It’s been a remarkable three years since we officially unveiled 563 and the National Railway Museum formally handed it over to the Swanage Railway Trust (SRT). Despite the initial controversy that was voiced by a minority, this has since been overshadowed by the overwhelming support that’s been given to the 563 Locomotive Group (563LG) and the restoration of the unique T3. Thanks to your extremely generous donations over a relatively short period of time, before too long we could see William Adams’ only surviving tender engine in steam again for the first time in over 72 years!
As we’re all fully aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has however caused much disruption. The overhaul and our fundraising efforts are no exception. More significantly, 563’s spiritual home on the Swanage Railway is in financial jeopardy and its survival is currently on a knife edge. For the 563 Locomotive Group, as a subgroup of the Swanage Railway Trust, we’ve subsequently had to temporarily redirect our focus and volunteer resources. Our core team and many of its supporters are also members and volunteers of the railway so we’ve had to join in the collective fight of our lives. Although we’ve taken our foot of the accelerator, we are however are only covering the brakes…
As Matt McManus reported during March, we had placed orders for the most critical parts of the boiler with long lead times. Thanks to South Devon Engineering, pressing of the inner firebox has since been completed and manufacture of the girder stays, which it will be suspended from, are still in progress by Premier Patterns. Construction of the brand new inner firebox is the single biggest task of the overhaul and the next step of the restoration. Given there was nothing significant we could do without these components, the timing was convenient for us in that regard. Seeing the old and new inner firebox together will be a very novel milestone that we can still look forward to.
There are a few reassurances I’d like to give to our supporters. Firstly, we haven’t taken our eye off the horizon to the detriment of the project but we do ultimately need to look out for the SRT as the owner of 563 at the same time. Secondly, your generous donations are in a ring fenced fund and its use is restricted only to the activities of the 563LG and lastly, for those entitled to the longer term rewards such Kevin Williamson’s prints and original copper stays, these are forthcoming but COVID-19 has inevitably caused some disruption in getting these rewards to you. Please accept my apologies for any delay but do bear with us.
Although there is an estimated £170,000 left to raise, your contributions over the last three years towards both the initial condition assessment and the current overhaul appeal has raised a truly amazing grand total of £210,000 thus far. Despite any delays Coronavirus may cause, I wholeheartedly believe that we will see 563 steam again and that’s thanks to your love and support you’ve shown us for this exciting project. While we might have a working engine in the future, we equally need to ensure there’s still a railway for it to run on.
I appreciate your loyal dedication to the cause but there is now a greater calling. Unlike never before the Swanage Railway needs vital support if it is to survive this crisis. If the railway is to remain part of the community in the Isle of Purbeck it needs a financial lifeline in order to fight for its very existance. No matter how big or small, if you can afford to spare anymore please visit www.saveourservice.co.uk to donate by PayPal or www.swanagerailwaytrust.org/giving for more details about bank transfers and cheques along with Gift Aid to boost your donation by 25%.
You can also donate by texting ‘SOS’ to 70470 to donate £10. This costs £10 plus a standard rate message. Alternatively, you can choose to give any whole amount between £1 and £20. E.g. texting ‘SOS 4’ = £4 plus a std rate msg.
Kind regards and thanks,
563 Locomotive Group Chairman