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SIX LOCOMOTIVES – SPANNING MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY – MAKE AUTUMN STEAM GALA AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

Published: October 21, 2015

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

Six locomotives in action – spanning more than half a century of engineering development – have made the Swanage Railway's three-day Autumn Steam Gala an unforgettable experience for both the public and enthusiasts alike.

And the star of the show was classic and majestic Southern Railway N15 King Arthur class locomotive No. 777 'Sir Lamiel' built in 1925.

The real Southern steam event took place between Friday and Sunday, 16 to 18 October, 2015, inclusive.

There was a frequent train service between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Swanage as well as nostalgic goods trains re-creating the everyday railway scene from yesteryear.

It was the first time that No. 777 'Sir Lamiel' visited the Swanage Railway in more than five years.

It was in July, 2010, that the 80-ton locomotive hauled the popular 'Swanage Belle' excursion train from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage when it was painted in British Railways Brunswick Green livery and numbered No. 30777.

Also being put through their paces during the Autumn Steam Gala were Victorian-designed T9 class locomotive No. 30120 dating from 1899, M7 tank No. 30053 built in 1905, Southern Railway 'U' class No. 31806 from the late 1920s, Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34070 'Manston' from the mid-1940s and British Railways Class 4 Tank No. 80104 built in 1955.

Swanage Railway General Manager Matt Green said: "I would like to thank everyone who worked so very hard to plan and stage this year's three-day Autumn Steam Gala. It was a wonderful event.

"It was really great to see 'Sir Lamiel' back at Swanage and everyone enjoyed welcoming the classic locomotive back to the Isle of Purbeck.

"No. 777 was a very impressive machine and it ran flawlessly – like a finely oiled sewing machine.

"I would also like to thank the National Railway Museum and the 5305 Locomotive Association for agreeing to 'Sir Lamiel' visiting the Swanage Railway.

"Our Autumn Steam Gala was an event not to be missed with six locomotives spanning more than half a century of engineering development hauling trains from Norden to Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Swanage.

"King Arthurs never ran on the Swanage branch in Southern Railway and British Railways days but they did haul London to Weymouth trains through Wareham and past Worgret Junction which was the start of the ten-mile line to Corfe Castle and Swanage," he added.

Like the iconic T9 No. 30120, 4-6-0 wheel arrangement 'Sir Lamiel' is part of the National Railway Museum's national collection based in York.

A class 5 in terms of power, No. 30777 'Sir Lamiel' was built for the Southern Railway in June, 1925, at North British Locomotive Company's Hyde Park works in Glasgow. A total of 30 of the N15s were built.

The locomotive was named after a fictional Knight of the Round Table in the 12th Century legend of King Arthur, Sir Lamiel of Cardiff, who was said to be a great lover.

No. 30777 was first based at the Nine Elms depot in London before moving to Battersea, Bournemouth, Dover, Feltham and Basingstoke.

On withdrawal in October, 1961, 'Sir Lamiel'  was stored at Fratton, Stratford & Ashford.  Later adopted by Humberside Locomotive Group in June 1978. 

Now sporting a 1930s malachite green livery of the Southern Railway, 'Sir Lamiel' is maintained and operated by the 5305 Locomotive Association and is based on the Great Central Railway at Loughborough in Leicestershire.

The N15 King Arthurs were based at Bournemouth for main line work for more than 40 years through to the early 1960s.

In the early 1950s, there were 12 of the class on the books but by 1960 there were just four; the locomotives having been eclipsed by the Bulleid Pacifics.

The last King Arthur locomotive was withdrawn from service by British Railways in 1961.

Rebuilt from nothing since 1976, the volunteer-run Swanage Railway carries more than 200,000 passengers a year on the six miles of relaid railway line between Norden 'park and ride', Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross, Herston Halt and Swanage.

The heritage railway contributes around £14 million to the Purbeck economy and profits from the running of train services and special events are ploughed back into the development and extension of the Swanage Railway and its facilities.

The Swanage Railway is run by some 500 regular volunteers – assisted by a team of more than 30 full-time staff – and the value of the Swanage Railway volunteers' work is £2 million a year if they were paid.           

The Swanage Railway is contributing to the public transport system in the Isle of Purbeck thanks to the Norden ‘park and ride’ facility – located off the main A351 road from Wareham to Corfe Castle – as well as a discounted fares scheme for Purbeck residents.

British Rail controversially closed its ten mile branch line from Wareham to Swanage in January, 1972, and the six and a half miles of track from Swanage to near Furzebrook was torn up for scrap during the summer of 1972.

It took Swanage Railway volunteers 30 years to relay the tracks.

Swanage Railway train times – and special event details – are available online at www.swanagerailway.co.uk or by telephone on 01929 425800.