History is to be made this week with a Southern Railway 1920s ‘mogul’ steam locomotive hauling a main line passenger train – a special excursion – between Yeovil, Dorchester and Weymouth for the first time in more than 50 years, following a successful test run earlier this month.
Swanage Railway ‘U’ class steam locomotive No. 31806 will be at the head of the ten-carriage train on Thursday, 26 April, 2018, as part of the Railway Touring Company’s marathon nine-day ‘Great Britain XI’ steam train around England, Scotland and Wales.
Thursday’s special train is being operated by the Railway Touring Company – based at King’s Lynn in Norfolk – with the carriages being supplied by West Coast Railways.
With the assistance of another steam locomotive, No. 31806 will be hauling the long train up the climb from Yeovil Junction to Evershot before the descent down to Maiden Newton and Dorchester.
Known as a ‘mogul’ because of its distinctive 2-6-0 wheel arrangement, No. 31806 will then haul the train – still with another steam locomotive assisting – up the bank from Dorchester to Bincombe Tunnel before the descent down to Weymouth.
The ‘Great Britain XI’ excursion then runs back to Dorchester and on to Wareham where No. 31806 will haul the train to Worgret Junction where it will leave the main line and run on to the Swanage Railway for the final nine-miles of the journey to Swanage.
Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons said: “The last time that a Southern Railway 1920s ‘mogul’ steam locomotive – like No. 31806 – hauled a passenger train on the main line in Dorset was in the summer of 1965 before the last of that class of steam locomotive were withdrawn from service by British Railways and sold off for scrap.”
To keep its appointment with history, No. 31806 departs Swanage for Yeovil at 7am on Thursday, 26 April, 2018, and runs ‘light engine’ – on its own – via Dorchester, Weymouth and back to Dorchester before running into Somerset. No. 31806 is due to arrive at Yeovil Junction at 10.33am where it will sit in the station sidings.
With the ‘Great Britain XI’ excursion train in tow, No. 31806 is due to leave Yeovil Junction station at 2.42pm, reaching Maiden Newton at 3.18pm and then Dorchester West station at 3.47pm before arriving in Weymouth at 4.07pm.
The special train departs Weymouth at 4.35pm, passing through Dorchester South station at 4.50pm before arriving at Wareham at 5.10pm. With No. 31806 on the front, the ‘Great Britain XI’ is due to triumphantly steam into Swanage just after 6pm.
Trevor Parsons explained: “No. 31806 carried out a successful main line test run between Weymouth, Dorchester, Yeovil and Wareham on Friday, 13 April, 2016, ahead of Thursday’s ‘Great Britain XI’ excursion train thanks to the permission of Network Rail.
“The Southern Railway ‘mogul’ steam locomotives, of the same class as No. 31806, were based at Bournemouth and Weymouth from the 1920s to the 1960s – working stopping trains between the two towns as well as cross-country trains from Salisbury to Bournemouth, Poole and Swanage. The locomotives also hauled freight trains.
“So it can haul trains on the main line, No. 31806 was upgraded thanks to a £75,000 Government grant to the Swanage Railway Trust from the Department for Transport’s Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation Competition. The Trust supplied £25,000 of labour towards the work which also included the upgrade of five carriages.
“With No. 31806 now equipped with the required signalling and monitoring equipment required to run on Network Rail, the upgrade work to the locomotive – as well as a set of five carriages – gives the Swanage Railway the potential to run special steam trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham in the future,” he added.
The ‘Great Britain XI’ excursion train started its marathon nine-day journey from London’s King’s Cross station on Thursday, 19 April, 2018, with the tour of England, Scotland and Wales ending at London’s Victoria station on Friday, 27 April, 2018.
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