An historic locomotive that hauled the funeral train of King George VI is to star in the Swanage Railway’s Spring Steam Gala, along with a steam locomotive whose classmates worked passenger and freight trains across Dorset.
Built for British Railways in the 1950s, the two visiting steam locomotives will be taking to the rails – through the heart of the Isle of Purbeck – during the three-day special event that runs from Friday, March 24 to Sunday, March 26. In a rare opportunity, the public can also purchase tickets for a single or return ride in a 1950s brake van ride, between Swanage and Corfe Castle, on a re-creation of an evocative freight train during the three days of the Spring Steam Gala.
It was in February, 1952, that the year old British Railways Standard Class steam locomotive No. 70000 Britannia had the sad honour of hauling the funeral train of King George VI, from King’s Lynn in Norfolk to London.
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The other star of the three-day Spring Steam Gala is 1957 British Railways Standard Class 4 tender 2-6-0 wheel arrangement steam locomotive No. 76084. Locomotives of the same class as No. 76084 were based at Bournemouth station in the 1950s and 1960s so they could haul passenger and freight trains across Dorset as well as on the branch line from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage.
The gala will see an intensive service of steam trains along the nine-mile length of the heritage line between Swanage, Corfe Castle, Norden and four miles beyond – past Furzebrook – to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham. Also operating will be the Swanage Railway’s resident steam locomotives – late 1920s Southern Railway U Class Np. 31806 as well as 1940s Southern Railway Bulleid Pacifics No. 34070 ‘Manston’ and No. 34028 ‘Eddystone’. No. 31806 hauled holidaymaker trains from Basingstoke to Swanage during the 1950s.
Trevor Parsons, the volunteer chairman of the Swanage Railway Company which runs the trains for the Swanage Railway Trust, explained: “With five steam locomotives in operation, and trains running along our nine miles of line from Swanage to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham, our Spring Steam Gala will be an evocative occasion not to be missed – a celebration of all that is wonderful and fascinating about steam.”
“Built at Crewe, and completed in January, 1951, Britannia’ was the first British Railways steam locomotive to be built to a new design, known as a Standard design, and No. 70000 was the first of 55 Britannia class locomotives to be built,” added Trevor, a volunteer signalman and train guard as well as a Swanage Railway Trust director.
Swanage Railway Trust volunteer chairman Gavin Johns, who is also a volunteer signalman on the Swanage Railway, said: “Britannia was the first steam locomotive of the new early 1950s range of Standard designs to be built by British Railways aimed at taking our country’s railway network through the 1950s and the 1960s and replacing worn-out late Victorian and Edwardian steam locomotives. The early 1950s saw British Railways design a range of standard steam locomotives, of varying power classifications, that shared common parts with the new steam locomotives being more efficient as well as cheaper to operate and maintain.”
Gala tickets – including brake van rides between Swanage and Corfe Castle – can be purchased online at swanagerailway.co.uk Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention office on 01929 475212 or email [email protected]k More details about volunteering opportunities can be found at swanagerailwaytrust.org/volunteering