Swanage Railway brews up popular diesel and beer festival

With a growing appreciation of heritage diesel locomotives from the 1960s and the perpetual appeal of beer, Swanage Railway is serving up its annual Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival for a 16th year.

The event which takes place from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th May 2023, will feature nine heritage diesel locomotives operating along the Swanage Railway branch line and a beer tent at Corfe Castle station.

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4TC London Transport push-pull carriage set at Corfe Castle
Andrew PM Wright

A nostalgic 1966 ‘push-pull’ 4TC four-carriage set, courtesy of London Transport, which operated between London and Swanage from 1967 to 1969

Up to the River Frome

This year’s Diesel Gala and Beer Festival will see heritage diesels haul trains from Swanage station via Corfe Castle station, and up to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham and half a mile short of the junction with the London to Weymouth main line.

In April 2023, Swanage Railway started a 90 day trial service between Swanage and Wareham but due to scheduling issues that won’t be happening over the weekend of the festival.

However there’s a special diesel gala preview day on Thursday 11th May 2023 when the railway will be operating its 1950s diesel multiple unit between Swanage and Wareham, allowing arriving visitors to catch the train from Wareham through to Swanage.

Swanage Railway diesel gala beer festival
Andrew PM Wright

A fine choice of beer to choose from

Swanage Railway diesel gala beer festival
Andrew PM Wright

Organisers of the beer festival, Barry Light (left) and Andy Dunster (right) of Purbeck Kitchens

They’ll be 31 real ales and five ciders

The beer festival, organised and operated by kitchen fitters Purbeck Kitchens, will be at Corfe Castle station in the goods yard.

They’ll be 31 real ales and five ciders, as well as hot food and live acoustic music on the Friday and Saturday evenings and on Sunday afternoon.

Admission to the beer festival is free with a token system in operation for the purchase of drinks.

There’s even a ‘Beerex’ diesel service on the Friday and Saturday evenings to get festival goers back to Swanage by train without having to drive.

Diesel loco Class 40 No. D345 Class 40
Preservation society

Visiting diesel loco Class 40 No. D345 courtesy of the Class 40 Preservation Society

Diesel loco Class 17 No. D8568
Nathan Rogers

Visiting diesel loco Class 17 No. D8568 ‘The Clayton’ courtesy of the Diesel Traction Group

Visiting heritage diesel locomotives

  • Class 45 No. 45108 courtesy of the Peak Locomotive Company
  • Class 47 No. 47 830 courtesy of Freightliner
  • Class 40 No. D345 courtesy of the Class 40 Preservation Society
  • Class 17 No. D8568 ‘The Clayton’ courtesy of the Diesel Traction Group
  • Class 50 No. 50 021 ‘Rodney’ or Class 50 No. 50 026 ‘Indomitable’
  • Two Class 73 electro-diesels courtesy of GB Railfreight
Diesel loco Class 33 No. 33 111
Andrew PM Wright

Getting everyone home in the evening will be the diesel loco Class 33 as part of the Beerex service

dIESEL LOCO Class 45 No. 45 108
cAMERON jOHNSON

Visiting diesel loco Class 45 No. 45108 courtesy of the Peak Locomotive Company

The 1960s now considered as ‘heritage’

While for many, diesel locomotives from the 1960s conjure up memories of a daily commute, for a younger audience there’s a growing appreciation of what is now considered as ‘heritage’.

Event organising team member Dan Bennett, who lives in Wareham, 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 16 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 in earnest four or five months before the event,”

Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and beer Festival

A busy Swanage station at the Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival in 2022

Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and beer Festival

Diesels appeal to a younger audience!

Further information

  • Full details of the Diesel Gala and Dorset Beer Festival, including timetables and fares, are on the Swanage Railway’s website
  • Reduced price fares apply if tickets are purchased on-line in advance

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