Swanage Railway’s newly restored Victorian T3 loco officially launched

An occasion that turned the clocks back to the heyday of Victorian steam travel, was held at Swanage Railway to celebrate the T3 locomotive class 563 hauling its first passenger train since 1945.

Dozens of special guests dressed in Victorian and Edwardian costume on Saturday 7th October 2023 for the first official passenger trip of the unique loco since its challenging six year restoration.

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Gavin Johns (right) chairman of Swanage Railway with guests Robert and Margaret Adams

So many people entered into the spirit

The T3 has been brought back to its former glory thanks to the £650,000 restoration project undertaken by volunteers at the Swanage Railway Trust, which was praised by the National Railway Museum’s senior curator Anthony Coulls.

Anthony Coulls told a packed station:

“This is a splendid day – it is wonderful to see so many people who have entered into the spirit and dressing for the occasion for a Victorian engine.

“A few years ago the National Railway Museum undertook a collections review – museum collections are not static and although some things stay for ever, some things come and some things go.

“The T3 came under our spotlight for review and a decision was made to transfer the engine to the railway here; if we had not, we would not be seeing this glorious sight today.”

Many guests on the first trip of T3 No. 563 dressed up for the occasion

T3 escaped the scrap yard in 1948

One of the guests attending the launch ceremony was Swanage Railway Trust patron Sir Philip Williams whose great grandfather was on the board of the Victorian railway company that designed and built the steam locomotive.

Built in 1893 to a design by renowned engineer William Adams, one of the finest express passenger train locomotives of the Victorian era, the T3 had only escaped being scrapped in 1948 so that it could take part in centenary celebrations for London’s Waterloo station in 1949.

After spending years on display at the National Railway Museum in York, it was transported by sea to Canada in 2011 for a six month starring role in a theatrical production of The Railway Children and reprieved the show later at King’s Cross station in London – but had to be pulled along tracks for the show.

It was still in a non working state when it was donated to the Swanage Railway Trust by the National Railway Museum in 2017 – and almost unrecognisable as the gleaming green engine it is today.

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The T3 restoration team with Anthony Coulls of the National Railway Museum

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On her way out of Swanage station on the first of many trips

“She has not steamed for 75 years”

Anthony Coulls added:

“We acted with integrity, the Swanage Railway Trust took on that integrity and have delivered the most beautiful engine.

“The research done during the restoration process has taught us a great deal about the engine’s history through the work that has been very carefully done, especially with the recreation of the firebox.

“We are looking at a new generation of understanding locomotive engineering and if that is not what the National Railway Museum and the Swanage Railway Trust is about, then I don’t know what is.

“It is marvellous to have shared the journey at a distance with the team here to see the quality of work carried out – especially the paintwork and the crest hand painted by Bill Anderson which is absolutely magnificent.

“She has not steamed for 75 years and now you have the chance to ride behind a unique and recently restored Victorian T3 locomotive through the beautiful Purbeck countryside and past the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle.”

Sir Philip Williams and the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Angus Campbell cut the ribbon

Ready to leave Swanage station on the long awaited return of 563 to steam

The beauty of our Victorian past

Special guests attending the launch included Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Angus Campbell, who said:

“Returning the T3 to the rails is a triumph for the Swanage Railway as well as its dedicated volunteers and supporters. An elegant example of living history, No. 563 will be seen in all her glory in the Isle of Purbeck to the delight of all.

“The restoration of No. 563 is a magnificent example of what can be done with true dedication, determination and very hard work. She brings the beauty of our Victorian past back to Dorset and is yet another triumph for the Swanage Railway.”

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Steaming past Corfe Castle on the first trip under steam in decades

On the outward journey, an iconic view of Corfe Castle

A real sense of history

Swanage Railway Trust patron, Sir Philip Williams added:

“The T3 is a magnificent and supremely elegant locomotive – a wonderful living exemplar of the great age of steam in the territory for which she was designed. It will be fantastic to see No. 563 in steam and raring to go again.

“It is also a very great pleasure and privilege for me to have been asked to participate in No. 563’s launch ceremony and ride in her first train. Because of my family link to the London and South Western Railway and the T3, I felt a real sense of history in re-launching the locomotive.”

Ready to go and attracting quite a crowd at Swanage Railway station

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Because everything’s better with cake …

Restoration work began in 2017

T3 No. 563 was built in London in 1893 and its return to the Swanage Railway marks both the centenary of the Southern Railway and also the 185th anniversary of the formation of the London and South Western Railway.

Restoration was started on the T3 in late 2017 with the majority of work on the locomotive being carried out by specialist contractors at the Flour Mill workshops in Gloucestershire.

However, the restoration of the locomotive’s tender, which stores 3,300 gallons of water and three tonnes of coal for the engine, took place at the Swanage Railway’s Herston engineering works on the outskirts of Swanage.

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Nathan Au, who led the restoration project, gives the locomotive a final polish

An immaculate finish with the hand painted crest by Bill Anderson

“No. 563 is a real time machine”

Chair of the 563 Locomotive Group Nathan Au said:

“We are 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 T3 project.

“When No. 563 was born, the motor car was just a curiosity and the first aeroplane had yet to leave the ground. Railways powered by steam dominated the movement of people and goods in a way that we can scarcely imagine today.

“By the time the T3 was retired after World War II, the transport landscape had changed forever; the dawn of mass motoring was on the horizon and aircraft were crossing the world.

“No. 563 is a real time machine – a living and breathing example of the world when glamorous railways with their brightly painted and highly polished steam engines ruled supreme.”

All stations go for T3 No 563 at her relaunch on Swanage Railway

Staff aboard the T3 were in Victorian costume for the big occasion

Moving the locomotive to the rear of the train for the return trip from Norden

Further information

Watch the T3 loco back in steam at Swanage Railway

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