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Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway


Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

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
The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, 1927 and 1928 sections, showing the location within Kent, and proximity to other railways
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 12-mile (21.7 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.


  • History 1
    • Smallest public railway in the world 1.1
  • Stations 2
    • Stations currently open 2.1
    • Stations closed 2.2
    • Stations proposed 2.3
  • Locomotives 3
    • Locomotives in service 3.1
    • Locomotives withdrawn from service 3.2
    • Locomotives on site 3.3
  • Passenger traffic 4
    • Passenger services 4.1
    • Passenger vehicles 4.2
  • Freight traffic 5
    • Freight services 5.1
      • Dungeness Beach fish trade 5.1.1
      • Uncrushed shingle transport 5.1.2
      • Postal service 5.1.3
      • Parcels service 5.1.4
    • Freight vehicles 5.2
  • Armoured train 6
  • Proposed extension to Sandling 7
  • New tenders 8
  • Safety 9
  • Ownership and operation 10
  • Notes 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


Constructed during the 1920s and opened on 16 July 1927, the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway was the dream of millionaire racing drivers Captain J.E.P. Howey and Count Louis Zborowski. Zborowski had constructed a railway at Higham Park, his home at Bridge, Kent, and agreed to donate the rolling stock and infrastructure to the project. Zborowski however was killed in a motor racing accident at Monza before the Romney Marsh site was chosen, and Howey continued the project alone.

The locomotives were designed by engineer Henry Greenly who worked with Captain J E P Howey.[1] Greenly also served as the railway's first Chief Engineer.

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 happy with just 8 miles (13 km) from New Romney to Hythe and he extended 5 12 miles (9 km) from New Romney to Dungeness. This section was originally double track, but is now single due to damage during World War II, when the line was taken over by the military. A miniature armoured train was used on the line.[2] After the war the line re-opened between Hythe and New Romney in 1946, with the singled New Romney to Dungeness section reopened on 28 March 1947 by Laurel and Hardy.[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 is expanding its role as part of the public transport network: Warren Halt re-opened in 2009 to provide a transport link to the Romney Marsh Visitor Centre, and discussions with local councils are taking place about 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]

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, 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" locomotive in the UK, with No. 6 'Samson' and No. 5 'Hercules' in regular service. Two diesels, No. 12 'John Southland' (- later renamed J B Snell in May 2014) and No. 14 (Nameless - later 'Captain Howey'), were constructed in the 1980s.

The line carries 100,000 passengers each year.

The railway celebrated its 80th birthday in 2007 with a week of celebrations including reconstructions of scenes on the railway over 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[6] and regained from 1979, when the Réseau Guerlédan closed; however it was lost again in 1982, when the 10 14 in (260 mm) gauge Wells and Walsingham Light Railway opened.

The railway was featured in an episode of the BBC series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.


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 closure.

Stations proposed

These stations have never existed but were at one time proposed by the directors, or are currently under proposal.

  • Sandling Junction - in the late 1920s and again in the late 1980s plans existed 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]


Locomotives in service

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 'Brighton Umber' (Properly called "Stroudley's Improved Engine Green") Steam 0-4-0 Krauss, Munich 1926 RH&DR Yes
5 Hercules Hercules Midland Rly 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 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) 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.

Notes on locomotive names:

  • Nameplates are usually in upper case.
  • No 1 was named 'Green Goddess' after the 1921 stage play by William Archer, which Capt 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' before delivery.
  • No 4 left the railway after construction and ran in Belfast with the new name "Jean". This 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' (for strength) were substituted during construction. Henry Greenly, the designer, was involved in construction of a locomotive on the nearby Saltwood Miniature Railway a decade later, and this engine took the 'Maid of Kent' name.
  • Nos 7 & 8 were constructed for express passenger services, and had an extra cylinder (3 instead of 2), hence their names 'Typhoon' and 'Hurricane' for speed. The third cylinder was removed from each due to unreliability. According to an original order, these locomotives were going to carry 'Samson' and 'Hercules' nameplates, however Howey gave the mountain classes these nameplates before the 3 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 afterwards stuck.
  • No 10 was originally 'Black Prince', but took the 'Doctor Syn' name 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', meaning 'Busy Lizzie' in English.
  • No 12 originally named after 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 this number was never assigned. Probably due to superstition, another engine of the same class as 12 and 14 was built in the years between them and exported to the Shuzenji Romney Railway in Japan; this locomotive 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.

Notes on PW locomotives:

  • 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', meaning that the fleet number 4 was again available for its original holder.[9]
  • PW2 was constructed, as shown, in 1949. However, the bulk of this construction involved the rebuilding and re-use of the former War Department locomotive (see below), which had been in service since 1929.

Locomotives withdrawn from service

Including engines sold, scrapped, failed in trials, or otherwise withdrawn.
ALL were internal combustion locomotives.

'Name' or designation Wheel
Builder Year built Year withdrawn Notes
Theakston Fordson Bo'2' Theakston 1928 c1935 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 c1929 c1945 Light, open-cabbed, track inspection scooter, powered by 6 hp JAP motorcycle engine. Capt 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 (still in service - see above).
Rolls Royce Locomotive Bo'2' RH&DR c1932 1961 Built out of Capt 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 mph 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 (re–built RH&DR) 1936 (re–built 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 c1949 c1952 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 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

Passenger services

The railway was conceived and constructed as a public service, not as a tourist attraction. The railway now relies on tourist trade, but it is not a 'tourist railway' or a 'preserved railway', in the sense that it was built to provide public transport and has continued to do so.

School children are transported under contract to Kent County Council to The Marsh Academy (known as Southland's Comprehensive School until 2007); this service is provided all year during term. Local residents are transported to shopping centres and the railway has operated 'shoppers specials'. Holiday camp trains have operated with camps at Romney Sands and St Mary's Bay. Charters are operated. During the Second World War the railway was operated by Somerset Light Infantry as a military railway and there was extensive transport of soldiers on troop trains.

Passenger vehicles

The RH&DR operates 20-seat and 16-seat open and closed coaches. Over 80 years the coach livery changed from green and cream to brown and cream in the 1970s and 1980s, then red and cream in the late 1980s for 15 years. From 2000, a new policy has rakes of coaches (trains of around a dozen coaches) have been painted in individual liveries. Hence there are now green, blue, crimson and preserved teak coaches.

In addition to the main stock, the heritage set is made up of the preserved Clayton Pullman (the last remaining example of a set of 1930s vehicles of superior comfort and design), a preserved 1950s 12-seat coach named 'Ruth', the Royal Saloon (used by Queen Elizabeth II and members of her family), and the licensed bar car (an observation coach with a bar) named 'Gladys'. There are also the disabled access vehicles, 601 'Elsie', 602 'Winn', 603 'May' and combined driving trailer/disabled access vehicle 'Marjorie'.

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), of which they are believed to be unique in British history, because this type despite lacking speed can haul heavy freight. In practice the freight services never arose, although freight service has featured in the railway's history.

Dungeness Beach fish trade

In 1937 a short branch line was laid to the east of the mainline near Dungeness, running for over a quarter of a mile to the beach. Platform 1 at Hythe was extended beside the station buildings and out to the front of the station. 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", but 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. Parts of the fish branch line are still in place on Dungeness beach, in use by fishermen to transport fish many years after the service was withdrawn.

Uncrushed shingle transport

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 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 hauled mechanically up a ramp built on concrete pillars, and their contents tipped into lorries. In 1951, after 14 years, the subsidiary company switched to entirely road transport and the company closed both the branch and the freight incline at Hythe; the concrete pillars were still visible at Hythe until the early 1980s.

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 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 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

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, and flat wagons. There are also four-wheel wagons, both box vans and open trucks, including vehicles surviving from the fish trains. There are also tank wagons, used primarily for spraying weed killer on tracks.

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.[2][16]

Proposed extension to Sandling

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. It was with this idea that the 4-8-2 locomotives Hercules and Samson were ordered.[17] The project, which involved steep inclines, was 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. Once again, the project was abandoned.

New tenders

The tender from Hurricane behind Samson at Dungeness

In 2003, the small, unbraked, original Greenly tenders were withdrawn from mainline service due to concerns over safety and coal/water capacity. They were the only two of this design running. Both were pulled behind the two mountain locomotives, one of which was out of service after the Burmarsh Road level crossing incident; the other soon to be withdrawn from service for an intermediate overhaul. Once both locomotives were back in service, the railway was faced with a tender shortage. 'Samson' was kept from mainline service while 'Hercules' was kept in service with the tender from 'Green Goddess' during its storage for overhaul. During the 2007 season 'Samson' was in service using the tender from 'Hurricane' while she was being overhauled. As of 2009, both 'Hercules' and 'Samson' have been fitted with new tenders.

In 2008, the tender of 'Black Prince' was made redundant due to its low coal/water capacity and the fact that it was not braked. The new tender has extra capacity for coal and water and has kept the original bogies, now modified to accept vacuum brakes. The new tender was tested at New Romney on 27 September and on 4 October, Black Prince completed a 28 miles (45 km) non-stop run without the aid of another tender, a first for this Locomotive.

2009 was the last year that the tender tank on Green Goddess's tender would see active service. A new tender tank would be needed as her tender sprang a leak in the coal-shute. The frames, bogies and brake gear will be used from the old tender and will feature more storage space.

In 2012 Typhoon received a new tender tank, and during the overhaul of Winston Churchill in 2013 a new tender tank was also fitted. Winston Churchill’s tender was also fitted with brakes for the first time.


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. Nonetheless, as the railway has been operating for 90 years, with an extensive mainline timetable, there have inevitably been a number of serious accidents. The vast majority of these have been related to level crossings, and in every single documented case of a level crossing accident 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 following are the most serious historical incidents.

  • 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 "Rolls Royce Engine" (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 drainage canal ('dyke' in local dialect) beside the road. The engine driver, Claude Webbe, 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]
  • 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, returning 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 suffered a fault in its vacuum brake system. The driver managed to get the train running, but at only 3 miles per hour (4.8 km/h). The train was hit from behind by the following service train, hauled by locomotive No 7 Typhoon, derailing a number of carriages and causing 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. 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" when talking about accidents on Dymchurch's level crossings.[28] This supports assertions by railway staff that accidents are generally caused by local people who think they know how to time the crossings without reference to warning signs and/or warning lights.
  • 11 May 1993. A train propelled by locomotive No 12 John Southland was in collision with a white transit van at Eastbridge Road level crossing, Dymchurch. The train was an ECS (empty coaching stock) 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 (drainage canal) 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 road and rail 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 detailed above, the railway began a programme of level crossing refurbishment. There are a number of 'occupation crossings' where the railway meets farm tracks, with local control, 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 '80s, all these level crossings were converted to Automatic Open Crossings (AOCL)[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 and 1946 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 Rd crossing was upgraded to ABLC on 17 June 2015. Taylor and Hull Road level crossings were both commissioned as ABCL crossings on the 22nd of October 2015. Only Romney Sands and Dungeness Road AOCLs remain to be converted.

Ownership and operation

The railway is owned by the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway plc, whose shareholders (of whom there are several hundred) travel free of charge on trains, but elect annually to take no financial dividend on their shareholdings, but instead to re-invest all operating profit back into the company. The public limited company is a subsidiary of the older parent company Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Company. 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 small but dedicated full-time permanent staff of around 35 people. These include a General Manager, departmental managers (engineering, commercial, operations) and a large number of engineering staff (from locomotive fitters to permanent way gangers) and waitresses (the New Romney and Dungeness cafes are open all year round, even though 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. Finally, but importantly, the railway depends upon a dedicated team of fully trained, but totally volunteer (unpaid) 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
  3. ^ Hythe Reporter Friday, 28 March 1947
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  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. ^
  25. ^
  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. ^

See also


  • Anon. (1926) "Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway", Railway Magazine, 59 (September), p. 213–218
  • BBC News (2005) "Train crash killed manager's wife", BBC Online, accessed 7 October 2007
  • Crowhurst, A.R.W. and Scarth R.N. (2004) Locomotives of the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, Workshop Press, 36 p.
  • Sapsted, D. (2004) "Woman in fatal train crash fined", The Daily Telegraph, Online news, accessed 7 October 2007
  • Snell, J. B. (1993) One man's railway, Rev. ed., Nairn: David St John Thomas, ISBN 0-946537-80-1

External links

  • Official website
  • Kevin Crouch memorial
  • Movietone newsreel footage of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy reopening the railway in 1947

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