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  • Andrew P.M. Wright

Historic eight steam locomotive ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ gala attracts more than 4,700 people

Photo: Andrew P.M. Wright

An historic gala gathering featuring eight impressive 1940s Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives has attracted more than 4,700 passengers in what was the Swanage Railway’s largest special event that captured the imagination of enthusiasts.

‘Strictly Bulleid II’ took place between Friday, 7 June, and Sunday, 9 June, 2024, inclusive, with a preview taster day on Thursday, 6 June, 2024, marking 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 saw the largest gathering of working Bulleid Pacific locomotives since that date when an era – and a way of life for generations of railwaymen – came to an end.

‘Strictly Bulleid II’ saw 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.

‘Strictly Bulleid II’ steam gala event organiser Alexander Atkins said: “The highlight of ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ was experiencing the wonderful atmosphere of the eight locomotive event and seeing the complex train timetable, on nine miles of railway, run as well as it did.

“It has been a remarkable journey getting everything organised and feeling the buzz and excitement generated by ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ among our customers, staff and volunteers - who have worked so hard to deliver this event - is the greatest reward.

“Strictly Bulleid II’ was a wonderful celebration of some of the most popular classes of steam locomotives and to admire eight Bulleid Pacifics in steam together was totally breathtaking and an astounding achievement by our dedicated staff and volunteers.

“I cannot praise the ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ organising committee team enough for pulling together an amazing and historic event. My thanks also go to the locomotive owning groups because without their generosity, enthusiasm and support we would not have been able to pull the historic and impressive line-up together,” added Alexander who is a driver on the Swanage Railway after starting in the heritage line’s youth group.

The featured eight Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives were:

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.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Gavin Johns said: “"We were delighted with the level of interest in our historic ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ steam gala which carried more than 4,700 passengers during the four-day event that captured the imagination of enthusiasts.

“Events like this take a lot of planning, securing co-operation from locomotive owners and transport hauliers as well as the daunting task of delivering a complex operation. To everyone who took part - in whatever role - thank you. ‘Strictly Bullied II’ was a distinct, unique and a real pleasure to experience,” added Gavin who is a volunteer signalman on the heritage line.

Most of the ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ trains hauled 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 ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ preview day featured 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.

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

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

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 Details about volunteering can be found at

Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright,

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.


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