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The History of Kent

Copyright Kent Past 2010

History of Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

he Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway is a 15 in gauge light railway. The 13.5 miles line runs from the Cinque Port of Hythe via Dymchurch, St. Mary's Bay, New Romney and Romney Sands to Dungeness.

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 was killed in a motor racing accident at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix. Before his death, he had ordered two locomotives to be built by Davy Paxman & Co, despite a site for the line not having been found. Howey asked Henry Greenly, the designer of the new locomotives, to help with the task of finding a site. It was Greenly who first suggested the Romney Marsh area.

Mountain Class 'Hercules' hauled the inaugural train, the eight miles of double track, 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 from New Romney to Hythe and in 1928; he extended the line 5.5 miles from New Romney to Dungeness of double track.

Although built as a public service, not a tourist attraction, the Railway became famous, and people flocked to ride on the smallest railway in the world - from 1926 to 1978, it held the title of the "Smallest public railway in the world" (in terms of track gauge). The title was lost to the 12.25 in gauge R’seau Guerl’dan in France in 1978, and regained from 1979, when the French line closed. It was lost again in 1982, when the 10.25 in gauge Wells and Walsingham Light Railway, in Norfolk, opened.

At the outbreak of World War II, the line was requisitioned and played a major role in the building of
PLUTO. Although much of the double track had gone towards the war effort, leaving just a single line in many stretches.

Following cessation of hostilities the line re-opened, with Laurel and Hardy cutting the tape, although it would be some time before the line was fully operational, with double track.


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