Swanage Railway volunteers win two top heritage awards

The impressive six year restoration of a unique Victorian steam locomotive, enabling it to haul its first passenger train in almost 80 years, has scooped two prestigious national awards for a group of Swanage Railway volunteers.

The Swanage Railway Trust’s 563 Locomotive Group not only won the highly regarded Heritage Railway Association Chairman’s Special Award but also the Steam Railway Magazine Readers’ Award at the Heritage Railway Association annual awards evening in Brighton, East Sussex, on Saturday 10th February 2024.

Nathan Au T3 HRA awards at Swanage Railway
Andrew PM Wright

Chair of 563 Locomotive Group Nathan Au brings home the trophies

Honour outstanding achievements

It was a real coup for the £650,00 ambitious project to be recognised by the chair of the Heritage Railway Association Sir Peter Hendy, who is also the chair of Network Rail, a trustee of the Science Museum Group and a director of the London Transport Museum.

The Heritage Railway Association annual awards, at which the guest speaker was trainspotting YouTuber Francis Bourgeois, aims to celebrate all that is great in heritage rail and honours the outstanding achievements across the sector.

South Western Circle

The T3 in the 1890s at Nine Elms in London, not long after being built

T3 locomotive
Andrew PM Wright

In 2017, the T3 arrived in a sorry state at Swanage Railway

T3 563at Swanage Railway Saturday 7 October 2023
Andrew PM Wright

Restored to its full glory and operational on Swanage Railway by the end of 2023

T3 loco saved twice from scrapyard

Built in 1893 to a design by renowned engineer William Adams – and one of the finest express passenger train locomotives of the Victorian era – the non-working T3 No. 563 was donated to the Swanage Railway Trust by the National Railway Museum in 2017.

Due to be scrapped in the late 1930s, No. 563 was spared by the start of the Second World War in 1939 and then saved for a second time when the steam locomotive was selected to be part of the centenary celebrations for London’s Waterloo station in 1948.

Restoration of the T3 locomotive started in late 2017 with work carried out by specialist contractors at the Flour Mill engineering workshops in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, as well as at the Swanage Railway engineering works at Herston on the outskirts of Swanage.

The T3, whose £650,000 restoration was substantially funded by rail enthusiasts, was officially unveiled in a special ceremony at Swanage station in October 2023.

Andrew PM Wright

Doing the double – the Heritage Railway Association Chairman’s Special Award

T3 HRA Steam Railway readers' award at Swanage Railway
Andrew PM Wright

The team also picked up the Steam Railway Magazine award

“Fulfilling while also being challenging”

Chair of 563 Locomotive Group Nathan Au said:

“We are delighted to have won these two Heritage Railway Association awards and I would like to thank everyone who voted for the T3 project which has been fulfilling while also being challenging at times.

“We are also very grateful to everyone who has been involved with the T3’s restoration for their hard work and commitment as well as to our supporters for their donations, contributions and faith in the six year project that turned a non-working exhibit into a fully working steam locomotive from the late Victorian era.

“It was a thrill to see the T3 steam for the first time and drive the locomotive when it hauled its first passenger trains since 1945 – experiencing what it was like to be a Victorian engineman.”

HRA awards ceremony 2024

The awards evening took place in Brighton on Saturday 10th February 2024

HRA present Chairman's award to Swanage Railway volunteers for T3 restoration

Swanage Railway Trust’s 563 Locomotive Group receiving the Chairman’s Special Award with guest speaker Francis Bourgeois (far right)

“Thrilled to have won these two prestigious awards”

Chair of the Swanage Railway Trust Frank Roberts added:

“The Swanage Railway Trust is thrilled to have won these two prestigious awards from the Heritage Railway Association which reflects the achievement and professionalism of the T3 restoration.

“I would like to thank the National Railway Museum for its faith in donating the T3 to the Swanage Railway Trust, so the Victorian locomotive could be fully restored and that the public can now enjoy it hauling passenger trains for the first time since 1945.”

T3 563 Sir Philip Williams & Dorset Lord-Lieutenant  at Swanage Railway 7 October 2023
Andrew PM Wright

The official launch of the T3 took place on a Victorian themed day in October 2023

T3 563 at Corfe Castle Sunday 8 October 2023
Andrew PM Wright

Steaming though the Purbeck countryside

Half price travel

The T3 can be spotted at Swanage Railway over February half term week 2024 and may also be in action for the Community Weekend on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2024.

The special weekend is a chance to peek behind the scenes of a working heritage railway and for those living in BH and DT postcodes, to get half price travel on the trains.

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