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RARE 1940s SOUTHERN RAILWAY COACHES RUN TO CORFE CASTLE FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1966 - THANKS TO 22,000 HOURS OF WORK!

Published: February 3, 2014

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

A total of 22,000 hours of dedicated work has enabled a pair of rare 1940s Southern Railway Bulleid carriages to carry passengers to Corfe Castle for the first time since 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.

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.

That triumph followed the restoration of a Bulleid brake coach, No. 4365 – with 48 third class seats and also built at Eastleigh during 1947 – which took six years and 12,000 volunteer hours to return it to traffic at Swanage during 2012.

The special run of the two restored wooden framed Bulleid carriages from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden Park & Ride – with Victorian-designed M7 tank No. 30053 on the front – took place on Saturday, 15 March, 2014; during the Swanage Railway's first ever London and South Western Railway Weekend.

Before the historic run, a special ceremony took place at Swanage station to launch No. 5761 into traffic – Swanage Railway Trust patron, the Honourable Ralph Montagu, of Beaulieu in Hampshire, cutting a red ribbon.

Before performing the act, Ralph said: "All credit to Mike Stollery for having the vision to save the coach in the first place and congratulations to all the volunteers who have carried out the restoration.

"For those of us who used to travel in coaches like this – or even this actual one – during the early to mid-1960s, it's a delight to re-discover them. The comfort and the decor of the Bulleid coach really transport you back in time.

"For those people who are not old enough to remember such coaches, this marvellous Bulleid shows how people used to travel and will greatly add to the experience of taking a steam train on the Swanage Railway.

"I remember losing a coin – may be half a crown – under one of the seats in a Bulleid compartment once. Never did find it!," added Ralph who travelled in the Southern Railway-built coaches between London Waterloo and Southampton as a child from 1961 until the end of steam in the summer of 1967.

Withdrawn in 1968 after twenty years of being used on express trains on the London to Salisbury and Exeter line – as well as the London to Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth line – No. 5761 had the distinction of being the last Bulleid coach in traffic with British Rail.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "These coaches enable our visitors to recall journeys in the 1950s and 1960s to school, work or on holiday.

"They are also good examples of the Trust's main objective to conserve and present to the public relevant railway artefacts.

"I would like to thank the team for all their hard work and Mike Stollery, in particular, for his advocacy on behalf of heritage coaches.

"I hope that everyone enjoys their trip in a pair of Bulleid coaches to Corfe Castle – the first time that such a pairing has been seen at Corfe Castle since 1966," 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, and Swanage Railway Trust Council of Management member, Mike Stollery said: "Today is a very special day – and one of celebration of a job completed on No. 5761.

"These coaches are the first two of the Swanage Railway’s Heritage Coach Programme to be completed but there are two more to complete to achieve a set of four Bulleid coaches of this style – a unique set in preservation if the remaining funds can be raised.

"The restoration of these Bulleid coaches to full working order is an important part of the Swanage Railway Trust's obligations to interpret our railway heritage and the best way of interpreting our coaches is to run them in service so the public can appreciate what ‘proper’ railway travel is and was like.

"With these so-called heritage coaches, the Swanage Railway will be able to offer something different and additional to the travelling public and also raise the profile of the railway," he added.

Mike gave a special thank you to those people who worked tirelessly on the coach – the volunteers, the regular gang which worked principally on Sundays, but also Saturdays, and, more recently, on Tuesdays.

Thanks also went to the Swanage Railway's paid carriage and wagon staff, especially Greg Murray and Jason Kingdon who produced a fine painted finish, and contractor Paul and his team at Rampart, in Derby, which carried out the structural work.

Mike Stollery also thanked Henry Frampton-Jones for having the foresight to purchase and save No. 5761 in 1968 from British Rail service. Sadly, Mr Frampton-Jones was unable to attend the special ceremony at Swanage.

Mike explained: "The volunteer team has worked well over 20,000 hours over seven years on the two Bulleid coaches – mainly outside in all weathers and temperatures, week in, week out and without any proper facilities.

"I would like to say thank you to Liz Brereton and her team of Swanage Railway Sygnets who scraped, rubbed down and painted the underframe of No. 5761 – and all the mucky stuff below the floor  – during a couple of very hot days last summer," he added.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome No. 5761 back into service, No. 5761 and No. 4365 formed a special 10.26am train from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden with invited guests on board.

Painted in the British Railways Southern Region green livery of the mid-1950s, the two Bulleid coaches then 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.

After working the London to Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth line, No. 4365 was withdrawn by British Rail in 1966 and sold to the British Army. 

Donations towards the Swanage Railway's heritage coach restoration work are welcome. Simply visit the Swanage Railway Trust website at www.swanagerailwaytrust.org.uk or send a cheque to Swanage Railway Trust Heritage Coach Fund, Station House, Swanage, Dorset BH19 1HB.