Story and photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright,
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.
A classic 1940s express steam locomotive has returned to the Swanage Railway after an extensive three year £350,000 overhaul by its owners – Southern Locomotives Limited – who restored the leviathan of steam from a rusting scrapyard hulk to a gleaming machine in a determined labour of love across 16 years.
After a period of testing and running in, it is hoped to have 1946 Southern Railway rebuilt West Country Class Bulleid Pacific No. 34028 ‘Eddystone’ hauling trains between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage by the early summer.
When in British Railways service during the 1950s and 1960s, the locomotive was based at Bournemouth and hauled trains on the London to Weymouth line as well as the Somerset and Dorset line between Broadstone, Blandford Forum, Templecombe and Bath.
Minus its coal and water tender, the 96-tonne machine was transported by road transporter on Monday, 26 April 2021, from the Swanage Railway’s engineering works at Herston – on the outskirts of Swanage but not rail connected – to the heritage railway’s road-rail interchange, west of Norden station, where it was towed by rail the five and a half miles to Swanage station.
Herston engineering works manager Graham Froud, who also drives steam locomotives on the Swanage Railway, said: “The staff and volunteers at Swanage are delighted to welcome this established steam locomotive which is a firm favourite with our locomotive crews.
“As one of the last classes of locomotives designed before the end of steam trains, ‘Eddystone’ has many features considered innovative at the time.
“From the enginemen’s perspective, the large and comfortable cab – coupled with a free-steaming boiler and a proven capability for high speed running – made the Bulleid Pacifics firm favourites with footplate crews,” added Graham is also the heritage line’s locomotive superintendent.
Swanage Railway locomotive, carriage and wagon director Kevin Potts said: “‘Eddystone’ looks fantastic after much hard work from a relatively small team of staff and volunteers at Southern Locomotives.
“Despite delays caused by Covid-19 – and subject to restrictions in working practices – the overhaul has been completed to a high standard. No. 34028 is one of the Swanage Railway’s fleet of steam locomotives operated as part of a long-standing agreement with Southern Locomotives Limited,” added Kevin.
Simon Troy of Southern Locomotives Limited explained: “The transfer of ‘Eddystone’ from Herston Works to the Swanage Railway is the culmination of three years hard work by the staff and volunteers of Southern Locomotives Limited.
“No. 34028’s extensive overhaul started while our staff were also working to complete the extensive overhaul of another of our Bulleid Pacifics – No. 34072 ‘257 Squadron’ – and then 2020 saw Herston Works closed for several months owing to the Covid-19 lockdown.
“Our decision to get our staff back to work at the earliest opportunity to ensure the completion of ‘Eddystone’s overhaul is due to the generosity of our shareholders in financing staff salaries while our income from hiring locomotives to the Swanage Railway was suspended.
“The return of ‘Eddystone’ to the Swanage Railway is tinged with sadness in that some key figures in Southern Locomotives Limited will not be in Herston Works for future restorations and overhaul work.
“It’s worth remembering those people who made ‘Eddystone’s rescue and restoration possible – Southern Locomotives Director Richard Moffatt, who purchased the locomotive from the Barry scrapyard in south Wales, Willie Bath who masterminded No. 34028’s restoration as well as Bill Trite who brought us together in the first place,” added Simon.
Rescued from the Barry scrapyard in South Wales – where it languished for 22 years after being withdrawn from British Railways service in 1964 – restoration of ‘Eddystone’ began in 1986 and was completed by Southern Locomotives in 2003 with the gleaming locomotive hauling its first train on the Swanage Railway in the autumn of 2003.
No. 34028 hauled passenger trains on the Swanage Railway for ten years before being taken out of traffic in 2014 for a major overhaul that took three years to complete and started in 2018.
To find out more about the restoration and overhaul work of Southern Locomotives Limited, visit its comprehensive website at southern-locomotives.co.uk.
TThe Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers and anyone interested in finding out more should contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email [email protected]