Mix of diesel and beer goes down well at Swanage Railway

Back for a 17th year, Swanage Railway’s popular Diesel Gala and Beer Festival is expected to pull in even more visitors to Swanage with a specially laid on train arriving from London Waterloo in time for the event.

While diesel locomotives may not seem that old to many, they are now considered part of our heritage, especially to younger enthusiasts who are expected to travel from across the country for the gala, which takes place from Friday 10th to Saturday 12th May 2024.

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Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and beer Festival

Swanage Railway’s Diesel Gala and Beer Festival attracts a younger crowd

Travelling through Wareham station

On show will be a great collection of nine heritage diesel locomotives, with most travelling along the entire length of the Swanage branch line, going past Norden station and beyond Furzebrook to the River Frome near Wareham.

For those who also appreciate Swanage’s steam locomotives there will be a special preview event on Thursday 9th May 2024 with both diesel and steam trains in action.

Seven of the diesel locomotives will be travelling to the Isle of Purbeck heritage line from the national railway network, so may be able to be spotted going through Wareham station prior to the event.

Diesel engine Class 37 No. 37 254
Luke Lockton

Diesel loco Class 37 No. 37 219 to make an appearance in Swanage

Diesel loco Class 24 D5054
Chris Gallagher

Diesel loco Class 24 No. D5054 ‘Phil Southern’ will be travelling south

Visiting diesel locos

  • Class 69 No. 69 007 ‘Richard Trevithick’ courtesy of GB Railfreight
  • Class 24 No. D5054 ‘Phil Southern’ courtesy of the East Lancashire Railway
  • Class 52 No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ courtesy of the Diesel Traction Group
  • Class 37 No. 37 219 courtesy of Colas Rail
  • Class 20 No. 20 302 courtesy of the Harry Needle Railroad Company
  • Class 20 No. 20 311 courtesy of the Harry Needle Railroad Company
  • Class 50 No. 50 021 ‘Rodney’

Of special interest is Class 52 No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ which last visited Swanage in 2007 and has recently returned to main line service following an extensive overhaul of its engines.

Diesel loco Class 52 No. D1015 Western Champion
Steve Thorp

Newly overhauled Class 52 No. D1015 ‘Western Champion’ will be heading down to Swanage

4TC London Transport push-pull carriage set
Andrew Pm Wright

Also visiting will be a 1966 ‘push-pull’ 4TC four carriage set, courtesy of London Transport

Free entry to beer festival

However one of the main attractions is of course the beer festival at Corfe Castle station organised and operated by local company Purbeck Kitchens.

With 34 local ales and seven ciders on offer – and hot food available from mid-day until late during the three days of the event – admission to the beer festival is free with a token system in operation for the purchase of drinks.

Swanage Railway diesel gala beer festival

The beer festival at Corfe Castle station is organised and operated by local company Purbeck Kitchens

“One of the most highly regarded annual events “

Event organising team member, Dan Bennett, said:

“Our annual diesel gala and beer festival is an important and popular event in the Swanage Railway calendar while there is an ever-growing national following for heritage diesel locomotives, particularly among younger rail enthusiasts.

“Over the past 17 years, our diesel gala and beer festival has grown in popularity to become one of the most highly regarded annual events of its type in the country.

“A lot of detailed organisation by a small team of enthusiastic Swanage Railway volunteers and staff goes into planning the diesel gala with planning beginning four or five months before the event,”

Organiser of the beer and diesel gala
Andrew Pm wright

Organiser Dan Bennett (right) is from Wareham and started volunteering at Swanage Railway as a teenager

Jenny Lewis diesel loco
Andrew PM Wright

Diesel loco Class 33 No. D6515 ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’, usually based at Swanage, will be bringing visitors down from London for the event

Jurassic Crompton railtour

While there are no plans to run a regular train service between Swanage and the main rail network at Wareham during summer 2024 due to the cost, the restoration of the connection does enable special rail trips to run from London (and other locations) to Swanage.

For the Diesel Gala and Beer Festival, enthusiasts can pre-book their travel on Thursday 9th May 2024 from London Waterloo to Swanage on a Jurassic Crompton rail tour, returning on Sunday 12th May 2024.

Operated by the Branch Line Society and GB Railfreight, the special train will be hauled by Swanage’s Class 33 No. D6515 ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ and a GB Railfreight Class 69 diesel locomotive.

Indomitable diesel loco at Swanage station

Class 50 No. 50 026 ‘Indomitable’ will be hauling the train bringing everyone back from the beer festival to Swanage on Friday evening, affectionately known as the Beerex!

Further information

  • Details of the Diesel Gala and Beer Festival, including timetables and fares, are on Swanage Railway’s website
  • Reduced price fares apply if tickets are purchased online in advance
  • More about tickets for the Jurassic Crompton rail trip

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