Published: March 29, 2017
Story and Photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer
A veteran engineman and stalwart Swanage Railway volunteer has been reunited with the express steam locomotive that he worked on as a young cleaner and fireman at Bournemouth station during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Paul McDonald had the privilege of driving the gleaming 1946-built West Country class Bulleid Pacific No. 34046 'Braunton' for the last nine-mile leg of its journey to Swanage where it is one of the stars of a major event marking the 50th anniversary of the end of main line steam trains in southern England.
Running from Friday, 31 March, to Sunday, 2 April, 2017, inclusive, the 'Strictly Bulleid' event will be the largest gathering of working classic 1940s Bulleid Pacific class express steam locomotives since the summer of 1967.
A delighted Paul said: "It was absolutely fantastic to drive 'Braunton' on the last leg of its rail journey from London to Swanage. As soon as the locomotive crossed on to the Swanage Railway, I took over the controls and it was marvellous. I was over the moon and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face.
"I was back in the 1950s and the 1960s when the Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives hauled express trains from London to Southampton, Bournemouth, Dorchester and Weymouth. It was very sad when the Bulleid Pacifics left Bournemouth shed for the last time in the summer of 1967.
"'Braunton' is a magnificent machine and it is amazing to think that 'Braunton' has been restored from a rusting scrapyard hulk to the gleaming stallion of speed seen today. I'm very impressed with the quality of the locomotive's restoration and it's a real tribute to the dedicated team behind all that work.
"The Bulleid Pacifics – including 'Braunton' – hauled trains from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage as well as on the Somerset and Dorset line from Poole to Bath via Blandford Forum and Templecombe which was controversially closed in 1966," added the 75-year old former Swanage Railway operations manager who grew up in Parkstone, Poole.
Five restored massive Bulleid Pacific class steam locomotives will be hauling trains through the Isle of Purbeck during the three-day 'Strictly Bulleid' event from Friday, 31 March, to Sunday, 2 April, 2017, inclusive.
And for one of the visiting Bulleid Pacifics – Battle of Britain class No. 34053 'Sir Keith Park' – it will be the first time that the classic locomotive will be seen at Swanage since the summer of 1964 when it hauled a long train from the Purbeck seaside resort up to London's Waterloo station.
A bonanza of brilliant Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives, the special trains will be running along the whole nine and a half mile length of the Swanage Railway – including the newly completed four-mile extension between Norden and the River Frome, within sight of Wareham.
It was on Sunday, 9 July, 1967, that the last Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives hauled long express trains, at speeds of up to 100 mph, between London, Basingstoke, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole, Dorchester and Weymouth.
The end of steam trains on British Rail's Southern Region on Monday, 10 July, 1967, saw electric trains brought in between London and Bournemouth with diesel trains operating between Bournemouth and Weymouth.
The four Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives visiting the Swanage Railway for the three days of sheer Bulleid brilliance will be West Country classes No. 34046 'Braunton' and No. 34092 'City of Wells' as well as Battle of Britain classes No. 34053 'Sir Keith Park' and No. 34081 '92 Squadron'.
The fifth Bulleid Pacific appearing at the 'Strictly Bulleid' commemorative event will be Swanage Railway-based Battle of Britain class No. 34070 'Manston' which sports its original 1940s air-smoothed casing over the boiler.
Visiting Bulleid Pacific No. 34046 'Braunton' will be appearing in the guise of fellow Bulleid Pacific No. 34052 'Lord Dowding' which was scrapped.
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.