On the 23 April 2005 Rod and I went for a journey on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. Henry Greenly, another Model Railway legend along with Captain Howey, bought the railway to Romney Marsh.
We arrived on a rather grey and cold day ready for the first train to leave at 10.30am. After leaving a handful of 78 Derngate leaflets with the man in the shop (who was very interested in 78 and straight away put them out onto the leaflet stand) we ventured through the shop into the station. Our train for the first part of the journey was ‘Winston Churchill’, a 1931 type 4-6-2 Pacific designed by Henry Greenly and Richardson and built in The Meadow Hall Works Sheffield (now better known for its shopping centre). It sat majestically on the turntable as it was turned round ready to pull the carriages. It moved off the turntable and stopped to be filled up with water, then steamed up the track belching black smoke (Rod did remark about pollution!). We all stood and waited for its return, reversing to be coupled up with the carriages. I don’t know who was more excited, the little boys with their Thomas the Tank Flags or me.
We chose an open coach to get the full smell of the train. A bit cold, perhaps we will come back on one of the closed in coaches. The Guard blew his whistle and waved his flag, the train whistle blew and we were off. One side of the track was lined with houses. Fancy having a miniature railway line at the bottom of your garden. People were standing on their back door steps waving. Through a tunnel and out into the open countryside. We are moving quite fast now, past fields of sheep and lambs looking mystified by this noisy animal filling their field with smoke and steam. Over the river and across roads where signal lights let the driver know that the traffic had stopped by a white flashing light. Whistle blowing and passengers waving to waiting traffic, who good naturedly waved back at excited faces. We stopped at Dymchurch. Hurricane (Type 4-6-2 Pacific also designed by Henry Greenly built in 1927 in Colchester) passed us on the up trip to Hythe, lovely blue livery. Off we sped to St Mary’s Bay and then on to New Romney. We got off, as this is where the museum is situated. Here we saw the Captain Howey Diesel named after the co-founder of the Railway. As the railway is also regular transport for the local people and school children it was decided that the diesel engine was quicker to get started for the early morning run so an enthusiastic ticket collector told us. We needed hot coffee before venturing into the museum. Once thawed out we went up to see the wonderful collection of trains, trams etc. They have a wonderful 00 gauge model railway with lots and lots of features. Around the walls showed a history of the railway and then there he was, WJ Bassett-Lowke in a picture of him sitting in his office, the one we also have in the display at 80 Derngate. Greenly undertook design work as a freelance consultant for WJ over the years and also jointly edited the Model Railways and Locomotives for the first few years of its production.
We left the exhibition eager to carry on our journey. The Hurricane pulled up, this was the train that carried the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Cornwall and Princess Anne on March 30 1957.
Bad News! The train might not be able to continue due to a derailment further down the track. We spent a rather sad 10 minutes waiting for news, then at last we were told we would be leaving at 12.35. We were off again, an inside carriage this time, through a long tunnel and out into the fields. Next stop Romney Sands where we had to wait for the train from Dungeness to come through as they battled to get back to the timetable. It was ‘Winston Churchill’ on its way up to Hythe. We were told that the return train from Dungeness would return sooner than normal to get back to schedule. The scenery changed dramatically as we approached Dungeness. Barren shingle beaches that stretched back across the landscape, wooden cottages dotted around, homes to fishermen overshadowed by the Dungeness Power Station. But also an imposing lighthouse, which you can go up to see the spectacular views. We did not manage to climb the lighthouse as time was short and we were hungry and, after all, the fish and chips at the station restaurant are renowned.
Back on schedule we head back, pulled by Typhoon (type 4-6-2 pacific designed by Henry Greenly built in Colchester and delivered in May 1927). We had to change trains at New Romney, back to Hurricane again. Then we got off at Dymchurch for a walk on the beach. Then back to Hythe. What an interesting and exciting day. Well worth a visit.
First published in August 2005 in The Friends of 78 Derngate Newsletter Issue 36.
Author: Chris Sherlock
Transcribed 2018: Barbara Floyer