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SWANAGE RAILWAY BECOMES PART OF THE 1980s NETWORK SOUTH EAST FOR A WATERLOO TO EXETER MAIN LINE TRIBUTE DAY

Published: May 8, 2014

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

IN a 'what might have been' retro move, the Swanage Railway's relaid Purbeck line has become part of British Rail's Network South East 1980s branded sector – for a special Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter main line tribute day.

The special event on Thursday, 8 May, 2014, has seen the 1930s Southern Railway platform signs at Swanage, Harman's Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden Park & Ride replaced with the south of England station signs that were seen some 25 years ago.

The 1960s to the 1990s West of England main line tribute day will see the Swanage Railway service operated by types of locomotives that hauled trains on the route: a 1940s Bulleid Pacific express steam locomotive as well as 1960s-built Class 33 and Class 50 diesel locomotives.

Highly respected in the rail industry, former Network South East boss Chris Green will be autographing copies of 'The Network South East Story, 1982 - 2014' on the platform outside the Swanage station shop on Thursday, 8 May, 2014, between 11.30am and 12.30pm as well as 3.30pm to 4.30pm.

British Rail's Network South East branded sector ran trains on the Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter between 1986 and 1994.

The startling Network South East-style station signs will be staying in place until teatime on Saturday, 10 May, 2014 – the second day of the three-day Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival from the Friday to the Sunday, inclusive, and which is now in its ninth year.

The temporary Network South East signage gives a taste of what the Swanage branch line may have looked like had it not been closed by British Rail in 1972 but survived on into the 1980s and the 1990s.

At Corfe Castle station, a classic prototype early 1970s Inter-City 125 high speed train – No. 41 001 owned by the National Railway Museum whose appearance is courtesy of Project Miller – is on display for cab visits from Thursday, 8 May, through to the end of Sunday, 11 May, 2014.

The important piece of railway technical history and development was unveiled in Mat, 1972 – the month that the fledgling Swanage Railway Society was formed.

Subject to availability, the Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival will see nine main line heritage diesel locomotives from the 1960s being put through their paces – including six visiting locomotives, two of them courtesy of the National Railway Museum in York.

The diesel gala's associated Dorset Beer Festival takes place at the Bankes Arms pub in Corfe Castle which overlooks the village square and is off the approach road to Corfe Castle station.

Organised by the Bankes Arms, the beer festival will feature a wide variety of local beers and ciders.

The diesel gala locomotive line-up is:

Class 24 – No. D 5081
Class 33 – No. D 6515, No. 33202 and No. 33111
Class 37 – No. D 6700 courtesy of National Railway Museum
Class 47 – No. 47 292
Class 50 – No. 50 026 'Indomitable'
Class 50 – No. 50 031 'Hood' courtesy of The Fifty Fund
Class 55 'Deltic' – No. 55 002 'The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry' courtesy of National Railway Museum

Class 73 – No. 73 207 courtesy of GB Railfreight

Class 50 No. 50026 'Indomitable' will be on display at Corfe Castle during the three-day event and available for cab visits.

Due to popular demand, Glastonbury Ales will be producing a re-run of its 'Old Pusher' ale which, like last year, will be available during the Gala, alongside 'Regulator' and new brew 'Sea Cider' cider.

The diesel gala will see an intensive three-train service operate between Norden Park & Ride, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Swanage from 8am to 12 midnight on the Friday and Saturday – and from 8am to 7pm on the Sunday.

The diesel gala's Friday and Saturday evenings will see a 'Beerex' service and 'Wessex Belle' bistro dining train operate. Advance booking on the 'Wessex Belle' is highly recommended.

Diesel locomotives for the 'Beerex' trains will be Class 37 D6700 and Class 50 50031 'Hood' on the Friday and Class 24 D5081 and Class 33 202 on the Saturday while the 'Wessex Belle' bistro trains will be hauled by Class 33 D6515 on the Friday and Class 50 50026 'Indomitable' on the Saturday. 

This year's diesel gala supported charity is the RNLI's £200,000 Swanage lifeboat station appeal – which is raising funds for a new lifeboat station for the seaside town – and a Class D lifeboat will be on display at Corfe Castle station on the Saturday of the diesel gala.

Diesel Gala adult rover tickets are £24 for a one-day rover, £36 for two days and £44 for all three days.

There is also a range of discounted fares for children, 'Priv' card holders and CAMRA members at £17 for a one-day rover, £26 for two days and £33 for all three days.