Tuesday March 28 was a record-equalling day on the Swanage Railway, as the ‘Purbeck Line’ fielded four Bulleid ‘Light Pacifics’ in steam.
In the run-up to its ‘Strictly Bulleid’ gala on March 31-April 2, two of the event’s visiting engines – ‘Battle of Britain’ No. 34053 Sir Keith Park and ‘West Country’ No. 34092 City of Wells - performed test runs over the six-mile branch line, the former double-heading with Swanage resident No. 34070 Manston.
This was the first time the pair has run together in preservation. Both locomotives are owned and were restored by Southern Locomotives Ltd, and although Sir Keith Park was returned to steam at the railway, it has never worked there. The gala will therefore mark No. 34053’s public debut over the Swanage line.
The trio was joined by rebuilt ‘WC’ No. 34046 Braunton (running in the guise of ‘BB’ classmate No. 34052 Lord Dowding). The locomotive was driven over the last nine miles of its journey from Worgret Junction to Swanage by former Bournemouth fireman Paul McDonald, who worked on the Bulleid 4-6-2s during the 1950s and 60s.
Mr McDonald said: "It was absolutely fantastic to drive Braunton on the last leg of its journey. As soon as the locomotive crossed on to the Swanage Railway, I took over the controls and it was marvellous. I was over the moon and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face.”
The arrival of the main-line certified ‘West Country’, which is visiting courtesy of Icons of Steam/Locomotive Services Ltd., brought the total of working ‘Light Pacifics’ at the railway up to four.
The number matches the record held by the Bluebell Railway, when it hosted a quartet of the CME’s 4-6-2s at its ‘Giants of Steam’ gala on October 19-21 2007.
The Swanage Railway will break the record outright once the final visiting locomotive – ‘BB’ No. 34081 92 Squadron – arrives to attend the three-day event.
For further details about the ‘Strictly Bulleid’ gala, and to purchase tickets, visit: www.swanagerailway.co.uk/events/detail/spring-steam-gala-2.