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Published: July 16, 2016

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

A powerful steam locomotive that starred in the landmark 1930s documentary film 'Night Mail' has visited Corfe Castle and Swanage – at the head of a special excursion train from London.

It was the first time that a 1920s 'Royal Scot' class express steam locomotive has run on the award-winning Swanage Railway which has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976.

Built for the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1927, No. 46115 'Scots Guardsman' starred in the classic 1930s General Post Office (GPO) railway documentary film 'Night Mail'.

Organised by the Railway Touring Company, the ten-carriage 'Swanage Belle' from London's Victoria station was the first main line steam-hauled excursion train to use the fully commissioned £500,000 Norden Gates level crossing west of Norden station.

Swanage Railway General Manager Matt Green explained: "A commercial, aesthetic and nostalgic success, 'Night Mail' was made by the General Post Office (GPO) film unit and highly praised by the film critics of the time.

"Widely considered a masterpiece of the British documentary film movement of the 1930s and the 1940s, the documentary told the story of a London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) mail train running from London to Scotland.

"Starring Royal Scot locomotive No. 6115 'Scots Guardsman', the film became a classic of its kind and has been frequently imitated in modern short films and advertisements," explained Mr Green.

Designed by Sir Henry Fowler and built by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow during 1927, No. 6115 – as it was then numbered – was named 'Scots Guardsman' the following year in honour of the Scots Guards army regiment.

In 1947, No. 6115 was rebuilt by Sir William Stanier with a new tapered type-2A boiler, which replaced the original 1927 parallel boilers, and repainted in the London Midland and Scottish Railway's post-war 1946 style livery.

Renumbered by British Railways as No. 46115 in 1948, 'Scots Guardsman' was withdrawn by British Rail in 1965. Seventy of the Royal Scot locomotives were originally built between 1927 and 1930.

Matt Green explained: "It was great to see lots of happy passengers spill off the train at Swanage in perfect weather – blue skies, full sun and with a refreshing breeze – before spending three hours enjoying the delights of the seaside town which sits on the Jurassic Coast.

"The Royal Scot is an impressive steam locomotive and it was wonderful to see it running into Swanage at the head of the 'Swanage Belle'.

"The fact that 'Scots Guardsman' starred in the classic and landmark 1936 documentary film 'Night Mail' makes the locomotive even more special.

"No. 46115 is a powerful steam locomotive with very pleasing and solid lines. It really looked splendid in its British Railways 1950s Brunswick Green livery.

"'Scots Guardsman' is one of two preserved Royal Scot locomotives, the other being London Midland and Scottish Railway No. 6100 'Royal Scot'," added Mr Green.

At the rear of the 'Swanage Belle' excursion was West Coast Railway Class 33 diesel-electric locomotive No. 33 207 'Jim Martin' – a slim line version of the classic 1960 Southern Region design built for the London to Hastings line.

A class seven 4-6-0 wheel arrangement locomotive, 'Scots Guardsman' made its first visit to the Swanage Railway on Thursday, 14 July, 2016.

Swanage Railway train times – and special event details – are available online at www.swanagerailway.co.uk or by telephone on 01929 425800.