History was made in March 2014 when two restored classic 1940s Southern Railway Bulleid passenger carriages ran to Corfe Castle for the first time since the summer of 1966 – when England won the World Cup at Wembley.
More than 800 of the distinctive Bulleids were built for the Southern Railway and British Railways during the late 1940s and early 1950s but only 16 survive in preservation – four on the Swanage Railway, two already restored and two awaiting restoration.
The special run of the two restored wooden framed Bulleid carriages from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden Park & Ride took place on Saturday, 15 March, 2014; during the Swanage Railway's first ever London and South Western Railway Weekend.
A team of 18 dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers has taken more than three years and 10,000 hours of work to restore one of the Bulleid carriages, the 1947 48-seat first and third class compartment coach No. 5761 to its former 1940s glory – at a total cost of £110,000.
Withdrawn in 1968 and sold privately, No. 5761 had the distinction of being the last Bulleid coach to be in traffic with British Rail.
Before the volunteers started work, specialist contractors carried out major structural work on the historic coach from the heyday of express steam trains – replacing much of its steel underframes and part of its wooden structure as well as installing a new wooden floor.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome No. 5761 back into service took place at Swanage station at 10am on Saturday, 15 March, 2014 – after which No. 5761, and fellow 1947 Bulleid brake coach No. 4365, then formed a special 10.26am train to Corfe Castle and Norden with special guests on board.
Painted in the British Railways Southern Region green livery of the mid-1950s, the two Bulleid coaches formed the 'branch train' service during the Swanage Railway's London and South Western Railway Weekend with the public able to enjoy its charming 1940s first class atmosphere.
Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns said: "The return of No. 5761 to traffic is the culmination of more than three years and 10,000 hours of hard work by a small team of volunteers. They are to be congratulated for their determination, professionalism and attention to detail – a marvellous job.
"The Swanage Railway now has two well restored 1940s Bulleid carriages which are reminiscent of exciting holidays to the seaside as well as more mundane journeys to school and work over nearly 20 years. These two Bulleid carriages are an important part of our railway heritage," he added.
Designed by Oliver Bulleid of the Southern Railway, the distinctive Bulleid coaches were used on express trains from London to Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth from the 1940s until the end of steam in 1967.
With their comfortable moquette seating, chrome luggage racks, wooden panelling and framed wall prints of local tourist spots, Bulleid coaches were used on branch trains between Wareham and Swanage from 1964 to 1966.
Swanage Railway Heritage Coach Restoration Programme Project Manager Mike Stollery said: "I am delighted to see it back in service after being in store for 20 years. I hope passengers enjoy travelling in this historic coach which has already stirred memories of railway travel more than 60 years ago.
"The internal work has involved making and fitting new ceilings and veneered wall linings, fitting recovered seats, repairing luggage racks, laying new flooring, restoring and refitting toilet fittings, renewing electrics and fixing countless fittings before painting and varnishing," he added.
Built at Eastleigh during 1947 and providing 24 first class and 24 third class seats, No. 5761 was used by British Railways on express trains on the London to Salisbury and Exeter line as well as the London to Weymouth line.
A brake coach, No. 4365 was built at Eastleigh during 1947 and has 48 third class seats. After working the London to Bournemouth line, it was withdrawn by British Rail in 1966 and sold to the Army. It took six years, 12,000 volunteer hours and £85,000 to return it to traffic at Swanage during 2012.
The Swanage Railway has two Bulleid coaches awaiting restoration and donations for this work are welcome. Please visit our appeals page for more information. Cheques can be sent to the Swanage Railway Trust Heritage Coach Fund, Station House, Swanage, Dorset BH19 1HB.