An evocative taste of a 1950s ‘Royal Wessex’ express steam train that carried excited holidaymakers from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage is coming to the Swanage Railway - thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers who have restored an historic 1930s Maunsell heritage carriage to its former glory.
From Saturday, 23 July, 2022 – and subject to availability - the public will be able to book reserved seats for a ride in the Southern Railway carriage between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Swanage with a ‘Royal Wessex’ headboard being carried on the front of the steam locomotive.
Swanage Railway Company chairman Robert Patterson said: “We’re very excited about this new opportunity for the public to experience the thrill and excitement of travelling through the beautiful Isle of Purbeck in a lovingly restored 1930s heritage carriage sporting ‘Royal Wessex’ name boards.
“The steam locomotive hauling the train will be carrying a ‘Royal Wessex’ headboard on its smokebox which will give the train an added air of recreating both main line and branch line railway history from between 1951 and 1962.
“Our volunteers work hard to carefully and lovingly restore our heritage carriages which give the public an evocative taste of what it was like to travel by train on the Swanage branch line during the days of steam,” added Robert who is a volunteer porter on the heritage line that has been rebuilt since 1976.
Designed by Richard Maunsell, chief mechanical engineer of the Southern Railway company in the 1930s, Maunsell carriages were used on the Swanage branch line from the 1930s through to 1965 when they were withdrawn.
Maunsell carriages were used on trains from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage from the 1930s through to the 1950s as well as being used on branch trains between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage from the late 1950s to 1965 when they were withdrawn by British Railways.
With portions for Swanage, Bournemouth West and Weymouth stations, the ‘Royal Wessex’ express train was introduced by British Railways as one of its new services carrying passengers to the forward-looking Festival of Britain, near London’s
Waterloo station, which celebrated British industry, arts and science during the summer of 1951.
Operating Mondays to Saturdays, the ‘Royal Wessex’ train also carried holidaymakers from London’s Waterloo station to Swanage, Bournemouth West and Weymouth as the country recovered from the deprivations and shortages of the Second World War.
At Wareham, two carriages from the ‘Royal Wessex’ train were attached to the branch line train bound for Corfe Castle and Swanage. British Railways ceased the ‘Royal Wessex’ carriages for Corfe Castle and Swanage in the autumn of 1962.
In 1951, the ‘Royal Wessex’ carriages bound for London Waterloo left Swanage at 7.38am and called at Corfe Castle at 7.49am before arriving at Wareham at 8.10am. On the return journey, the ‘Royal Wessex’ carriages arrived at Wareham at 7.21pm before calling at Corfe Castle at 7.42pm and arriving at Swanage at 7.52pm.
Subject to availability, ‘Royal Wessex’ Maunsell carriage seats can be purchased on-line in advance at swanagerailway.co.uk or on the day at the Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage station ticket offices.
The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers who should contact Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention officer Jonathan Evans on 01929 408466 or email email@example.com.
Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright, Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.