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 21 September 2017.
On the platform at Swanage to greet Julian was his 88-year old father Doug from Wareham and sister Joanne from Weymouth. Sadly, Julian’s mother Madge did not live to see her son achieve his long-held dream as she died in 2015.
A delighted and clearly moved 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 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,” added Julian.
He explained, “It was a cracking run going down the main line from London, and steaming through Corfe Castle was wonderful. The Swanage Railway has always been my favourite railway and Union of South Africa 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 the journey was his son Ross, who is also a member of the support crew.
Julian rode on the footplate as the representative of the locomotive’s owner. At Wareham, Julian’s older brother Danny – who is a clerk in the station’s booking office – was on the platform to watch his brother run into the station.
Growing up in Wareham, Julian was a keen young member of the Swanage Railway Society after it was formed in the summer of 1972, just weeks before six and a half miles of track, between Swanage and Motala, was ripped up in only seven weeks.
A few years later, Julian – and fellow Wareham resident Pete Duncalfe who also became a Swanage Railway volunteer as a teenager in 1976 – attended Swanage Grammar School and took a bus from Wareham.
The pair would often return home on a later bus so they could look around the disused Swanage station site which had been sold to Swanage Town Council by British Rail in the summer of 1973.
It was the town council that demolished the platform and stripped its canopy of lead and glass amid plans to replace the Victorian and 1930s station building with a car park, pub and shopping centre.
Julian added, “Never for one second did we think that events would turn out the way that they have done. When Pete and I used to wander around the disused and overgrown station, we thought that the railway was gone forever and that the bulldozers would soon be moving in.
“After a majority of residents in Swanage voted ‘yes’ in a town council referendum in the summer of 1975, the Swanage Railway Society was given a one-year lease of the disused Swanage station and we started restoration work. The rest is history and amazing history at that,” added Julian who now lives in Scotland.
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