Wednesday 27th July to Tuesday 2nd August 2022
The Royal Wessex
Swanage Railway recently launched a re-creation of the 1950’s era “Royal Wessex” train including the option to reserve seats in a heritage carriage designed by Richard Maunsell, the chief mechanical engineer of the Southern Railway in the 1930’s, after it was painstakingly restored by a group of volunteers. Maunsell carriages would have been a familiar sight on the Swanage branch line until the 1960’s when they were withdrawn from service. The “Royal Wessex” was introduced in 1951 and departed London Waterloo with portions designated for Swanage, Bournemouth West and Weymouth. Carriages were detached from the main train and attached to a local branch line service to take passengers to their chosen destination. The Swanage portion consisted of two carriages which were separated from, or for the return working; joined to, the main train at Wareham. The Swanage initiative sees the Maunsell carriage carrying “Royal Wessex” name boards with the locomotive hauling the train having a headboard.
47 On Tour
In connection with 19th -23rd September 2022 engineering work scheduled to take place between Axminster and Pinhoe, Freightliner celebrity locomotive Class 47 No. 47830 ‘Beeching’s Legacy’ has been working route learning trips between Southampton Maritime and Exeter St. David’s on selected days over the last couple of weeks, which meant the locomotive briefly visited Dorset. We were very kindly sent the images and video reproduced on this page by Scott Lewis, who I’m now going to call Yoshi’s North Dorset correspondent.
The engineering work will see a five-day closure of the line with a £5m project undertaken that includes landslip prevention work at Honiton tunnel which will involve the installation of two retaining walls, 32 metres and 16 metres in length accompanied by sheet piles that consist of metal posts with concrete planks for additional support to protect the line from future closures. Weather resilience work will also improve and supplement drainage systems.
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Diesel Gala
I found myself with time on my hands on Friday 29th July, so Yoshi, one of Yoshi’s hoo-man uncles and I took ourselves off to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire, a beautifully striking railway in the Cotswolds. The 2022 diesel gala employed the railways’ home fleet, supplemented by visiting Class 55 Deltic locomotive No. 55019 ‘Royal Highland Fusilier’ – the first ever visit of a locomotive of this iconic class. To be honest, the appearance of the Deltic first attracted me to the notion of attending this gala. The Gloucestershire Warwickshire is a railway I have not visited previously, but I’ll certainly be returning after having a very enjoyable day.
The Stratford-Upon-Avon to Cheltenham Railway was constructed between 1902 and 1906 by the Great Western Railway (GWR) for the purpose of achieving a faster and more direct route between the Midlands and the South West, although this necessitated avoiding difficult terrain to allow gentle gradients and sweeping curves enabling high speed running. Extensive cuttings, embankments and a long tunnel at Greet were required, and unfortunately some of the stations were located some distance from the villages they purported to serve. As with many railways, usage began to decline in the 1950’s with passenger services being withdrawn on 7th March 1960. Use for freight and as a diversionary route continued until a derailment outside of Winchcombe station saw a cessation of all traffic with the line finally closed in November 1976, the track being lifted in 1979. Two year later, in 1981, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway plc was formed and they acquired the 14.5 miles of track bed between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway. Stations, signal boxes etc. have been reopened or rebuilt from scratch resulting in a very attractive railway.
The diesel gala featured the following locomotives:
It was an extremely hot day and we took every opportunity to keep Yoshi cool, in the shade and hydrated. I have also bought a hat for future railway days out in the sun, because I was told to, and I sometimes do what I am told! All in all an excellent day out, with good company and another heritage railway with friendly, enthusiastic and helpful volunteers. I even got back home in time to watch the last episode of Neighbours.
Test Train Delays
August kicked off with the scheduling of test train 1Q51 running from Derby Railway Technical Centre to Eastleigh via Weymouth. Our regular reader may remember that the July instance of this working didn’t make it to Weymouth, the train being curtailed at Eastleigh. This time, the test train made it as far as Wool before it was reversed, missing out the Wool to Weymouth section. This was because the 1605 departure from Waterloo developed a fault and it ground to a halt at 1829 just before reaching Wool station, blocking the line to Weymouth and causing following services knock on delays and cancellations. The 1Q51 test train was eventually caught up behind the failed service train.
Unaware of this, I had ventured out to Branksome in order to see the train in daylight as it usually traverses the Bournemouth to Weymouth section in darkness most of the year. However earlier disruption on the network meant that delays to services resulted in late running empty coaching stock from Poole to Bournemouth T&RSMD passing on the up platform where I was stood, obscuring the 73’s from view as they headed down towards Weymouth. I consoled myself with the knowledge I would have another shot at getting some video on the return leg. However, becoming aware that the test train was sat between Wareham and Wool via the Open Train Times webpage, Yoshi and I set off for Wool to investigate.
On arrival at Wool we were able to see the failed Class 444 EMU (No. 444021) sitting just outside of Wool station.
By the time the ailing 444 was rescued by a fellow Class 444 at 2211 and the train reversed to the Up line via a set of points situated outside of Wool to clear the line, the test train was well behind schedule. The decision was made to cancel the run to Weymouth and to reverse the train in Wool station – as you can see in the video below:
More news on the reopening of the Hamworthy Branch, which was finally acknowledged by Network Rail as happening in a mailing to residents living near the railway line:
I will admit to once again failing to get a decent image of a rail/road vehicle on the branch. I’m considering sending in Yoshi with a doggo-cam to get better shots from the trackside, but in the meantime I’ll share the following video of ongoing sleeper replacement near Hercules Road Access Point ( formerly Butts Crossing ) for reference:
For a far better glimpse of the road / rail traction being employed on the Hamworthy Branch, Kev Scott has kindly given us permission to link to his video of a Komatsu Rail Rider passing over Hamworthy Park Level Crossing. Don’t forget to check out Kev’s other videos on his You Tube page!
Class 701 on Test
Another week passes by and South Western Railway Class 701 electric multiple units are still undergoing test runs. This week however, unit No. 701034 ran west of Poole to Weymouth and Wareham on Tuesday 2nd August. Two runs took place, the first from Eastleigh TRSMD ran to Weymouth as 5Q56, the unit then forming 5Q57 to Brockenhurst. The driver and any onboard support crew would hopefully have had time for a cup of tea and cake before departing Brockenhurst at 2114 bound for Wareham as 5Q58 before returning to Eastleigh TRSMD as 5Q59 where the unit was then put to bed at around 2330.
This weeks ‘The Railway Dog’ was written to the accompaniment of Bear’s Den, Pink Floyd and Bernard Cribbins. I’ve enjoyed the collaborative feel to this weeks blog and my thanks to everyone who has agreed to the sharing of their material, it is much appreciated. Thanks again for reading and for corrections and observations. All being well, we’ll be back here next week for more of the same!