Find out more about our history and our objectives as we continue to develop the Swanage Railway
At 9:30am on Tuesday, 12th August 1995, a train of four coaches and hauled by LSWR M7 30053 pulled out of Swanage station and travelled up the line to Corfe Castle and Norden. This was the first steam-hauled passenger train to travel this route since the summer of 1967 - and the first over the new extension of the Swanage Railway.
Authority to rebuild and operate the railway from Swanage to Norden and on to the National Rail boundary at Furzebrook involved two public inquiries and two Light Railway Orders. The first of these was granted in 1987 and the second - an extension order - in 1993. However, the story the restoration of the Swanage - Wareham branch goes back much further than that, indeed twenty earlier, to 1967.
It was known in 1967 that British Rail intended to close the branch line to Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck Preservation Group was formed to preserve the line for posterity. Ultimately, the line continued to operate with a diesel service until 1972 when, despite very strong local opposition, it was finally closed apart from the short section from Worgret Junction near Wareham to the clay mining depot at Furzebrook. Between 1978 and 2005 crude oil, and later natural gas, from the BP Wytch Farm oil field was also transported by rail from Furzebrook
The Swanage Railway Society was formed in 1972 with the objective of reopening the line. Later the same year, residents formed the Swanage-Wareham Railway Group. The Swanage branch has always been important to the local area and in the period from 1967 to 1979 no less than seven different petitions and referenda were organised. These showed a 3:1 majority in favour of restoring branch line services.
Following closure in 1972, contractors employed by British Rail lifted the track and removed the signalling equipment in just seven weeks. The Swanage station site was acquired by the Swanage Urban District Council (the forerunners of Swanage Town Council) and the remainder of the trackbed by Dorset County Council. A referendum in 1975 voted (by 83% to 17%) to grant a licence to the Swanage Railway Society to occupy some of the station buildings.
Renovation work on the station started in February 1976 and was quickly followed by permission to use part of the trackbed and occupy the Goods Shed and Engine Shed. The process to rebuild the Swanage Branch had begun!
A third organization - the Southern Steam Group - was formed in 1974 and achieved charitable status three years later and changed its name to the Southern Steam Trust. The Trust purchased the rolling stock, track and other equipment necessary to restore the rail link. The Swanage Railway Company was incorporated in 1979 as the operating body for the railway. The first trains finally ran on a short length of track at Swanage station in August 1979.
In 1980, Dorset County Council engaged management consultants to evaluate the viability of restoring the rail connection to Wareham. Their report indicated that the link could be viable by 1990. The same year, the Swanage Railway Society and the Swanage-Wareham Railway Group agreed to merge with the goal of reinstatement of full passenger and freight service with the main line at Wareham. The group kept the Swanage-Wareham Railway Group name.
In 1986, six years after the consultant’s report, Dorset County Council unanimously agreed to lease the trackbed to the Swanage Railway Company. This opened the door to the granting of the Light Railway Order the following year.
In the interests of making the project more manageable and efficient, the Southern Steam Trust acquired control of the Swanage Railway Company in 1988. At the same time, members of the Swanage-Wareham Railway Group decided, by a large majority, to transfer their memberships to the Southern Steam Trust. A further reorganisation took place in November 2000 when the Swanage Railway Trust was created as an incorporated registered charity to succeed the Southern Steam Trust. The Swanage Railway Company remained the Trust’s operating and trading subsidiary and this is the organisation we know today.
The Swanage Railway Trust, a registered charity, exists like its predecessors to re-establish the rail link between Swanage and the national rail network and to preserve the heritage of the railways of the Isle of Purbeck. The Trust focuses on furthering the development of the Swanage Railway by recruiting the members and volunteers, on which progress depends, as well as the appeals and fundraising needed to support the Trust's activities.
This web site provides a range of information for members and supporters, updates on appeals and major projects, details of the Trust's aims and other background information. Details of train times, special events and other information for the visitor can be found on the Swanage Railway Company web site.
The Swanage Railway Trust is pleased to welcome our patrons who by virtue of their standing in the community or the industry help us raise the profile of the project and act as ambassadors for it. All our patrons have been heavily involved with the Swanage Railway and to the wider heritage movement for many years.
Lord Montagu is perhaps best known at Swanage for his interest in signalling and his indefinite loan of the former Brockenhurst ‘B’ lever frame that now resides in Swanage box. His family’s long term interest in trains, while not as well-known as the world-famous veteran and vintage car collection, is appreciated by enthusiasts who remember the home afforded at Beaulieu for many years of Southern Railway ‘Schools’ class ‘Stowe’, now resident on the Bluebell Railway.
Sir Philip Williams is a former High Sheriff of Dorset – whose Victorian ancestors helped to bring and build the first railway line into the county from Hampshire during the 1840's. His great-grandfather was the longest-serving director of the London and South Western Railway Company until the company was merged into the new Southern Railway Company in 1923. Currently a Deputy Lieutenant for Dorset, Sir Philip was the High Sheriff of Dorset for a year from March, 2016, in a post created during the 16th century.
All material on this web site is copyright Swanage Railway Trust, its subsidiaries or contributors. All rights reserved. Photographs are copyright Andrew PM Wright, Swanage Railway official photographer, unless otherwise indicated. The Swanage Railway Trust is a Registered Charity (1087318) and registered at Companies House as a Company Limited By Guarantee (Company no.: 4115126). The registered office is at Station House, Swanage, Dorset. BH19 1HB. Telephone: 01929 425800. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Information on this Web site is believed to be correct but neither the Swanage Railway Trust (SRT) nor the Swanage Railway Company (SRC) can be held responsible for any errors. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the SRT or SRC.