• Andrew P.M. Wright

Eagerly awaited 'Diesel Gala & Beer Festival' returns with eight heritage locomotives


Photo: Andrew P.M. Wright

Eight heritage diesel locomotives – that help to tell the fascinating story of Britain’s railways during the transition from steam to diesel trains in the 1960s – are to feature in the Swanage Railway’s eagerly awaited first Diesel Gala and Beer Festival since 2019.


One of the locomotives appearing, Class 33 diesel-electric locomotive No. D6515, hauled the last train through Broadstone to Wimborne when it cleared Wimborne’s station yard of wagons after British Rail closed the line to freight trains in May, 1977.


Now in its fifteenth year, and featuring an intensive three-train service, the Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival takes place from Friday to Sunday, 6 to 8 May, 2022, inclusive, with the beer festival being organised and operated by Purbeck Kitchens at Corfe Castle station.


From the Friday to the Sunday, inclusive, the diesel trains will be operating along the entire length of the nine-mile Swanage Railway – past Norden station and beyond Furzebrook to the River Frome within sight of Wareham and half a mile short of the London to Weymouth main line.


On Thursday, 5 May, 2022, there will be a special ‘Thirty Seven Thursday’ preview event with a day of diesel and steam trains between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage featuring Class 37 diesel locomotive No. 37 703.


This year’s Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival features evening ‘Beerex’ diesel trains on the Friday and the Saturday – Class 46 No. D182 performing the honours on the Friday and Class 50 No. 50 026 ‘Indomitable’ on the Saturday.


Subject to availability, the visiting diesel locomotives will be:

  • Class 25 No. D7612 (British Rail No. 25 262) courtesy of South Devon Diesel Traction.

  • Class 31 No. 31 128 courtesy of Nemesis Rail.

  • Class 37 No. 37 703 courtesy of the Harry Needle Railroad Company.

  • Class 44 No. D4 ‘Great Gable’ (British Rail No. 44 004) courtesy of the Peak Locomotive Company.

  • Class 46 No. D182 (British Rail No. 46 045) courtesy of the Peak Locomotive Company.

  • Class 50 No. 50 026 ‘Indomitable’ courtesy of PTG Tours.

Also appearing that this year’s diesel gala event will be two ex-British Railways Class 33 heritage diesel locomotives that are based on the Swanage Railway – No. D6515 (British Rail number 33 012) ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ and No. 33 111. Class 33 No. 33 111 hauled the last 4TC push-pull carriage set to Corfe Castle and Swanage on a Poole Grammar School railway society chartered enthusiasts’ train in September, 1971.


Event organising team member Dan Bennett said: “This year’s eagerly awaited diesel gala – the first since 2019 because of Covid - is being staged because there is an ever-growing national following for heritage diesel locomotives, particularly among younger rail enthusiasts.


“Over more than 15 years, our diesel gala has grown in popularity to become one of the most highly regarded annual events of its type in the country.


“A lot of detailed work by a small team of enthusiastic Swanage Railway volunteers and staff goes into planning the diesel gala with planning beginning in earnest four or five months before the event,” added Dan who lives in Wareham and has been a dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer since he was a teenager.


Admission to the beer festival at Corfe Castle station will be free with a token system in operation for the purchase of drinks.


Full details of the Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival, including timetables and fares, are available from the Swanage Railway’s website at www.swanagerailway.co.uk. Reduced price fares apply if tickets are purchased on-line in advance of the event.


The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers who should contact Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention officer Jonathan Evans on 01929 408466 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk.


Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright,

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.