A RIBBON-CUTTING ceremony was performed at a heritage railway to welcome a classic carriage back into service.

Swanage Railway Trust patron Ralph Montague, of Beaulieu, did the honours, which came during the charity’s London and South Western Railway Weekend.

A team of 18 volunteers has taken more than three years and 10,000 hours of work to restore a Bulleid carriage, the 1947 48-seat first and third class compartment coach No. 5761 to its former glory – at a cost of £110,000.

The coach, together with fellow 1947 Bulleid brake coach No 4365, which has already been refurbished, then formed a special train to Corfe Castle and Norden.

Painted in the British Railways Southern Region green livery, the coaches formed the ‘branch train’ service during the weekend with the public able to enjoy its charming 1940s first class atmosphere. It was the first time the restored carriages have run to Corfe since 1966.

More than 800 of the distinctive Bulleids were built for the Southern Railway and British Railways but only 16 survive in preservation – four on the Swanage Railway, two of which still await restoration.

Before volunteers started work, specialist contractors carried out major structural work on the historic coach – replacing much of its steel underframes and part of its wooden structure as well as installing a new wooden floor.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said the restoration work was a ‘marvellous job’.

He added: “These two Bulleid carriages are an important part of our railway heritage.”

Designed by Oliver Bulleid of the Southern Railway, the coaches were used on express trains from London to Weymouth 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 also used on branch trains to 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.”