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SWANAGE RAILWAY STEAM LOCOMOTIVE APPEARS AT THE GREAT DORSET STEAM FAIR NEAR BLANDFORD FORUM

Published: August 25, 2016

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

An historic steam locomotive built in Kent during the 1920s – which operated in the south of England for almost 40 years – is being hauled up a steep hill by classic traction engines at this year's five-day Great Dorset Steam Fair.

The public also has the chance to find out about the many aspects of the Swanage Railway at the popular five-day event staged near Tarrant Hinton thanks to special displays set up in a marquee at the site off the A354 Blandford to Salisbury road.

It is also an opportunity to talk to some of the people who operate, maintain and extend the award-winning Swanage Railway which has been built from nothing since 1976 after the branch line from Wareham was closed and demolished by British Rail in 1972.

Minus its tender, 62-ton unrestored Southern Railway 'U' class steam locomotive No. 31625 is appearing in the heavy haulage arena to launch a £50,000 appeal to help restore a fellow 1920s Southern Railway 2-6-0 wheel arrangement locomotive – N class No. 31874.

Now based on the Swanage Railway, No. 31874 is the only locomotive of its type to survive the steam locomotive scrapping orgy of the 1960s when thousands of redundant steam locomotives – ousted by electric and diesel trains – were cut up.

Fellow 'Mogul' – a term that comes from the locomotives' wheel arrangement – No. 31874 is currently being restored by dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers at a locomotive restoration facility on the outskirts of Swanage.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "Special Swanage Railway displays at this year's Great Dorset Steam Fair include locomotive restoration as well as the restoration and upgrade of four miles of former Network Rail line so trains can run to Wareham during the summer of 2017.

"There are also displays about the restoration of 1930s and 1940s Southern Railway heritage carriages and a chance for the public to find out how to volunteer on the Swanage Railway in a wide range of fulfilling roles," he added.

The locomotive appearing at the Great Dorset Steam Fair – No. 31625 – was designed by the Southern Railway's Chief Mechanical Engineer Richard Maunsell.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons explained: "During its working career with the Southern Railway and British Railways, the locomotive was based at Salisbury, Basingstoke and Exmouth Junction.

"No. 31625 was withdrawn from Guildford in 1964 – being sent to the locomotive scrapyard at Barry in South Wales that summer," he added.

Enthusiasts rescued the locomotive in 1980 and it ran on the Mid-Hants 'Watercress Line' in Hampshire until 2001. The locomotive now carries a 1950s British Railways lined black livery.

The £50,000 appeal is being mounted the Swanage Moguls Fund set up by a team of dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers and is being supported by the Swanage Railway Trust and its trading arm, the Swanage Railway Company.

Swanage Railway Company director and locomotive provision portfolio holder Kevin Potts said: "Inclusion of the three Maunsell Moguls in the Swanage Railway's steam locomotive fleet complements the Swanage Railway's motive power and goes a long way towards safeguarding the provision of steam services between Swanage and Norden – and perhaps beyond in due course.

"It is important these three iconic Southern Railway locomotives remain working in a setting that typifies their use during their former working lives.

"The locomotives are ideally suited to operations on the Swanage Railway, being both powerful enough to handle five-carriage trains – and longer, if needed – yet also economic to operate.

"Overhauling steam locomotives to the standard required for operating public services is an expensive undertaking so the Swanage Railway Trust welcomes contributions to support the overhaul of the Maunsell Moguls," explained Kevin, also a Swanage Railway volunteer locomotive fireman.

The word 'Mogul' refers to the 2-6-0 wheel arrangement of the two locomotives and it's believed that the term came from a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement steam locomotive built for the Great Eastern Railway in 1879.

No. 31625 is set to be restored to full working order after N class No. 31874.

A third 1920s Southern Railway 'Mogul' steam locomotive – U class No. 31806 is currently hauling trains on the Swanage Railway between Norden park and ride, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Swanage.

No. 31625 appeared at last year's Great Dorset Steam Fair to help with fund-raising efforts by Swanage Railway volunteers at the popular annual event that draws enthusiasts and visitors from across the country.

For an informal chat – and to find out more – potential Swanage Railway volunteers should contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email '[email protected]'.

To find out about the Swanage Moguls Fund, visit 'swanagemoguls.com' where donations can be made and locomotive parts sponsored. You can also donate £5 using a mobile phone by texting MOGULS to 70660.