Swanage Railway’s smallest diesel loco steals the show

While many eyes were on the former British Rail 1960s diesel locomotives at Swanage Railway’s Diesel Gala and Beer Festival, it was the heritage railway’s smallest loco that grabbed much of the attention.

In a short ceremony at the Purbeck Minerals and Mining Museum at Norden on Friday 6th May 2022, the newly restored industrial diesel locomotive was officially welcomed into service.

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Norden Purbeck Mining and Mineral Museum loco

The Ruston and Hornsby 48DL industrial diesel locomotive No. 283871

Transported a type of locally extracted clay, called ball clay

The Ruston and Hornsby 48DL industrial diesel locomotive No. 283871 that was built in 1956, is very similar to one of the original locomotives that worked at the Norden narrow gauge system from the mid 1950’s to the end of operations in the early 1970’s.

The narrow gauge railway at Norden was built to transport a type of locally extracted clay, called ball clay. It was taken up to factories in the north of England to be made into fine china tableware.

Norden Purbeck Mining and Mineral Museum loco
Andrew PM Wright

The newly restored industrial diesel loco

Josiah Wedgewood

Famously the ball clay was purchased by Josiah Wedgewood to produce his much admired and collected dinner services and ornaments.

Believing that the original Ruston and Hornsby loco that was used at Norden would never return, Swanage Railway was able to purchase this similar loco in 2006 from the Lynton and Barnstaple heritage railway in Devon.

Mining Museum volunteers
Andrew PM Wright

The Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum volunteers

“Many hundreds of hours of work”

Chair of Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum Group, Peter Sills said:

“This Ruston and Hornsby loco had given us good service but was in need of restoration, so we ended up spending the last two years of lockdown getting it back to full working order – it was our lockdown project!

“It’s really the result of a fantastic combination of many hundreds of hours of work and a truly dedicated group of volunteers.”

Ian Bradshaw cuts the ribbon on the diesel loco
Andrew PM Wright

Ian Bradshaw, who helped fund the restoration, cuts the ribbon

Generous donation

The £12,000 restoration was made possible by a generous donation by Swanage Railway volunteer, Ian Bradshaw who lives in Wareham.

Ian used to volunteer as a porter on the railway until poor health meant he had to take a step back from an active role.

Ian said:

“After I had to pull back from volunteering as a porter, helping to fund this restoration has been a way of remaining involved.

“I went along to an open day about the project and was fascinated by the local industrial heritage and archeology, so was happy to help preserve this bit of history.”

Gavin Johns at the Norden Purbeck Mining and Mineral Museum
Andrew PM Wright

Chair of Swanage Railway, Gavin Johns at the ceremony

“So much more to see at Swanage Railway than many realise”

Joining Ian and the restoration team was the chair of Swanage Railway, Gavin Johns. Impressed with the gleaming new loco, he said:

“There’s so much more to see at Swanage Railway than many realise. There’s not only the trips on steam and diesel trains and the railway museum at Corfe Castle, but also so much to discover at Norden.

“The local history of clay mining is fascinating and there’s a real enthusiasm to tell the story.”

Norden Purbeck Mining and Mineral Museum loco

Peter Sills with the original Ruston and Hornsby loco that worked at Norden

Norden Purbeck Mining and Mineral Museum loco

The third loco awaiting restoration

“Plenty of opportunities to get involved”

The team keeps adding to the collection at the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum and remarkably, they’ve now got the original Ruston and Hornsby loco that worked at Norden on long term loan, as well as a third loco in the shed that needs lots of restoration.

Peter Sills added:

“There’s plenty of opportunities to get involved – volunteers can offer to work in the museum, help with the maintenance and preservation of the metal ware or as an ecologist looking after the really idyllic 25 acres of woodland that we have here.”

Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and beer Festival

Plenty of activity at Swanage station

Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and beer Festival

GB Railfreight diesel loco 69004

First Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and Beer Festival since 2019

Meanwhile there was plenty going on along the heritage branch line as part of the 2022 Diesel Gala and Beer Festival.

At Swanage station, GB Railfreight diesel loco 69004 was on static display, along with several stalls of interest to diesel loco fans.

Beer at Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and beer Festival

A wide selection of Dorset beers on offer

Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and beer Festival

The beer tent at Corfe Castle attracts a safety conscious group wearing eye catching headgear

Beer festival

Further up the line at Corfe Castle, the beer festival organised by Purbeck Kitchens was in full swing offering a large selection of local ales.

The three day event, the first Diesel Gala and Beer Festival since 2019 due to the pandemic, was well attended, helped by good weather and the chance to finally be able to enjoy large events again.

Watch the newly restored Ruston and Hornsby loco

Swanage Railway Diesel Gala and beer Festival

Class 44 No. D4 ‘Great Gable’ (British Rail No. 44 004) courtesy of the Peak Locomotive Company

Indomitable diesel loco at Swanage station

Class 50 No. 50 026 ‘Indomitable’ courtesy of PTG Tours at Swanage station

Further information

  • More about the local ball clay extraction can be found on the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum website
  • For details of other events at Swanage Railway visit its website

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