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DIESEL GALA AND BEER FESTIVAL MAKES HISTORY

Published: May 17, 2018

Story and Photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright                                                                                         Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

A Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and Beer Festival preview day has made history with a Class 33 locomotive hauling its first London to Swanage train since 1966 and two Class 73 locomotives hauling – and pushing – a ‘4TC’ carriage set to Corfe Castle and Swanage for the first time since 1968.‚Äč

For the first time, a Swanage Railway Corfe Castle to Wareham train service on all three days of the diesel gala and beer festival meant that visitors could travel to the popular annual event by train from the main line at Wareham.

A special four-carriage ‘Purbeck Explorer’ Swanage Railway charter train ran from the Capital to the coast on Thursday, 10 May, 2018, hauled by 1960-built former British Railways Class 33 diesel-electric locomotive No. D6515 ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’.

The last time that No. D6515 hauled a train from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage was during the summer of 1966.

Now owned by the 71A Locomotive Group, No. D6515 made a sad piece of Dorset railway history in May, 1977, when it was the last locomotive to run from Poole to Wimborne after the line closed to freight.

The London to Swanage special arrived in the Dorset seaside town during a diesel gala preview day staged the day before the start of the Swanage Railway’s popular annual three-day Diesel Gala and Beer Festival on Friday, 11 May, 2018.

Starting at London’s Ealing Broadway station, the ‘Purbeck Explorer’ arrived in Swanage just before 4pm with the special train returning to London on the afternoon of Sunday, 13 May, 2018.

The ‘Purbeck Explorer’s four carriages were made up of a former British Rail Southern Region ‘4TC’ carriage set converted in York during 1966 for the Bournemouth to Weymouth line from the end of steam traction in 1967 to the electrification of the line in 1988. The ‘4TC’ set has been restored by the London Transport Museum.

After the ‘Purbeck Explorer’ arrived in Swanage, its ‘4TC’ stock was used for two return passenger trains from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden. The locomotives for the working were Class 73 electro-diesels No. 73 107 and No. 73 133.

It was the first time since 1968 that Class 73 electro-diesels had hauled – and propelled – a ‘4TC’ carriage set to Corfe Castle and Swanage. During 1967 and 1968, the Class 73’s and ‘4TC’ sets formed through trains from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons said: “The ‘Purbeck Explorer’ revived the excitement and expectation of travelling from the Capital to the coast in a 4TC carriage set hauled by a British Rail Southern Region Class 33 diesel locomotive.

“It was great to see the two Class 73 electro-diesels haul – and propel – a ‘4TC’ carriage set to Corfe Castle and Swanage for the first time since 1968, a year before British Rail stopped direct trains from London down to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

“This year’s diesel gala and beer festival was the first time that visitors could arrive at the event by train from Wareham during all three days of the event – a real bonus and a development that proved to be very popular with our visitors.

“The diesel gala and beer festival was a success and I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to plan, and stage, the event which is a highlight of the Swanage Railway calendar,” explained Mr Parsons who is a volunteer signalman and train guard on the Swanage Railway.

This year’s diesel gala and beer festival saw heritage diesel locomotives operate an intensive passenger train service between Swanage, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday – with eight trains a day also operating from Corfe Castle to Wareham. The beer festival was based at Corfe Castle station.

The guest locomotives during the three-day Diesel Gala were Class 20s No. 20 007 and 20 142 ‘Sir John Betjeman’ courtesy of the Class Twenty Loco Society, Class 35 ‘Hymek’ No. D7017 courtesy of the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group, Class 45 No. 45 041 ‘Royal Tank Regiment’ courtesy of the Peak Locomotive Society, Class 50s No. 50 049 ‘Defiance’ and 50 031 ‘Hood’ as well as Class 66 No. 66 783 ‘The Flying Dustman’ courtesy of GB Railfreight and two Class 73 electro-diesels – No. 73 107 courtesy of GB Railfreight and No. 73 133 courtesy of Transmart Trains.

Nine visiting heritage diesel locomotives were joined by two Swanage-based diesel locomotives – D6515 ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ and ‘push-pull’ fitted Class 33 No. 33 111 which hauled the last British Rail ‘4TC’ carriage set to Swanage on an enthusiasts’ rail tour in September, 1971, just three months before the Purbeck branch line closed.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at [email protected]