ROMNEY TO REBUILD SECOND WORLD WAR ARMOURED TRAIN
A working armoured train is set to return to the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, as the line has launched an £18,000 appeal to build a new replica.
Owing to the RHDR’s strategic position on the Kent coast during the Second World War, 4-8-2 No. 5 Hercules was fitted with armour plating and used to propel a pair of specially built wagons fitted with anti-aircraft guns, which were coupled fore and aft. The train patrolled the line throughout the war and is said to have shot down at least one enemy aircraft.
As arguably the most enduring image of the RHDR’s contribution to the war, wooden mock-ups of the armoured locomotive and one of its wagons were built in the 1990s and displayed during special events. They also occasionally ran over the line, but have not been used in this way for many years and are now considered life-expired.
The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Association is building a new replica of one of the two wagons, based on one of the original armoured train’s Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway hopper wagon frames. Unlike the old replica, this will be built of armoured steel, and built to museum-quality drawings that reproduce the original dimensions, method of construction, and materials.
RHDRA Chairman Simon Foulkes said: “We will use the expertise of Armoured Engineering of Old Romney, which restores tanks and military vehicles to museum specifications for the likes of the Bovington Tank Museum.
“This goes way beyond the former wooden look-alike mock-up to a serious scheme to conserve the railway’s heritage.”
The railway is also building a new wooden mock-up of Hercules’ armour which can be fitted to either it or classmate No. 6 Samson and run at special events. Once finished, this will be the first time a working armoured train has operated over the Hythe-Dungeness line since the early 1990s.
Mr Foulkes says: “It won’t be the same spec or quality as the replica wagon, but it will mean we can actually fit it to a locomotive and run it on high days and holidays.
“The wagon should be finished by the summer, but the mock-up armour for Hercules will be a longer job; the trick there is designing something we can get on and off a locomotive without scratching the paintwork!
“We know surprisingly little about the original armoured train. If anyone has any information, please do get in touch.”
To contribute towards rebuilding the RHDR’s armoured train, visit www.rhdra.org/ projects/special-projects-fund
Somerset Light Infantry troops man the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway’s armoured train on October 14 1940.