diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Steam trains of Kent: Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
Location: Hythe to Dungeness via New Romney (13½ miles)
Gauge: fifteen inches
Website: http://www.rhdr.org.uk

At the end of the season, when the year's chuffing is almost done, the steam train fraternity at the RHDR let their hair down. A one-day parade takes place, with all of the railway's functional locomotives in play, as a bit of fun before all the playthings go back in the shed. And very special playthings they are too, specially built for this particularly-narrow gauge railway back in the 1920s, with names like Southern Maid, Hercules and The Bug. Normally they whistle down this lengthy line from almost-Folkestone to Dungeness in compliance with a fairly normal timetable, but on Parade day that's ripped up and some extraordinary rides take place. A triple-header double run, for example.

Steaming up at New Romney begins well before the scheduled departure time. Out come the engines, driven by volunteers in caps and overalls, watched by any paid-up customers who've slipped in earlier than is truly necessary. There are water tanks to fill and chunks of coal to be shovelled - the latter requiring a short trip up a brief siding into the car park. Individual locos are shuffled around the station network utilising tracks alongside empty platforms and occasionally the turntable, manoeuvred into position according to some carefully constructed plan. The first run needs to kick off with Winston Churchill behind Typhoon behind Green Goddess on one train, and Doctor Syn at the head of the other, else the day's schedule might collapse completely within hours.

In the buffet the ham and cheese sandwiches are being buttered, and placed into plastic casing ready to be stacked for lunch. A brood of spiders and cardboard skeletons hangs from the walls, leftovers from the previous day's Hallowe'en special, while the glistening webs hanging from the nameplate on the platform look like they've been spun by the real thing since. Slowly the station fills with visitors, that's those physically capable of getting to the extreme Kent Coast before half past nine on a Sunday morning. Some are enthusiasts with massive lenses, others families with a particularly needy younger member, one even looks suspiciously like the chairman of a major railway company. But most are fairly ordinary folk who know a fun day out when they see one, and that a triple-header double run is not to be missed.

Usually the RHDR stick one locomotive on the front of a train, but for a triple header they stick three. In part this means more oomph for your journey, which is important when there are umpteen small carriages to tow, but also means there can be greater distance between stops for filling up. But that's not the brilliantly bonkers part, which is the double run. Start one triple header on one track and another in parallel alongside and they can chase each other up the line. Even better each can speed up and slow down at irregular intervals, allowing the other to overtake and then undertake all the way to the final destination. This only works if there are no other trains on the network, of course, hence why this is the very first journey of the day. But by allowing two trains to run side by side non-stop from New Romney to Hythe, that's nine full miles of wow for drivers and passengers alike.

[departing New Romney] [view from aboard the train]

Train 1 heads off faster than train 2, then slows to allow train 1 to speed up and overtake, then speeds up again... and repeat. You want to be on the side of the carriage closest to the other train. Fortunately RHDR carriages are very narrow, two seats wide at best, so it's not hard to get a decent view as the other train slips by. Each passing manoeuvre is announced with a whistle or a belch of steam in triplicate, or simply by a stealthy approach at speed. The varied landscape along the line means the switch might take place alongside a marsh grazed by sheep, or might take place round the back of a string of bungalows lined by gnomes. And you can only imagine the surprised looks on the faces of drivers held at level crossings as not one but two trains surge past in the same direction. "Another train is coming if lights continue to flash."

With both halves of the convoy travelling at approximately twenty miles an hour, it can take some time to completely pass the adjacent formation. This means you might occasionally find yourself sitting immediately alongside one of the three drivers in the other train as he shovels or whistles - an up-close view of steam-engineering in motion. But more often it'll be the other carriages passing by, which means meeting and re-meeting the passenger complement of the other train. The bespectacled adolescents with iPhones poised, the retired couple with a bag of sweets, the small boy with the Rail Rovers rucksack, the man crouching on the floor to film the entire event at chassis level, the bored father flicking dispassionately through a copy of The Economist, all will be familiar faces by the eighteenth consecutive pass.

And as the housing estates of Hythe encroach, and the forty minute extravaganza draws to a close, it's time to inhale a few final lungfuls of funnelled steam. Indeed you might even be quite blasé by this point, as if a triple-header double run were the most normal thing in the world. But its full rarity can be established by the width of the smiles on the faces of the drivers at the station, their end of season treat now complete. There'll be much shuffling of locomotives and twiddling of turntables once the uncoupling phase begins and various subsequent services are sent on their way. One such train is even destined for a 21 mile non-stop service, including a spin round the shingle at Dungeness and back, and that's going to be a pretty spectacular ride. But there's always the worry that once you've ridden a steam-powered mini-sized triple-header double run, nothing else will ever quite compare.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards