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  • Andrew P.M. Wright

Eight 1940s Bulleid steam locomotives to appear in gala unlikely to be repeated

Photo: Andrew P.M. Wright

Eight impressive 1940s Bulleid Pacific class steam locomotives are to appear in an historic three-day gala gathering unlikely to be repeated because of the number of the classic Southern Railway steam locomotives hauling passenger trains during what will be the Swanage Railway’s largest special event.


Strictly Bulleid Two takes place between Friday, 7 June, and Sunday, 9 June, 2024, inclusive, with a preview taster day on Thursday, 6 June, 2024 to mark the 80th anniversary of the crucial D-Day Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe in 1944.


The evocative celebration of the 56th anniversary of the end of steam trains in southern England in July, 1967, will see the largest gathering of working Bulleid Pacific locomotives since that date when an era – and a way of life for railwaymen – came to an end.


Strictly Bulleid Two will also see the largest gathering of Merchant Navy class Bulleid Pacifics, hauling trains since the end of southern England steam in 1967 as well as the largest gathering of Bulleid Pacifics in their original 1940s form with an air-smoothed metal casing over the boiler– the locomotives being known as ‘Spam Cans’ because of their distinctive shape.


Designed by Southern Railway chief mechanical engineer Oliver Vaughan Snell Bulleid during the Second World War, the Bulleid Pacifics hauled trains from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage between the late 1940s and 1966.


Most of the Strictly Bulleid Two trains will be hauling trains along the whole length of the nine-mile Swanage Railway between Swanage, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle, Norden and beyond to Furzebrook and the River Frome – just before the heritage line’s connection with the national railway network and within sight of Wareham.


The passenger trains between Norden and the River Frome will have an impressive and classic Southern Railway Bulleid Pacific steam locomotive at each end of the train.


The Strictly Bulleid Two preview day will feature two Bulleid Pacifics hauling trains between Swanage and Norden with the unique and newly restored Victorian London and South Western Railway T3 class locomotive No. 563 also hauling trains to Norden on that day – replicating the T3’s vital role in hauling trains in the build up to D-Day in June, 1944.


Subject to availability, the featured eight Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives will be:


  1. Merchant Navy class No. 35006 ‘Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation’ courtesy of the 35006 Locomotive Company and the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.

  2. Merchant Navy class No. 35018 ‘British India Line’ courtesy of West Coast Railways.

  3. Battle of Britain class No. 34081 ‘92 Squadron’ courtesy of the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society and the Nene Valley Railway.

  4. Battle of Britain class No. 34053 ‘Sir Keith Park’ courtesy of Southern Locomotives Limited.

  5. Battle of Britain class No. 34072 ‘257 Squadron’ courtesy of the Spa Valley Railway and Southern Locomotives Limited.

  6. Battle of Britain class No. 34070 ‘Manston’ courtesy of Southern Locomotives Limited.

  7. West Country class No. 34028 ‘Eddystone’ courtesy of Southern Locomotives Limited.

  8. West Country class No. 34092 ‘City of Wells’ courtesy of the East Lancashire Railway.


In a first for the Swanage Railway, there will be evocative night-time passengers trains on the Sunday morning that depart Swanage at 1am, 3am, 5am and 7am in a re-creation of the night steam trains from the days of British Railways. There will also be beer trains operating on the Friday and Saturday evenings.


The Sunday of the gala will be ‘Named Train Sunday’ with the Bulleid Pacifics carrying prestigious express train headboards such as Bournemouth Belle and Golden Arrow.


It is hoped to have Merchant Navy class Bulleid Pacific No. 35006 ‘Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation’ hauling passenger trains between Swanage and Norden from Monday, 10 June, to Sunday, 16 June, 2024, inclusive, for a special ‘Merchant Week’.


Strictly Bulleid Two steam gala event organiser Alexander Atkins said: “Strictly Bulleid Two is a celebration of Bulleid brilliance and the magnificent people behind these incredible engines.


“We are delighted to say we will achieve at least a hat-trick of heritage rail records and my thanks go out to the locomotive owning groups who have invaluably contributed to making this historic event happen - West Coast Railways, the East Lancashire Railway, the Battle of Britain Society, the 35006 Locomotive Company and last, but not least, Southern Locomotives Limited.


“It is unlikely that we will see a gathering of eight Bulleid Pacifics in steam together – and hauling trains - again in our lifetime so to be able to enjoy an event on such a scale as this is truly a privilege,” added Alexander who is a volunteer driver on the Swanage Railway.


Located a mile from Swanage, the request stop at Herston Halt will be closed between Thursday, 6 June, and Sunday, 9 June, 2024, inclusive.


The first Strictly Bulleid event took place on the Swanage Railway in 2017 when five of the locomotives hauled trains along the whole nine-mile length of the Swanage Railway between Swanage, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle, Norden, Furzebrook and the River Frome.


The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers and anyone interested in finding out more should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention officer Lisa Gravett on 01929 475212 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk. Details about volunteering can be found at swanagerailwaytrust.org/volunteering.


Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright,

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.

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