Elated Swanage Railway volunteers are celebrating after their Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival attracted more than 4,000 passengers across four days – an all-time record in the 11-year history of the popular annual event.
Visitors delighted in the first visit of a classic early 1960s west of England Class 42 ‘Warship’ class express locomotive No D832, and newly-restored late 1950s Class 40 locomotive No D213 Andania hauling its first passenger train since the mid-1970s. Designed to replace steam locomotives, the 78-tonne ‘Warship’ Class 42 No. D832 Onslaught was built by British Railways in 1961 at its Swindon locomotive works in Wiltshire for hauling trains between London and the West Country.
The gala saw the first running of a public-carrying cream tea train, diesel locomotive driver experience trains, and brake van trains on the Swanage Railway’s newly restored four-mile line from Norden to the River Frome – within sight of Wareham. It was also the first time that a Class 46 diesel locomotive – No D182 – had run on the Swanage Railway’s relaid Purbeck Line.
The diesel gala and beer festival took place from Friday to Sunday, 6 to 8 May, with a preview day of diesel and steam trains on Thursday, 5 May. During the annual event, 12 classic diesel locomotives hauled trains between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross, Herston and Swanage to an intensive passenger timetable.
The diesel gala preview day on Thursday, 5 May saw diesel trains from the Waterloo to Exeter main line recreated with locomotives carrying the west of England route’s distinctive ’62’ headcode for semi-fast trains.
The preview day also saw a special ‘Sconex’ cream tea train run the nine miles between Swanage and the River Frome with Class 42 No D832 Onslaught and Class 33 No D6515 on each end of the train.
It was the first time that No D6515 had hauled a passenger train between Norden and the River Frome since the summer of 1966 when it headed a London to Swanage train during the days of British Rail.
Sunday, 8 May brought Swanage Railway’s resident pair of Class 08 shunters – Nos 08 436 and D3591 – haul two brake vans of passengers from Norden westwards to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham.
Swanage Railway General Manager Matt Green said, “This year’s diesel gala was absolutely marvellous. The fleet of visiting locomotives was immaculate, the railway looked fantastic, the beer festival at Corfe Castle station was a delight and the weather couldn’t have been better.
“Everyone worked so hard to put on a great show with a variety of classic 1950s and 1960s diesel locomotives and we were rewarded with a record-breaking number of visitors to our gala – just over 4,000 passengers during the event’s four days which is very gratifying.
“The feedback through social media was a delight too. The Swanage Railway was praised for being very friendly, visitors loved the first appearance of a ‘Warship’ locomotive, watching the newly-restored Andania‘haul its first passenger train in more than 40 years was a real thrill and the gala was described as the ‘highlight of the year’ that ‘just gets better and better’.
“A lot of work goes into staging the event so I would like to thank everyone involved for their professionalism and commitment. After a short rest, we will be starting to plan next year’s diesel gala and beer festival,” added Matt.
The locomotives that appeared were Class 08s No 08 436 and No D3591; Class 20s No 20 142 and No 20 205; Class 31 No 31 162; Class 33s No D6515, No 33 111 and No 33 201; Class 40 No D213 Andania; Class 42 No D832 Onslaught; Class 46 No D182 and Class 50 No 50 035.
Swanage Railway train times – and special event details – are available online at www.swanagerailway.co.uk or by telephone on 01929 425800.
Photos: Taken during the diesel gala by Andrew PM Wright