• Andrew P.M. Wright

Covid-safe steam train service resumes between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage


Photograph: Andrew P.M. Wright

Featuring assigned and socially distanced seating, Covid-safe steam trains have resumed between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage – after the lifting of Government restrictions.


Monday, 12 April, 2021 – at 10.30am – saw Southern Railway 1940s Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34072 ‘257 Squadron’ haul the first steam train out of Swanage since Tuesday, 29 December, 2020.


Swanage Railway trustee and passenger services director Trevor Parsons said: “It was wonderful to smell steam in the air and watch the magnificent sight of a steam train, with excited passengers on board, leave Swanage station for the first time in almost four months.


“Our volunteers and staff have responded wonderfully to the challenge of returning a Covid-safe steam train service and it’s great to see the Swanage Railway again doing what is does best – help to provide people with a wonderful day out in the Isle of Purbeck,” added Trevor who is also a volunteer signalman and train guard on the heritage line.


Monday, 12 April, 2021, also saw the re-opening of the Covid-safe fund-raising shop on Swanage station.


The Swanage Railway has been awarded ‘We’re Good to Go’ certification by the Visit England tourism body for demonstrating the heritage railway has met the required level of compliance with its Covid-19 preparations and precautions to keep the public safe.


Swanage Railway chairman Gavin Johns said: “It was good to see a gleaming ‘257 Squadron’ head our first passenger train of the season and watch it steam past the magnificent ruins of Corfe Castle. Being able to resume our Covid-safe socially distanced steam train services is an absolute delight.


“After a lot of planning work, refresher training and Covid-safe preparation, the Swanage Railway is ready to help people have a great day out in the Isle of Purbeck – whether it’s going to Swanage for the town and sea, visiting Corfe Castle for the village and iconic ruins or Norden for walks over the heathland and the Purbeck Hills.


“The safety of our passengers and staff is always our prime concern and detailed work has gone into our planning for the Swanage Railway’s reopening.


“The Swanage Railway is Covid-19 compliant with a long-life anti-bacterial spray being used on its trains and stations while the trains are cleaned, and the tables wiped, after every round trip,” added Gavin who is also a volunteer signalman on the heritage line.


Trevor Parsons explained: “We strongly recommend on-line booking in advance, via our upgraded and improved website, to avoid disappointment as seat numbers are reduced – to ensure the prescribed social distancing – with any unsold seats being available for sale on the day at our Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage station ticket offices.


“Passengers still have to wear face coverings on our platforms and trains – unless they are exempt – with hand sanitiser points available on our stations. Children under the age of 11 do not need to wear a face covering,” he added.


Subject to the lifting of Government restrictions, the Swanage Railway hopes to re-open its Corfe Castle station museum, return catering facilities to Swanage and Norden stations and re-introduce its dining trains, in a Covid-safe manner, from 17 May, 2021.


The Swanage Railway’s Harman’s Cross station and Herston Halt will remain closed – in compliance with current Government guidance – and are set to re-open when the Government lifts the Covid-19 restrictions regarding social distancing.


Covid-safe passenger services ran on the Swanage Railway during 2020, including the successful Steam and Lights festive trains in December.


Details of how the Swanage Railway keeps its passengers safe can be found here.


Up to date train service information is available from the Swanage Railway website at swanagerailway.co.uk where train tickets can be booked.


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 iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk.

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright,

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.