Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
A fourteen mile mini-railway on the southern tip of Kent
Photos and report by Mike Slocombe, July 2006
Built in 1927 for millionaire racing driver Captain J.E.P. Howey, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway lays claim to being the world's smallest public railway, running on a 15 inch (380 mm) gauge.
On its opening on 16th July 1927, the line ran the eight miles between Hythe and New Romney - double track throughout - with the line being extended to Dungeness via Greatstone a year later.
The Hythe terminus is a fair schlep west across town
The 13.5 mile (23 km) line now runs south from Hythe via Dymchurch, St. Mary's Bay, New Romney and Romney Sands to the bleak shingle outpost of Dungeness, famed for its natural wildlife, power station and lighthouse.
Passenger coaches are pulled by the ten original steam locomotives (supplemented by two diesel locomotives, built in the 1980s), with the diminutive line carrying over 100,000 passengers every year.
Hythe station is a fairly large affair, with three platforms.
The line was taken over by the military during World War II, with the War Department going on to create the only miniature armoured train in the world.
The line was also used extensively during the building of PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) which was used to fuel the Allied invasion force.
The end of our train
Although wartime took its toll on the railway, the Hythe to New Romney section reopened in 1946, with the Dungeness section following a year later.
Without the raw materials to rebuilt the double track, the New Romney to Dungeness was rebuilt as single track, but at least it had the honour of being reopened by Laurel and Hardy!
Despite the small proportions of the carriages, there was a licensed bar on the train!
Fifties and sixties
Throughout the fifties and sixties, the line returned healthy dividends, but the advent of cheap package holidays abroad hit passenger numbers in the sixties.
Howey's death in 1963 and the cumulative effects of limited investment over the years saw the line's infrastructure falling into a parlous state.
Leaving Hythe station and proceeding past the signal box.
New owners came and went and it wasn't until a new consortium, headed by Sir William MacAlpine, purchased the line in 1973 that the future of the line was secured, with the RH&DR Association supporting the railway both financially and with volunteer staff.
Still serving as a major tourist attraction to the area, the line continues to provide a useful rail service between the small towns, with the RH&DR under contract to the local council to transport schoolchildren to and from school, courtesy of a special train service.
View from the carriage.
Passing New Romney signal box.
The railways works and museum is located on the sizeable site at New Romney station.
The wee steam locomotive, Typhoon, puffs happily past.
Onlookers at New Romney.
Coming close to Dungeness.
Bird's eye view of Dungeness station. The standard gauge station on the branch to Appledore used to be to the left.
Our train for the return trip to Hythe arrives at Dungeness.
Rolling through New Romney.
End of the line at Hythe station.
The line also served in war time as this archive newspaper article illustrates.