A HISTORIC mainline steam locomotive that headed the last British Rail steam train 50 years ago is to haul passenger trains again in Purbeck.

Built in 1945, the powerful 74-ton London Midland and Scottish Railway Stanier ‘Black 5’ class No. 44871 will be operating on the Swanage Railway throughout half term week.

It will finish the week off, on Sunday, October 28, by hauling the heritage line's Dorsetman Sunday lunch train.

Swanage Railway Company executive chairman Trevor Parsons said: "It is very exciting to have such a special piece of national railway history from half a century ago haul passenger trains on the Swanage Railway.

"We are very grateful indeed to the locomotive’s owner – Riley and Son (E) Limited – for allowing us to continue to use the ‘Black 5’ after its popular appearance at our recent Autumn Steam Gala. It is a lovely locomotive and it is a real privilege for our footplate crews to work on her.

"Fifty years ago, No. 44871 was one of the steam locomotives that hauled the last British Rail-operated steam train in the country – the ’15 Guinea Special’ that ran between Liverpool, Manchester and Carlisle in August 1968.

"That last British Rail steam train 50 years ago marked the end of an era that had started in 1825 when the first steam locomotive ran on the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

"Back in August, 1968, that summer day was a very sad one as people across the north of England saw main line steam trains disappear into the history books."

Between Saturday, October 20, and Saturday, October 27, inclusive, No. 44871 will be hauling six trains a day in each direction

The ‘Black 5’ will be hauling trains from Norden station at 10.40am, 12pm 1.20pm, 2.40pm, 4pm and 5.20pm with No. 44871 departing Swanage station at 10am, 11.20am, 12.40pm, 2pm, 3.20pm and 4.40pm.

Appearing on the Swanage Railway courtesy of Riley and Son (E) Limited, the ‘Black 5’ was moved by rail to the Swanage Railway courtesy of West Coast Railways.