Swanage Railway to host "Somerset & Dorset Weekend" next month

No. 80104
Special weekend to bring evocative memory of the Somerset & Dorset Railway to Swanage
Published Thu, 2018-11-01 10:44

An evocative taste of the long-closed and much-missed Somerset and Dorset line, axed more than 50 years ago in the infamous Beeching railway cuts, is coming to the Isle of Purbeck – thanks to a special weekend on Saturday and Sunday, 17 and 18 November, 2018.




No. 80104 © Andrew P M Wright

Appearing at the two-day ‘Somerset and Dorset Weekend’ event will be three classes of steam locomotives that worked on the former main line that linked Bournemouth and Poole with Blandford Forum, Templecombe and Bath. The 102-mile line was closed in March, 1966, with the tracks being lifted between 1967 and 1970.

Hauling trains between Swanage, Herston Halt, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden will be 1945 London Midland and Scottish Railway ‘Black 5’ No. 44871, Southern Railway-designed 1948 Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34072 ‘257 Squadron’ and 1955 British Railways Standard Class 4 Tank No. 80104.

‘Black 5’ No. 44871 made history 50 years ago when it helped to haul the famous ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ end of steam train between Liverpool, Manchester and Carlisle in August, 1968 – the last steam-hauled passenger train run by British Rail – with tickets costing 15 guineas.

Swanage Railway Company executive chairman Trevor Parsons said: “The controversial closure of the Somerset and Dorset main line 52 years ago was probably the most contentious action recommended by Dr Richard Beeching in his infamous ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ report.

“The line from Blandford Forum to Templecombe was lifted in 1967 while the line from Blandford Forum to Broadstone – where the Somerset and Dorset joined the Brockenhurst to Poole line via Ringwood and Wimborne – was lifted in 1970.

“With most of the Somerset and Dorset’s route lost under trees and dense undergrowth, very little trace of the line remains – for much of its length – with bridges demolished, cuttings filled in and much of the railway land having been built on or buried under road schemes. Thankfully, the Somerset and Dorset’s Shillingstone and Midsomer Norton stations have been preserved by dedicated volunteers," added Mr Parsons, a Swanage Railway train guard and signalman.

Known as the ‘Beeching Axe’, the aim of the report – commissioned by the then Conservative government – was to stem large financial losses being incurred by British Railways, in the face of increasing competition from road transport, and reduce the amount of financial subsidy from the Government to British Railways.

Appearing on the Swanage Railway courtesy of Riley and Son (E) Limited, the main line certificated ‘Black 5’ No. 44871 –which hauls excursions on the national railway system – was moved by rail to the Swanage Railway courtesy of West Coast Railways.

The ‘Somerset and Dorset Weekend’ will see 12 passenger trains a day operate in each direction between Swanage, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden.

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