Friday, 29 August 2008

Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Visit

Davey Paxman Pacific No8 "Hurricane" - New Romney
On Tuesday August 26th myself and my family visited the famous 15" Gauge Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent. It has always been one of my ambitions to go there BUT its always been a little "too far" for just a day out! So we decided to stay the night and come back Wednesday afternoon. Tuesday saw "Rise & Shine" at 4am(!!) ready to leave at 5am for Hythe.We arrived just before 9am in the car park at Hythe Station after a good run with a 30 minute or so stop 100 miles in. The first train from Hythe was due to leave at 9:50am and the station itself opened at around 9am.After buying our "Rover" tickets we headed out onto platform 2 where at least 10 coaches were waiting to form the first train. At around 9:40 Bo-Bo Diesel No12 "John Southland" arrived from New Romney ready to haul the train. After turning she was coupled up and was raring to go!...
Coaches Linked Via Couplings and Vacuum Pipes As Per Standard Gauge Practise
With the coaches being linked via chains then you do feel a slight jolt every now and again, especially when setting off from a standing start. Anyway, back to the day. With No12 at the head of train we set off,2 minutes late but this was to be made up in the journey - and believe me, it was! The main thing to remember is that the RHDR is double track for 8 miles of its length! It is very much a mainline in miniature! Leaving Hythe on double track the trains run behind houses and passes many foot crossings. There is then a low bridge and a level crossing (or two!!) before the train leaves this suburban environment and heads out onto the Romney Marsh. Views of open fields and rolling hills are to be enjoyed as the train heads towards the first station along the line,Dymchurch,5 miles from Hythe. The trains do actually have a speed limit of 25mph and, as they are 1/3 scale, when they are doing 25mph it feels like they are doing 75mph! It is a very heart-racing experience from the start! We left the train at New Romney, where the diesel is captured...
"John Southland" At The Head Of The Train From Hythe
Dymchurch seems to be the most popular town on the railway's route.Here there is a two-platform station and in the town itself there is a nice Beach,a Fun Fair,a few quaint shops etc. From Dymchurch,the line continues double track to St Marys Bay.And,from there,the line continues to New Romney,8 miles from Hythe.Here,we left the train to await the days first steam service from Hythe.At New Romney there is a Model Railway exhibition,Cafe,Shop, Engine Sheds,a 4-Platform Trainshed,a Carraige Shed,Erecting Shop,Signalbox and more. Once we had left the train,"John Southland" left for Dungeness:-the end of the line.Meanwhile, we had a look around the impressive model railway exhibition which also includes alot of information regarding the railway's construction and history as well as displaying a few live steam models. It is well worth a visit. After pausing afterwards for a snack we awaited the arrival of our steed which would haul us the remaining 5.5 miles to Dungeness...
4-8-2 Mountain Class No5 "Hercules" Arrives At New Romney
Dungeness Nuclear Power Station
From New Romney, the line leaves southward through a pair of tunnels with low clearance(!). "Hercules" is very true to her name.Baring eight driving wheels she is a very powerful locomotive. "Hercules" and her sister No6 "Samson" are the only 4-8-2 locomotives in operation in the United Kingdom.They are unique! Anyway,back to the journey.Once through the tunnels, the double track soons turns into single.From here the line is single for the rest of its length. 12 minutes or so later, the train arrives at Romney Sands Station. Here there is an island platform and a passing loop to allow Dungeness bound trains to pass New Romney bound trans.Romney Sands is situated on the bleakest part of the Romney Marsh.Surrounding the station is a sizeable caravan park.Leaving Romney Sands for Dungeness,trains accelerate once again,passing a couple of level crossings.To left of the train at this point,views are mainly of gardens and their walls.However to the right hand side their are views across the unusual Romney Marshland. Nearing Dungeness,the lighthouses can be seen.The journey from Romney Sands to Dungeness is advertised as 18 minutes but a few minutes before the station the line splits to form a great circle/baloon loop...
Once in the loop the trains reduce speed a little as they approach the station. Opposite the station building is a Lighthouse Museum.Visitors can climb the stairs and enjoy spectacular views across the Romney Marsh and the sea.The station only includes on platform but boasts a shop and cafe.The imposing nuclear power station looks quite un-nerving in a way but seems to fill a hole in the landscape.Dungeness is very bracing indeed! There is a shingle beach and alot of railway visitors leave the train at Dungeness to visit the lighthouse and the beach itself.Trains only wait at Dungeness for 5 minutes and soon depart for New Romney via Romney Sands once again...
A Slippery Departure by No8 "Hercules" from Dungeness

We visited the lighthouse at Dungeness and another train duely arrived behind the locomotive I had been so eager to see,No6 "Samson",the other Mountain Class 4-8-2.I took this picture in passing but it is my favourite of the 200 or so I took over the two days!...
My Favourite Shot - No6 "Samson" Barks Into Dungeness
We took a walk onto the beach before returning to the station ready to board the next train back to Dymchurch.This train was hauled by No8 "Hurricane".Now,another interesting fact about the RHDR,it has one of the longest light railway vehicles anywhere!At 32 feet long,"Gladys" is a very special coach.She is a fully licensed observation/bar car with facilities such as a central serving area and gas stove(!) for boiling a kettle! She is a 15" gauge Buffet Car! We managed to sit in the first half of the coach and enjoyed a nice cup of tea each! Anyone who visits the RHDR, try and catch a ride in "Gladys",she is so comfortable to ride in.Meanwhile,"Hurricane" hauled us back to New Romney via Romney Sands.Here she was relieved by No6 "Hercules"."Samson" stood in the trainshed on one of the stock storage roads simmering between turns.The RHDR seems to timetable locomotive workings by trying to make sure that each loco only does two full round trips or there abouts each day.This is of course a good idea to save on loco wear and it allows the drivers to take a break.Not only that,it allows visitors to travel behind many different locomotives.At Dymchurch,we alighted for lunch."Hercules" continued to Hythe...
No8 "Hercules" Departs Dymchurch

After a walk around Dymchurch and a spot of lunch we headed back to Dymchurch ready to catch another train to Dungeness.As luck would have it it was "Hercules" again! She took us to Dungeness and from there, she left for New Romney where she would be disposed.At Dungeness,we alighted and enjoyed a cup of tea in the cafe.Soon,No3 "Southern Maid" arrived from New Romney and she would take us all the way back to Hythe.After a chat with the driver I found that all of the locomotives on the line operate at a 180psi maximum boiler pressure. The driver promised us a good run and he was true to his word! "Southern Maid" 'flew' back to New Romney,and after taking water at New Romney powered the final 8 miles back to Hythe. Built in 1926,"Southern Maid" was the RHDR's 3rd locomotive.The driver did give us a good run indeed. The top speed recorded on the speedo according to his recollection was 24mph.Not bad at all! At Hythe I was told that he is nicknamed the "Flying Reverend" as he is also a Vicar! A very nice person to talk to indeed. From Hythe we left for our hotel after an enjoyable day...
"No3 Arrives at New Romney"

After catching up on alot of sleep overnight I managed to persuade my family to drop me off at the railway for a few hours before we went home! The only thing that I had not managed to do the day before was have a ride behind No6 "Samson".And as luck would have it, she wasn't rostered for service on the Wednesday.I stood waiting on Hythe station wondering what would turn up,knowing it wouldn't be "Samson". However, dissapointment turned to joy when "Samson" arrived pulling the train!!It turned out that "Hercules" had failed and "Samson" was deputising for her! I then rode "Samson" from Hythe to Dungeness and back to New Romney. She had 14(!) coaches on and still managed a fair turn of speed!...
No6 "Samson" Rolls In From New Romney

At New Romney I had another look around and was offered a tour of the sheds and of course I jumped at the chance.No5 "Hercules" (failed with a broken gauge glass) and No8 "Hurricane" graced the main running shed whilst in the storage shed behind the running depot was No4 "The Bug" (a tiny 0-4-0) & 4-6-2s No9 "Winston Churchill" (limited mileage) and No10 "Dr Syn" (out of ticket)...
No4 "The Bug"
No10 "Dr Syn" - One of the American Pair
From here we caught No3 "Southern Maid" back to Hythe with the "Flying Reverend" once again.In the car on the way home I had time to enjoy the memories of the railway.It was a very good experience and a 5-star first visit! Here is some information for you regarding the railways steam locomotive fleet:-
4-6-2 Pacific No1 "Green Goddess" (Under Overhaul At Hythe)
4-6-2 Pacific No2 "Northern Chief" Built 1925 (In Service)
4-6-2 Pacific No3 "Southern Maid" Built 1926 (In Service)
0-4-0 No4 "The Bug".Heavily involved in the building of the railway.She was then sold due to her slow speed.She then ended up on a scrapheap in Belfast before being bought again by the RHDR and restored to working condition.(Working Order But Not Used On Mainline).
4-8-2 Mountain Class No5 "Hercules".During WWII this engine was heavily armoured and formed the RHDR's armoured train who's crew always claimed that they shot down at least one enemy aircraft.(In Service).
4-8-2 Mountain Class No6 "Samson".(In Service).
4-6-2 Pacific No7 "Typhoon".This engine was built as a 3-cylinder machine but the 3rd cylinder has long since been removed.(In service).
4-6-2 Pacific No8 "Hurricane".This engine also had a 3rd cylinder but this has also been removed.They has always been thoughts of making her a 3-cylinder machine once again but none have materialised as yet! (In service).
4-6-2 Pacific No9 "Winston Churchill".Along with her sister No10,these two locomotives were built as American style Pacifics. No9 has a boiler ticket but has a limited mileage allowance due to her needing an overhaul.
4-6-2 Pacific No10 "Dr Syn" - She is out of ticket pending overhaul.
4-6-2 Pacific No11 "Black Prince" - The most recently acquired steamer,arriving in the 1970s.Currently in the erecting shop at New Romney.(Condition unknown).
"Samson" On The Hythe Turntable

Sorry I wrote so much folks but I hope youve enjoyed reading this if you managed to get to the end without getting bored! I just had so much to say about this fantastic railway.If you ever get the chance to go and visit then I would definately 100% recommend it!All of the staff are very friendly,the journey is very exiting and the locomotives are superbly kept.Thanks for reading everybody.

Coventry MES At Country Festival 2008

The Beautiful 5" Gauge 'Pansy Class' No5717 "Victoria"

The Country Festival (previously Town & Country Festival) was reheld this year at Stoneleigh Park following a one-year gap.The show,I must admit was a little smaller this year but still attracted MANY visitors! It was held over the weekend of August 24th-26th (bank holiday!). Attractions included Monster Truck Shows,Classic Cars,Fun Fair,Crafts,Food And Drink Hall, Celebrity Guests, Trade Stands,Model Exhibitions and much much more! As usual, Coventry Model Engineering Society (which I am a member of) exhibited at the show. I took along my 32mm (O Gauge) Lego Model Railway (for the interests of the younger visitors!) and my Wilesco Roller (to show off a simple and affordable steam engine).The stand also contained many 3.5" & 5" gauge locomotives as well as stationary engines,remote control vehicles,wagons,hot air engines, vacuum engines and informative displays.The centrepiece was a very impressive 7.25" Shay locomotive owned by one of the society's members.
My Lego Railway

Over the weekend many visitors took an interest in both the layout and the other items on the stand. One of the main points of interest in my opinion is that society keeps as many items "moving" as possible. Therefore at least 20 stationary engines were running on air and their were at least 5 different hot air engines to be seen in operation.The locomotives on display ranged from the 3.5" Gauge 0-4-0 'Sweet Violet' Class Saddle Tank to the 5" Gauge Pansy Class (57XX Pannier Tank) and then of course up to the 7.25" Shay.I attended all three days 9:45 until 5 (show times 9:30 until 6) as well as the Friday Night to set-up! It was a very long and draining weekend but good fun and very interesting as usual! Roll on Country Festival 2009! Well done CMES, another great stand!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Ivor The Engine Weekend At The Battlefield Line 2008

Over the weekends of August 16th/17th and 23rd-25th 2008,the Battlefield Line hosted an "Ivor The Engine" event.This event of course featured the 0-4-0 Peckett that was converted to replicate "Ivor".The event also featured characters from the original programs such as Dai Station,Mrs Porty,Owen The Signal and Idris The Dragon to name but a few!Shackerstone Station was changed into Grumbly Town (a very apt name for any station in my opinion!).I staffed the first weekend but was not available for the 2nd weekend so I didn't attend unfortunately! I was also at Shackerstone on the Friday Night (15th) as we were preparing our home-based 0-6-0 Peckett Saddle Tank of June 1932 "Sir Gomer" (No1859). On Saturday (16th) I was rostered as trainee fireman for "Sir Gomer" with Dave as the driver. I reported for duty at around 6:20am and after all of the regular checks had been carried out, "Sir G" was lit up and cleaning began,with the help of our collegue Danny. Unusually, the engine was steamed up outside the engine shed in the 'Dock Road' as apposed to the outside preparation pit.

Dave Sits With "Sir Gomer" In The Yard With 30psi On The Clock

We would be pottering around Shackerstone for the day trying to keep the engine quiet. Meanwhile, "Ivor" wasn't over the pit either! She was down in the North End in No2 Road being prepared by Adrian and Chris. The main trains to the Battlefield (of which their were 5 sheduled) were handled by Class 73, 73114. We came off shed when the first train,the 10:55am,had left for Shenton.We then sat in the platform simmering quietly with around 140 on the clock! Meanwhile, "Ivor" was doing alot of shunting around the North End so as to retrieve a Brake Van and the 'Lowmac' Wagon which were to form his short freight.After the 2nd train had left we chugged around Shackerstone,mainly up and down Platform 2 between the footbridge and the signalbox."Sir Gomer" behaved herself throughout the day as movements continued in much the same way.Once the last train had left we took her up to the shed and "screwed her down" just on the south side of the outside pit.

Another View of "Sir Gomer" Steaming Up,Looking Quite Smart!

A good day was had by all,thanks to Dave and "Sir Gomer"!.On Sunday (17th) I signed on for duty at 6:30am to find that "Ivor" had a driver,Jan,but no fireman! So I accepted the chance to fire the engine so joined Jan as her trainee.Meanwhile,"Sir Gomer" was behind "Ivor" being prepared by John and Adrian.Jan lit "Ivor" up and I then continued to build the fire after the first 'bed' had burnt through.Jan then began the important task of 'oiling round' whilst I began to collect rags for cleaning the underside.After 2 hours or so steam was almost raised and by 9am we were ready to go! Better early than late! All that remained was to clear the preparation tools away and clean the upper-side of the engine.This has cleaned with a form of 'Truckwash' and a Brush.I must admit that this cleaner did give the engine a shine! As soon as this job was finished and with 150psi on the clock we decided to head down to the station for breakfast.

"Ivor" The Engine In Platform 2 Just After Coming Off Shed

Once the first train had left then we had to head to the South End to help shunt the 2-car DMU. One of the cars had been declared 'out of service' to we could only use the Shenton-facing half of the set! Owen the Signal (Danny) was getting a little worried as the main train was growing ever closer to Shackerstone and we were still not ready! But we made just in time! We carried out four shuttles from Shackerstone to Hedleys Crossing and back. During these, the DMU Car hauled "Ivor" in the Hedleys direction and we hauled it in the return direction. For the shuttles we had the company of Andy (a passed fireman) but I was still left to fire. We made it back the first two times "OK" but the 3rd trip went better and the last trip was by far the best with the safety valves feathering all the way back to Shackerstone! For this trip, Dai Station accompained us on the footplate and here is a video which he took!

At the end of the day we carried out all of the neccesary disposal jobs on "Ivor" before leaving him in the yard after an enjoyable day indeed."Sir Gomer" had been on main train services all day and she shunted "Ivor" back into the shed when she herself went to bed."Ivor" also ran successfully the following weekend alongside LNER 4-6-0 B1 No1306 "Mayflower".I look forward to having another go on "Ivor" during his next visit as he is a very well behaved engine!