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  • Andrew P.M. Wright

Community Weekend to give public a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes on the Swanage Railway

Photograph: Andrew P.M. Wright

Dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers are to stage a fascinating two-day Community Weekend giving the public the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes of the award-winning heritage line that has been rebuilt since 1976. 

 

The special event takes place on Saturday and Sunday, 17 and 18 February, 2024, - between 10am and 4pm - with staff at Swanage, Herston, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden stations taking part. 

 

Half-price standard travel train tickets for the Community Weekend are available in advance from the Swanage Railway website, at swanagerailway.co.uk, for people living in the BH and DT postcodes with proof of BH and DT residence having to be supplied when purchasers pick up their tickets from Swanage Railway ticket offices on the day. 

 

With advance booking of tickets recommended at swanagerailway.co.uk, there will be the chance to drive a 1950s heritage diesel shunter at Swanage for £20, watch a train guard or on-train travelling ticket inspector perform their duties for £5 (additional train travel ticket purchase required) as well as enjoy £5 behind the scenes tours of the award-winning signal boxes at Harman’s Cross or Corfe Castle stations. 

 

Non-advance bookable free (donations appreciated) attractions will be guided access to the footplate of a steam locomotive at Swanage, visits to 1960s heritage telephone exchanges at Harman’s Cross and Corfe Castle stations (both subject to volunteer availability) between 10.30am and 3.30pm as well as the chance to have a go at signalling at the Corfe Castle signalling museum (subject to volunteer availability). 

 

Visitors will also be able to chat to volunteers at Herston Halt – which is only accessible on foot or by train - about the development of the Swanage Railway’s first station since it welcomed its first train from Swanage in 1984. 

 

Other non-advance bookable free (donations appreciated) attractions on the Saturday and Sunday include the chance to chat to the restorers of heritage coaches and wagons at Corfe Castle station as well as watch demonstration lifts – between 10.40am and 3.30pm - by 1940s and 1950s railway cranes at Norden station, one of which relaid the Swanage Railway tracks from Herston Halt to Furzebrook between 1983 and 2002. 

 

Demonstration narrow gauge diesel trains will also be operating between 11am and 3pm at the Swanage Railway Trust’s Purbeck Mining Museum, next to Norden station, which explains and celebrates the 2,000 year history of Isle of Purbeck ball clay mining. 

 

Event organiser and volunteer guard Clare Collins said: “Our Community Weekend is a different and interesting day out for all the family - a rare opportunity to see behind the scenes of a working heritage railway, explore some of the many different roles required to operate the Swanage Railway and find out about varied volunteering opportunities. 

 

“Volunteering on the Swanage Railway is very fulfilling, it’s a great way of meeting new people while assisting with worthwhile community projects at what has become one of Dorset’s major tourist attractions,” added Clare who is also a volunteer director of the Swanage Railway Trust which manages the heritage line and is a registered charity. 

 

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Frank Roberts said: “It takes more people to operate, maintain and develop the Swanage Railway than many people realise. Our Community Weekend is the first of several special events across 2024 that we hope will be attractive to a wide variety of people of all ages. 

 

“I have been lucky enough to have been a Swanage Railway volunteer for more than 40 years and I find volunteering very fulfilling and enjoyable while working with a splendid group of people of all ages. 

 

“With the Swanage Railway contributing more than £15 million a year to the local economy, we are delighted to give people across the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset and beyond the chance to enjoy a behind the scenes view of a very special heritage railway,” added Frank who helped to install the Swanage Railway’s lineside telephone system in the 1980s and 1990s while now being the lead volunteer maintaining and developing Herston Halt on the outskirts of Swanage. 

 

More details about the Community Weekend’s varied events – as well as terms and conditions for some of the activities and visits - can be found at swanagerailway.co.uk. 

 

Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention officer Lisa Gravett on 01929 475212 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk. Details about volunteering can also be found at swanagerailwaytrust.org/volunteering. 


Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright, 

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer. 

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