Published: 10:16, 11 June 2019
| Updated: 11:23, 11 June 2019
Ever dreamed of seeing historic steam engines being winched over the rooftops?
If so, this weekend could be your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On Sunday, June 16 -189 years after it first arrived in the town to run on the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway - the renowned Invicta engine will be making its long-awaited return.
The locomotive will be lifted by crane into Whitstable Community Museum and Gallery, where it will soon be on permanent display.
Members of the public will be able to watch the unusual scene - but Brian Hitcham, chair of the museum trust, warns it will not be easy to get a clear view.
Unsurprisingly, shifting a six-tonne steam engine - the ninth-oldest in the world - is no easy task, and so a £70,000 plan of action has been carefully thought up by specialists.
Invicta will be removed from its current home at Canterbury’s Marlowe Kit early in the morning of Saturday, June 15, before being taken to Whitstable. Operations in the town’s high street will begin at 6am the next day.
Oxford Street is set to be closed to all traffic from Nelson Road up to Argyle Road from 6am until 7pm, although officials hope it will reopen by noon. Through traffic will be diverted along Cromwell Road, while Nelson Road will be access only. There will also be a pedestrian exclusion zone around the crane.
Mr Hitcham said: “Unfortunately, these safeguards will also have a major impact on the capacity for public viewing. Apologies are offered to residents and traders who may be affected by the closures, but it is hoped that the early start will help to limit the inconvenience.”
Whitstable Junior School’s charity car park will be open, for those hoping to spectate.
Invicta will be craned into position first, at about 7.30am. It will be followed by a stationary beam engine - one of only a few remaining early stationary winding engines - which will also be on display at Whitstable Museum.
Both Invicta and the stationary beam engine were built by Robert Stephenson and Co in their factory in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and played a significant part in early railway history.
They operated on the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway - colloquially known as The Crab and Winkle Line - which was the first railway in England to transport passengers in steam-hauled trains.
“June 16 will be a day of great celebration in Whitstable,” said Mr Hitcham. “Not only by the team of 70 volunteers who run the museum and who have worked tirelessly over the last few years in their efforts to make this happen, but also by the people of Whitstable who have shown their support and offered encouragement throughout.”
Once Invicta is on site, it will be some time before it is on display to the public.
Members of the museum trust will be first to view the engine at their AGM at 7pm on June 19, followed by the museum volunteers at 7.30pm the same evening.
The exhibition will officially begin on July 18, followed by several various events throughout the summer.
Details are available at www.whitstablemuseum.org.