A mighty 1940s ‘Orient Express’ steam locomotive is to haul a prestigious excursion train from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage – 46 years after the massive engine was banned from running down to the Purbeck seaside resort.
Hauled by the 150-ton Southern Railway Merchant Navy class Bulleid Pacific No. 35028 ‘Clan Line’ – built at Eastleigh in Hampshire during 1948 – the 11-coach ‘Royal Wessex’ departs London’s Victoria station at 8.40am on Friday, 27 April, 2012.
An impressive stallion of steam, ‘Clan Line’ usually hauls luxury Venice-Simplon ‘Orient Express’ Pullman dining trains to various destinations around the country.
Forty-six years before, in 1966, ‘Clan Line’ hauled another excursion train from London bound for Corfe Castle and Swanage – but the massive locomotive could not travel further than Wareham because it was too heavy for the single branch line down to the Purbeck seaside resort.
That was on Sunday, 27 February, 1966, when steam trains were on the way out and the nine-coach train named the ‘Dorset Belle’ for the occasion – organised by the Locomotive Club of Great Britain – was packed with several hundred railway enthusiasts.
While ‘Clan Line’ patiently waited in the south bay platform of Wareham station, two small Ivatt class tank steam locomotives – No. 41284 & No. 41301 – took over the train and hauled it down to Corfe Castle and Swanage.
Now, 46 years on, the mighty ‘Clan Line’ can haul UK Railtours’ ‘Royal Wessex’ excursion train all the way to Corfe Castle and Swanage because under-bridges on the rebuilt Swanage Railway were strengthened during the early 1990s to carry ‘Merchant Navy’ class steam locomotives.
Swanage Railway commercial manager Martin Payne said: “It will be great to finally welcome ‘Clan Line’ to Corfe Castle and Swanage 46 years after it was prevented from running down the branch line from Wareham because of the British Railways locomotive weight restriction policy of the time.
“‘Clan Line’ is a really marvellous machine and is widely considered to be the greatest preserved Southern Railway steam locomotive of them all.
“Named after Merchant Navy shipping companies, locomotives like ‘Clan Line’ hauled heavy express trains from the capital to the coast so having ‘Clan Line’ haul a long 11-coach excursion train from London to Swanage is very fitting and has great historical resonance,” explained Mr Payne.
The ‘Royal Wessex’ is due to pass at Wareham around 1pm on Friday, 27 April, 2012, and arrive at Swanage around 2pm. The train departs Swanage for the five-hour journey to London’s Waterloo station around 5pm.
Back in 1966, the LCGB railway enthusiasts’ railtour departed London’s Waterloo station at 9am, arriving at Wareham at 12.17pm and Corfe Castle at 12.39pm before arriving at Swanage at 12.54pm.
The nine-coach ‘Dorset Belle’ train departed Swanage at 1.10pm, arriving at Corfe Castle at 1.22pm before running into Wareham station at 1.41pm from where ‘Clan Line’ took the train on down to Dorchester and Weymouth.
Withdrawn by British Railways in July, 1967, ‘Clan Line’ is a ‘Pacific’ class 4-6-2 wheel arrangement locomotive – designed during the Second World War by Oliver Bulleid – and now based at the Stewart’s Lane railway depot in London.
It has been owned and maintained to main line standards by the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society since 1967.
Further details of the special ‘Royal Wessex’ excursion are available from www.ukrailtours.com while Swanage Railway train service and special event details are available from www.swanagerailway.co.uk.