Spotting a steam train in Swanage isn’t unusual but it was an unexpected sight for locals to see a 1940s locomotive on the road, rather than in the train station, as they went about their early morning business.
The unmissable sight on Monday 26th April 2021 was the classic steam locomotive ‘Eddystone’ being returned to the tracks following a painstaking £350,000 three year restoration.
‘Eddystone’ is owned by Southern Locomotives and was taken out of service in 2014 for a major overhaul at the Swanage Railway engineering works at Herston, on the outskirts of the town.
‘Eddystone’ leaving Herston engineering works
Very welcome news for train fans
Previously the loco had hauled passenger trains on the Swanage Railway for 10 years, so its return, after a seven year absence is very welcome news for train fans.
Herston engineering works manager Graham Froud, who also drives steam locomotives on the Swanage Railway, said:
“The staff and volunteers at Swanage are delighted to welcome this established steam locomotive which is a firm favourite with our crews.
“As one of the last classes of locomotives designed before the end of steam trains, ‘Eddystone’ has many features considered innovative at the time.
“From the enginemen’s perspective, the large and comfortable cab – coupled with a free-steaming boiler and a proven capability for high speed running – made the Bulleid Pacifics firm favourites with footplate crews.”
The steam locomotive crossing the appropriately named Station Road
Not a simple operation
However the operation to get ‘Eddystone’ from the Herston engineering works back onto the railway line wasn’t simple, as the works aren’t connected to the railway tracks.
So firstly, the 96-tonne machine had to be shunted onto a huge road transporter and was then slowly manoeuvred through Swanage, crossing the appropriately named Station Road and then heading out of town via Kings Road West.
Manoeuvring through Corfe Castle
Some tricky bends through Corfe Castle
It was then driven through Harmans Cross and navigated some tricky bends through Corfe Castle, before getting to the heritage railway’s road-rail interchange, west of Norden station.
Here, it was then unloaded onto the railway track. As it’s not quite ready for full service, it then had to be towed along the rail track for five and a half miles back to Swanage station.
The loco needs to undertake a period of testing and running in and then it’s hoped to have the 1946 Southern Railway rebuilt West Country Class Bulleid Pacific No. 34028 ‘Eddystone’ hauling trains between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage by early summer 2021.
‘Eddystone’s eventful history
This is the latest instalment in ‘Eddystone’s eventful history. During the 1950s and 1960s, the locomotive, then owned by British Rail, was based at Bournemouth and hauled trains on the London to Weymouth line, as well as the Somerset and Dorset line between Broadstone, Blandford Forum, Templecombe and Bath.
It was withdrawn from service in 1964 and then languished for 22 years in a scrapyard in Barry in South Wales.
In 1986, the rusty machine was rescued but it took 17 years before the restoration was completed by Southern Locomotives. The locomotive hauled its first train on the Swanage Railway in the autumn of 2003.
This latest restoration should see the loco get back to doing what it was designed to do in its heyday in the 1940s – pulling passenger trains.
Swanage Railway locomotive, carriage and wagon director Kevin Potts said:
“‘Eddystone’ looks fantastic after much hard work from a relatively small team of staff and volunteers at Southern Locomotives.
“Despite delays caused by Covid-19 – and subject to restrictions in working practices – the overhaul has been completed to a high standard.”
Arrival at Norden to get back onto the railway tracks
“Culmination of three years’ hard work”
Simon Troy of Southern Locomotives Limited added:
“The transfer of ‘Eddystone’ from Herston Works to the Swanage Railway is the culmination of three years’ hard work by the staff and volunteers of Southern Locomotives Limited.
“No. 34028’s extensive overhaul started while our staff were also working to complete the extensive overhaul of another of our Bulleid Pacifics – No. 34072 ‘257 Squadron’ – and then 2020 saw Herston Works closed for several months owing to the Covid-19 lockdown.
“It’s worth remembering those people who made ‘Eddystone’s rescue and restoration possible – Southern Locomotives Director Richard Moffatt, who purchased the locomotive from the Barry scrapyard in south Wales, Willie Bath who masterminded No. 34028’s restoration as well as Bill Trite who brought us together in the first place.”
Watch ‘Eddystone’ get back on track
More about the restoration and overhaul work of Southern Locomotives Limited is on its website