Swanage Railway to recreate ‘The Royal Wessex’ steam train

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From next Saturday July 23, the Swanage Railway will recreate the 1950s ‘Royal Wessex’ express steam train with journeys in a historic 1930s Maunsell carriage.

A group of dedicated volunteers have restored the car to its former glory so visitors can recreate a journey on ‘The Royal Wessex’ which ran between Waterloo and Bournemouth, Weymouth, to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

‘The Royal Wessex’ headboard will be carried at the front of the steam locomotive, and reserved seats can be booked for a carriage ride between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Swanage. Subject to availability, ‘Royal Wessex’ Maunsell carriage seats can be purchased online in advance at swanagerailway.co.uk or during the day at ticket offices at Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage stations.

Exterior of Swanage Railway Southern Railway Maunsell Heritage Car No 1381 from the 1930s. Credit: Andrew PM Wright.

Southern Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer Richard Maunsell designed the carriage in the 1930s. They were used on the Swanage branch line from the 1930s until 1965 when passenger services were withdrawn.

Interior of Maunsell Coach No. 1381 Swanage ANDREW PM WRIGHT
Interior of 1930s Swanage Railway Southern Railway Maunsell car No. 1381. Credit: Andrew PM Wright.

Operating Monday to Saturday, ‘The Royal Wessex’ also ferried holidaymakers from Waterloo Station in London to Swanage, Bournemouth West and Weymouth as the country recovered from the hardships and shortages of the Second World War. At Wareham, two carriages from the train were attached to the branch line train bound for Corfe Castle and Swanage. British Railways discontinued “Royal Wessex” carriages for Corfe Castle and Swanage in the autumn of 1962.

Royal Wessex Wareham 34108 Wincanton ANDREW PM WRIGHT COLLECTION 1950s
West Country Class Pacific 34108 ‘Wincanton leading the ‘Royal Wessex’ at Wareham in the 1950s. Credit: Andrew PM Wright Collection.

In 1951 the ‘Royal Wessex’ departed Swanage at 7.38am and Corfe Castle at 7.49am before arriving in Wareham at 8.10am. On the return journey, the ‘Royal Wessex’ carriages arrived at Wareham at 7.21pm, Corfe Castle at 7.42pm and Swanage at 7.52pm.

Swanage Railway Company Chairman Robert Patterson said: “We are delighted with this new opportunity for the public to experience the thrill and excitement of traveling through the beautiful Isle of Purbeck in a restored 1930s heritage car. with love and bearing the name “Royal Wessex”.

“The steam locomotive hauling the train will carry a ‘Royal Wessex’ headboard on its smoke box, giving the train an added air of recreating the history of mainline and branch line railways between 1951 and 1962.

“Our volunteers are working hard to lovingly and lovingly restore our heritage carriages which give the public an evocative taste of what it was like to travel by train on the Swanage branch line during steam days,” added Robert who has been a volunteer porter on the reconstructed heritage line since 1976.

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