The Swanage Railway Trust has launched a £350,000 appeal for the return to steam of LSWR William Adams express 4-4-0 T3 No.563 – and may create a carriage set to run behind it.
No. 563 was transferred by the National Railway Museum to the trust’s ownership in March 2017, with the safety-net condition that if it ever decided that it had no use for the T3, it would be handed back to the National Collection.
In November that year, the T3 – a long-time resident of the Locomotion museum at Shildon – was moved to Bill Parker’s Flour Mill workshop at Bream in the Forest of Dean, a market leader in the restoration of Victorian steam locomotives, for a sponsored exploratory strip-down and investigation into the extent of the work that would be needed for the locomotive to run again after 74 years.
The Flour Mill staff discovered that the locomotive was in good mechanical condition, with newly-machined wheelsets, freshly overhauled axleboxes and motion in as-overhauled condition. The boiler barrel was found to be in extremely good condition, with little sign of corrosion on the inside or outside.
On May 18, the trust authorised the return to steam of what is the only locomotive in its ownership. A statement said: “The Swanage Railway Trust believes that the best way for No. 563 to tell its story is to return it to steam.
“While we have LSWR T9 No. 30120 and LSWR M7 No. 30053 based on the railway, we have been unable to tell the story of the branch in its very earliest days.
“The T3 allows us to go right back to the very start of railways in Dorset. The T3 allows us to show how railways connected rural and coastal communities in the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
“The T3 was built in 1893 just eight years after the Swanage Branch opened. This locomotive was used to bring express passenger services from London to the Swanage and, in turn, this created a legacy of tourism that remains to this day.
“The trust will use this locomotive to demonstrate that it is committed to creating a living link to the very start of the railway that we have preserved to this day. While our day-to-day aim is to create a railway based around the 1950s to late 1960s, it must be remembered that this was a period when the railway was beginning its slow decline before closing in 1972. The T3 will allow us to show a period when the railway was an exciting, colourful and modern addition to a rural community.
“It will also be used as a catalyst to other exciting projects. From creating an LSWR coaching set to providing more long-term covered accommodation for our coaches and locomotives, we will use the T3 to trust these aims and aspirations into the limelight in the future.”
An appeal has been set up to raise £350,000, the estimated cost of the overhaul at the Flour Mill, over the next two years. Already, the trust has placed a £30,000 order for all the copper required to construct the new inner firebox as a sign of intent, and a consignment of the correct arsenic copper, which cannot be manufactured in the UK, has been ordered from South Africa, before prices fluctuate or rise.
The trust’s 563 Locomotive Group said that No. 563 will return to steam in its later LSWR holly livery, as introduced by Drummond from 1903.
The trust statement continued: “This promises to be one of the most exciting locomotive restorations of the last 25 years. This totally unique project will bring a locomotive that most thought would never steam again back into life on the railway it was built for.
“As the locomotive hasn’t worked in over 70 years, we are not sure of its capabilities at the moment. But we do know that the T3s were known as strong, free-steaming and fast locomotives and we expect that the locomotive will be able to handle five coaches on our railway with relative ease. It is our intention also to allow No. 563 to visit other heritage railways for gala events. This will generate funds for its ongoing upkeep and to bring it to new audiences who might not be able to come to Swanage to see the locomotive on home turf.”
The last of the class of 20 to be withdrawn, in August 1945, it was set aside for preservation. Between May and October it was used in a theatrical production of The Railway Children in Toronto, and once back in the UK, it reprised that role in the same production at a temporary theatre constructed next to King’s Cross station.
A review of the NRM’s collections led to it being ‘gifted’ to the Swanage Railway, a move that was criticised in some quarters as giving away part of the National Collection.
Bill Parker said: “We at the Flour Mill are excited at the prospect of overhauling our fourth LSWR engine – first the two Beattie well tanks, then the T9 and now theT3.
“Work will proceed as fast as the funds can be raised. Doubtless significant donors will be invited to see the work in progress.
“Following completion of the dismantling of the T3 at the Flour Mill, funded by Alan Moore, apart from the need for a new copper firebox, the conclusion of all parties is that the locomotive is thoroughly repairable and operable.
“Evidently the mechanical parts were overhauled shortly before the locomotive was withdrawn or restored for display purposes.”
➜ If you would like to be involved with the return to steam of No. 563, or to donate to the appeal, visit www.563locomotivegroup.co.uk or contact the project manager directly by email at: firstname.lastname@example.orgEnjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.