Rail minister visits the Swanage Railway using its trial Wareham heritage diesel train service
The Minister of State for Rail and HS2, Huw Merriman MP, has made an informal visit to the Swanage Railway in the Isle of Purbeck – visiting the Dorset heritage line via its trial diesel train service from the main line at Wareham.
The Minister was accompanied by South Dorset MP Richard Drax and Dorset Council transport portfolio holder Councillor Ray Bryan.
Arriving at Wareham station on Tuesday, 22 August, 2023, the Minister was hosted by Purbeck Community Rail Partnership chairman Mike Whitwam and Dorset Council Councillor Beryl Ezzard of the Friends of Wareham Station who gave the Minister a tour of the station built in the 1880s.
Then hosted by Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns, the Minister boarded the Swanage Railway’s trial heritage diesel train service to Corfe Castle and Swanage – departing on the 11.19am train from Wareham for the 40-minute journey to Swanage.
At Swanage station, the Minister met volunteers before enjoying a footplate ride on 1940s Southern Railway Bulleid Pacific class steam locomotive No. 34028 ‘Eddystone’ during a trip from Swanage to Corfe Castle.
At Corfe Castle station, the Minister toured the Swanage Railway Trust’s Museum - housed in the Victorian goods shed - before visiting the station signal box which liaises with the Network Rail signalling centre at Basingstoke, in Hampshire, when Swanage Railway trains run on to the main line into Wareham station.
The Minister then returned to Wareham on the Swanage Railway’s heritage diesel service operated by an overhauled and main line upgraded 1950s former British Railways diesel multiple unit.
Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: “We were delighted to welcome Huw Merriman MP, the Minister for Rail and HS2, on an informal visit to the Swanage Railway in the company of South Dorset MP Richard Drax and Dorset Council transport portfolio holder Councillor Ray Bryan.
“We were able to show the Minister our trial heritage diesel train service from the main line at Wareham down to Corfe Castle and Swanage which has been achieved thanks to partnership working with the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership and a £1.8 million grant from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund.
“The Minister was impressed by the number of long-serving volunteers as well as the professionalism, commitment and hard work shown by everyone that he met. The Minister was also introduced to guards and signalmen who explained their work in helping to operate the Swanage Railway safely and efficiently.
“The Minister asked that his grateful thanks be passed on to everyone involved in making his visit to the Swanage Railway so informative and enjoyable.
“The Minister was genuinely interested in everything that he saw while also being keen to meet our dedicated volunteers and staff who help to operate and maintain the Swanage Railway in an enthusiastic and friendly manner,” added Gavin who is also a volunteer signalman on the Purbeck heritage line that has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976.
Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention office on 01929 475212 or email email@example.com.
More details about volunteering opportunities can be found at swanagerailwaytrust.org/volunteering.
Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright,
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.