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May 2015

My name is Jessica Burris and I am the Deputy Archivist at the BMIHT Archive.

I came across my choice for Document of the Month when I was re-sleeving a small collection of Standard Motor Company glass negatives. One stood out from the rest as it was rather unusual. It showed not only a pre-war Standard motor car, but a steam train as well! When the image was scanned, it was possible to zoom in, and that’s when I discovered that the locomotive’s name plate said the Green Goddess. I couldn’t believe it as realised I’d travelled on this railway only days before!

Why This Document ?

The Green Goddess still runs today and was one of the original trains built for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway, when it opened on 16 July 1927. I believe that the station shown in the picture is Hythe railway station and, by the age of the Standard Nine saloon, I think the image was taken in the 1930s.

 

‘Hercules’ taken at Dungeness, from my recent visit to the railway

The project to build this railway line was started by two millionaires, Captain J E P Howey and Count Louis Zborowski, who were also railway enthusiasts and racing drivers. Count Zborowski was a patron of Aston Martin and raced for them at Brooklands. He is also famous for owning and racing the Chitty Bang BangMercedes. He was killed racing in the Italian Grand Prix in 1924, before the Romney Marsh site had been chosen for the 15” gauge railway. The project, however, was still successful and by 1928 double tracks carried trains the 13.5 miles from Hythe to Dungeness.

The railway became famous, particularly as it unusually formed part of the local public transport network. In fact the poster, which can be seen in the image, advertises it as the ‘Smallest Public Railway in the World’. Today, it still provides a public service for the towns and villages in the area and is under contract to the local council to transport children to and from school.

Another notable part of the railway’s history was during the war years, when it was requisitioned by the War Department. The only miniature armoured train in the world was created to run on the line. The railway played a valuable part in the building of PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean), which provided fuel to the Allies.

It was an amazing coincidence to find this picture just days after having been on the railway. But the picture not only appealed to me because of my personal connection with the railway but also because of the image itself. I like its juxtaposition of two different types of transport, but more than that it seemed to show two machines that belong to two different past eras. A steam train in my mind is associated with the nineteenth century, although I know they continued to be used throughout the twentieth. The motor car depicted here would, when the picture was taken in the 1930s, have been a more modern technological development than the steam train it was parked beside. Both machines, however, now belong to our past and have been superseded by further technological progress. It remains one of my favourite pictures in the archive and I think it represents an interesting part of our history.

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