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GALA OF CLASSIC DIESEL LOCOMOTIVES TO FEATURE TWO FIRSTS AT EVENT ATTRACTING VISITORS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY

Published: April 26, 2017

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

A major gathering of classic diesel traction from the 1960s and the 1970s is to feature two firsts this year – the most diesel locomotives to attend the annual event and the first appearance of a green-liveried Class 47 at Swanage and Corfe Castle since the summer of 1966.

Now in its twelfth year, the Swanage Railway diesel gala and beer festival runs from Friday, 5 May to Sunday, 7 May, 2017, inclusive, with a mixed steam and diesel train preview day on Thursday, 4 May, 2017.

Ten diesel locomotives are visiting the event with the Swanage Railway's two classic 1960s ex-British Rail Southern Region Class 33s taking the number of classic heritage diesel locomotives hauling the passenger trains between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Swanage to twelve.

This year's diesel gala will be the first time since the summer of 1966 that a powerful two-tone green liveried Class 47 diesel locomotive has visited Swanage and Corfe Castle since the summer of 1966 when Class 47s hauled a Sunday 'bucket and spade' train from Eastleigh to the Isle of Purbeck.

Last year's event – pictured on this page – attracted a record-breaking 4,000 visitors over four days.

The beer festival will be taking place next to Corfe Castle station's restored Victorian goods shed – with views of passing trains – from the Thursday to the Sunday, inclusive. Beers will include the Swanage Railway's 'Old Pusher'.

The theme for the preview day on Thursday, 4 May, will be 'Dawn of the Diesels', with the diesel gala following on from the Swanage Railway's record-breaking 'Strictly Bulleid' spring steam gala in commemorating the 50th anniversary since the end of steam traction in southern England.

The powerful locomotive that will be making Purbeck railway history for the first time since the summer of 1966 is Class 47 No. D1842 (1970s British Rail classification TOPs number 47 192) based at the Crewe Heritage Centre.

Owned by the Crewe Heritage Trust, the newly repainted 125-ton machine was built for British Rail in 1965 at Crewe and was the first Class 47 locomotive to be preserved in 1987 after withdrawal from main line service.

Swanage Railway general manager Matt Green said: "It will be a real thrill for many people to see a green-liveried Class 47 diesel locomotive at Corfe Castle and Swanage for the first time since the summer of 1966 – the year that England won the World Cup final against West Germany at Wembley.

"With the decline of steam locomotives and the onward march of diesel traction, the Eastleigh to Corfe Castle and Swanage 'bucket and spade' summer Sunday train was steam-hauled in 1965 but in 1966 the train was put into the hands of the new and powerful Class 47 diesel locomotive.

"It must have been quite a contrast in 1966 to see a large Class 47 diesel locomotive at Swanage at the head of eight coaches, bound for Eastleigh, while in the bay platform there was a dirty 1950s steam locomotive about to haul two 1940s-built coaches to Corfe Castle and Wareham," he added.

The ‘Dawn of the Diesels’ preview day will see Class 47 No. 47192 and Swanage Railway resident Class 33 No. 33 111 in action alongside 1950s-built Standard Tank No. 80104 masquerading as No. 80146 which was on the last steam train to Corfe Castle and Swanage on Sunday, 18 June, 1967. 

Subject to availability, the diesel gala will also feature Class 20 locomotives No. 20 059 and No. 20 188, Class 26 No. D5343, Class 33s No. 33 012 and No. 33 111, Class 45 No. 45 041 'The Royal Tank Regiment', Class 50 No. 50 026 'Indomitable', a Class 56 from Colas Rail as well as a Class 66 and two Class 73 locomotives from main line operator GB Railfreight.

Matt Green explained: "There will be an intensive timetable of trains with unusual combinations of diesel locomotives and some trains having two locomotives on the front and some trains with a locomotive on the rear as well. Variety really is the spice of life where our diesel gala is concerned.

"I am very grateful to the various owners for allowing their precious classic diesel locomotives to visit the Swanage Railway. I would also like to thank the team of dedicated volunteers that plans and stages the annual highlight of the heritage railway calendar for followers of diesel locomotives," he added.

The diesel gala and beer festival will feature trade stands at Corfe Castle and Swanage stations, the award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum next to Norden station as well as the goods shed museum, exhibition coach and cinema coach at Corfe Castle station.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at [email protected]