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HERITAGE DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE TO HAUL ITS FIRST LONDON TO CORFE CASTLE AND SWANAGE TRAIN SINCE 1966

Published: May 3, 2018

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

An historic main line heritage diesel locomotive is to haul its first passenger train from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage since the summer of 1966 – bringing visitors to the Swanage Railway’s annual three-day diesel gala and beer festival.‚Äč

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

The London to Swanage special arrives in the seaside town the day before the start of the Swanage Railway’s popular annual three-day Diesel Gala and Beer Festival on Friday, 11 May, 2018.

A special Diesel Gala preview day – featuring both diesel and steam trains between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Swanage – also takes place on Thursday, 10 May, 2018.

Now owned by the Class 71A 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.

Leaving London’s Ealing Broadway at 10.40am, the ‘Purbeck Explorer’ arrives in Swanage just before 4pm. The special train returns to London – hauled by heritage Class 20 diesel locomotives No. 20 007 and No. 20 142 – on Sunday, 13 May, 2018.

The four carriages for the ‘Purbeck Explorer’ will be 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.

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

“Class 33 diesel locomotives first hauled ‘bucket and spade’ trains from London down to Corfe Castle and Swanage in the summer of 1963 and continued to do so until the end of the summer of 1966.

“With the London to Bournemouth electrification ousting steam in 1967 – and the new diesel service between Bournemouth and Weymouth – Class 33 locomotives hauled  4TC carriage sets from London to Swanage from July, 1967, until British Rail ceased trains from the capital to Swanage in October, 1969,” explained Mr Parsons who is a volunteer signalman and train guard on the Swanage Railway.

This year’s Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and Beer Festival will see 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 some trains operating through to Wareham. The beer festival is based at Corfe Castle station.

The guest locomotives being put through their paces during the three-day Diesel Gala will be Class 20s No. 20 007 and 20 142 courtesy of the Class Twenty Loco Society, Class 35 ‘Hymek’ No. D7017 courtesy of the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group, Class 37 No. 37 521 courtesy of Colas Rail, Class 45 No. 45 041 ‘Royal Tank Regiment’ courtesy of the Peak Locomotive Society, Class 50 No. 50 049 ‘Defiance’ as well as Class 66 No. 66 704 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.

The nine visiting heritage diesel locomotives will be 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 ‘4TC’ carriage set to Swanage on an special enthusiasts’ train in September, 1971, just three months before the Isle of Purbeck branch line closed.

The Festival’s preview day on the Thursday is on a ‘Type 3 Thursday’ theme that will see recently restored 1960s Class 37 diesel locomotive No. 37 521 haul trains with 1960s Class 35 ‘Hymek’ No. D7017. The steam locomotive for the day is planned to be 1940s rebuilt Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34053 ‘Sir Keith Park’.

‘Purbeck Explorer’ tickets are £35.90 each way – available from the Swanage Railway website at www.swanagerailway.co.uk – or £45.00 each way on the day with the train calling at Kensington Olympia, Clapham Junction, Woking, Basingstoke and Wareham. For the return trip, the ‘Purbeck Explorer’ does not call at Clapham and the train terminates at Kensington Olympia.

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]