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  • Andrew P.M. Wright

Nine heritage diesel locomotives to star in Annual Diesel Gala and Beer Festival

Photo: Andrew P.M. Wright

Nine classic 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 annual Diesel Gala and Beer Festival.


With seven of the locomotives travelling to the Isle of Purbeck heritage line from the national railway network, the popular event draws enthusiasts from across the country and takes place from Friday to Sunday, 10 to 12 May, 2024, inclusive, with the beer festival at Corfe Castle station organised and operated by Purbeck Kitchens.


Now in its seventeenth year, the Diesel Gala and Beer Festival features an intensive three-train service with most trains operating along the entire length of the nine-mile Swanage Railway – past Norden station and beyond Furzebrook to the River Frome which is within sight of Wareham.


It will be the first time that a Class 52 ‘Western’ diesel-hydraulic locomotive has visited the Swanage Railway since 2011 and the first time that Class 52 ‘Western’ No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ has visited the Isle of Purbeck heritage line since 2007.


It will also be the first time that a Class 69 diesel locomotive – rebuilt in the last ten years from a 1970s Class 56 diesel locomotive - has hauled trains on the Swanage Railway.


The Diesel Gala and Beer Festival also includes a nostalgic 1966 ‘push-pull’ 4TC four-carriage set, courtesy of London Transport, which operated between London and Swanage from 1967 to 1969 and on the main line between London and Weymouth from 1967 to 1988 when the Bournemouth to Weymouth line was electrified.


Appearing at the event will be the Swanage Railway-based Class 33 No. 33 111 which hauled the last 4TC ‘push-pull’ carriage set to Corfe Castle and Swanage on a Poole Grammar School railway society enthusiasts’ charter train in September, 1971.


Another of the heritage diesel locomotives featured, Swanage Railway-based Class 33 diesel-electric No. D6515 ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’, hauled the last train through Broadstone to Wimborne after British Rail closed the line to freight trains in May, 1977.


Enthusiasts are being offered the chance to travel to and from the Swanage Railway’s Diesel Gala and Beer Festival by rail on Thursday, 9 May, and Sunday, 12 May, 2024, thanks to two pre-booked ‘Jurassic Crompton’ rail tours operated by the Branch Line Society and the main line train operating company GB Railfreight.


Hauled by Swanage-based main line certificated Class 33 No. D6515 ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ and a GB Railfreight Class 69 diesel locomotive, the Friday ‘Jurassic Crompton’ operates from Eastleigh to Swanage via Guildford and London Waterloo while the Sunday ‘Jurassic Crompton’ returns from Swanage to Eastleigh via London Waterloo.


The Class 33 diesel-electric locomotives were known as ‘Cromptons’ because of their electrical equipment manufactured by the Crompton Parkinson company in Leeds.


On Thursday, 9 May, 2024, there will be a special Diesel Gala and Beer Festival preview event with a day of diesel and steam trains between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage featuring Class 52 No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ with, in the afternoon, Class 33 No. 33 111 operating in ‘push-pull’ mode for two round trips with the 1966 London Transport 4TC ‘push-pull’ carriage set.


This year’s Diesel Gala and Beer Festival features evening ‘Beerex’ diesel trains on the Friday and Saturday – Class 50 No. 50 026 ‘Indomitable’ performing the honours on the Friday evening only and Class 24 No. D5054 hauling the trains on the Saturday evening.


Class 50 No. 50 026 ‘Indomitable’ will not be appearing in any other part of the Diesel Gala and Beer Festival.


Subject to availability, the visiting heritage diesel locomotives across the three-day Diesel Gala and Beer Festival will be:



· Class 69 No. 69 007 ‘Richard Trevithick’ courtesy of GB Railfreight.

· Class 24 No. D5054 ‘Phil Southern’ courtesy of the East Lancashire Railway.

· Class 52 No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ courtesy of the Diesel Traction Group.

· Class 37 No. 37 219 courtesy of Colas Rail.

· Class 20 No. 20 302 courtesy of the Harry Needle Railroad Company.

· Class 20 No. 20 311 courtesy of the Harry Needle Railroad Company.

· Class 50 No. 50 021 ‘Rodney’.

Event organising team member Dan Bennett said: “Class 52 No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ is the first ‘Western’ locomotive to attend our Diesel Gala and Beer Festival since 2011 when Class 52 No. D1062 visited the Swanage Railway.

“No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ last visited Swanage in 2007 when it was one of the first diesel locomotives to visit the Swanage Railway via its new connection with the national railway network. No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ has recently returned to main line service following an extensive overhaul of its engines.


“Our annual diesel gala and beer festival is an important and popular event in the Swanage Railway calendar while there is an ever-growing national following for heritage diesel locomotives, particularly among younger rail enthusiasts.


“Over the past 17 years, our diesel gala and beer festival has grown in popularity to become one of the most highly regarded annual events of its type in the country.


“A lot of detailed organisation by a small team of enthusiastic Swanage Railway volunteers and staff goes into planning the diesel gala with planning beginning 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.


With 34 local ales and seven ciders on offer – and hot food available from mid-day until late during the three days of the event - admission to the beer festival next to the Victorian goods shed 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 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.


Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention officer Lisa Gravett on 01929 475212 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk


Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright,

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.

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