A UNIQUE Victorian steam locomotive is to take an important step forward towards possible restoration to full working order thanks to a generous donor.

Built in February, 1893, London and South Western Railway T3 class 4-4-0 wheel arrangement locomotive No. 563 is on display at the Swanage Railway’s Corfe Castle station.

The locomotive, which avoided the scrap thanks to London Waterloo station's centenary in 1948, was donated to the Swanage Railway Trust by the National Railway Museum in May, 2017.

No. 563 will be taken to the Flour Mill locomotive workshops, Gloucestershire next month to be stripped down and fully examined to establish if restoring the T3 to full working order is possible mechanically and financially.

The Swanage Railway Trust has started to gather funds from the public to raise the money required should a restoration to full working order be possible.

Matt McManus, trustee of Swanage Railway Trust and responsible for the T3 locomotive, said: “I would like to thank the very kind and generous benefactor who is funding the stripping down and examination of the T3 by a prestigious engineering workshop that has a proven track record in overhauling Victorian steam locomotives.

“No. 563 is one of our most prized assets – we are committed to its on-going care and conservation with the hope that the T3 can be returned to steam.

"On initial inspection, No. 563 looks eminently restorable to full working order and that is our aim."

The locomotive last steamed 70 years ago and if the examination rules out its return to steam, Mr McManus said it will be reassembled and returned to a showroom exhibition condition.

T3 class No. 563 was withdrawn by the Southern Railway at the end of the Second World War in August, 1945, by which time it had run a total of 1.5 million miles.

During its long working life, the T3 class locomotives hauled trains from London on the west of England main line, across Dorset and down to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

Donations for the T3 fund can be made by cheque - payable to the Swanage Railway Trust.

Gift Aid forms for donations are also available on the Swanage Railway Trust appeals website at www.swanagerailwaytrust.org/giving.