Do you remember the film musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? The movie was about a car of that name. Here’s the car as it appeared in the 1958 movie:
So where’s the railway bit? Bear with me – I admit it is a bit tenuous.
The movie was loosely based on the book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car which was a children’s book written by Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond) for his son Caspar. The book and the subsequent movie were inspired by the exploits of Count Louis Zborowski who Fleming greatly admired. The Count was a racing car designer and driver. It was his car, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that the car in the movie was based on.
And it was some car.
Zborowski’s first Chitty, a chain-drive lengthened Mercedes chassis with a 23 litre six cylinder Maybach aero engine (mounted backwards) caused a sensation in 1921 when on its first day out at the Brooklands Easter meeting it won two races and came second in a sprint behind another of Zborowski’s cars. Chitty’s first win was the 100 mph Brooklands Short Handicap at a speed of 100.75 mph. My Element has a 2.4 litre engine. Which means the engine capacity of the first Chitty was the equivalent of 10 Elements. The back of the car was filled with 700 pounds of ballast to keep the wheels on the ground! The car made so much noise it was banned from the town of Canterbury.
Ok, Ok, so what’s the connection with a railroad?
The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR – a 14 mile long 15 inch gauge railway in Kent, England) was the culmination of the dreams of two men; Captain J. E. P. Howey — a sometimes racing driver, millionaire land owner, former Army Officer and miniature railway afficionado and Count Louis Zborowski — eminently well-known racing driver of his day and considerably richer, even, than Howey.
The Count was keen to build a fully working express railway using the 15″ gauge, and Howey — well known in miniature railway circles for owning large locomotives of that gauge — was inspired by the vision also. To try to fulfil their ambition the pair attempted to purchase the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in the Lake District of England, but to no avail.
Despite this setback, the Count ordered two pacific locomotives, Green Goddess and Northern Chief, to be designed by the leading model engineer of his day, Henry Greenly and built in Colchester by Davey, Paxman and Co. and which would run on the miniature express line the pair were determined to build.
Before they were delivered however, the Count was killed while racing at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix. Howey was left with two locos and the task of finding somewhere to run them. He commissioned Greenly to help him, and it was he that came up with the site of the Romney Marsh and the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. Got the connection?
So when you go there (a must) do remember to tell your companions the connection of the Railway to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.