New Swanage home for 130 year old loco saved from scrap yard

A truly remarkable survivor and star of The Railway Children theatre production, the stunning Victorian steam locomotive built in 1893, has finally arrived at its new home on the Swanage Railway.

The unique T3 class No. 563 locomotive that took six years and £650,000 to restore, arrived by road at Swanage Railway’s Norden station. It was then reunited with its restored tender, before making the journey along the railway track to Swanage on the evening of Wednesday 30th August 2023.

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T3 No. 563 locomotive
ANDREW PM WRIGHT

The restored T3, considered one of the finest express passenger train locomotives of the Victorian era, arrives at Swanage station

T3 locomotive
Andrew PM Wright

And the ‘before’ picture. What the T3 looked like in 2017 when it was first donated to the Swanage Railway

Part of the National Railway Museum collection

Destined for the scrap yard after the end of World War Two, the T3 class locomotive escaped destruction when railway bosses decided to restore and display it as part of the centenary celebrations for London’s Waterloo station in 1948. 

It then became part of the National Railway Museum collection and was based at Shildon in County Durham, although it was no longer fully operational. 

Locomotive T3 in 1948
Kingfisher productions

This was the T3 in 1948 being restored so it could be put on display as part of London Waterloo station’s centenary celebrations

The T3 in The Railway Children production at King's Cross station
The Railway Children

A starring role in a production of The Railway Children at King’s Cross station in London but it had to be pulled along the track

Theatrical production of The Railway Children

A new twist in the story saw it transported by sea to Canada in 2011 where it had a six month starring role in a theatrical production of The Railway Children.

Returning back to the UK, it again took to the stage when the production – an adaptation by Mike Kenny of E Nesbit’s much-loved novel – was staged at King’s Cross station in London where a thousand seat pop up theatre had been built.

The question of what to do next with the rare locomotive was answered when it was agreed to transfer it from the National Railway Museum to Swanage Railway in 2017.

Boiler with firebox; the frames of the loco with the smokebox on them and the wheels.
NATHAN AU

The restoration work of the locomotive was carried out by specialist contractors at the Flour Mill workshops in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire

T3 locomotive
Andrew PM Wright

The T3’s tender, which stores 3,300 gallons of water and three tonnes of coal for the engine, was restored at Swanage Railway’s Herston engineering works on the outskirts of Swanage

Ambitious restoration plan

There were only twenty of the T3 class of steam locomotives built for the London and South Western Railway in 1892 and 1893, and with No 563 the sole survivor of its class, an ambitious plan to fully restore the locomotive was launched by a team of Swanage Railway volunteers. 

A massive fundraising campaign to raise an initial £350,000 started and restoration work began in 2019 but fate was to take another twist as the Covid pandemic caused delays and made raising money more difficult.

However, just in time to mark the centenary of the Southern Railway and the 185th anniversary of the formation of the London and South Western Railway, this momentous project has now been achieved.

T3 No. 563 locomotive
ANDREW PM WRIGHT

High quality finishing touches for a very rare locomotive

T3 No. 563 locomotive
ANDREW PM WRIGHT

Chair of the 563 Locomotive Group Nathan Au admires the paintwork

“Culmination of hard work and determination”

Chair of the 563 Locomotive Group Nathan Au said: 

“The completion of the ambitious T3 restoration project has been a culmination of hard work and determination over the last six years and we want to thank the individuals and parties that have been involved with the overhaul for their hard graft and efforts that has helped us finish this fairy tale story.

“We are immensely grateful to our generous supporters for their donations, contributions and faith in the T3 project that have made this achievement possible as well as providing a source of encouragement along what has been a challenging and ambitious journey.

“It has been wonderful to engage with so many like-minded people and build a community around the locomotive so we can’t wait to show them the results.

“The next step will be for our engineering team to start the important process of commissioning and testing the T3 before we start training the footplate crews that will operate No. 563.”

T3 No. 563 first time on shed at Swanage
ANDREW PM WRIGHT
T3 No. 563 first time on shed at Swanage
ANDREW PM WRIGHT

Lucky to see such a remarkable bit of history in Swanage – The T3 designed by renowned locomotive engineer William Adams

Continue to raise funds

The unique Victorian locomotive can now be spotted at Swanage station and all being well should soon become a familiar sight hauling passenger trains through the Isle of Purbeck, 70 years since it was last able to steam along a track.

While the restoration is complete, the 563 Locomotive Group will continue to raise funds to ensure the T3 remains in top condition and is looked after in the long term.

Watch the successful steam test completed before its journey to Swanage

Further information

  • More about the locomotive is on the 563 Locomotive Group website

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