Heritage loco derails during Swanage Railway diesel gala

All services were suspended on Swanage Railway after a heritage diesel locomotive partially derailed as it approached Corfe Castle station on the second day of the diesel gala and beer festival.

No passengers were injured and no damage was sustained to the carriages of the train in the incident, which happened around 6.30 pm on Saturday 11th May 2024.

Swanage Railway Loco derailment at Corfe
Trains of Dorset

The immediate aftermath of the incident at Corfe Castle

Swanage Railway Loco derailment at Corfe
Trains of Dorset

The diesel locomotive with its wheels partially off the track

Reported to the Rail Accident Investigation Branch

This is the first time since 2006 that Swanage Railway has had an incident serious enough to be reported to the government’s independent Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).

The heritage line’s regulator and inspectorate – the government’s Office of Rail and Road (ORR) – was also made aware of the derailment.

The loco called Indomitable – a 1968-built ex-British Rail Class 50 – was on the back of the six carriage passenger train when the incident happened. It was heading into Corfe Castle station from Norden when the loco partially came off the rail track.

Derailed loco at Corfe
David Baughan

A specialist team had to be called in to rescue the derailed diesel loco

Derailed loco
David R Baughan

‘Indomitable’ not living up to its name, awaits rescue!

Passengers safely disembarked

Fortunately passengers were able to get safely off the train, including George from Trains of Dorset, who was able to capture some photos immediately after the incident occurred.

While services were immediately suspended, Swanage Railway ensured that train passengers attending the beer festival in the evening at Corfe Castle station got safely back to Swanage.

Specialist contractors were brought in overnight to re-rail the partially derailed Class 50 diesel locomotive. The operation was completed in the early hours of Sunday 12th May 2024, allowing the diesel gala to resume train services on the third and final day, with some alterations to the timetable.

Loco derailment at Corfe
Trains of Dorset

All passengers disembarked safely

Swanage Railway Loco derailment at Corfe
Trains of Dorset

Once the loco was removed, damage to the railtrack (left) could be seen

Train services resumed on the Sunday

Chair of Swanage Railway Company Gavin Johns said:

“The government’s Rail Accident Investigation Branch has been advised of the incident and we liaised with the RAIB regarding the recovery of the diesel locomotive and the RAIB’s investigation into what caused the partial derailment of the diesel locomotive.

“While the RAIB is investigating the incident – and after discussions with the RAIB – our planned train services for Sunday 12th May 2024, have been altered.”

Although 11 trains operated on the final day of the event, there was no train service from Norden up to the River Frome near Wareham and instead the trains shuttled along the shorter stretch between Swanage and Norden.

With the ‘up’ line at Corfe Castle out of action due to the incident, this meant that travelling up to the River Frome and returning was not possible, due to trains requiring a loco at each end to get back.

The return of the ‘Jurassic Crompton’ rail tour, carrying diesel gala visitors from Swanage to Eastleigh and London Waterloo, via the main line, was still able to take place on the afternoon of Sunday 12th May 2024.

Swanage Railway diesel gala and beer festival
Andrew PM wright

Earlier on Saturday 11th May 2024 ‘Indomitable’ was operating as normal with no indication of the drama that was to unfold later

Swanage Railway diesel gala and beer festival
Andrew PM wright

Sunny weather brought out the crowds to the diesel gala and beer festival at Corfe Castle station

Good attendance over the sunny weekend

Nine heritage diesel locomotives from the 1960s and 1970s took part in the 17th Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and Beer Festival.

Despite the rare incident, the sunny weather ensured a good attendance over the long weekend with many enjoying the popular event.

Class 50 locomotive No. 50 026 ‘Indomitable’ was withdrawn from British Rail service in 1990 with a group of volunteers spending 15 years restoring the heritage diesel.

Following the derailment, the restored locomotive, which carries a nostalgic British Rail 1980s Network South East livery, was taken out of operation and will be examined for any damage as a result of the incident.

The last time the RAIB was informed of an incident at Swanage Railway was in 2006 when a train collided with some carriages at Swanage station. Two people were injured but neither required hospital treatment.

Swanage Railway diesel gala and beer festival
Andrew PM wright

Heritage diesel locos were an attraction along the line at Creech Bottom

Swanage Railway diesel gala and beer festival
Andrew PM wright

A colourful sight on the viaduct at Corfe Castle

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