Not loNg NoW UN­tIl ‘NeW U’ MAKeS A MAIN lINe re­tUrN…

Steam Railway (UK) - - Down Main -

An­other en­gine to look for­ward to that’s been away even longer than Ba­hamas is ‘U‑Boat’ No. 31806. The Swan­age‑based South­ern ‘Mogul’ has been a run­ner since 2011, but now the main line elec­tronic giz­mos have been fit­ted and the Swan­age team is work­ing through the en­gine’s gaug­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Lo­co­mo­tive Car­riage and Wagon Man­ager James Cox told me in De­cem­ber that the view is to or­gan­ise a trial run “in the New Year.” As Steam Rail­way has re­ported be­fore, the main rea­son for No. 31806’s res­ur­rec­tion to the ‘big rail­way’ for the first time since 1964 is to run be­yond Swan­age’s main line rail­head and over Net­work Rail met­als into Ware­ham. Ef­fec­tively, the po­ten­tial for the Maun­sell ma­chine to stretch it­self more widely than that is a bonus. The Rail­way Tour­ing Com­pany has al­ready taken the op­por­tu­nity to ad­ver­tise the for­mer Guild­ford 2‑6‑0 for April’s ‘Great Bri­tain’ and, look­ing ahead, James tells me that No. 31806 “will be in prime po­si­tion to do the Swan­age‑Southamp­ton ‘drag­backs’, rather than a diesel.” By that, he’s re­fer­ring to Dorset coast trains that re­verse – and cur­rently have a diesel ‘top and tail’ to take over when the booked steam lo­co­mo­tive is on the wrong end of the stock. Quite apart from the wel­come va­ri­ety a South­ern 2‑6‑0 brings, there’s cer­tainly plenty to an­tic­i­pate in hav­ing a ‘U’ on the main line for the first time since class­mate No. 31625 – re­mark­ably the best part of 20 years ago now. Ar­guably, the ‘new U’ has a more in­ter­est­ing his­tory than its sta­ble­mate too – it ac­tu­ally started life in 1926 as ‘tankie’ No. A806 River Tor­ridge, be­ing re­built in 1928 af­ter the Sevenoaks de­rail­ment of class­mate No. A800 River Cray.

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