Long weekend of steam at Swanage Railway for spring gala

Five steam locomotives will be in action for Swanage Railway’s Spring Steam Gala including star of the show, Britannia, which hauled the funeral train of King George VI from King’s Lynn in Norfolk to London in 1952.

The three day special event runs from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th March 2023 with an intensive service of steam trains along the heritage line between Swanage, Corfe Castle, Norden and up to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham. It’s the first Swanage Railway Spring Steam Gala since March 2019.

70000 Britannia Swanage station June 2012

Britannia, owned by the Royal Scot and Locomotive and General Trust, last visited Swanage for the spring steam gala in 2015

King George VI funeral train hauled by Britannia arrives at Kings Cross station from Kings Lynn
Fox Photos /Hulton Archive /Getty Images

King George VI’s funeral carriage hauled by Britannia arrives at Kings Cross station from King’s Lynn in February 1952

Britannia travelling down from Cheshire to Swanage

The historic locomotive Britannia will be travelling down from Cheshire to Swanage on Wednesday 22nd March 2023.

It is scheduled to leave Crew in Cheshire at 6.21 am and travel down the country via Dorchester, Wool and Wareham, arriving in Swanage at 9.46 pm.

The second steam locomotive that is in Swanage especially for the spring gala is the 1957 Standard Class 4 No.76084 which is visiting Swanage from its usual home of the North Norfolk Railway. It’s never visited the heritage Swanage Railway before.

76084 arrives Swanage station
Andrew PM Wright

Standard Class 4 No.76084 has already arrived and was delivered to Swanage Railway from the North Norfolk Railway by truck on Friday 17th March 2023

Rare opportunity to travel on a brake van

The three resident locomotives which will be able to be spotted steaming through the Purbeck countryside and heard blowing their whistles over the three days will be the U class 31806 and the Bulleid Pacifics, Eddystone and Manston.

As well as the chance to travel on the steam trains there’s a rare opportunity to buy tickets for a single or return ride in a 1950s brake van ride, between Swanage and Corfe Castle, on a re-creation of a classic freight train.

This truck has open windows, allowing passengers to get a great view along the line.

Brake vans on freight train Corfe Castle

A brake van is a great place to get a view of the track and surrounding countryside

“Celebration of all that is wonderful and fascinating about steam”

Chair of the Swanage Railway Company, Trevor Parsons said:

“With five steam locomotives in operation, and trains running along our nine miles of line from Swanage to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham, our Spring Steam Gala will be an evocative occasion not to be missed – a celebration of all that is wonderful and fascinating about steam.

“Built at Crewe, and completed in January, 1951, Britannia was the first British Railways steam locomotive to be built to a new design, known as a Standard design, and No. 70000 was the first of 55 Britannia class locomotives to be built.”

Swanage railway station with Eddystone

Eddystone at Swanage Railway all ready for the spring gala

“Britannia was the first steam locomotive of the new early 1950s range of Standard designs”

Swanage Railway Trust volunteer chairman Gavin Johns added:

“Britannia was the first steam locomotive of the new early 1950s range of Standard designs to be built by British Railways aimed at taking our country’s railway network through the 1950s and the 1960s and replacing worn out late Victorian and Edwardian steam locomotives.

“The early 1950s saw British Railways design a range of standard steam locomotives, of varying power classifications, that shared common parts with the new steam locomotives being more efficient as well as cheaper to operate and maintain.”

Corfe Castle railway station museum

The railway museum at Corfe Castle station will be open over the three days

Attractions open at the stations

The Spring Steam Gala will see the shop open at Swanage station as well as the Swanage Railway museum at Corfe Castle station.

Located next to Norden station, the Purbeck Mining Museum will be open to the public during all three days of the spring steam gala.

The museum’s narrow gauge diesel trains will be operating between 11 am and 4 pm with volunteer museum staff on hand to answer questions about the fascinating 2,000 year history of ball clay mining in the Isle of Purbeck.

Swanage railway station

Getting the grounds at Swanage station in tip top condition before the crowds arrive at the weekend

Further information

  • Spring Steam Gala train tickets – including brake van rides between Swanage and Corfe Castle – can be purchased via the Swanage Railway website
Swanage railway spring gala banner

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