A shrill whistle pierces the dazzling air, and a skein of smoke drifts between the bungalows and telephone wires stretched between weatherboarded shacks. Into view comes an express steam locomotive pulling a long rake of timber carriages between the clumps of sea kale and viper's bugloss. This is the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway, a 15" gauge mainline running over thirteen miles from Hythe to the Dungeness lighthouses. But this is not just another miniature seaside attraction, this is a living railway that runs a school special and was armoured during the last war, carrying supplies for the Pluto pipeline that transported fuel over to Northern France. The railway was the ambitious dream of two men: Captain Howey, millionaire landowner, and Count Louis Zborowski, the famous racing driver who drove the Mercedes 'Chitty Bang Bangs'. After an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Ravenglass & Eskdale railway they ordered two Pacific locomotives - Green Goddess and Northern Chief (seen here), but before they were delivered Zborowski was killed when he burrowed his Merc into a tree during the Italian Grand Prix. The locomotives' engineer Henry Greenly then came up with the Romney Marsh as a location, and the line, albeit at first just to New Romney, was opened on the 16th July 1927. There are fewer such delightful pleasures than travelling on the train for its three hour return trip from the Hythe terminus out to the end of the peninsular, particularly if you can get snuggled into the upholstered comforts of 'Clara', the licensed carriage named after Howey's wife. Steam, oil, beer and lighthouses. Does it really get much better?
Harry Willock: The man behind the curtain / Part one
11 hours ago