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Published: September 22, 2018

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

A classic 1930s express steam locomotive that hauled express trains between London and Glasgow – and headed the Royal Train on two occasions – is to make its first visit to the Isle of Purbeck when it stars in the Swanage Railway’s Autumn Steam Gala.​

Also visiting the award-winning heritage line for the annual October event will be an historic 1940s ‘Black 5’ steam locomotive that helped to haul the last steam-hauled passenger train on a British Rail main line in the summer of 1968.

On the theme of the historic locomotive exchange trials in 1948 – which took place on the newly created British Railways network to evaluate different classes of steam locomotives from the previous ‘Big Four’ railway companies – the Autumn Steam Gala runs from Friday to Sunday, 12 to 14 October, 2018, inclusive.

At least six steam locomotives will be in action through the Isle of Purbeck, including three visiting locomotives – 1938 London Midland and Scottish Railway No. 6233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’, 1945 London Midland and Scottish Railway Stanier ‘Black 5’ No. 44871 and 1954 British Railways Class 4 Tank No. 80078.

‘Black 5’ No. 44871 made history 50 years ago when it helped to haul the famous ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ between Carlisle and Manchester in August, 1968 – the last steam-hauled passenger train run by British Rail – with tickets costing 15 guineas.

The Princess Coronation class locomotive No. 6233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ has been a regular performer on the main line up and down the country – as has ‘Black 5’ No. 44871 – where it has hauled special excursion trains.

Repainted in its original 1930s crimson livery by its owners, the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust, the visit of the ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ to the Swanage Railway comes after a major £130,000 overhaul.

Featuring a varied and intensive service, steam trains will be running the five and a half miles between Swanage, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden – with some steam trains running four miles further on to the River Frome bridge, within sight of Wareham.

Swanage Railway Company executive chairman Trevor Parsons said: “Our three-day Autumn Steam Gala will be an event not to be missed with the ‘Duchess of Sutherland’, the ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ ‘Black 5’ No. 44871 and Standard Class 4 Tank No. 80078 being put through their paces along with the Swanage Railway’s Swanage-based locomotives also hauling trains.

“There will also be an exciting and varied timetable, four nostalgic freight trains running each day between Swanage and Corfe Castle, some passenger trains running on our four-mile extension from Norden to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham, as well as evening dining trains on the Friday and Saturday,” added Mr Parsons.

Tickets for a return trip in the brake van of a freight train between Swanage and Corfe Castle during the Autumn Steam Gala are £10.

Available from the Swanage Railway website, brake van ride tickets are only available to holders of Autumn Steam Gala rover tickets.

As places are limited, brake van ride tickets should be purchased as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Any unsold tickets will be available for purchase on the day.

It was in 2002 that the ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ became the first steam locomotive in 35 years to haul the Royal Train – the locomotive again hauling the Royal train in 2005.

Repainted in its original 1930s crimson livery by its owners, the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust, the visit of the ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ to the Swanage Railway comes after a major £130,000 overhaul.

Designed by William Stanier, No. 6233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ was built for £13,800 at the London Midland and Scottish Railway’s locomotive works in Crewe in the summer of 1938 for hauling express trains between London and Glasgow and to Liverpool.

Being withdrawn from service by British Railways in 1964 – by which time the locomotive had run some 1.6 million miles – No. 6233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ was sold to a Butlin’s holiday camp at Ayr in Scotland before moving to a railway museum at Bressingham in Norfolk and then moving to the Midland Railway Centre in Derbyshire.

After restoration to full working order, the classic locomotive returned to the rails in 2001 – thanks to financial help from the Heritage Lottery Fund – and hauled excursion trains on the main line after being fitted with main line signalling and safety equipment.

Built at Brighton in 1954 for the busy Essex coast to north London commuter line – and now based in Essex – former British Railways Class 4 tank steam locomotive No. 80078 will be hauling trains on the Swanage Railway for the first time since 2010.

After being withdrawn from traffic in the mid-1960s, No. 80078 was sent to a scrapyard at Barry, in South Wales, from where it was rescued by members of the Swanage Railway in 1976 – eventually being restored and hauling trains at Swanage in 1999 for more than ten years before a later move to Essex.

‘Black 5’ No. 44871 is being provided courtesy of Riley and Sons (E) Limited and is being moved by rail to the Swanage Railway by West Coast Railways. 

British Railways Standard Class 4 Tank No. 80078 is kindly being provided thanks to Stewart Robinson.

The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers to help run the heritage line so call 01929 475212 for a chat or email [email protected]