Classic steam locomotive that hauled trains between Bournemouth and Bath stars In Autumn Steam Gala

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

 

A classic Somerset and Dorset steam locomotive that hauled passenger and freight trains between Bournemouth and Bath – via Poole, Broadstone and Blandford – for almost 40 years has starred in the Swanage Railway's three-day Autumn Steam Gala.

The annual event saw Friday and Saturday evening timetabled passenger trains run in the dark on the newly restored four-mile line between Norden and the River Frome, near Wareham, for the first time since January, 1972, when British Rail closed the branch line to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

There were also nostalgic goods trains that ran between Norden and Swanage, re-creating the everyday railway scene from yesteryear.

Built in 1925, the Somerset and Joint Railway Fowler-designed 7F No. 53809 ran on one of Britain's most popular railway lines among railway enthusiasts – the Somerset and Dorset – which was closed 50 years ago in 1966.

Also taking part in the three-day steam gala was a fellow visitor – a powerful Stanier 8F locomotive No. 48624 which spent its working life based in the London area.

Dating from 1943, No. 48624 is the only surviving member of the class to be built by the Southern Railway for hauling heavy freight, munitions and troop trains during the Second World War.

As well as a frequent steam train service between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Swanage, the gala will also saw steam trains operating on the Swanage Railway's newly restored  four-mile section of line between Norden and the River Frome, within sight of Wareham.

Running to a point half a mile south of Worgret Junction – at the River Frome – on the main London to Weymouth line west of Wareham station, the trains had a steam locomotive at each end.

Fowler 7F No. 53809 and Stanier 8F No. 48624 were joined by the Swanage Railway's fleet of steam locomotives – Victorian-designed M7 tank No. 30053 built in 1905, late 1920s Southern Railway U-class No. 31806 and 1940s Southern Railway Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34070 'Manston'.

Swanage Railway General Manager Matt Green said: "With two visiting classic steam locomotives built in the 1920s and the 1940s – and six trains a day running to the River Frome near Wareham, two of them in the evening when it's dark – this year's Autumn Steam Gala was certainly one to remember.

"We had a very successful Autumn steam gala while the two visiting steam locomotives performed well and were well liked by the crews. The Swanage Railway has a well deserved reputation for putting on a good show and the Autumn steam gala was a superb event.

"I would like to thank everyone on the Swanage Railway who worked so hard in planning and delivering such an enjoyable Autumn steam gala – and also the public who supported such a wonderful event as well as the owners who agreed to their precious locomotives visiting the Swanage Railway.

"It was a Stanier 8F locomotive that hauled one of the last passenger trains – an enthusiasts' special from Bath to Bournemouth via Blandford and Broadstone – on the last day of Somerset and Dorset line in March, 1966.

"The Somerset and Dorset 7F locomotives were marvellous locomotives and were the workhorses of the Somerset and Dorset line, from Broadstone to Bath via Blandford, for almost 40 years. No. 53809 was withdrawn in 1964.

"Built in 1943 at Ashford in Kent, 8F No. 48624 was withdrawn by British Railways in 1965 and sent to a scrapyard at Barry in South Wales. It escaped the cutter's torch after being purchased by dedicated enthusiasts in 1981 who took 28 years to restore it to full working order," explained Mr Green.

The award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum, next to Norden station, was open during all three days of the gala, as was the goods shed museum, exhibition coach and cinema coach at Corfe Castle station.

The refreshment kiosk on the platform at Norden station, as well as the station buffet coach at Swanage, was also open during the three-day steam gala – as was the fund-raising shop at Swanage station.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons explained: "Equipped with full barriers, warning lights and audible alerts, the Norden Gates level crossing allows passenger trains to run beyond Norden and on to our newly restored and upgraded four-mile line to the River Frome – within sight of Wareham.

"Built of wood – with a slate roof – the signal box at Norden Gates level crossing has been built in the style of the branch line signal box at Lyme Regis station in west Dorset.

"A lot of detailed work has gone into designing, building and installing the signal box and signalling system at Norden Gates – together with its electrical operation and safety systems," added Trevor, a Swanage Railway train guard and signalman.

Approved by the Government's Department for Transport, Norden Gates level crossing's computer-controlled safety systems, crossing barriers and road user warning systems were designed and installed by Schweizer Electronic of Switzerland.

Trevor Parsons added: "Thanks to a grant from the Government's Coastal Communities Fund and Swanage Railway resources, the work between Norden Gates and the River Frome has included raising the line speed to 25mph.

"We have also upgraded and widened a quarter-mile long embankment near Furzebrook and laid half a mile of continuously welded rail on concrete sleepers through the protected Creech Heath to reduce intrusive track maintenance.               

"We have also repaired three miles of fencing; carried out tree and vegetation removal and repair works; replaced more than 1,000 sleepers; increased the track ballast to improve rail and train ride quality," he added.

Rebuilt from nothing since 1976, the volunteer-run Swanage Railway carries more than 200,000 passengers a year on the six miles of relaid railway line between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross, Herston Halt and Swanage.

The heritage railway contributes more than £14 million to the Purbeck economy every year and profits from the running of train services and special events are ploughed back into the development and extension of the Swanage Railway and its facilities.

The Swanage Railway is run by some 500 regular volunteers – assisted by a team of more than 30 paid staff – and the value of the Swanage Railway volunteers' work is £2 million a year if they were paid.           

The Swanage Railway contributes to the public transport system in the Isle of Purbeck thanks to the Purbeck District Council pay and display car park located next to Norden station – located off the main A351 road from Wareham to Corfe Castle – and also the Swanage Railway's discounted fares scheme for Purbeck residents.

British Rail controversially closed its ten mile branch line from Wareham to Swanage in January, 1972, and the six and a half miles of track from Swanage to near Furzebrook was torn up for scrap during the summer of 1972.

It took dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers 30 years to relay the tracks.

The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers – for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email '

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Dorset High Sheriff officially opens new £500,000 level crossing enabling passenger trains to Wareham

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright                          

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

A new £500,000 level crossing enabling regular passenger trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham – for the first time since 1972 – has been officially opened by the High Sheriff of Dorset.

During Victorian times, the family of Sir Philip Williams were among the promoters who brought the 1847-opened railway from Southampton to Dorchester via Wareham – and his great-grandfather was a director of the London and South Western Railway until the company's end in 1922.

The High Sheriff of Dorset cut a ceremonial ribbon at Norden Gates level crossing –located just west of Norden station and half a mile north of Corfe Castle – that has taken dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers four years and more than 3,000 hours of design, building and testing work.

Also a celebration of the completion of the 18-month restoration and upgrade of three miles of former Network Rail line – to within a quarter of a mile of Worgret Junction and the main line to Wareham – Sir Philip unveiled a brass plaque on Norden station.

After the official opening, the High Sheriff of Dorset and his wife joined more than 60 guests on a special five-coach train that ran over the level crossing and on to the four-mile line that takes the Swanage Railway's tracks to within a quarter of a mile of Worgret Junction and the main line to Wareham.

A key part of the Swanage Railway's two-year trial train service to Wareham from June, 2017, the funding of Norden Gates level crossing has been provided thanks to the 'legacy' support of the Wytch Farm oil field's previous operator British Petroleum (BP).

Located west of the Swanage Railway's Norden station, the state of the art level crossing called 'Norden Gates' allows trains to cross a busy and important road giving access to the Wytch Farm on-shore oilfield as well as Purbeck District Council's car park next to Norden station.

Her Majesty the Queen's judicial representative in Dorset, a delighted Sir Philip Williams said: "It is a great honour, as well as obviously a great pleasure, to be asked to open this latest stage in the full re-integration of the Swanage Railway into the national railway network.

"I am proud and privileged that this occasion has fallen within my year as High Sheriff and that, as a life-long railwayman, I can therefore play a part.

"The official opening of Norden Gates level crossing marks one more decisive stage in the long and tireless efforts of numerous enthusiasts, volunteers and staff who – by their vision and their contribution with time and abilities of brain or muscle – have refused to let the Swanage Railway die."

"I congratulate all who have brought the revival of the Swanage Railway to this stage and I look forward to its enjoying many years of success and prosperity into the future."

"My family first became involved in extending the railways into Dorset and the West Country by facilitating the Southampton and Dorchester Railway nearly 200 years ago."

"I’m not sure if my great-grandfather, who was the longest-serving director of the London & South Western Railway when it lost its identity in 1922, ever opened a line himself but I do hope that he would be proud that Wareham and Swanage will soon be connected by passenger-carrying rails again," added the High Sheriff who is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "The safety of the public, and our passengers, is our paramount concern. The new full-barrier level crossing will enable regular passenger trains to run from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the Wareham for the first time since 1972.

"A hugely complex infrastructure project has been successfully completed by a volunteer-led organisation and is about to bring main line-connected rail travel back to a corner of south-east Dorset for the first time in more than 40 years. The infrastructure has been completed and is ready for trial services to take place on 140 selected days over two years from the summer of 2017.

"This success is thanks to the foresight of our Project Wareham funders as well as the commitment of our volunteers and supporters. The Swanage Railway's hard-working staff are also to be congratulated.

"The Swanage Railway is also grateful to former Wytch Farm oil field operator British Petroleum (BP) for providing the 'legacy' payment of £500,000 so the new Norden Gates level crossing could be built," added Mr Johns.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons explained: "Equipped with full barriers, warning lights and audible alerts, the signal box for Norden Gates level crossing has been built of wood – with a slate roof – in the style of the branch line signal box at Lyme Regis station in west Dorset.

"A lot of detailed work has gone into designing, building and installing the signal box and signalling system at Norden Gates – together with its electrical operation and safety systems – and I thank everyone involved, including Project Wareham director Mark Woolley and his project manager Frank Roberts," added Trevor, a Swanage Railway train guard and signalman.

Approved by the Government's Department for Transport, the level crossing's computer-controlled safety systems, crossing barriers and road user warning systems were designed and installed by Schweizer Electronic of Switzerland.

Swanage Railway's Project Wareham director Mark Woolley said: "Thanks to a grant from the Government's Coastal Communities Fund and Swanage Railway resources, the work has included raising the line speed to 25mph, upgrading and widening a quarter-mile long embankment near Furzebrook as well as laying half a mile of continuously welded rail on concrete sleepers through the protected Creech Heath to reduce intrusive track maintenance.               

"We have also repaired three miles of fencing; carried out tree and vegetation removal and repair works; replaced more than 1,000 sleepers; increased the track ballast to improve rail and train ride quality," explained Mark, a dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer since the early 1980s.

Purbeck Community Rail Partnership chairman, Councillor Mike Lovell, said:  “This is a huge step in the project to enable a regular passenger service from Wareham to Swanage.

"On behalf of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership, I would like to thank the Swanage Railway and all the contractors and funders who have made this possible. We very much look forward to the start of a trial service," he added.

The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers – for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email '

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The Swanage Railway Trust wins £75,000 Government Grant to help return Swanage Steam Trains to the Main Line at Wareham

 

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright, 

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.

 

The historic return of steam trains running from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham – for the first time since 1966 – is a step closer with dedicated volunteers overhauling a 1920s steam locomotive winning a £75,000 Government grant.

The money from the Department for Transport will pay for main line safety and communication equipment to be installed on Southern Railway 'N' class 'Mogul' steam locomotive No. 31874 and also pay for the upgrade of a rake of five carriages to main line standard.

Members of the Swanage Railway Trust's Moguls Group are half way through a four-year £500,000 project to overhaul the 1925-built locomotive – designed by Richard Maunsell for passenger and freight work – to main line standards.

Withdrawn for scrap by British Railways in 1964, it is hoped that No. 31874 will haul its first passenger train since 1998 during late 2016 or early 2017 – and be ready for main line running to Wareham in late 2017 or early 2018.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "It's hoped that the return of steam trains between Swanage and Wareham – which is subject to track access agreements with Network Rail – will increase tourism and boost the Isle of Purbeck economy in a sustainable way."

Members of the Swanage Railway Trust's Swanage Moguls Fund won the prize money after pitching their proposal to judges in a 'Dragon's Den'-style event held in London as part of the Department of Transport's Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation Competition.

Announcing the news, a delighted Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and heritage and community railways are part of that package.

“I am delighted that the Swanage Railway is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Dorset,” she added.

Gavin Johns explained: "Regular steam trains from Swanage to the main line at Wareham – for the first time since 1966 – will increase the attractiveness of the Swanage Railway and encourage more people to make car-free journeys to the Isle of Purbeck.

"Steam trains to the main line at Wareham will also increase the capacity of Swanage Railway services and make them more robust, provide a service that our customers are seeking and also make for a great day out in the Isle of Purbeck by rail from London.

"I would like to thank Swanage Railway Trustee Nick Coram, our General Manager Matt Green, our carriage and wagon manager James Cox and project development advisor Colin Morgan for their professionalism and hard work in putting together our winning bid – and for making such an effective presentation to the Department of Transport judges in London," he added.

Southern Railway Maunsell-designed sister locomotive, 'U' class No. 31806 is one of the Swanage Railway's stable of operational locomotives and hauls trains between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross, Herston and Swanage.

The Southern Railway's 'N' class and 'U' class steam locomotives were nicknamed 'Moguls' because of their 2-6-0 wheel arrangement.

The Department of Transport's £75,000 grant to the Swanage Railway Trust is being matched by the Trust to the tune of £25,000 worth of labour.

No. 31874 was sent to the railway scrapyard in Barry, South Wales, during 1964 to be cut up. Luckily, the locomotive escaped the cutter's torch and was saved for preservation in 1974 – returning to the rails in Hampshire in 1977.

A two-year trial diesel train service linking Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham is due to begin in June, 2017, thanks to a £1.8 million grant from the Government's Coastal Communities Fund in 2014.

 

To help the Swanage Moguls Fund with its overhaul of Maunsell 'Mogul' No. 31874, visit www.swanagemoguls.com

Spring Stream Gala - Drummond M7 operates public trains to the new Swanage Railway boundary at the River Frome

A rare Victorian-designed M7 tank steam locomotive has hauled a passenger train to Furzebrook, Creech Bottom, East Holme and down to the River Frome – within sight of Wareham – for the first time in more than 50 years.

The special piece of railway history involving Drummond Locomotive Society-owned No. 30053 took place on Friday, 8 April, 2016, on the first day of the Swanage Railway's Spring Steam Gala.

A veteran of the Swanage branch in the late 1930s and during the 1940s – as well as from late 1963 to May, 1964 – the M7 was built for the London and South Western Railway at Nine Elms in London during 1905.

No. 30053's historic first run started when it departed Swanage station with the 4.30pm to Norden where 1916-built Great Western Railway Tank locomotive No. 4247 was attached to the rear of the train for the four-mile run to the River Frome.

Then, at 5.02pm, the train departed Norden station for the River Frome with No. 30053 hauling its first passenger train between Norden and half-a-mile short of Worgret Junction for the first time since May, 1964, when the last of the M7s – including No. 30053 – were withdrawn from traffic at Bournemouth shed.

After reaching the Frome River bridge No. 4 at 5.15pm – location of the new Network Rail distant signal for Worgret Junction on the London to Weymouth main line west of Wareham – the train stopped for ten minutes to allow passengers to take in the views of the Frome valley as well as Wareham with the bell tower of the Medieval Lady St Mary's church by the town quay.

At 5.25pm, the train departed the Frome River with No. 4247 on the front and M7 No. 30053 on the back – passing over the Norden Gates level crossing at 5.40pm before running into Norden station.

On the footplate of No. 30053 for its historic first run between Norden, Motala, Furzebrook, Creech Bottom, East Holme and the River Frome since May, 1964, was driver Ian McDavid and fireman Alexander Atkins.

A delighted Alexander said: "It was fantastic to go over the new Norden Gates level crossing and on to Furzebrook and down the bank to the River Frome because it was the first time that an M7 has been on that stretch of line since 1964 which is amazing in itself.

"Luckily, we didn't run out of steam or water on the way up to Furzebrook and, in fact, No. 30053 she flew up with the equivalent of around eight coaches on. It was the perfect way to start a new era.

"It was very pleasing to fire the M7 on its first run down to the River Frome, mainly due to the ability of No. 30053 to haul the equivalent of eight coaches up the 1 in 78 gradient – coming back from the River Frome to Furzebrook – unassisted. Moreover, the M7 actually accelerated up the bank. 

"Ian McDavid, my driver, and I were rather chuffed that we managed the climb the two mile gradient from the River Frome to Furzebrook in such fine fashion – full second valve, 25 per cent cut off, injector on and pressure hovering on the red line all the way to the top.

"It was a real thrill to fire No. 30053 on its first passenger train between Norden, Furzebrook and the River Frome since May, 1964 – the Edwardian locomotive is an absolutely marvellous machine," added the former member of the Swanage Railway's Sygnets youth group.

The Swanage Railway's three-day Spring Steam Gala also saw two other firsts take place on the newly completed four-mile extension between Norden Gates level crossing and the River Frome.

It was the first time that a Bulleid Pacific steam locomotive had hauled a timetabled passenger train on that section of line since September, 1966.

And it was also the first time since the early 1960s that a Southern Railway 'U' class locomotive had performed the train-hauling honours between Norden, Furzebrook and the River Frome.

Starting from Swanage, four passenger trains a day during the Spring Steam Gala ran the four miles beyond Norden station, over the newly installed Norden Gates level crossing and on past Motala, Furzebrook, Creech Bottom and East Holme before stopping at the River Frome – within sight of the town of Wareham.

Passengers were not able to board or alight the steam trains running over the four-mile extension beyond Norden station and the trains operating between Norden and the River Frome had a steam locomotive at each end.

Swanage Railway Company director and director for Project Wareham, Mark Woolley, said: "It was a real thrill to see the Drummond Locomotive Society's M7 tank make such a special piece of history and run past locations that the locomotive last visited more than 50 years ago.

"It was very lucky that No. 30053 escaped the cutter's torch in 1964 and was purchased by an American millionaire for his locomotive museum in the United States.

"It was even more remarkable that a group of Swanage Railway volunteers was able to purchase the locomotive from the museum more than 20 years later, return No. 30053 to the Swanage Railway and restore her to full working order.

"The M7 represents some 40 years of Swanage Railway locomotive history, from the 1920s through to the 1960s, and it is the archetypal Purbeck branch line engine.

"Our dedicated teams have worked very hard over the past 18 months restoring and upgrading the three-mile former Network Rail line from Motala through Furzebrook, Creech Bottom and East Holme down to the Frome River.

"Half a mile of new track has been laid, almost 2,000 wooden track sleepers replaced, a quarter-mile long embankment upgraded and six miles of lineside embankments cut back, fences repaired and drains cleared," added Mr Woolley, a dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer since the early 1980s.

General Manager Matt Green said: "I would like to say a very big thank you to everyone on the Swanage Railway who has made the train service to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham, and the Spring Steam Gala possible.

"That includes our permanent way team which has performed miracles on our new three-mile stretch of line between Motala and the River Frome over the past 18 months.

"There has been a lot of preparation as well as a lot of hard work during the Spring Steam Gala to make sure that everything runs smoothly for what is a very historic event.

"It has been a great team effort and there has been a real buzz around the railway about the first passenger trains using our new £500,000 state of the art level crossing at Norden Gates, just west of Norden station, before continuing on for some four miles to the River Frome," added Mr Green.

The guest locomotive for this year's Spring Steam Gala was a powerful hundred-year-old veteran of the Great Western Railway built in Wiltshire during the First World War for a working career hauling heavy coal trains in South Wales.

A few years before its withdrawal by British Railways in 1964 – and with a powerful tractive effort of more than 31,000 lbs – steam locomotive No. 4247 was transferred south to Cornwall where it hauled trains of China Clay from the pits to the port of Fowey.

After spending 20 years languishing in a South Wales scrapyard, the 82-tonne locomotive was rescued and restored to full working order by a dedicated band of railway enthusiasts from the 4247 Preservation Society.

Also appearing during the Spring Steam Gala was the Swanage Railway's stable of four steam ex-main line locomotives dating from 1905 through to 1955.

There was London and South Western Railway M7 tank No. 30053 built in 1905, Southern Railway U-class locomotive No. 31806 built in the late 1920s, Southern Railway Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34070 'Manston' from the mid-1940s and British Railways Standard Class 4 Tank No. 80104 built at Brighton in 1955.

A 2-8-0 wheel arrangement steam locomotive, No. 4247 visited the Swanage Railway from its home on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway in Cornwell where it has been hauling trains on the heritage line for ten years.

Matt Green explained: "The locomotive hauled long 1,000-tonne coal trains from the South Wales mines down to ports for export before hauling the empty wagons back to the coal mines. No. 4247 was a reliable and hard-working stalwart.

"After being rescued from the famous steam locomotive scrapyard at Barry in South Wales, dedicated volunteers spent 20 years of hard work restoring No. 4247 to the gleaming steam locomotive seen and enjoyed today," he added.

The Swanage Railway's Spring Steam Gala also saw the award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum next to Norden station open as well as the goods shed museum, exhibition and cinema coach at Corfe Castle station.

Swanage Railway train times – and special event details – are available online at www.swanagerailway.co.uk or by telephone on 01929 425800.

Maunsell Mogul Fundraising team

The Swanage Railway N Class overhaul team is looking for a Fundraising Co-ordinator and Fund Raising Team Members.

This is the perfect role for someone who wants to get involved with this exciting project, yet keep their hands clean. Your role is just as important as the fitters and volunteers who are putting No.31874 back together and offers of help are urgently required.

Once 31874 is completed, the attentions will turn to U Class no.31625 and, eventually, the overhaul of U class No.31806. The fundraising team will help develop the Swanage Mogul 'Brand' and this will eventually become a rolling fundraising group and overhaul department.

This is a challenging and exciting project and these roles being offered promise to put you right in the centre of the action. You will be given the most up to date information on progress, see where targeted fundraising is required and then work out fundraising initiatives to raise money quickly.

The N Class team want you to think of new and modern ways of fundraising, be that by text or Paypal or other online donations via our website and Facebook and Twitter pages, to sponsorship of components and by corporate sponsorship. The N fundraising team will also need to think about how to make sure we continue to receive the traditional donations from our travelling public and wider membership.

You will work with the fundraising group to come up with ideas and suggestions. We are looking for leaders and followers and if you feel you could contribute please get in touch!

So, are you up for the challenge? We look forward to welcoming you to the N team!

Matt McManus
SRT Director and N Class Project Sponsor

If you are interested, please contact Matt McManus by email:

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Swanage Railway strengthens locomotive fleet with three classic 1920s Southern steam locos

An historic 25-year deal has been signed to strengthen the Swanage Railway's locomotive fleet in a move that will see three classic 1920s Southern engines based on the Dorset heritage line – one of which ran in the Isle of Purbeck back in the 1950s.

The contract with Hampshire locomotive owner John Bunch covers three Southern Railway Richard Maunsell-designed locomotives, with 'U' class No. 31806 set to arrive at Swanage and start work hauling trains on the award-winning relaid Purbeck Line during August of this year.

Built at Brighton and the only surviving rebuild of a River class locomotive, the 'U' class – nick-named a 'U-boat' – has seven years remaining on its boiler certificate and visited the Swanage Railway earlier this year and in September last year.

The other two steam locomotives covered by the deal are complete and await overhaul before they can be used – the only surviving 'N' class, No. 31874 built in 1925, to be returned to traffic first and then 'U' class No. 31625 built in 1929 which will be the second of the two locomotives to be overhauled.

Swanage Railway Company Chairman Peter Sills said: "These three classic 1920s Southern Railway steam locomotives are highly appropriate for the Swanage Railway and will strengthen our existing locomotive fleet and provide an exciting balance of available motive power suiting the power and economy requirements of our developing line.

"No. 31806 used to run down to Corfe Castle and Swanage during the British Railways days of the 1950s and is the quintessential Southern Railway branch line locomotive.

"The three Southern Railway locomotives will give the Swanage Railway a balanced and exciting locomotive fleet – and complement the two 1940s Bullied Pacifics, a 1950s Standard Tank, the Victorian-designed Drummond M7 tank and a Great Western Railway tank locomotive which haul trains on the Purbeck line," he added.

The 'N' class locomotives No. 31874 and the ‘U’ class No. 31625 are set to arrive on the Swanage Railway in late June or early July this year. 

No. 31874 last hauled a train in 1997 and is the only surviving 'N' class locomotive – and also the only steam locomotive built at the Woolwich Arsenal in London to survive.

It is planned to have No. 31874 overhauled and ready for traffic by August, 2015.

No. 31625 last hauled a train in 2001 and is the only 'U' class locomotive with a British Railways modified front end. It is planned to have the locomotive overhauled and ready for traffic by the winter of 2016 or the spring of 2017.

Swanage Railway General Manager Richard Jones explained: "The 'U' and the 'N' locomotives offer a simple and efficient maintenance regime with a power classification, efficiency and economy ideally suited to the Swanage Railway. The boiler and other components on the 'U' and the 'N' are also interchangeable and will enable an efficient restoration," he added.

Swanage Railway Company director and locomotive provision portfolio holder Kevin Potts explained: "The Swanage Railway is committed to continuing to offer steam haulage and, with future expansion north of Norden towards Wareham on the horizon, we will need a core of six suitably powerful steam locomotives to work the service.

"Three locomotives will be required to work the daily diagrams, one in reserve for breakdowns, one undergoing routine running maintenance or boiler washout and one under heavy overhaul. A long hire agreement gives control and flexibility in the sequencing of efficient steam locomotive overhauls," he added

A delighted John Bunch said: "I am very pleased that my three Southern Railway locomotives will be working together in Dorset on an authentic Southern Railway branch line through stunning Purbeck countryside and past the iconic ruins of the Medieval Corfe Castle."

24th June 2014.

Rail Minister rides first train after commissioning of new signalling scheme for main line connection

Rail Minister Claire Perry MP has made history after riding on the first train to be run under a newly commissioned £3.2 million signalling system that will enable a trial passenger train service between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage.

Hosted by the volunteer-led Swanage Railway, the special trip in a two-coach South West Trains Class 158 diesel unit saw the Rail Minister, Purbeck Community Rail Partnership members, stakeholders and guests travel from Wareham to Corfe Castle and return on Thursday, 5 February, 2015.

Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns said:  "The commissioning of the new signalling system is a major milestone in joining Swanage and Corfe Castle to the national railway network which has been our aim since 1972. It will also enable trial train services to take place in 2016 and 2017.

"I would like to thank our dedicated volunteers and our stakeholders who have worked so hard, over several years, to help bring the new signalling scheme to fruition.

"Purbeck District Council and Dorset County Council, the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance and other members of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership also deserve thanks because it has been a real joint effort.

"It was a privilege to have the Rail Minister on board the first train running under the new signalling system and a pleasure to show her what working together in partnership can achieve for the improvement of the Isle of Purbeck's transport network as well as the local economy," added Mr Johns.

Taking Network Rail and the Swanage Railway four years to design, install and test, the new signalling system between Wareham and Corfe Castle is  based on long-proven technology used for controlling trains on single lines and interfaces with a Network Rail state of the art signalling control centre.

The new system sees Network Rail's signalling control centre at Basingstoke linked to the award-winning Victorian-style signal box at Corfe Castle station.

After Network Rail closed old mechanical signal boxes at Poole, Hamworthy, Wareham and Wool and  re-signalled  the line  with  modern  technology  last year, signallers at Basingstoke now  control  main  line  trains  between  Poole and Wool – including Worgret Junction which is close to the start of the Swanage Railway.

Purbeck Community Rail Partnership Chairman Mike Lovell – who is also a Purbeck district and Dorset county councillor – said: “We were delighted that the Rail Minister was able to travel on the first train to use the new signalling.

“Although further investment is still needed to reinstate a regular service, the completion of the signalling is a huge step towards a trial community service that will enable people from Corfe Castle and Swanage to travel by train to anywhere in the country," he added.

Gavin Johns explained: "The Swanage Railway is very heartened by the support that it engenders locally. We look forward to jointly developing the potential of a main line connected heritage railway with the help of our partners, stakeholders and volunteers."

"The new signalling system between Corfe Castle and Wareham is thought to be unique in the United Kingdom because of its scale and the way it works – being a safety interface between the Swanage Railway and Network Rail.

"It has re-established the traditional style of 'electric key-token' method of working trains that operated between the Corfe Castle and Worgret Junction signal boxes until the Swanage branch line was closed by British Rail in January, 1972," explained Gavin who presented the Rail Minister with a framed photograph of a steam train at Corfe Castle taken by Andrew P.M. Wright.

Driven by South West Trains Bournemouth-based driver Peter Burton - and displaying 'Corfe Castle' as its destination - the historic train carrying the Rail Minister and guests left Wareham at 4.15pm for the trip to Corfe Castle where it arrived at 4.40pm.

Waiting on the platform at Corfe Castle was Bob Richards, the last British Rail signalman at Corfe Castle who signalled the final passenger train from Corfe Castle to Wareham on the night of Saturday, 1 January, 1972.

In Corfe Castle signal box, Bob met up with Swanage Railway volunteer signalman Peter Horne who had the honour of signalling the first train from Wareham to Corfe Castle, using the single line key-token system, in 43 years.

Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns escorted the Rail Minister to the signal box where she was greeted by Peter Horne and where Mike Walshaw, the volunteer who designed the Swanage Railway's part of the signalling scheme and was responsible for its installation, was presented to a delighted Claire Perry.

After a five minute stop, and displaying 'Wareham' as its destination, the unit - No. 158890 based at Salisbury - returned to Wareham where it arrived in the 'up' platform at 5.10pm.

The new Corfe Castle to Wareham signalling system improves the ease and speed of signalling trains between Wareham, Norden Park & Ride, and Corfe Castle.

Using the 'electric key-token' system introduced to the country's railways more than 100 years ago, the new system has been modernised so that a signal box on the main line at Worgret Junction is not required.

With 'electric key-token' instruments provided at Corfe Castle signal box and Wareham station – the latter being used by the drivers of trains from the Swanage Railway – the new signalling system is thought to be unique in the country because of its scale and the way it works.

The new Corfe Castle to Wareham signalling system comprises a four-mile single line 'electric key-token' section that crosses from a heritage railway and on to Network Rail. From Worgret Junction – where the single line from Corfe Castle ends – trains run for one mile on the 'third rail' electrified main line into Wareham station.

Last September , Dorset County Council awarded the Swanage Railway a 99-year lease of the three-mile former Network Rail line from south of Worgret Junction to the then start of the Swanage Railway east of Furzebrook.

The Swanage Railway is currently in the process of upgrading that line for passenger trains between Wareham and Corfe Castle – replacing 1,700 wooden sleepers, clearing embankments of overgrown trees and undergrowth as well as repairing bridges and six miles of lineside fences and drains.

In February, 2013, the Swanage Railway was awarded a £1.47 million grant by the Government's Coastal Communities Fund – followed by a further £390,000 'top-up' award in August, 2014 – to introduce a trial passenger train service between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage. That trial train service is set to start during the first half of 2016 and run on 140 selected days over two years.

It was in 2010 that Dorset county and Purbeck district councils pledged to invest £3.2 million, over three years, to pay for a new signalling system to enable passenger trains between Wareham and Corfe Castle – £2.85 million going to Network Rail and £350,000 to the Swanage Railway for the work.

That investment has come from a transport improvement fund into which property developers pay – the money being collected by Purbeck District Council and spent by Dorset County Council as the transport authority.

The Purbeck Community Rail Partnership is an alliance of Purbeck District Council, Dorset County Council, the Swanage Railway, South West Trains, Network Rail, the Perenco oil company and the Borough of Poole Council.

6th February 2015

Two Bulleid coaches now in traffic

History was made in March 2014 when two restored classic 1940s Southern Railway Bulleid passenger carriages ran to Corfe Castle for the first time since the summer of 1966 – when England won the World Cup at Wembley. 

More than 800 of the distinctive Bulleids were built for the Southern Railway and British Railways during the late 1940s and early 1950s but only 16 survive in preservation – four on the Swanage Railway, two already restored and two awaiting restoration.

The special run of the two restored wooden framed Bulleid carriages from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden Park & Ride took place on Saturday, 15 March, 2014; during the Swanage Railway's first ever London and South Western Railway Weekend.

A team of 18 dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers has taken more than three years and 10,000 hours of work to restore one of the Bulleid carriages, the 1947 48-seat first and third class compartment coach No. 5761 to its former 1940s glory – at a total cost of £110,000.

Withdrawn in 1968 and sold privately, No. 5761 had the distinction of being the last Bulleid coach to be in traffic with British Rail.

Before the volunteers started work, specialist contractors carried out major structural work on the historic coach from the heyday of express steam trains – replacing much of its steel underframes and part of its wooden structure as well as installing a new wooden floor.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome No. 5761 back into service took place at Swanage station at 10am on Saturday, 15 March, 2014 – after which No. 5761, and fellow 1947 Bulleid brake coach No. 4365, then formed a special 10.26am train to Corfe Castle and Norden with special guests on board.

Painted in the British Railways Southern Region green livery of the mid-1950s, the two Bulleid coaches formed the 'branch train' service during the Swanage Railway's London and South Western Railway Weekend with the public able to enjoy its charming 1940s first class atmosphere.

Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns said: "The return of No. 5761 to traffic is the culmination of more than three years and 10,000 hours of hard work by a small team of volunteers. They are to be congratulated for their determination, professionalism and attention to detail – a marvellous job.

"The Swanage Railway now has two well restored 1940s Bulleid carriages which are reminiscent of exciting holidays to the seaside as well as more mundane journeys to school and work over nearly 20 years. These two Bulleid carriages are an important part of our railway heritage," he added.

Designed by Oliver Bulleid of the Southern Railway, the distinctive Bulleid coaches were used on express trains from London to Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth from the 1940s until the end of steam in 1967.

With their comfortable moquette seating, chrome luggage racks, wooden panelling and framed wall prints of local tourist spots, Bulleid coaches were used on branch trains between Wareham and Swanage from 1964 to 1966.

Swanage Railway Heritage Coach Restoration Programme Project Manager Mike Stollery said: "I am delighted to see it back in service after being in store for 20 years.  I hope passengers enjoy travelling in this historic coach which has already stirred memories of railway travel more than 60 years ago.

"The internal work has involved making and fitting new ceilings and veneered wall linings, fitting recovered seats, repairing luggage racks, laying new flooring, restoring and refitting toilet fittings, renewing electrics and fixing countless fittings before painting and varnishing," he added.

Built at Eastleigh during 1947 and providing 24 first class and 24 third class seats, No. 5761 was used by British Railways on express trains on the London to Salisbury and Exeter line as well as the London to Weymouth line.

A brake coach, No. 4365 was built at Eastleigh during 1947 and has 48 third class seats. After working the London to Bournemouth line, it was withdrawn by British Rail in 1966 and sold to the Army. It took six years, 12,000 volunteer hours and £85,000 to return it to traffic at Swanage during 2012.

The Swanage Railway has two Bulleid coaches awaiting restoration and donations for this work are welcome. Please visit our appeals page for more information.  Cheques can be sent to the Swanage Railway Trust Heritage Coach Fund, Station House, Swanage, Dorset BH19 1HB.

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Where People Matter

Watch a video about the contributions made by the volunteers on the railway. Click below to watch it on our YouTube site.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYNibDP8Xz0

 

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