All Quiet on the Railway

There are times where it’s who you know comes into play. I’ve mentioned before my father in law is very involved with the Swanage Railway and is one of the volunteer drivers. He kindly offered to take us down first thing in the morning so we could have a behind the scenes look.

The alarm was set for 5.30 in the morning and I got on my trousers that I bought that were cheap and I could get dirty. Off we headed down on the quiet Sunday morning. We wanted to get there before they started getting the Eddystone ready to go.


All was quiet at that time of morning and we were the first to arrive.


If the locomotive is warm as the Eddystone was from the night before it takes a good 3 hours to bring it up to temperature. You could do it faster but there are different types of metal that expand at different rates and if you do it too fast you will stress the locomotive. If it is started from cold you need at least 8 hours, usually much longer. They will start them on Thursday if running on weekends.


The Eddystone was originally numbered 21C128 and was built at Brighton Works and completed in April 1946. It was a Bulleid light pacific that looked like the Manston still does.


In 1958 it was rebuilt to it’s current form. This helped correct issues with materials used as well as lubrication issues. It was the first to be withdrawn in 1964. After 22 years of sitting quiet and then swapping owners it completed the last rebuild in 2003 in Swanage and has been running here every since. It will go for another rebuild next month.

We got the chance to go under the locomotive and poke about. It’s fascinating to see all the parts that make up the machine.


We did go on the footplate in hopes to watch the firing process. You can see the small flame in the bottom left of the opening. But too many cooks in the kitchen so we left them to it.


The M7 30053 which is a 0-4-4-T and built in 1905 is special to us as my father in law, along with a few others, have worked tirelessly to bring it back to the UK from Steamtown, USA and restore it. It had been outside for 20 years and needed a lot of work. It took from 1987 to 1992 to get it back up and running again at Swanage Railway. Back in 2009 I got to help paint it to get it ready for the Eastleigh Centenary. That was quite something to see.


We got a look at the smoke box of the M7. You can see all the tubes behind the blast pipe. The blast pipe is the exhaust of the steam and makes the chug chug sounds. As the steam puffs up and out of the blast pipe is creates a vacuum which draws the hot air from the firebox through the boiler and heats the water creating the steam.


There is a cat that adopted the railway and goes by Ringwood there. She’s very friendly and loves hanging about and curling up on laps when there is paperwork to be done. Though apparently the owner asked that the cat be kept away as she is tired of the black footprints. There is an easy solution to that! Keep her home. But I think Ringwood would be missed.


In the shed is the 80104 in the middle of being rebuilt. The boiler is out for work. To be inspected and certified requires a lot of work. In order for an inspector to get in to inspect all the tubes have to be removed.


Even though it is a lot of work I can see why the volunteers are drawn to this work. Especially in the quiet of the morning.


It was a real treat despite the early start to the morning. We went on to do other things with the railway that morning which will be my next post. 😊

Chasing The Tornado

If there is one thing we’ve learned on our visit is that prior to booking flights we should check the Swanage Railways calendar for events. If we had we’d have seen the scheduled gala this weekend celebrating 35 years. We leave on Thursday. One of the highlights will be the Tornado 60163 which is a A1 Peppercorn 4-6-2. Fortunately it came in last night and we chased it from Corfe Castle to Swanage. Hell of a date night!

This is a brilliant piece of workmanship. The last of the original Peppercorns was built in 1949. Unfortunately all 49 were scrapped by 1966. The Tornado was completed by 2008 at Darlington’s Works. It may be familiar to some from Top Gear when it featured in a race. Only time I’ve ever rooted for Clarkson!

My husband and I found out when the train was leaving Norden and went early to Corfe Castle to scope out a good spot for pictures. We tried a couple of hills but the viewing was very narrow so we decided on a pasture that gave us nearly a 180 degree view. Which is important because it is 70 feet long plus you have the diesel bringing it in and the support coach. It didn’t come in on it’s own as it had to come in backwards. The turntable in Swanage isn’t big enough.

We had the field to ourselves as it seemed people were scared of the cows. There was a couple standing on the other side of the fence but they wouldn’t come in. They were by the fence and the cows were trying to untie his shoelaces. I was a bit surprised how friendly the cows were! We got licked by some very rough tongues.


Finally we heard them coming. We were positioned just before the viaduct.




We popped back in the car and headed to Swanage but realised we got ahead of it so we parked at Harmon’s Cross and dashed to the bridge to catch it as it was leaving the station.



Then we dashed off to Swanage in hopes we’d get there in time. Alas, we got stuck behind a guy on a bicycle. So the Tornado was waiting for us when we arrived.


There was a decent crowd at this point. The diesel backed off to give the Tornado room to get round the support coach and then back the coach and itself into a siding. This was done on both sides of the bridge so a pack of us were running back and forth to get photos.




Then it made a terrific racket clearing out the water. It was quite something!


And for those who like diesel this is a 56303 for the DCR. It was originally numbered 56125 and was built in Crewe in 1983. Between 1999 and 2006 it sat waiting to be scrapped but it was renumbered and put back in service. My husband noted that it was strange to see the coach, diesel, and the Tornado with the Tornado being the youngest and the coach being the oldest as it dates from the late 1950’s.

It was such a fun night and quite the sight to see.

Steam Gala at Swanage

Back in May I talked about the Diesel Gala at the Swanage Railway.  This weekend it’s the Steam’s turn.  I look forward to when I can actually go!  But with it being in September and the kids are back at school it is hard to schedule that but it’s on my list.  There is something about the sound of steam trains that I really love.  I get all excited when I see one.  It is the sound of adventure and history.  And old Agatha Christie novels.  I’d love to do the Orient Express, without the murder of course.  🙂

Back in 2009 I got a chance to be up close and personal with these machines and I was completely hooked.  I’ve mentioned before my FIL drives them in Swanage.  I’ve been lucky to have a couple of footplate rides and to be behind the scenes.


Even better, I got to help paint one!  The M7 was part of the exhibits at the Eastleigh show and it needed to be painted beforehand so all hands on deck.  I was all chuffed until I saw I missed a couple of spots when I was behind it at Eastleigh.  Shiny wet black paint hides a multitude of sins until it dries.  Sigh.  But it was really fun being part of the process.  They had it at the show going back and forth a bit for people to ride in.


Now they did give an option for people to pay £5 to get in early to take pictures without pesky (me) people getting in the way.  I was amazed at how many people didn’t do that!  And boy were they cranky!  But my soon to be husband was showing me how things worked and what the different configurations meant.  And as I love to know how things work I had a lot of questions.  Oh dear.  They even had some really old steam engines on display which were quite fascinating.


I was excited about having my first footplate ride back in Swanage.  The teams that drive the steam trains are so impressive.  There are years of working your way up to being fireman then driver and the knowledge is very extensive.  Being a fireman isn’t just shoveling the coal in.  You have to know how to read the fire.


And all the dials and wheels aren’t for show.  The slightest adjustment can mean a lot.  When the Mallard set the record it must have been something else to be on the footplate.  You are limited on the Swanage line to how fast you can go and I felt like I was flying!  We were going a fraction of what the Mallard went.  The fireman must have been ready to just fall over at the end.


Of course the ride had to come to an end.  I wanted to go again but you mustn’t be greedy.  🙂  I did get to have my picture taken for prosperity.


If you haven’t been to Swanage it is well worth the visit.  Here is the information for the Steam Gala.