History has been made with a Southern Railway 1920s ‘mogul’ steam locomotive hauling a main line passenger train – a special excursion – between Yeovil, Dorchester and Weymouth for the first time in more than 50 years.
Swanage Railway ‘U’ class steam locomotive No. 31806 was at the head of the eleven-carriage excursion train on Thursday, 26 April, 2018, as part of the Railway Touring Company’s nine-day ‘Great Britain XI’ steam train around England, Scotland and Wales.
It was also the first time since 1964 that a Southern Railway 1920s ‘mogul’ steam locomotive – like No. 31806 – had been turned on the preserved turntable next to Yeovil Junction station in Somerset.
Thursday’s special train was operated by the Railway Touring Company – based at King’s Lynn in Norfolk – with the carriages being supplied by West Coast Railways.
With the assistance of 1930s-built ‘Black Five’ steam locomotive No. 45212 on the rear, No. 31806 hauled the heavy train up the climb from Yeovil Junction to Evershot before the descent down to Maiden Newton and Dorchester.
Known as a ‘mogul’ because of its distinctive 2-6-0 wheel arrangement, No. 31806 then hauled the train – still with No. 45212 assisting at the rear – up the bank from Dorchester to Bincombe Tunnel before the descent down to Weymouth.
The ‘Great Britain XI’ excursion then ran back to Dorchester and on to Wareham – with No. 31806 on the rear – from where No. 31806 hauled the train back along the main line to Worgret Junction where it ran on to the Swanage Railway for the final nine-miles of the journey to Swanage.
The Swanage Railway’s delighted locomotive director, Kevin Potts, said: “No. 31806 performed very well and made a magnificent sight as it worked hard hauling the long excursion train up the bank from Yeovil to Evershot which is quite a sustained climb.
“No. 31806 is a marvellous machine. The fact that No. 31806 runs like a finely tuned and oiled sewing machine is a tribute to the team of dedicated Swanage Railway staff and volunteers who have been working on the locomotive over the past few years.
“It was also a very special moment when No. 31806 was turned on the turntable at the Yeovil Railway Centre next to Yeovil Junctions station. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at the Yeovil Railway Centre for their help and for making No. 31806 so welcome.
“My thanks also go to Network Rail, as well as West Coast Railways, for their invaluable help and co-operation in enabling No. 31806 to run on the main line,” added Mr Potts who lives in Poole, Dorset, and is a retired Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot.
Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons explained: “No. 31806 was upgraded – so it could haul trains on the main line – thanks to a £75,000 Government grant to the Swanage Railway Trust from the Department for Transport’s Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation Competition.
“The Trust supplied £25,000 of labour towards the work which also included the upgrade, to main line standards, of five ex-British Railways 1950s carriages that normally run on the Swanage Railway heritage line.
“With No. 31806 now equipped with the required signalling and monitoring equipment required to run on Network Rail, the upgrade work to the locomotive – as well as a set of five carriages – gives the Swanage Railway the potential to run special steam trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham in the future.
“The last time that a Southern Railway 1920s ‘mogul’ steam locomotive – like No. 31806 – hauled a passenger train on the main line in Dorset was in 1965 before the last of that class of steam locomotive were withdrawn from service by British Railways.
“The Southern Railway ‘mogul’ steam locomotives, of the same class as No. 31806, were based at Bournemouth and Weymouth from the 1920s to the 1960s – working both passenger and freight trains,” added Mr Parsons who is a volunteer guard and signalman on the Swanage Railway.
The ‘Great Britain XI’ excursion train started its nine-day, 1,800 mile journey from London’s King’s Cross station on Thursday, 19 April, 2018, with the tour of England, Scotland and Wales ending at London’s Victoria station on Friday, 27 April, 2018.
The Swanage Railway Trust is restoring two 1920s Southern Railway ‘Mogul’ steam locomotives – ‘N’ class No. 31874 and ‘U’ class No 31625. To help the Swanage Moguls Fund with donations, visit www.swanagemoguls.com.
Photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright,
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.
The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.