• Andrew P.M. Wright

Volunteers to stage Christmas ‘Steam and Lights’ trains after last year's sold out success


Photograph: Andrew P.M. Wright

Evocative Christmas ‘Steam and Lights’ trains – featuring more operating days together with refreshed lineside and station lighting displays – are to be operated by dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers during December after the sold out success of last year’s festive services.


This year, tables seating up to four people - as well as tables seating two people - are available on the special trains. Operating on 17 selected days, with two evening trains a day from Swanage at 5.15pm and 7.15pm, the service replaces the traditional ‘Santa Specials’ – for the second year running – which cannot operate because of the measures that need to be taken to counter the spread of Covid-19.


The festive pre-booked ‘Steam and Lights’ service – running on selected days between Sunday, 27 November and Friday, 31 December, 2021, inclusive – will see trains covered in brightly coloured lights steam through the Isle of Purbeck in the dark of the evening.


Last year’s festive ‘Steam and Lights’ train services, in the run up to Christmas, were a sold out success with extra trains having to be operated to cope with public demand.


There will also be refreshed 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 on the festive 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’s volunteer passenger services director Trevor Parsons said: “We are very excited to be running a second year of festive ‘Steam and Lights’ trains in the run-up to Christmas because the service is very special and out of this world – colourful, evocative and dramatic. We are looking forward to it tremendously.


“Last year’s festive ‘Steam and Lights’ train services, in the run up to Christmas, were a sold out success with extra trains having to be operated to cope with public demand.


“The need to keep our passengers and staff safe against the threat of Covid-19 means that we are asking our passengers to wear face coverings when on the station platform and on the festive trains.


“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 Trevor.


The special ‘Steam and Lights’ trains operate on the last weekend of December, on the first two weekends of December and then daily between Saturday, 18 December and Thursday, 23 December, 2021, inclusive, as well as daily between Monday, 27 December and Friday, 31 December, 2021, inclusive.


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.


Swanage station shop will be open when the ‘Steam and Lights’ trains are running – as well as a kiosk at Swanage station serving hot drinks and light snacks – subject to volunteer availability,


There will be no catering on the special festive trains because of the need to keep passengers and staff safe against the threat of Covid-19.


There are no toilets on the trains, but there are toilets on the platform at Swanage station, and pets are now allowed on the ‘Steam and Lights’ trains.


The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers and anyone interested in finding out more should contact Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention officer Jonathan Evans on 01929 408466 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk.


‘Steam and Lights’ train tickets are £85 for a table of up to four people – and £50 for a table of two people – with children aged under three being free if they sit on an adult lap and do not occupy a seat. Visit www.swanagerailway.co.uk/events for details.


Story and photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright,

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer