To cater for the anticipated ballast traffic, the railway ordered two Mountain-type locomotives from Davey Paxman, to Henry Greenly’s design. The first of these, Hercules, arrived at New Romney on 20th April 1927.
The RH&DR then became the only railway in Britain operating such locomotives, which are similar to their Pacific cousins, but are slightly longer and have smaller driving wheels.
Hercules hauled the inaugural train from Hythe on the opening day of the line – July 16th 1927. However, the ballast traffic did not reach the levels expected and the 4-8-2’s were often de-railed by the points and curves in use on the railway during the early years.
Her condition was close to derelict at this time, but in 1936 renewed ballast traffic saw to it that Hercules was rebuilt for use on this service. So, by the time that the railway was commandeered by the Army she was fit to find fame as the engine used for the armoured train during World War Two.
The RHDRA have a project to build a replica armoured train – more details here.
Improvements to the track after the war meant that Hercules could return to normal duties and she was sent to Ashford for re-building, returning with a new large-capacity tender and a coat of red paint.
Following a 1978 overhaul, Hercules appeared sporting a maroon livery similar to that of the former Metropolitan Railway and with Northern Chief’s original Greenly designed tender, giving her the twin-appearance of her sister, Samson. In 1986, she became the fourth Romney engine to steam on the rails of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.
Returning from overhaul in 2005, she now runs in Midland Railway red, with a new large capacity tender.
Freelance outline two-cylinder 4-8-2 Mountain class locomotive.
Designed by Henry Greenly
Built by Davey Paxman & Co., (16041) in 1927
Overall length: 25′
Weight in working order: 8 ton 5cwt
Driving wheel diameter: 1′ 7.5″
Bogie and trailing wheel diameter: 1′
Cylinders: 5.25″ bore x 8.5″ stroke
Current Livery: Midland Railway Red