Iconic locomotives to feature at Spring Steam Gala

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The Britannia 70000 will be among the locomotives at the annual gala <i>(Image: ANDREW PM WRIGHT)</i>
The Britannia 70000 will be among the locomotives at the annual gala (Image: ANDREW PM WRIGHT)

A LOCOMOTIVE that hauled the funeral train of King George VI will be among the stars at an upcoming Steam Gala in Dorset.

British Railways Standard Class steam locomotive No. 70000 ‘Britannia’ had the sad honour of hauling the funeral train of King George VI, from King’s Lynn in Norfolk to London in February 1952.

It will be joined by a steam locomotive whose classmates worked passenger and freight trains across Dorset. The 1957 British Railways Standard Class 4 tender 2-6-0 wheel arrangement steam locomotive No. 76084 will be at the Swanage Railway Spring Steam Gala gala which runs from Friday, March 24 to Sunday, March 26.

Locomotives of the same class as No. 76084 were based at Bournemouth station in the 1950s and 1960s so they could haul passenger and freight trains across Dorset as well as on the branch line from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

The event will see steam trains feature along the nine-mile length of the heritage line between Swanage, Corfe Castle, Norden and four miles beyond - past Furzebrook - to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham.

Also operating during the gala will be the Swanage Railway’s resident steam locomotives – late 1920s Southern Railway U Class No. 31806 as well as 1940s Southern Railway Bulleid Pacifics No. 34070 ‘Manston’ and No. 34028 ‘Eddystone’. No. 31806 hauled holidaymaker trains from Basingstoke to Swanage during the 1950s.

Tickets for a single or return ride in a 1950s brake van ride will also be available. In the rare event, the locomotive will travel between Swanage and Corfe Castle, on a re-creation of an evocative freight train.

Volunteer chairman of the Swanage Railway Company, Trevor Parsons, said: “With five steam locomotives in operation, and trains running along our nine miles of line from Swanage to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham, our Spring Steam Gala will be an evocative occasion not to be missed – a celebration of all that is wonderful and fascinating about steam.

“Built at Crewe, and completed in January 1951, Britannia was the first British Railways steam locomotive to be built to a new design, known as a Standard design, and No. 70000 was the first of 55 Britannia class locomotives to be built," Mr Parsons added.

The Spring Steam Gala will see the shop open at Swanage station as well as the Swanage Railway Trust museum and cinema coach in the restored Victorian goods shed at Corfe Castle station.

Subject to volunteer availability, it is also hoped to have the ‘have a go’ signal box museum will be open at Corfe Castle station.

Spring Steam Gala train tickets can be purchased online at swanagerailway.co.uk.

Those who are interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention office on 01929 475212 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk.