King George VI funeral locomotive making its way to Swanage Railway gala

A HISTORIC locomotive that hauled the funeral train of King George VI is to star in the Swanage Railway’s Spring Steam Gala.

The three-day event runs from Friday, March 24 to Sunday, March 26 and will also feature single or return rides in a 1950s brake van between Swanage and Corfe Castle, a recreation of an evocative freight train.

In February 1952, the year-old British Railways Standard Class 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.

The other star of the three-day Spring Steam Gala is 1957 British Railways Standard Class 4 tender 2-6-0 wheel arrangement steam locomotive No 76084.

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 Spring Steam Gala will see an intensive service of steam trains 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’.

Trevor Parsons, volunteer chair of the Swanage Railway Company, 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.”

70000 Britannia Swanage Station June 2012. Photo: Andrew PM Wright

70000 Britannia Swanage Station June 2012. Photo: Andrew PM Wright

Swanage Railway Trust volunteer chair, Gavin Johns, added: “Britannia was the first steam locomotive of the new early 1950s range of Standard designs to be built by British Railways aimed at taking our country’s railway network through the 1950s and the 1960s and replacing worn out late Victorian and Edwardian steam locomotives.

“The early 1950s saw British Railways design a range of standard steam locomotives, of varying power classifications, that shared common parts with the new steam locomotives being more efficient as well as cheaper to operate and maintain,” added Gavin who is a volunteer signalman on the Swanage Railway.”

The 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.

It is also hoped to have the ‘have a go’ signal box museum open at Corfe Castle.

Located next to Norden station, the Purbeck Mining Museum will be open to the public during all three days of the event.

The museum’s narrow gauge diesel trains will be operating between 11am and 4pm with volunteer museum staff on hand to answer questions about the fascinating 2,000-year history of ball clay mining in the Isle of Purbeck.

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