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  • Andrew P.M. Wright

Unique Victorian steam locomotive to haul first train since 1945 after six year £650,000 restoration


Photo: Andrew P.M. Wright

A unique Victorian steam locomotive is to haul its first passenger train since 1945 - following a challenging six-year £650,000 restoration – after escaping being scrapped so it could mark the centenary of London’s Waterloo station in 1948.


One of the guests attending a launch ceremony at Swanage station on Saturday, 7 October, 2023, for the T3 class locomotive No. 563 will be Swanage Railway Trust Patron Sir Philip Williams whose great-grandfather was on the Board of the Victorian railway company that designed and built the steam locomotive.


Built in 1893 to a design by renowned engineer William Adams – and one of the finest express passenger train locomotives of the Victorian era – the non-working London and South Western Railway T3 class No. 563 was donated to the Swanage Railway Trust by the National Railway Museum in 2017.


No. 563 will be hauling its first two passenger trains – carrying only invited guests and supporters of the Swanage Railway Trust’s ambitious and historic T3 restoration project – on Saturday, 7 October, 2023, with the special trains departing Swanage for Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden at 12.35pm and 2.05pm.


Resplendent in its new lined out 1890s Drummond passenger green livery, the 81-tonne T3 will be hauling its first public-carrying passenger trains on Sunday, 8 October, 2023, with tickets only available in advance on-line at swanagerailway.co.uk.


Special guests attending the T3 launch ceremony at Swanage station on Saturday will include the Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell; senior National Railway Museum curator Anthony Coulls; Swanage Railway Trust Patron Sir Philip Williams as well as descendants of the T3’s Victorian designer William Adams.


Living in West Dorset, Sir Philip Williams has a special link to the T3 as well as to the London and South Western Railway because his great-grandfather joined the Board of the London and South Western Railway in 1892 when the first of its T3 locomotives was built.


Generations of Sir Philip’s ancestors also played an important part in enabling the London and South Western Railway to reach Dorchester, from Southampton, in 1847 by helping to promote the required Act in Parliament and buying land over which the railway would need a right of way.


No. 563’s first passenger trains since 1945 – when the locomotive was the last member of the T3 class and withdrawn from service by the Southern Railway after running more than 1.5 million miles – will mark the centenary of the Southern Railway and the 185th anniversary of the formation of the London and South Western Railway.


Anthony Coulls, Senior Curator of Rail Transport and Technology at the National Railway Museum, said: “The National Railway Museum transferred the T3 class locomotive No. 563 to the Swanage Railway Trust in 2017 because of the heritage railway’s outstanding record in recreating a classic Southern Region branch line and the locomotive’s strong historical connections to the area.


“We are thrilled to see the T3 returning to steam for the first time in 75 years and now being able to offer passengers the unique experience of riding behind the Victorian locomotive through the Purbeck countryside,” he added.


The Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell, said: “Returning the T3 to the rails is a triumph for the Swanage Railway as well as its dedicated volunteers and supporters. An elegant example of living history, No. 563 will be seen in all her glory in the Isle of Purbeck to the delight of all.


“The restoration of No. 563 is a magnificent example of what can be done with true dedication, determination and very hard work. She brings the beauty of our Victorian past back to Dorset and is yet another triumph for the Swanage Railway,” he added.


Swanage Railway Trust Patron, Sir Philip Williams, said: “The T3 is a magnificent and supremely elegant locomotive - a wonderful living exemplar of the great age of steam in the territory for which she was designed. It will be fantastic to see No. 563 in steam and raring to go again.


“It is also a very great pleasure and privilege for me to have been asked to participate in No. 563’s launch ceremony and ride in her first train. Because of my family link to the London and South Western Railway and the T3, I will have a real sense of history in re-launching the locomotive,” he added.


Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: “I would like to thank the National Railway Museum for donating the T3 to the Swanage Railway Trust so it could be restored and I am delighted that the Museum’s senior curator will be with us at Swanage to see No. 563 haul its first passenger trains since 1945. It will be a marvellous moment.”


563 Locomotive Group chairman Nathan Au said: “We are very grateful to everyone who has been involved with the T3’s restoration for their hard work and commitment as well as to our supporters for their donations, contributions and faith in the T3 project.


“When No. 563 was born, the motor car was but a curiosity and the first aeroplane had yet to leave the ground. Railways powered by steam dominated the movement of people and goods in a way that we can scarcely imagine today.


“By the time the T3 was retired after the Second World War, the transport landscape had changed forever; the dawn of mass motoring was on the horizon and aircraft were crossing the world.


“No. 563 is a real time-machine - a living and breathing example of the world when glamorous railways with their brightly painted and highly polished steam engines ruled supreme,” added Nathan who is a volunteer driver on the Swanage Railway.


Restoration was started on the T3 in late 2017 with work on the locomotive being carried out by specialist contractors at the Flour Mill workshops in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, as well as at the Swanage Railway’s Herston engineering works on the outskirts of Swanage.


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. Details about volunteering opportunities can also 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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