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Letter from the Chair - April 2022

A busy month just gone, starting with the Heritage Railway Association’s Spring seminar in York. Unsurprisingly, a key topic for discussion was coal supplies which have a high level of uncertainty. The UK production of suitable coal is ending so it will all have to be imported. This was always going to be challenging but the recent nervousness in global energy markets has accentuated the issue. I was very interested in a presentation from CPL Fuels about their work in developing fuels with a lower carbon footprint.

CPL Fuels is a major importer of coal, a percentage of which arrives as coal dust in the cargo hold. This dust is now being mixed with biowaste to produce a fuel that is suitable for firing a steam loco. Industry trials are being held and the results are promising. It is an important area of focus for the RHDR as national sentiment challenging the burning of fossil fuels grows. Operating in an industry that could be seen as ‘old-fashioned’ we are determined to take advantage of developments to move to cleaner, greener but practical alternatives. The firing of a steam loco is not a simple matter!

Having said that, we are confident that we have secured supplies for this year and warmly welcomed (if that’s the right phrase) a coal delivery in March. It’s not often that a coal delivery is a newsworthy event!

Board members also had a day’s working session with the trustees of the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Association (RHDRA). The RHDRAis a charity and its goals are to support the railway practically and financially, and to maintain a Heritage Centre. There is a strong and supportive relationship between the railway company and the association. However, the enforced separation of the last two ‘Covid’ years has meant that we hadn’t had the chance to meet. We were able to meet, develop personal working relationships and share views and experiences on the past and future direction of the railway. The RHDRA’s support has been – and continues to be – a great asset and I’m confident that the relationship will only grow stronger over time.

Meanwhile, of course, we are gearing up for our main running season. We have made excellent progress with all the winter projects and are ready to be busy again. Mothers’ Day running was a great success with many Mums taking advantage of the opportunity to drive a loco – under careful supervision of course – and within the safe confines of Hythe Station. Easter will soon be upon us, followed by a huge rush of Bank Holidays. We are sure that many people who wanted to visit us, but were deterred by Covid, will now be confident to return for a great day in the fresh air.

David Packer Chair of the RH&DR Board www.rhdr.org.uk

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