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Lydd and New Romney Branch

The Lydd Branch of the South Eastern Railway opened between Appledore and Lydd on 7th December 1881, having been promoted to develop a new harbour for cross-channel shipping services. Leaving the Ashford to Rye line at Appledore the route went via Lydd to Dungeness, then turned north to follow the coastline to New Romney. As so often happened with ambitious railway promotions, the cross-channel port never materialized.

Dungeness also saw goods services commence on 7th December 1881 but passenger trains didn't run until 1st April 1883. There was just one other station, at Brookland. The branch was notable for the large number of level crossings it possessed; twelve along the relatively short route of about eight miles!

 
Lydd Town Lydd Town station in 2003, in private hands and dire need of a little TLC!

photograph by James Kent

 
The continuation to New Romney opened on 19th June 1884 with trains needing to reverse at Lydd to go to both the stations at New Romney and Dungeness, therefore calling twice at Lydd!

The Southern Railway made some improvements in 1937, re-aligning the line with a new junction nearer to Dungeness. Two new unmanned halts were built at Lydd-on-Sea and Greatstone-on-Sea whilst Lydd was re-named Lydd Town. The new line opened on 4th July 1937 at which time passenger services to Dungeness ceased, the line still being used for goods traffic until final closure in 1963.

 
Brookland station in 2003. The sign with its back to the photographer gives instructions to drivers about to use the level crossing situated where the photographer is standing.

photograph by James Kent

Brookland
 
The lines' lifeblood was military traffic to the army camp and ranges south of Lydd, with Romney Marsh sheep and other farm goods providing the bulk of non-military goods traffic. Having been relatively prosperous before the First World War the branch fell on hard times after that event. Kitson steam rail cars were introduced in 1906 and in the 1930s a four-wheeled petrol-engined Drewry railcar was used together with the French "Micheline" which ran on rubber-tyred flanged wheels. The Southern Railway introduced stringent economies including demoting Brookland station to an unstaffed halt, removing the passing loop and selling off the station building!

The line's most famous day was the day a train brought down an enemy fighter! On 27th November 1942 a train hauled by an ex-LBSCR D3 class locomotive was attacked by a low-flying German fighter aircraft. Cannon shell from the 'plane burst the D3's boiler just as the plane flew over at a mere 20 feet high. The plane crashed, the pilot was killed whilst the train and driver survived! The loco was rebuilt and back in service by 11th March 1943.

 
Appledore The staggered platforms at Appledore station, on the Hastings-Ashford line, the junction for the truncated New Romney branch.

photograph by James Kent

 
Close-up of the signal, seen in the above photograph, which allows access to the line to Dungeness.

photograph by James Kent

Brookland
 
Post-war traffic, as was the case on the vast majority of branch lines, continued to decline. Two-car diesel-electrics replaced steam trains in 1962 and all goods services to New Romney were withdrawn in 1964. The line was right in the firing line of the Beeching Report and despite appeals lost its passenger trains on 6th March 1967. Goods services to Lydd continued until 1971, after which the line has only been used for the removal of ballast aggregates and by the nuclear power station at Dungeness to transport nuclear waste. Today the level crossings are unmanned and operated by train crews, with all the surplus track removed. Ironically, the first part of the line to suffer a loss of service is the only part now in use! The station buildings at Brookland and Lydd are still in situ, albeit in private hands.
 
Lydd Town Still in dire need of some TLC, Lydd Town station on 24th June 2010, photographed from the other direction.

photograph by Neil Walkling

 
For obvious reasons the flasks workings are classified, but regular reports of sightings are kept on various 'railway gen' groups on the Internet, therefore photos of these workings are more common in recent years, a majority taken on the branch itself. Since DRS took over the flasks, Classes 20, 37, 47 and 57 have appeared, though pairs of 37s are more frequent.
 
Two Class 37/6 diesels, Nº37601 (a former Eurostar loco) and Nº37682 hauling a single flask wagon through the remains of Lydd Town station and forming the 6M95 Dungeness - Willesden Junction working on 24th June 2010. The train eventually continued on to Sellafield via Crewe.

photograph by Neil Walkling

Lydd Town

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This page was last updated 8 August 2010

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