FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Push-Pull to New Romney

Posted in Dungeness, England, New Romney by folkestonejack on July 15, 2017

A conversation with my father about the small bridge used by the Southern Railway line to cross over the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch narrow gauge War Department branch line (as mentioned in my recent post ‘A trio of sound mirrors‘) prompted a few memories of the operation of the standard gauge line. I thought it was an interesting follow up to my last blog post. It’s probably no great revelation to any knowledgeable railway enthusiast but I was fascinated to hear how the line operated!

My father used to work as a fireman on steam hauled freight (the Lydd Goods) and passenger trains down to New Romney around 1957, some twenty years after the line opened. The motive power would usually be a H class tank for the passenger trains and a C class or 01 for the goods. The line was single worked with a staff picked up and handed over to the signalman at New Romney.

At New Romney the standard gauge station stood on one side of the level crossing whilst the narrow gauge line sat on the other, though the standard gauge track actually continued over the level crossing a short way and was used whenever they had deliveries for the RHDR (the Kent Rail website has a helpful map illustrating this). The standard gauge station had two platforms but by this time the second of these was already grassed over. They would also do a bit of shunting here for the local coal merchant. At Lydd they would sometimes work into a siding and pick up beach stone from the quarry there.

The operation was worked on a push-pull basis – pushing into New Romney and pulling out of New Romney. On a two carriage passenger train the loco would sit at the back, tender facing the coach, whilst it pushed the train into New Romney. The fireman would be in the loco (usually getting all the smoke blowing back) whilst the driver would drive from the coaches where he had controls that allowed him to operate the regulator. At least that was the theory! In practice, they never used this and the pipe was usually left uncoupled. Instead, the driver would ring a bell and the fireman would shut the regulator.

My father recalls one occasion approaching Ham Street where he thought the driver was leaving it rather late, not realising that a bit of coal had fallen and broken the bell cord!

As for the starting point of our conversation – the narrow gauge line had been lifted by the point my father was working trains through here so there couldn’t have been much to see, though he did recall a bump on the way into New Romney which might well have been this small bridge.

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The world’s smallest public railway

Posted in England, New Romney by folkestonejack on October 1, 2011

Today’s unexpected hot weather provided an opportunity to visit the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway for the first time in around thirty years (at a guess). It’s easy enough to get to by bus, but we took the option of a walk from Sandling along the route of the old Sandgate branch line. It’s an interesting walk which takes you past the entrance to the Hayne Tunnel and eventually, after leaving the old line behind, on to Hythe via Saltwood.

It was a gala weekend on the railway so there were plenty of locomotives in action – and plenty of passengers to fill the trains they hauled! The day didn’t exactly work out as planned so the original objective of spending a day at Dungeness turned into a trip on the railway instead, followed by a late lunch at the Red Lion in Hythe.

Southern Maid passes through New Romney with a train to Dungeness

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway was the brainchild of two men – Captain Howey and Count Louis Zborowski – opening in 1927. It has certainly played host to an impressive array of visitors in its time – the walls of the museum show photographs of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI, Laurel & Hardy, Hattie Jacques and Walt Disney amongst others.

The charm of the railway is still very much present today, alot of which is down to the rather wonderful fleet of one-third full size steam locomotives from the 1920s and 30s. I had forgotten quite how impressive these small (and admittedly rather cute) engines are, as well as the speed at which they can operate.

A mock up of the armoured train from the 1940s

A trip up the line to New Romney brought us to the heart of the railway where there is an exhibition about the line in wartime.

In the second world war an armoured train was constructed to patrol the line on anti-aircraft duty. A mock up constructed out of wood can be seen during a visit to the station. It looks rather quirky now but a photo of it in use on the history pages of the RHDR website shows the serious intent behind this.