On Saturday 18th of May, the Swanage Railway Trust authorised the return to steam of its unique LSWR T3 No.563.
The locomotive was transferred to the Flour Mill workshop in the Forest of Dean in November 2017 and was subject to the most extensive strip down and investigation yet undertaken on behalf of the Swanage Railway.
No stone was left unturned and we discovered that the locomotive was in good mechanical condition with newly machined wheel sets, freshly overhauled axle boxes, and motion in as overhauled condition.
The boiler was not completely as expected. Whilst we expected the firebox to be life expired, we were unsure of the rest of the boiler condition. The boiler barrel is in extremely good condition with little sign of corrosion on the inside or outside.
The Swanage Railway Trust believe that the best way for No.563 to tell its story is to return it to steam. Whilst 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 8 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 SRT 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. Whilst our day to day aim is to create a railway based around the 1950’s to late 1960’s, it must be remembered that this was a period where 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.
The cost of returning No.563 to steam will be around £350,000 and an appeal has been set up to raise this money over the next 2 years. To donate to the appeal please head to our dedicated webpage www.563locomotivegroup.co.uk. Here you can find out details about how to make one off donations, set up regular standing orders and details about gift aid. There will also be a number of incentives such as original copper stays to tickets for its first public train and even footplate rides on its first passenger train in over 70 years!
This promises to be one of the most exciting locomotive restoration of the last 25 years. This totally unique project and will bring a locomotive that most thought would never steam again back into life on the railway its was built for.
It reminds us that the Swanage Railway is committed to its heritage and will invest in it going forward. As a sign of this commitment the Swanage Railway Trust has placed a £30,000 order for all the copper required to construct the new inner firebox as a sign of intent.
We will bring this locomotive back into service but how quickly we do this is largely dependant on how well our fundraising goes. We could see this locomotive back in steam as early as 2021 providing our fundraising hits its targets.
At this stage the 563 group have recommended that the locomotive returns to steam in its later LSWR Holly lively as introduced by Drummond from 1903. This striking livery will bring out the beauty of this classic Adams designed locomotive and ensure that it stands out as the jewel of the Swanage Railway collection.
As the locomotive hasn’t worked in over 70 years we are not sure of its capabilities at the moment. However we do know that the T3 were known as strong, free steaming and fast locomotives and we expect that the locomotive will be able to handle 5 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 on going up keep and to bring it to new audiences who might not otherwise be able to come to Swanage to see the locomotive on home turf.