ENTHUSIASTS were treated to a magnificent sight as a heritage steam locomotive ventured out onto the main line for a test run.

Ahead of the train hauling a cross-country excursion, Swanage Railway volunteers wanted to ensure the locomotive and carriages were ready after upgrade work.

Included in the test run was a challenging five-mile climb between Weymouth and Dorchester as well as a climb of a similar distance from Maiden Newton to Evershot on the line to Yeovil.

The seven hour run with five empty carriages covered a total of 115 miles. Hauling duties were shared by Swanage Railway ‘U’ class steam locomotive No. 31806 and an ex-British Railways Class 33 diesel.

It was the first time in more than 50 years the steam loco had hauled a train on a Dorset main line.

The route for No. 31806 – known as a ‘Mogul’ – was from Swanage to Worgret Junction, where the train joined the main line, and then to Wareham before the run to Dorchester and Weymouth.

It returned to Dorchester and headed up to Yeovil, before returning to Weymouth and then back to Swanage.

In tow were five 1950s ex-British Railways carriages that the Swanage Railway has, like No. 31806, upgraded for main line running.

The upgrade of No. 31806 was made possible thanks to a £75,000 grant to the Swanage Railway Trust from the Department for Transport as part of its Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation Competition. The trust supplied £25,000 of labour towards the work.

With No. 31806 equipped with the required signalling and monitoring equipment required to run on Network Rail, the upgrade work gives the Swanage Railway the potential to run special steam trains to Wareham in the future.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons said: “The test run was a marvellous and very special piece of railway history."

He added: “I would like to thank all the people on the Swanage Railway who have worked so hard to make this test run happen as well as Network Rail, for allowing the test run to take place on the main line, and the Department for Transport for its grant.

“My thanks also go to the staff of the Yeovil Railway Centre where No. 31806 was watered and serviced before its return to Dorset – as well as West Coast Railways which provided the crews for the test train."

The Richard Maunsell-designed No. 31806 built in the 1920s departed Swanage on its test run at 12.24pm last Friday, returning home at 8.42pm.

The locomotive will haul part of a main line ‘GB X1’ excursion train from Cardiff to Swanage on April 26, with the train running from Swanage to London the following day.