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Dorset Coast Express

7 May 1967

The Dorset Coast Express was the final tour operated with southern steam by the Locomotive Club of Great Britain and my final southern tour before the end of steam.

The tour ran from Waterloo to Weymouth and included two trips on the branch line to Swanage. This allowed us to get off the train and take photos of the train in action. 

The outward journey was along the Portsmouth direct line through Guildford and Petersfield. The engine for this run, as far as Wareham, was West Country no. 34021 "Dartmoor".

34021 takes the train through Vauxhall station

The engines used on the Swanage branch were West Country 34023 " Blackmore Vale" topped and tailed with BR Standard 4 no. 76026 on the first run and BR Standard tank no. 80011 on the second. 34023 then took the tour train from Wareham to Weymouth and gave a very spirited performance.

Pictures show 76026 returning to Wareham with the first run and 34023 arriving with the second run to Swanage. Both taken at Corfe Castle.

The return journey was along the main SW route to Waterloo via Southampton and Basingstoke. The motive power for the first part, from Weymouth to Bournemouth, were BR Standard class 5 no. 73029 piloted by 76026. 

After a good ascent of Upway Bank, some fast running followed with speed touching 80 mph between Wool and Worgret Junction.

The final leg from Bournemouth to Waterloo was taken by Merchant Navy no. 35003 "Royal Mail". There was a fast run through the New Forest to Southampton Central where water was taken. 

The long climb up to Micheldever was taken with speeds in the sixties, and, in spite of speed restrictions due to engineering work, we arrived at Waterloo on time without once exceeding the permitted maximum of 85 mph.

76026 and 73029 at Weymouth (main picture) and Bournemouth Central.

This was a difficult tour to replicate 50 years later, not least because the Swanage Railway ran their Diesel Gala over the weekend of the 6/7 May 2017. 

Only one engine from the 1967 tour survives, "Blackmore Vale", so at least I was able to see and photograph it 50 years on - almost to the minute.

However 20 years ago, on the 7 May 1997, the Swanage Railway ran a re-enactment of the tour's visit to that branch line. This was organised as a photo charter and was the first time I took part in this kind of activity. 

The re-enactment featured Battle of Britain no 34072 renumbered as 34023 and BR standard tank no. 80104 was turned out as 80011. The original headboard was used.

The picture on the far right shows 34021 prior to departure from Waterloo. 

The second picture of "34023" is 34072 in disguise and carrying the same headboard. It had the smoke box door hinges and lamp irons painted off-white and no disc attached - as was the case in 1967. 

In 1997, 34072 was in the final weeks of its boiler certificate so it was allowed to get work stained which helped with the recreation.


34023 "Blackmore Vale"


The pictures on the left show the 1967 shot of the real 34023 at Wareham and the recreation with 34072 at Corfe Castle.

The giveaway with the recreation is that 34072 has the wider cab (as did all the light Bulleid pacifics from 34071 onwards). 34072 was running with a Merchant Navy tender and whilst not that obvious on this picture, the shape of the Battle of Britain nameplate and crest show through the grime. 

But these are small niggles in what was a genuine and very well executed recreation.

The final picture is of the real 34023 in the shed at Sheffield Park taken on the afternoon of the 7 May 2017 - exactly 50 years from the 1967 picture at Wareham. It's far from a perfect picture but one taken for the anniversary.

34023 was one of the last two original West Country locomotives to survive until July 1967, the other was 34102 "Lapford". Blackmore Vale was one of three locomotives at Nine Elms that survived directly into preservation. 

The other two were 35028 "Clan Line" and Ivatt tank locomotive no. 41298. All three went to the Longmoor Military Railway near Liss in Hampshire. 

When the railway closed, "Clan Line" moved to Ashford in Kent before making it's first foray on the main line in April 1974. It was subsequently based at Hereford, Southall and it's current base in Stewarts Lane in south London.

"Blackmore Vale" went to the Bluebell Railway where it returned to service in 1976.

The Ivatt no. 41298 didn't return to steam until 2015 when it moved to its new home on the Isle of Wight.  

The Swanage Railway Recreation - 7 May 1997

This set of pictures shows two recreation shots featuring 34023 together with one from 1967. 

In 1967 we were free to wander along the line to get shots and hi-viz vests? What were they?



And the other end of the train, 80011. 

In 1997, 80104 had just been restored and had not yet been lined out or numbered. Whilst temporary 80011 numbers were put on the tank sides, it remained accurate without the smoke box number. However not much could be done about the fresh, shiny black paint.

But overall the sight and sound of a lengthy train with two engines brought back the memories of 30 years previously.  

In 2017, 80104 was again renumbered - this time as 80146, a Bournemouth based engine that survived to the end of steam in July 1967 and was in fact the final steam locomotive on the branch with a rail tour in June 1967.

Rail Tour Route Map



Published 18 May 2017

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