A HERITAGE diesel locomotive hauled its first passenger train from London to Corfe Castle and Swanage bringing visitors to the Swanage Railway's three-day diesel gala and beer festival.

Enthusiasts gathered to see the four-carriage Purbeck Explorer arrive in Dorset on Thursday, pulled by the historic 1960s-built former British Railways Class 33 diesel-electric locomotive.

Its arrival - the first of its kind since 1966 - heralded the start of the popular annual festival, which attracted thousands of people over the weekend.

Swanage Railway chairman Roger Parsons: "The festival was a huge success and we are very pleased with the numbers of people who came along.

"There has been a lot of support from local people and I think the lovely weather really helped us.

"Class 33 diesel locomotives first hauled bucket and spade trains from London down to Corfe Castle and Swanage in the summer of 1963 and continued to do so until the summer of 1966."

The visit from the Purbeck Explorer was designed to revive the excitement of travelling from the capital to the coast.

And the popular festival saw heritage diesel locomotives operate an intensive passenger train service between Swanage, Harman's Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden.

Some trains also carried on to Wareham and the beer festival was based at Corfe Castle station.

The guest locomotives put through their paces over the weekend were in the area courtesy of many organisations including the Class Twenty Loco Society, the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group, the Peak Locomotive Society and Colas Rail.