Published: April 13, 2017
Story and Photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer
A unique Victorian steam locomotive that escaped the scrapman's cutting torch thanks to the centenary of London's Waterloo station has arrived on the Swanage Railway – thanks to the generosity of the National Railway Museum.
Having starred in acclaimed stage productions of 'The Railway Children' on both sides of the Atlantic, the ownership of Adams 'T3' class No. 563 has been transferred to the Swanage Railway Trust by the National Railway Museum.
Arriving on a road transporter at the Swanage Railway's road-rail interchange at Norden on Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, the Victorian steam locomotive – shrouded under a protective tarpaulin – was hauled to Corfe Castle station by a British Railways Class 08 diesel shunter dating from 1958.
Built in February, 1893, for hauling express trains on the London and South Western Railway, the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement locomotive was withdrawn by the Southern Railway at the end of the Second World War in August, 1945, by which time it had run a total of 1.5 million miles.
Designed by William Adams for smooth running at up to 80mph – and built at Nine Elms in London, carrying three tonnes of coal and 3,300 gallons of water – the 81-tonne No. 563 was not scrapped in 1948.
Instead, the unique locomotive was selected for restoration and display at the centenary celebrations for London's Waterloo station during 1948 in a move that thankfully guaranteed the preservation of No. 563.
A delighted Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons said: "It's absolutely incredible to see the T3 on the Swanage Railway and marvellous that she has finally arrived. Even with the protective tarpaulins over her, you can really appreciate the locomotive's distinctive and charming Victorian lines.
"The locomotive is a complete original and sports its livery dating from 1893 – the T3 is a time capsule from 1945 when the locomotive was withdrawn by the Southern Railway after a hard working life of 52 years," he added.
"The vacuum pressure gauge for the brakes still has the original 'L&SWR' – for London and South Western Railway – written on the plate behind the glass. Step on to the T3's footplate and you are transported back in time 120 years to the 1890s and the life of Victorian railwaymen," added Mr Parsons.
Part of the National Railway Museum collection at Locomotion, the National Railway Museum at Shildon in County Durham, the T3 was transported by sea to Canada in 2011 where it had a six-month starring role in Toronto's Roundhouse Park for a theatrical production of 'The Railway Children'.
Returning across the Atlantic, No. 563 again took to the stage when the production – an adaptation by Mike Kenny of E. Nesbit's much-loved novel – was staged at King's Cross station in London where a thousand-seat pop-up theatre had been built.
Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons added: "We are delighted, thrilled and very grateful to the National Railway Museum for donating such a rare Victorian steam locomotive to the Swanage Railway.
"Thanks to the T3's ownership being transferred to the Swanage Railway, we hope to suitably display the locomotive to the public and illustrate a period of important London and South Western Railway history that has previously not been possible. Our primary aim is No. 563's conservation and preservation.
"Only twenty of the T3 class of steam locomotive were built for the London and South Western Railway in 1892 and 1893 – and No. 563 is the only survivor of the class so it is unique," added Mr Parsons who is also a Swanage Railway volunteer signalman and train guard.
The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email [email protected]
Swanage Railway train times – and special event details – are available online at www.swanagerailway.co.uk or by telephone on 01929 425800.