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Published: September 13, 2016

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

A sell out four-day charity train tour has visited Swanage to mark the 15th anniversary of the founding of GB Railfreight – and help raise funds for the British Heart Foundation, the Ripple Project and Woking Homes.

With two heritage diesel locomotives at each end, the special eleven-coach train ran to Corfe Castle and Swanage on Thursday, 8 September, 2016.

And the weather could not have been better on the day with clear blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures tempered by a cooling breeze.

Sporting a special 'GBRf 15' headboard on the front, the 906 feet long and 673 ton train composed of a rake of air conditioned Mark Two coaches departed London's Victoria station for the trip down to the Isle of Purbeck.

On the Swanage-end of the charity train were two 1960s ex-British Rail Class 73 electro-diesels – No. 73 213 'Rhodalyn' and No. 73 128 'O.V.S. Bulleid C.B.E.'

On the Wareham end were two ex-British Rail Class 20 electro-diesels – No. 20 118 'Saltburn-by-the-Sea' and No. 20 132 'Barrow Hill Depot' – nick-named by enthusiasts 'Choppers' or 'Whistling Wardrobes'.

The return trip departed Swanage just after 4pm bound for London's King's Cross station.

It was a GB Railfreight locomotive that made Swanage Railway history in May, 2007.

One of the company's Class 73 locomotives hauled the first train to run from the main line at Wareham after the Swanage Railway was linked to the national railway system thanks to a new signalled connection at Motala, between Norden and Furzebrook.

That first train delivered locomotives and a Southern Region 1967 VEP electric unit for the Swanage Railway's annual diesel gala in May, 2007.

Swanage Railway general manager Matt Green said: "We were delighted to welcome GBRf's 15th anniversary train to Swanage and it was good to know that three charities were to benefit from the train as well as the others in the special four-day celebratory tour. The weather could not have been better.

"Class 73 and Class 20 diesel locomotives used to visit the three-mile line from Worgret Junction, west of Wareham, up to Furzebrook on Wytch Farm oil trains as well as line weed-killing trains during the 1980s and the 1990s.

"We took over the line from east of Furzebrook to half a mile short of Worgret Junction in the Autumn of 2014 and have spent almost two years restoring and upgrading the line which was last used for a Wytch Farm gas train from Furzebrook during the summer of 2005," he added.

GB Railfreight's celebratory four-day charity rail tour ran between September 8 and 11, 2016 – running as far north as Inverness and using 15 locomotives from the company's fleet.

Tickets covering all trains during the four days cost £500 with the event being a sell-out as passengers enjoyed locomotives running away from their usual operating areas.

Diesel locomotives featured during the grand tour in aid of the British Heart Foundation, the Ripple Project and Woking Homes charities – all nominated by GBRf employees – were classes 20, 47, 59, 66, 73, 86 and 92.

Matt Green explained: "Having been rebuilt from nothing since 1976, after being controversially closed and demolished by British Rail in 1972, the Swanage Railway contributes some £14 million to the Purbeck economy every year.

"The Swanage Railway is far more than just a trip on a heritage train behind an historic steam locomotive – it’s the best car-free way of visiting Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Swanage while having a really good day out.

“We are always looking for more volunteers to join in our continued success and have a great time while also helping to run a unique and friendly heritage railway set in beautiful Purbeck countryside," he added.

For an informal chat, potential Swanage Railway volunteers should contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email '[email protected]'.