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  • Andrew P.M. Wright

Challenging Restoration and Upgrade of 1960's Heritage Diesel Trains Delays Second Year Wareham

A challenging project to restore and upgrade two former British Railways 1960s heritage diesel trains – to exacting main line standards – is to delay the second year of the Swanage Railway’s pioneering trial train service to Wareham.

While some special diesel and steam trains may run between Swanage and Wareham during late 2018, the full second year of the Swanage Railway’s trial train service to Wareham is now set to start during Easter, 2019.

It had been planned to run a 90 selected day trial train service to Wareham during 2018 using the Swanage Railway’s two 1960-built heritage diesel trains, known as diesel multiple units, directly operated by main line-qualified Swanage Railway drivers and guards.

The Swanage Railway’s Project Wareham director Mark Woolley said: “We are committed to operating the second year of our trial train service to Wareham using our two heritage diesel multiple units which have diesel engines under the floor so there is no need to use a diesel locomotive at each end of a set of carriages as we did with our trial service to Wareham during the summer of 2017.

“The extensive overhaul, refurbishment and upgrade to exacting main line standards of our two former British Railways diesel multiple units by several specialist contractors has been very challenging work because of the heritage nature of the trains,” added Mr Woolley who has been a dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer since the mid-1980s.

The two 1960 British Railways-built diesel trains – a one-carriage Class 121 ‘Bubble Car’ diesel multiple unit and a three-carriage Class 117 diesel multiple unit – are being overhauled, restored and upgraded by Arlington Fleet Group Ltd at the Eastleigh railway works in Hampshire.

The two diesel multiple units are being given new wheel-sets – supplied by separate contractors – as well as being equipped with Network Rail-compliant TPWS (train protection and warning system), OTMR (on-train monitoring recorder), GSM-R wireless communications system and central door locking so they can run on the main line into Wareham station.

The two trains are due to be delivered to the Swanage Railway during the early summer of 2018, after which the two diesel multiple units will be intensively tested.

The Swanage Railway drivers and guards that will operate the two trains into Wareham will also complete their training on the new units.

For the first year of the Swanage Railway’s trial train service to Wareham, the Railway contracted main line train operator West Coast Railways to run the 60 selected day trial service on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays between 13 June and 3 September 2017. The drivers, guards, diesel locomotives and carriages needed to run the trains were supplied by West Coast Railways.

Mark Woolley explained: “Just over 13,000 passengers were carried during the first year of our trial train service to Wareham – during the summer of 2017 – which compares well with the target figure of 12,000 passengers in the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership business plan.”

The heritage 1967-built former British Rail Southern Region 4TC four-carriage set used for the first year of the trial Wareham service was hired from the London Transport Museum.

A diesel locomotive was needed on each end of the Swanage Railway’s trains to Wareham because there are no facilities at Wareham station for a locomotive to run round its carriages before returning its train to Swanage.

One of the Swanage Railway’s main line certificated heritage diesel locomotives – ex-British Rail Southern Regional Class 33 diesel-electric locomotive No. D6515 ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ built in 1960 – was also used to help run the service.

Mark Woolley said: “Visual surveys indicated that up to 70 per cent of passengers travelling on last year’s Swanage to Wareham service arrived or departed from Wareham by a main line train which fulfils one of the trial service’s key objectives.

“The performance of our Wareham trains was good thanks to a robust timetable and our connections with main line trains were well maintained. Despite the operational success of the 60 selected day trial, the service was operated at a financial loss and the use of a contracted third party operator cannot be repeated in 2018,” he added.

Photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright,

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at

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