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Withdrawn for scrap by British Railways in 1964, it is hoped that No. 31874 will haul its first passenger train since 1998 during late 2016 or early 2017 – and be ready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