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SPRING STEAM GALA TO FEATURE FIRST PUBLIC PASSENGER TRAINS OVER FOUR MILE RESTORED LINE TOWARDS WAREHAM

Published: March 30, 2016

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

History is to be made during the Swanage Railway's Spring Steam Gala when the first timetabled passenger trains run over four miles of newly restored line towards Wareham – for the first time in 44 years.

The annual Spring celebration of steam takes place between Friday and Sunday, 8 to 10 April, 2016, inclusive, and will see an intensive train service between Swanage, Herston Halt, Harman's Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden – including nostalgic freight trains from yesteryear.

Starting from Swanage, four passenger trains each day will be running beyond Norden station, over the newly installed Norden Gates level crossing and on past Motala, Furzebrook, Creech Bottom and East Holme before stopping at the River Frome – within sight of the town of Wareham.

Passengers will not able to board or alight the steam trains running over the four-mile extension beyond Norden station and the trains operating between Norden and the River Frome will have a steam locomotive at each end.

Swanage Railway General Manager Matt Green said: "This is real history – we're very excited at the prospect of the first timetabled passenger trains running between Norden, Motala, Furzebrook and the River Frome for the first time in 44 years. Timetabled passenger trains last ran on the line in 1972.

"Our dedicated teams have worked very hard over the past 18 months restoring and upgrading the former Network Rail line. Half a mile of new track has been laid, almost 2,000 wooden track sleepers replaced, a quarter-mile long embankment upgraded and six miles of lineside embankments cut back, fences repaired and drains cleared," he added.

The guest locomotive for this year's Spring Steam Gala will be a powerful hundred-year-old veteran of the Great Western Railway built in Wiltshire during the First World War for a working career hauling heavy coal trains in South Wales.

A few years before its withdrawal by British Railways in 1964 – and with a powerful tractive effort of more than 31,000 lbs – steam locomotive No. 4247 was transferred south to Cornwall where it hauled trains of China Clay from the pits to the port of Fowey.

After spending 20 years languishing in a South Wales scrapyard, the 82-tonne locomotive was rescued and restored to full working order by a dedicated band of railway enthusiasts from the 4247 Preservation Society.

Also appearing during the Spring Steam Gala will be, subject to availability, the Swanage Railway's stable of four steam ex-main line locomotives dating from 1905 through to 1955.

There will be London and South Western Railway M7 tank No. 30053 built in 1905, Southern Railway U-class locomotive No. 31806 built in the late 1920s,

Southern Railway Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34070 'Manston' from the mid-1940s and British Railways Standard Class 4 Tank No. 80104 built at Brighton in 1955.

A 2-8-0 wheel arrangement steam locomotive, No. 4247 is visiting the Swanage Railway from its home on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway in Cornwell where it has been hauling trains on the heritage line for ten years.

Matt explained: "The locomotive hauled long 1,000-tonne coal trains from the South Wales mines down to ports for export before hauling the empty wagons back to the coal mines. No. 4247 was a reliable and hard-working stalwart.

"After being rescued from the famous steam locomotive scrapyard at Barry in South Wales, dedicated volunteers spent 20 years of hard work restoring No. 4247 to the gleaming steam locomotive seen and enjoyed today," he added.

The Swanage Railway's Spring Steam Gala will also see the award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum next to Norden station open as well as the goods shed museum, exhibition and cinema coach at Corfe Castle station.

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