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Increasing our pulling power: overhauling the Rochester Castle locomotive

21 February 2022

Two teams of the Historic Dockyard’s volunteers are combining forces to completely overhaul one of its 65 year-old diesel locomotives – Rochester Castle.

Rochester Castle was one of six new diesel locomotives ordered by the Admiralty in the 1950s to replace the dockyard’s ageing steam locomotive fleet.

Rochester Castle on the historic railway at The Historic Dockyard Chatham

All six diesels were built by F.C.Hibberd & Co.Ltd at their Park Royal Works in West London and delivered in 1955. In keeping with tradition, each was named after a Kentish castle – number 3738 Rochester Castle being the sole survivor still based at the historic dockyard.

The locomotive is now undergoing a long-awaited major overhaul of engine, powertrain and body.

Image: Rochester Castle laid bare – the Railway team have stripped the locomotive right back. 

Unusually, the Rochester Castle is powered by a six litre Foden two-stroke diesel engine – lighter and more powerful than many equivalent four-stroke diesel engines – and more normally used in road haulage or marine applications.

The heart of historic locomotive Rochester Castle - six litres of cylinder liners, pistons and conrods
Image: ‘The heart of Rochester Castle – six litres of cylinder liners, pistons and conrods.’

The Chatham Dockyard Voluntary Service (CDVS) team, under experienced marine engineer Frank Foreman, is rebuilding the massive engine: they are collaborating with the Dockyard Railway volunteers, in a team led by Neal Short, who are working to overhaul the powertrain and body.

Two volunteers removing the cylinder liners from Rochester Castle for inspection
Image: Volunteers removing the cylinder liners for inspection.

The work will take several months and, barring unforeseen issues, the teams are aiming to complete the overhaul by the Summer of 2022.

Find out more about our historic railway

Thank you to CDVS volunteer, Andrew Pincott, for writing this blog post.

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