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  • Andrew P.M. Wright

Swanage Railway Volunteers Celebrate Winning Coveted Civil Engineering Award for Wareham Trains Line

Elated volunteers are celebrating after winning a coveted civil engineering award for the restoration and upgrade of a three-mile section of railway enabling a trial passenger train service to run from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham for the first time in 45 years.

A registered charity for more than 40 years, the volunteer-led Swanage Railway has won the annual Institution of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) South West Engineering Award 2017 in ICE’s projects costing less than £1 million category.

Part of the Swanage Railway’s Project Wareham, the £950,000 work took place over two years between Norden station and half a mile short of Worgret Junction, on the main London to Weymouth line west of Wareham, from 2014.

The transformation saw three miles of little used former Network Rail line restored to a passenger-carrying standard, overgrown embankments and drains cleared, a quarter-mile long embankment upgraded while half a mile of new railway track was also laid.

The £950,000 work also involved the installation of a state of the art level crossing – to protect Perenco’s Wytch Farm oil field access road near Norden station – and the creation of a nearby road-rail interchange (RRI) for locomotives and carriages. The RRI construction involved the excavation of 2,500 cubic metres of earth that was re-cycled and used to extend a quarter-mile long embankment near Furzebrook.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: “I am delighted by this award and feel very proud of the excellent team effort that has seen our project team, led by Frank Roberts, our civil engineers GB Card & Partners, Swanage Railway departmental staff, consultants and our contractors – Andrews of Wareham and Schweizer of Switzerland – working together so effectively.

“This prestigious award recognises their hard work and dedication – it’s a real feather in their caps because the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Awards is the benchmark for recognising excellence in civil engineering in the United Kingdom,” he added.

Purbeck District Council and Dorset County Council jointly agreed to commit £3.2million for re-signalling improvements and other work between Wareham station, Worgret Junction and Swanage Railway’s existing signalling system at Corfe Castle – the work taking place during 2013 as part of Network Rail’s Poole to Wool re-signalling scheme.

The £3.2 million funding is being raised thanks to contributions from housing developers that are collected by Purbeck District Council through its Purbeck Transport Strategy.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons explained: “The award recognises a huge effort by the whole Swanage Railway team, especially those who worked so hard on the ground. The Swanage Railway has risen to the challenge of new installations and extending its route to incorporate part of a busy electrified commuter line through Wareham.

“The Swanage Railway’s largest single engineering hurdle since seven miles of track was demolished by British Rail in 1972 was overcome through the effort of many people – specialising in a wide variety of fields – who volunteered their support,” he added.

District and county councillor Bill Trite, chairman of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership and chairman of the Swanage Railway Trust from 1991 to 2008, said: “Restoration of the rail link and a regular passenger service have been the aims of very many dedicated people since the closure of the branch line in 1972.”

“The recent commencement of the trial passenger service would not have been possible without the volunteers’ hard work, commitment and determination stretching back to 1972. For that, we are all extremely grateful,” he added.

Dr Geoffrey Card, managing director of GB Card and Partners – which supervised Project Wareham’s civil engineering design and construction work – said: “The ICE award demonstrates that the Swanage Railway can lead by example and show what can be achieved using largely volunteers to create a significant infrastructure project that has a lasting positive impact on the community.”

The £950,000 required for the Project Wareham civil engineering work came via a £450,000 grant from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund and a £500,000 ‘legacy’ donation from former Wytch Farm oil field operator BP.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at

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