An historic gala gathering featuring eight 1940s steam trains attracted more than 4,700 passengers

Swanage Railway welcomed train enthusiasts to a special event celebrating 1940s Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives.

The gala celebration of the 56th anniversary of the end of steam trains in southern England in July, 1967, saw the largest gathering of working Bulleid Pacific locomotives since that date when an era – and a way of life for generations of railwaymen – came to an end.

It iook place between Friday, 7 June, and Sunday, 9 June, 2024, inclusive, with a preview taster day on Thursday, June 6, 2024, to mark the 80th anniversary D-Day.

Four Southern Locomotives Ltd Bulleid Pacifics Corfe Castle Sunday 9 June Four Southern Locomotives Ltd Bulleid Pacifics Corfe Castle Sunday 9 June (Image: ANDREW PM WRIGHT)

‘Strictly Bulleid II’ saw the largest gathering of Merchant Navy class Bulleid Pacifics, hauling trains since the end of southern England steam in 1967, as well as the largest gathering of Bulleid Pacifics in their original 1940s.

Delighted event organiser Alexander Atkins said: “The highlight of ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ was experiencing the wonderful atmosphere of the eight locomotive event and seeing the complex train timetable, on nine miles of railway, run as well as it did.

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“It has been a remarkable journey getting everything organised and feeling the buzz and excitement generated by ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ among our customers, staff and volunteers - who have worked so hard to deliver this event - is the greatest reward.

“Strictly Bulleid II’ was a wonderful celebration of some of the most popular classes of steam locomotives and to admire eight Bulleid Pacifics in steam together was totally breath taking and an astounding achievement by our dedicated staff and volunteers.

Trains at Harman's Cross Sunday 9 June Trains at Harman's Cross Sunday 9 June (Image: ANDREW PM WRIGHT)

“I cannot praise the ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ organising committee team enough for pulling together an amazing and historic event.

Alexander who is a driver on the Swanage Railway after starting in the heritage line’s youth group, added: "My thanks also go to the locomotive owning groups because without their generosity, enthusiasm and support we would not have been able to pull the historic and impressive line-up together,”

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Designed by Southern Railway chief mechanical engineer Oliver Vaughan Snell Bulleid during the Second World War, the Bulleid Pacifics hauled trains from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage between the late 1940s and 1966.

Strictly Bulleid Two Saturday 8 June Strictly Bulleid Two Saturday 8 June (Image: ANDREW PM WRIGHT)

Most of the ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ trains hauled trains along the whole length of the nine-mile Swanage Railway between Swanage, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle, Norden and beyond to Furzebrook and the River Frome – just before the heritage line’s connection with the national railway network and within sight of Wareham.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Gavin Johns said: "We were delighted with the level of interest in our historic ‘Strictly Bulleid II’ steam gala which carried more than 4,700 passengers during the four-day event that captured the imagination of enthusiasts.

“Events like this take a lot of planning, securing co-operation from locomotive owners and transport hauliers as well as the daunting task of delivering a complex operation. To everyone who took part - in whatever role - thank you. ‘Strictly Bullied II’ was a distinct, unique and a real pleasure to experience,” added Gavin who is a volunteer signalman on the heritage line."