A founder Swanage Railway volunteer, who helped to rebuild the heritage line from its first day in 1976, has achieved a long-held dream – running into Swanage on the footplate of his favourite main line steam locomotive that he has supported for 27 years.

You could not wipe the smile off Julian Hathaway’s face when he stepped off the simmering No. 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’ and into the arms of his father and sister on the crowded platform at Swanage station; a station he helped to restore from a derelict state as a 13-year old in February, 1976.

Dating from 1937, the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) Sir Nigel Gresley-designed A4 class locomotive had hauled a Railway Touring Company ‘Swanage Belle’ excursion train from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

On the platform at Swanage to greet Julian was his 88-year old father Doug from Wareham and sister Joanne from Weymouth. Sadly,

Julian said: “It was a real lump in the throat moment – very emotional. The reality was even better than the expectation – the experience has affected me even more than I thought it would. Absolutely brilliant.

“I had been wanting to do this for almost 30 years and it was very special indeed to have my father and my sister waiting to greet me on the platform as I steamed into Swanage station on the footplate of ‘Union of South Africa’ – an amazing moment.

“The Swanage Railway has always been my first, and favourite, railway and ‘Union of South Africa’ is my first, and favourite, steam locomotive.

“I’ve been supporting No. 60009 for 27 years and am lucky enough to enjoy the privilege of being a member of the locomotive’s support crew,” added 55-year old Julian after giving his father and sister a big hug on the platform at Swanage. Also with Julian on ‘Union of South Africa’ was his son Ross who is also a member of the support crew.

Julian’s father Doug described the moment as “absolutely marvellous”.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk