Don’t get too excited – this isn’t a train arriving at Spetisbury Station Project! But it is one of two surviving examples of a former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway locomotive that would have passed through Spetisbury on its way from Bath (Green Park) to Bournemouth West. But at least the photo was taken in Dorset – near Corfe Castle during the Swanage Railway’s 2016 Autumn steam gala. Number 53809 is seen coupled ahead of Bulleid ‘Battle of Britain’ class 4-6-2 locomotive number 34070 Manston. This combination of a Bulleid 4-6-2 and a 7F 2-8-0 is a recreation of a classic S&D summer Saturday express passenger train during the 1950’s, two engines being needed to take heavy trains over the Mendip Hills.
These 7F 2-8-0 heavy freight locomotives were designed by Henry Fowler specifically for the Somerset & Dorset line. They were built by the Midland Railway which was responsible for providing motive power for the S&DJR. The first six engines (numbers 80-85) were built at Derby in 1914, followed by five more examples (numbers 86-90) in 1925. They were designed principally for moving heavy mineral and goods trains over the Mendip Hills on the heavily-graded northern section of the line, but they also found work on passenger trains. Withdrawal began during 1959 and all members of the class had been taken out of service by 1964. Two examples survive in preservation – 53808 (originally number 88) and 53809 (originally number 89), both being some of the last to remain in service, until 1964.