STEAM train enthusiasts have launched a £40,000 appeal to complete restoration work on a Victorian locomotive and help celebrate two important landmarks this autumn in Swanage.
Now a supporter has pledged to give up to £4,000 to the appeal by match-funding donations given by members of the public until the end of this month.
Swanage Railway volunteers have been working to restore the London and South Western Railway T3 class locomotive No. 563 since the National Railway Museum gave it to Swanage Railway Trust in 2017.
The 81-tonne loco, which dated from 1893 and was the last survivor of its class, had travelled more than 1.5 million miles when it was withdrawn from service by the Southern Railway Company in August 1945.
It had been bound for the scrapyard, despite being one of the finest express passenger train locomotives of the Victorian era, but was rescued to help celebrate the centenary of London’s Waterloo station in 1948.
Now a six-year, £500,000 restoration project is nearing completion, and it is hoped the loco will haul trains at Swanage this autumn for both the centenary of the Southern Railway and the 185th anniversary of the formation of the London and South Western Railway.
563 Locomotive Group chair and Swanage Railway volunteer Nathan Au said: “It’s a race against time but, hopefully, we can do it with public help.
“We are very grateful to a generous and committed supporter of the locomotive’s restoration, who wishes to remain anonymous, for match-funding all donations received by the end of June up to a limit of £4,000.
“The boiler of the T3 has been restored and steamed at the Flour Mill locomotive workshops in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, and the boiler will be steamed there again in the next few weeks now that the boiler has been installed in the frames of the locomotive which has been painted to a very high standard.
“All being well, we are hoping to transport the restored T3 locomotive to Swanage station during the late summer where the locomotive will be reunited with its restored and splendidly painted coal and water tender.
“There will then follow a period of locomotive testing, commissioning and footplate crew training before No. 563 triumphantly hauls its first passenger train since 1948 in the autumn.”
563 Locomotive Group treasurer Steve Doughty added: “The T3 is a direct link to the Swanage Railway’s past – back to the early days of the London and South Western Railway in the 1880s and 1890s when holidaymakers first visited Purbeck by train
“The ambitious and historic restoration of the T3 is thanks for the consistent generosity of our many supporters who recognise just how unique and historically important this project is.
“Now, we have launched an appeal to raise £40,000 needed to complete the restoration of the unique Victorian T3 which has an incredibly rich history to tell and is the only surviving tender engine designed by the renowned locomotive engineer William Adams.
“The T3 class of steam locomotive hauled trains from London down to Corfe Castle and Swanage from the 1890s to the 1930s so the restoration back to full working order of No. 563 gives us the opportunity to show our visitors what the railway was like during Dorset’s industrial and social development in the 19th century.”
Swanage Railway Trust chair Gavin Johns, who is also a volunteer on the popular Dorset heritage line, said: “We are working hard to ensure the engine’s preservation for future generations to enjoy and the best way to do that is by seeing No. 563 brought back to life so it can haul trains for the first time in 75 years.”
To make a donation – or start a standing order – visit 563locomotivegroup.co.uk.