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The Invicta - the world's ninth-oldest locomotive - to be moved from Canterbury Heritage Museum to Whitstable Museum

By Joe Wright

Shifting a six-tonne steam locomotive is no easy task, but when it’s stored in a confined space with no obvious means of getting it out, the challenge is harder.

Add to that its exceptional historical significance as the ninth-oldest surviving locomotive in the world, and the Invicta’s move from Canterbury to Whitstable is a headache for all involved.

However, a £70,000 plan of action - to be overseen by specialists - has revealed the ins and outs of the weighty operation.

The Invicta Engine in Canterbury Heritage Museum. Picture: Paul Amos
The Invicta Engine in Canterbury Heritage Museum. Picture: Paul Amos

Currently housed in the former Canterbury Heritage Museum, in Stour Street, the 190-year-old engine will move seven miles north to Whitstable Museum.

Its relocation - unanimously agreed upon by councillors last year - will see the temporary removal of windows and doors at the old heritage museum, which has now become a new drama facility for the Marlowe Theatre.

With a more spacious route being opened up, the Invicta’s chimney and smokebox will be dismantled in preparation for the body of the locomotive to move.

Its axle bearings will be coated in lubricating oil before it is carefully wheeled along rails out of the building and towards a low loader truck.

After being craned onto the flatbed and covered with protective sheeting, it will be transported to the coastal town.

Canterbury Heritage Museum
Canterbury Heritage Museum

After arriving, the trickiest part of the operation arises, with the town’s high street needing to be entirely closed off.

With no easy way into the museum, the Invicta will be craned over its eight-metre roof and delicately lowered into the courtyard.

It will then be rolled along rails through a new purpose-made entrance into the museum.

The Invicta will then become a main draw at the town centre attraction, with it being the centrepiece of a new exhibition.

Whitstable Museum and Gallery. Picture: Paul Amos
Whitstable Museum and Gallery. Picture: Paul Amos

Built in 1829 by famed engineers George and Robert Stephenson, the Invicta first operated at the opening of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway in 1830.

Having been withdrawn from active service in 1839, it is the world’s longest-preserved locomotive.

Brian Hitcham, chairman of the Whitstable Community Museum, said: “So many people will be so pleased to see it when it arrives.

"It’s a nightmare logistically but it will be fantastic to have it on show in the town.

“A specialist team with experience of handling heavy artefacts will be making sure it goes well.”

The £25,000 costs for dismantling and transport will be covered by the city council, the rest funded by the Whitstable Museum and Gallery Trust.

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