The Swanage railway will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of Southern Region steam on July 9, by hosting its ‘Southern Sunrise’ gala.
Unlike its recent record-breaking ‘Strictly Bulleid’ gala on March 31-April 2, which saw a record five Bulleid ‘Pacifics’ in action on the ‘Purbeck Line’, the ‘Southern Sunrise’ event will field only the railway’s resident Southern fleet.
One feature of the event will be the first timetabled gala trains over the entirety of the ten-mile branch line to Wareham, top-and-tailed by West Coast Railways diesels and the Swanage’s own Class 33 No. D6515. The inaugural trains commenced on June 12, the first of a planned 60-day trial period.
It is hoped to have at least three of the railway’s resident steam fleet in action for the event: LSWR ‘M7’ No. 30053, Bulleid ‘Battle of Britain’ No. 34070 Manston and BR Standard ‘4MT’ No. 80104. The latter is currently running as scrapped classmate No. 80146, which was the last steam locomotive to operate over the line before the branch’s closure in 1972.
Another potential candidate to appear at the gala will be ‘BB’ No. 34072 257 Squadron, which is now in the final throes of its overhaul at Herston works.