By Cedric Johns
Friday, April 13 – considered unlucky for some – turned out to be a red letter day for those planning future developments of the Swanage Railway, when Maunsell 2-6-0 No. 31806 successfully ran to Weymouth and Yeovil with a loaded test train to gain its main line ticket.
“It was a highly enjoyable day,” said James Cox the Purbeck Line’s locomotive, carriage and wagon superintendent. “The engine performed just as we had hoped.”
Formed with five Mk.I coaches plus Swanage-based Crompton D6515 Lt Jenny Lewis RN, some 230 tons in all, the test train ran to Wareham with the mogul leading, whereupon joining the Bournemouth-Weymouth line the formation reversed direction, the diesel taking the lead.
The 2-6-0’s first real test was to head the train back out of Weymouth towards the Yeovil Railway Centre’s yard at Yeovil Junction.
Virtually working against the collar for 20 miles from the start, the line out of Weymouth steepens, passing Upwey to finish with 1-in-50/52 through Bincombe Tunnel, the engine achieving a creditable 24mph over the summit.
The gradients ease through Dorchester West and Maiden Newton but then No.31806 faced the testing climb up to Evershot, the final 1-in-95 section encouraging the 2-6-0 to reveal its presence by exhaustively blasting its way up over the final yards.
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