily Express and The Daily Mirror, 4 August 2003.
  33. ^ Sapsted (2004)
  34. ^ a b BBC News (2005)
  35. ^ The BBC News report of the conviction.
  36. ^ "Types of level crossings | Office of Rail and Road". Retrieved 9 October 2015. 

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

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