- Andrew P.M. Wright
Public invited to enjoy Swanage Railway ‘Behind the Scenes’ community engagement weekend
The Swanage Railway has been rebuilt from nothing by dedicated volunteers since 1976 after the ten-mile branch line from Wareham to Swanage was controversially closed by British Rail in 1972 with seven miles of track from Swanage through Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle, Norden and on to east of Furzebrook being lifted in seven weeks.
Volunteers are vital to the operation of the Swanage Railway which is an important part of Purbeck life and contributes more than £15 million a year into the local economy as well as taking 6,000 cars a year off the A351 road between Corfe Castle and Swanage.
Taking place between 10am and 4pm on the Saturday and Sunday, the two open days will be a chance for the public to experience the excitement of going behind the scenes of the working heritage railway at Swanage and Corfe Castle stations.
Passengers will also be able to enjoy beautiful Purbeck countryside views not often enjoyed from a train thanks to a special heritage diesel train service on the occasionally used four-mile line between Norden and the River Frome, within sight of Wareham; the train service starting at Corfe Castle station.
Admission on to the Corfe Castle to Norden and River Frome heritage diesel train service is free for passengers having Swanage to Norden, or vice-versa, return tickets or Freedom of the Line tickets giving unlimited travel on the day of issue. Tickets are not available just for the Corfe Castle to Norden and River Frome heritage diesel train service.
At Swanage station, the public will be able to board the footplate of 1940s West Country Class Bulleid Pacific steam locomotive No. 34028 ‘Eddystone’, drive a 1950s heritage Class 08 shunting diesel locomotive for £5 – now sold out and subject to a health and safety declaration – and see where heritage carriages are restored and overhauled in the station goods shed.
At Corfe Castle station, visitors will be able to see the award-winning signal box – a replica of the original Victorian signal box dating from 1885 when the Wareham to Swanage branch line opened - which signals trains on and off the national railway network at Worgret Junction, a mile west of Wareham.
The public will have the chance to have a go at signalling trains in the signal box museum at Corfe Castle which was the station’s British Railways signal box for 15 years from 1956 and signalled the last British Rail train from Swanage to Wareham in 1972.
Next to Norden station, just on the Saturday, 10am to 4pm, narrow gauge demonstration diesel trains will be operating – public access being off the platform -but the mining museum itself will be closed to the public with no access from the Purbeck Park car park next to Norden station.
There will also be a five steam trains a day service between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross, Herston and Swanage set to be hauled by 1940s Southern Railway Battle of Britain Class Bulleid Pacific express steam locomotive No. 34070 ‘Manston’.
Subject to providing proof of residence in the BH19 and BH20 postcode areas, Purbeck area residents will be able to purchase discounted Freedom of the Line train tickets, subject to availability, at station ticket offices during the special weekend giving unlimited train travel on the day of purchase - £10 for adults and £5 for children.
Normal train ticket prices apply for passengers not living in the BH19 and BH20 areas.
Robert Patterson, the volunteer chair of the Swanage Railway Company - which runs the trains for the Swanage Railway Trust - said: “This is an exciting event to enable Purbeck residents enjoy 'their' railway at a heavily discounted price as well as being able to go behind the scenes to see what we do – and perhaps becoming a volunteer.
“We would not be able to run the Swanage Railway without our fantastic team of more than 400 volunteers who are responsible for everything from running trains, keeping our stations looking great to selling tickets and refreshments and much more,” added Robert who is a volunteer station porter.
Swanage Railway Trust volunteer chair Gavin Johns explained: “Volunteering is a great way to contribute to the community and become involved in something rewarding, enjoyable, social and worthwhile. Swanage Railway volunteers don’t need to be train enthusiasts to enjoy themselves and we have a wide range of positions available.
“Our aim is to ensure that our volunteers have an enjoyable and rewarding experience while making an important contribution to Purbeck life – both for residents and visitors alike,” added Gavin who is a volunteer signalman on the Swanage Railway.
Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention office on 01929 475212 or send an email to email@example.com.
More details about the varied volunteering opportunities on the Swanage Railway can be found at swanagerailwaytrust.org/volunteering.
Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright,
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.