A unique Victorian steam locomotive that has taken six years and £500,000 to restore to full working order has steamed – and moved under its own power – for the first time in 75 years at its restoration base in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
Built in 1893 to a design by renowned locomotive engineer William Adams – and one of the finest express passenger train locomotives of the Victorian era - London and South Western Railway T3 class No. 563 was saved from being cut up at a scrapyard so it could celebrate the centenary of London’s Waterloo station in June, 1948.
After being donated to the Swanage Railway Trust by the National Railway Museum in 2017 – and following a challenging and meticulous restoration - the 81-tonne T3 passed its boiler exam at the Flour Mill locomotive restoration workshops on Wednesday, 12 July, 2023.
An elated 563 Locomotive Group chairman Nathan Au said: “There were a lot of emotions as the unique T3 steamed for the first time and moved under its own power - nostalgia and pride about the fund-raising and restoration journey as well as excitement and celebration.
“With the locomotive splendidly restored in its lined out 1890s Drummond passenger green livery, it was incredibly satisfying to watch No. 563 run back and forth on what was a special day and a very proud moment – the culmination of a huge amount of work by many people to make a unique project possible.
“It was very humbling to be among the first people to drive the T3 and I could feel the locomotive’s potential power – it’s as though the T3 wants to haul a passenger train again and I am really looking forward to No. 563 stretching its legs on the Swanage Railway,” added Nathan who is a volunteer driver on the Swanage Railway.
It is hoped the T3 will haul its first passenger train in 75 years on the Swanage Railway in the autumn of 2023 to mark the centenary of the Southern Railway and the 185th anniversary of the formation of the London and South Western Railway.
It is expected that No. 563 will be reunited with its restored tender – which carries the coal and water required by the locomotive - at Swanage during August, 2023, after
which there will be extensive testing of the T3 as well as training of the footplate crews who will drive and fire the Victorian locomotive.
563 Locomotive Group treasurer Steve Doughty said: “I would like to thank the staff of the Flour Mill workshops for their outstanding restoration of the locomotive, Phil Anderson for the splendid museum quality livery that he applied to the T3 as well as all the supporters who have made No. 563’s restoration possible through their donations.
“The testing and commissioning of the T3 on the Swanage Railway will be an exciting new learning experience for everyone involved because the Victorian locomotive has not run and hauled a train for 75 years. We need to discover how No. 563 behaves when being driven both on its own and with carriages in tow,” he added.
Dating from 1893, and the last survivor of its T3 class, London and South Western Railway No. 563 had travelled a total of more than 1.5 million miles when it was withdrawn from service by the Southern Railway Company in August, 1945 – the advent of the Second World War in 1939 extending the locomotive’s working life.
Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: “The T3 is a splendid direct link to the Swanage Railway's past – back to the early days of the London and South Western Railway in the 1880s and 1890s when holidaymakers first visited the Isle of Purbeck by train.
“The T3 steam locomotives hauled trains from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage from the 1890s to the 1930s so the restoration of No. 563 gives us the opportunity to show our visitors what the railway was like during Dorset’s industrial and social development in the 19th century,” added Gavin who is also a volunteer signalman.
A video of the T3’s first steaming and move under its own power at the Flour Mill can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX7IhfUS4gg.
To make a donation - or start a standing order - visit 563locomotivegroup.co.uk where you can also find out more about the T3’s overhaul and fascinating history.
Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention office on 01929 475212 or email email@example.com.
More details about volunteering opportunities can be found at swanagerailwaytrust.org/volunteering.