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A train and his blankee

Uncle B snuck into the engineering shed and took this picture. The blanket, he says, really is to keep the little sucker warm.

Today we rode part of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch line. Which really ought to be called the Hythe, Dymcurch and Romney, because Dymchurch is in the middle. Or, actually, the Hythe, Romney and Dungeness, as that’s the two ends and the middle, but the Dungeness part was added later.


The RHDR is a giant train set built in the Twenties by two eye-wateringly rich men: Captain J. E. P. Howey and Count Louis Zborowski (who built and raced the “Chitty Bang Bang” Mercedes). Zborowski wrapped himself around a tree in the Italian Grand Prix of 1924, before the first two engines were delivered, but Captain Howey soldiered on.

The trains are one-third full size locomotives, built to run at 25mph on rails 15 inches apart, from Dungeness to Hythe — which is maybe twenty miles. They’re butt-punishing miles — the coaches are tiny things with wooden seats — but it’s a great run. In addition to the usual sheep and cows and fields of ripe wheat, a large part of the route runs right past row after row of back gardens.

An Englishman’s back garden is an intensely personal space, so it’s fun to see a bunch of them (the ones that weren’t fenced off, anyhow), from the scruffiest to the manicured. There was one huge train set (natch). In some, people sat out on the lawn and waved as the train went by (a think I can totally see myself doing with a cup of coffee or bottle of beer).

The line was requisitioned during WWII and ran up and down — I shit you not — a tiny armored train with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on it — they have a reproduction in the yard. It was there to protect workers on Operation PLUTO, which was itself a pretty remarkable thing…for some other post, perhaps.

Our engine today was the Hurricane. But the one in the picture is The Bug, which started life on the RHDR but found its way to a scrap heap for many years. And then back again. Hurrah!

Have a good weekend, everyone!


Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 3, 2010, 10:48 pm

Why is it that whenever someone mentions “Dungeness”, I immediately want to ask if they got crabs?

BAD Scubafreak! BAD!

(Unless the crabs come with melted butter)

Comment from Monotone The Elderish
Time: September 3, 2010, 10:58 pm

so, they had 1/3 scale trains with anti-air guns on it? sweet. lol

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 3, 2010, 11:06 pm

The Dungeness crab is named after Dungeness, Washington — which is named after Dungeness, England.

The name “Dungeness” refers to the Dungeness headland in England. It was given by George Vancouver in 1792, who wrote: The low sandy point of land, which from its great resemblance to Dungeness in ths British Channel, I called New Dungeness.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 3, 2010, 11:19 pm

Here’s a still snagged from video Uncle B took today, Monotone. This is just a mock-up, though:

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 3, 2010, 11:20 pm

I have seen a phot of one of the reels that PLUTO was laid from. Verily, the biggest cable reel imaginable! I wanna see a photo of the gun train! Was it a 20mm Oerlikon? Anything else would be too big, I should think.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 4, 2010, 12:18 am

One Uncle B found:

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 4, 2010, 12:29 am

I had a root around (as we badgers do) and there’s a bit of info on this armoured train – though I bet I could find more… if I unpacked my books from the garage… (how many years is this?).

At least one of the types used was a.303 Lewis machine gun.

Anyway, here are some links to the others, and I’ll thank Her Ladyship for fishing me out of Akismet’s dungeon. where I’m bound to wind-up.




Oh, and apparently, they did actually down a few of the buggers!

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 4, 2010, 12:41 am

Yep, I recognized the Lewis Gun. Water-jacketed at that. I’ve always wanted one for my collection….

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 4, 2010, 1:26 am

damnit, now i’m going to be thinking about crabs all night.

King Crab, Opilio Crab, the crabs in Paris Hiltons knickers…… Bleh…

Comment from David Gillies
Time: September 4, 2010, 7:36 am

I told yez about the RHD railway in the last mini-train thread. Sheesh.

Another true fact: alongside one of the paths in Shanklin Chine (botanical park) in the IOW there was (is?) a defunct section of PLUTO just sitting there. Astoundingly narrow bore for something that was pumping millions of gallons a month to Normandy. And astounding it was not in a museum. Having said that, there’s fortifications dotted all over and around the Island, be they Carisbrooke-era, Henry VIII works like Yarmouth, Napoleonic sea forts, Palmerston’s follies like Golden Hill, or crumbling WW2 pillboxes in the tree-line of fields. We’ve been fighting off the threat of Continental marauders for a long, long time.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 4, 2010, 10:43 am

Ahhhh…I know, David…but I mentioned it first, on the thread below that one. We’ve been going to the RHDR for years. Also the Bluebell.

The RHDR drives along the Royal Military Canal for a ways, past several Martello Towers. Menace from the Continent is pervasive.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 4, 2010, 11:33 am

I don’t know the IOW, DG (only been there once, in fact) but it’s clearly a fascinating place.

When I was exploring this corner of the country before moving here, though, I did keep finding myself drawn to Dungeness, which is fascinating to walk around. It’s strewn with old block houses and derelict bits of concrete that once meant something. This whole area sounds much like the way you describe the IOW and is equally in need of some sympathetic archaeology.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: September 4, 2010, 4:03 pm

You should visit. The West Wight in particular is heart-breakingly beautiful. The view along the (coastal) Military Road towards Totland Bay is one of the finest in the UK. It’s expensive to take a car there, unfortunately (like sixty to eighty quid return) but you’ll need one.

I found Dungeness almost eerie in its isolation. Very strange place.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 4, 2010, 4:11 pm

Dungeness is still very eerie. Despite all the best efforts of the townies to screw it up — first the nuke and all the pylons that go with, now the wind farm — there’s something very elemental about it out there.

We don’t get there very often now, but we used to go way out of our way just to walk on the shingle and stare out at the big boats on the Channel.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 6, 2010, 6:42 pm

OK, I can see where they might put a Boys on board, the .55 AP round, if it hit, would do some damage, especially to an engine. I would think that a Bofors would be asking rather a lot out of a 15″ gauge flatcar. Desperate times call for strange measures, like the Home Army’s Molotove Cocktail flinger, The Bates Eight Barrel Bottle Thrower.

That was a device that used compressed air to fire Movotov Cocktails, as a cheap anti tank gun for the Home Guard, when it looked like the Germans were going to invade.Alas, I could not find a photo. Ian Hogg said that he regretted only being 15 at the time, as the perfect answer to, ” what did you do in the War, Daddy?”, would have been, ” I was gunlayer on a Bates Eight Barreled Bottle Thrower “.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 6, 2010, 9:55 pm

In the house next door to ours, Scott, the Molotovs were buried towards the end of the war. And then forgotten… until someone lit a bonfire. Now that’s what I call a party!

Meanwhile, A local farmer told me that his father had been a captain in the local Home Guard and (when they finally got some decent weapons) had practised his accuracy with a machine gun on the local rabbit population.

We could do with him this year.

Comment from Bill (still the .00358% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: September 6, 2010, 10:00 pm

Ballantine put out a series of WWII-themed paperbacks in the ’70s, one of which was titled “Wonder Weapons.” Had an entire chapter on the ones that could only be classified as “WTF Were They Thinking?”, such as the Great Panjandrum, a giant, flaming, rocket-propelled wheel designed to scream along the beaches, incinerating German invasion barges. It described the Bates and mentioned Ian Hogg’s quip about it, but evidently even their archivists couldn’t find a picture of one.

Comment from Little Black Sambo
Time: September 8, 2010, 1:52 pm

The Great Panjandrum appears – in action – in the film “Overlord”, which, although made long after the war, contains a lot of archive footage.

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