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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!

September 3, 2010 — 10:40 pm
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