SOS campaign for Chatham dockyard steam volunteers

THE Historic Dockyard Chatham has sounded an SOS for volunteers to help keep its standard gauge railway running.

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns 0-4-0ST No. 7042 of 1941 Ajax was delivered new to Chatham Dockyard when it carried the yard number 361. In 1972 the Admiralty disposed of all its remaining steam locomotives at Chatham except Ajax, which was kept in working order and used until the closure of the dockyard in 1984. Ajax is seen steaming up alongside historic dockyard buildings fronting the River Medway. CHDT

Since the Royal Navy Dockyard closed in March 1984 and became a unique visitor attraction as the world’s only preserved naval dockyard from Tudor times, the internal standard gauge railway has continued to operate at least once a month, using volunteers.

The Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust wants to extend the railway service, and needs more volunteers to do so.

However, the railway team has shrunk in size, with older members forced by health or age to give up. The addition of a few younger volunteers has seen the team grow to 15 – but the trust needs to double the figure if it is to expand the railway’s operations.

It has therefore launched the SOS – Support our Steam Railway – campaign.

Gravesend-born enthusiast Brian Bollen, 69, a retired marine engineer who first became involved just before the Dockyard closed and drives 40 miles from his home in Margate to head up the weekend operation, said: “There’s something magical about working the railway. I would love others to share the magic to ensure it continues for more generations to enjoy.

Read more in Issue 226 of HR – out now!

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