New ‘Steam and Lights’ trains to be Coronavirus safe pre-Christmas first for Swanage Railway
A new and evocative Coronavirus safe ‘Steam and Lights’ festive train service is to operate on the Swanage Railway during the run-up to Christmas – in a first for the award-winning heritage line.
Operating on ten selected days, with two evening trains a day, the new service replaces the traditional ‘Santa Specials’ which cannot operate because of the measures that need to be taken to counter the spread of Covid-19.
Instead of Father Christmas handing out presents to children on the steam train, the new pre-booked service during December – which has assigned socially distanced seats – will see trains covered in brightly coloured lights steam through the Isle of Purbeck in the dark of the evening.
There will also be special lighting displays at stations, as well as at other locations along the five and a half mile heritage line, as the steam train runs from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden one the one-hour return trip.
The interiors of the cosy steam-heated carriages will also be festively decorated for the one-hour round trip which will see on-board music synchronised to lineside lighting displays passing the carriage windows.
Before passengers board the ‘Steam and Lights’ train at Swanage station for their magical journey, there will be a dramatic switch-on of the train lights at the platform.
Swanage station will only be open to ‘Steam and Lights’ train passengers while Herston Halt, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden stations will be closed to the public.
The Swanage Railway volunteer Commercial Director Steve Williams said: “This new ‘Steam and Lights’ train service in the run-up to Christmas is a festive first for the Swanage Railway and we are very excited because it will be very special and out of this world – colourful, evocative and dramatic. We are looking forward to it tremendously.
“The need to keep our passengers and staff safe against the threat of Covid-19 – by following social distancing and the wearing of face coverings – means that we cannot run our traditional, and very popular, Santa Special trains where Father Christmas gives presents to children on the train and has his photograph taken.
“With the help of an experienced and reputable company specialising in synchronised lighting and music, we have been working very hard to design a special festive train service that will make wonderful and magical memories for children and adults in the run-up to Christmas,” added Steve.
The special ‘Steam and Lights’ trains operate on the first two weekends of December and then daily from Friday, 18 to Wednesday, 23 December, 2020, inclusive, with departures from Swanage station at 5.15pm and 7.15pm.
Steve explained: “At the time of booking, passengers can purchase a special festive picnic box filled with tasty treats and drinks to make their ‘Steam and Lights’ journey extra special.
“A memorable experience suitable for all ages, stations and key points along the line will be specially lit as the ‘Steam and Lights’ train passes through in the dark. On board the train, there will be festive music synchronised to the lighting displays passing the carriage windows as well as an informative on-train commentary.
“With allocated socially distanced seating, the ‘Steam and Lights’ trains must be booked in advance and can only be joined at Swanage station where the brightly lit festive trains start and end their journeys.
“To comply with Government health regulations, no bookings can be taken for groups comprising more than six people and face coverings should be worn on the platform at Swanage station as well as on the ‘Steam and Lights’ train,” added Steve.
A socially distanced Swanage station shop will also be open when the ‘Steam and Lights’ trains are running, subject to volunteer availability, but there will be no catering available at Swanage station, or on the special festive trains, because of the need to keep passengers and staff safe against the threat of Covid-19.
The Swanage Railway uses the Zoono long-life anti-bacterial spray – proven to kill the Coronavirus – on its trains and stations, to keep passengers and staff safe, while the trains are cleaned and tables wiped after every round trip.
Tickets for the ‘Steam and Lights’ trains are £20 each for passengers aged 15 and above, £15 for children aged three to 15 and free for children aged under three if they sit on an adult lap and do not occupy a seat. There is a maximum of six people per booking.
Visit swanagerailway.co.uk/events/detail/steam-lights to view a preview video and book.
Story by Andrew P.M. Wright,
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer