Volunteers Celebrate Returning Swanage to Wareham Train Service for First Time in 45 Years

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright, Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.


Two generations of volunteers, going back to the Swanage Railway's birth in the mid-1970s, have been celebrating public transport history – returning a train service to Wareham from Swanage and Corfe Castle for the first time in 45 years.

 

The first train was the 10.23am departure from Swanage to Wareham on Tuesday, 13 June, 2017, with the four carriages having a diesel locomotive at each end for ease of operation. Swanage-based Class 33 locomotive No. D6515 was on the Wareham end of the train while West Coast Railways Class 37 No. 37 518 was on the Swanage end.

Sending off the first train, Purbeck Community Rail Partnership chairman Councillor Bill Trite blew a brass horn first used in May, 1885, to dispatch the first train from Swanage – 132 years before – after the ten-mile Victorian branch line to Wareham was opened.

The last British Rail passenger train ran between Swanage and Wareham in January, 1972, with seven miles of railway line being demolished that summer from Swanage back to Furzebrook – three miles from Worgret Junction and the main line to Wareham.

Forty-five years later, Swanage Railway pioneers, volunteers and staff who have worked across two generations to rebuild – and re-connect the heritage line – had the honour of travelling on the first passenger service train from Swanage to Wareham.

Early Swanage Railway volunteer Julian Hathaway flew in from his home in Scotland to ride on the first train. In 1979, he helped to drive the first passenger train at Swanage, an industrial diesel shunter and a carriage, over a few hundred yards of hand-laid track.

Julian said: "It was a day of high emotion and great excitement. It was truly memorable and surreal being in a whirlwind of emotion and a sea of smiling faces – and to think back to the first day of the Swanage Railway's rebuilding in 1976 and say: 'I was there'.

"I had a small part in helping to start the ball moving, it's the later past and present people – who pushed the ball faster and kept on pushing it – who are the true heroes and heroines.  A take my hat off to them," added Julian.

A Swanage Railway volunteer signalman for 25 years, Malcolm Munro travelled on the last British Rail train from Swanage to Wareham as a 16 year old in January, 1972.

Malcolm said: "It was a wonderful day I will never forget and one I had waited so long to be a part of. There was a great feeling of belonging to something really special.

"It was like a great family celebration but I was mindful of those people who played a part in reaching this moment and are sadly no longer with us to take part.

"It was so good to see so many old faces, and the younger ones too, enjoying their part in what has been created from so much toil and devotion over the years," he added.

The achievement of returning trains from Swanage to Wareham has not just been the result of 40-plus years work by Swanage Railway volunteers but also the heritage line working in partnership with the Government's Coastal Communities Fund, Purbeck district and Dorset county councils, BP, Perenco, Network Rail and South West Trains.

The first Swanage Railway train to Wareham on Tuesday, 13 June, 2017, marked the start of a two-year trial service using diesel trains with four trains a day in each direction between Swanage and Wareham.

The trial service runs on 60 selected days during the summer and 90 selected days during the summer of 2018 with the Swanage Railway contracting West Coast Railways to operate the service during the first year.

Because of limited parking at Wareham station – especially on weekdays – passengers are advised to travel to Wareham by public transport for the train service to Corfe Castle and Swanage on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Bob Richards also rode on the first train from Swanage to Wareham in 45 years. In January, 1972, he was the British Rail signalman at Corfe Castle who signalled the last train between Swanage and Wareham.

Bob said: "I had a great day meeting many people who have worked so hard to make it possible. I thought back to the many happy days of working on the Swanage branch and the staff who were all such great characters."

Growing up in Corfe Castle, Peter Frost knew the branch line well as a child and rode on the last British Rail train in 1972. Four years later, as a 17 year old, he was one of the first group of Swanage Railway volunteers that begun restoration work at Swanage.

Peter said: "It was a fantastic occasion – realising the aspirations of the Swanage Railway's pioneer members to re-instate a regular amenity train service to Wareham and re-connect Swanage to the national railway network.

"We celebrated the culmination of the collective effort by so many who gave their all. I felt immensely  proud of what the Swanage Railway has achieved," he added.

Neil Tatchell was also a teenager when he started as a Swanage Railway volunteer in 1976: "Riding on the first train to Wareham in 45 years was one of the happiest days of my life. We all looked very much older but we were all very proud of our collective  success. Meeting old friends was fantastic and the years just melted away.

"I'd like to thank all the people who put in so much effort in the very early days when we had little chance of success. Sadly, after more than 40 years, many of those people are not alive to celebrate with us," added Neil.

Purbeck District Council committed £3.2million for re-signalling improvements and other work between Wareham station, Worgret Junction and Swanage Railway’s existing signalling system at Corfe Castle – the work taking place during 2013 as part of Network Rail’s Poole to Wool re-signalling scheme.

Dorset County Council underwrote Purbeck District Council's financial commitment to the signalling work, the funding being raised through the Purbeck Transport Strategy – which aims to improve traffic movement around the district – by contributions from developers.

A Swanage Railway volunteer since 1976 – when restoration work started at Swanage – Jeremy Weller said: "It was a great day. I felt overwhelmed and had a few quiet moments to take it all in. The goal has been achieved - wow what a journey.

"We should not forget those people from the early days who backed the Swanage Railway, many of whom are no longer with us. It was amazing to meet so many people from the Swanage Railway's early days, some I hadn't seen in 25 years," he added.

A dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer since a teenager in the 1980s, Mark Woolley said: "Returning trains to Wareham shows that great things can be achieved through community action, dedication, hard work, teamwork and partnership.

"It was wonderful to meet so many founding and early Swanage Railway volunteers – some of whom I had not seen for 30 years – a lot of which were understandably emotional. The realisation of a 45 year dream is something to be celebrated," added Mark who is the volunteer director of the Swanage Railway's Project Wareham.

Linking the Swanage Railway with Network Rail and the national railway system, a unique and trail-blazing signalling system has been installed, tested and commissioned between Corfe Castle and Wareham in what was a complicated four-year project.

Thanks to a £500,000 legacy donation from BP, the Swanage Railway has built a new level crossing west of Norden station – on the access road to Perenco's Wytch Farm oilfield – so that regular passenger trains can run to Wareham.

Barry Thirlwall travelled on the last British Rail trains between Swanage and Wareham in January, 1972. Forty-five years later, he again travelled from Swanage to Wareham.

Barry said: "It was a wonderful experience and almost surreal. I took my 1972 ticket with me which is now paired with my Swanage Railway Wareham souvenir ticket.

"In 1972, I got off the train at Swanage and went to a meeting in the Railway Hotel where preservationists were desperately trying to whip up support. I was sympathetic but I thought they had no chance – I am so glad to have been proved wrong," he added.

Tickets are £15 for adult or senior citizen day returns between Swanage and Wareham and £9 for adult or senior citizen singles.

Children, aged 5 to 15, are £10 for a return and £6 for a single while Swanage Railway Purbeck resident's discount card holders receive a 33 per cent discount. National Railcards are not accepted.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email

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Tickets for the Wareham service can be purchased from a booking office outside Wareham station's main building – when trains are running – as well as from Swanage Railway booking offices at Swanage, Corfe Castle and Norden.

Swanage Railway Receives the Coveted & Prestigious Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright, Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.


Elated Swanage Railway volunteers are celebrating after receiving the ultimate official accolade – the coveted and prestigious Queen's Award for Voluntary Service which is regarded as the MBE for voluntary groups.

Recognising excellence in voluntary activities by community groups, the announcement about the recognition to the Swanage Railway Trust was made today, Friday, by Buckingham Palace in the London Gazette – the UK's official public record since 1665.

Two generations of Swanage Railway volunteers have worked tirelessly to rebuild the branch line from Swanage to Corfe Castle and onwards to near Furzebrook after it was controversially closed by British Rail in January, 1972.

That summer, some seven miles of track was torn up in just seven short weeks with two generations of determined Swanage Railway volunteers taking 25 long years to relay it.

The citation for the Queen’s Award praises the Swanage Railway Trust for "developing the Heritage Railway to reinstate services between Swanage and Wareham for the benefit of the community."

The highest award given to a voluntary group comes just under two weeks before the Swanage Railway starts operating a 60-day diesel train service from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham on Tuesday, 13 June, 2017.

It will be the first time in 45 years that a regular train service has run from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham.

A delighted Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "This is a tremendous public recognition for the huge amount of work put in by so many volunteers over the last 45 years to bring about this milestone in community rail services.

"To have all the hard work that has been required over the past 45 years to create the Swanage Railway marked in this way by Her Majesty the Queen is very special indeed and something that we will treasure.

"Our founding members had a dream of restoring the railway and returning Swanage and Corfe Castle train services to Wareham. We have fulfilled that dream and have become a valued part of the Purbeck community,” he added.

The award announcement from Buckingham Palace praised the Swanage Railway Trust, saying: "The work your group does for the community was very much admired by the independent Assessment Committee chaired by Sir Martyn Lewis CBE.

"The award of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2017 represents a tremendous achievement for your organisation. We hope that everyone involved, and particularly your volunteers, feel immensely proud of the recognition that this Award represents,” the award announcement added.

Yesterday, Thursday, Swanage Railway Trust trustee and secretary Mark Woolley – a dedicated volunteer on the heritage railway since a teenager in the mid-1980s – attended a garden party given by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Mark has been the voluntary secretary of the Swanage Railway Trust for more than 25 years and had also been a long-time director of the Swanage Railway Company which is the Trust's trading arm that runs the train services and other commercial activities.

The Swanage Railway is managed by the Swanage Railway Trust – a registered charity – which dates back, in several forms, to 1974 and has a membership of 4,000 people.

Around 450 of those members are regular volunteers on the Swanage Railway – helping to run, develop and extend the popular heritage line which last year carried some 211,000 passengers on its steam and diesel trains.

The Swanage Railway Trust will receive a certificate signed by Her Majesty the Queen and a domed glass crystal due to be presented to representatives of the registered charity by the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset at a later date.

And some 500 official Queen's Award for Voluntary Service lapel badges will be presented to Swanage Railway volunteers over the coming days and weeks.

The prestigious Award was created by Her Majesty the Queen in 2002 to mark the occasion of her Golden Jubilee and is regarded as the MBE for volunteer groups.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers.  For further details please select the 'Volunteers' option in this website's main menu.  For an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email

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Unique Victorian Steam Locomotive Donated to the Swanage Railway unveiled in front of its Designer's Descendants

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright, Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.

 

 

A unique Victorian steam locomotive that escaped the scrapman's torch, thanks to the centenary of London's Waterloo station almost 50 years ago, has been unveiled at Corfe Castle station – in front of its notable designer's descendants.

 

Built in February, 1893, for hauling express trains on the London and South Western Railway, T3 class 4-4-0 wheel arrangement locomotive No. 563 was withdrawn by the Southern Railway at the end of the Second World War in August, 1945, by which time it had run a total of 1.5 million miles.

During its long working life, the T3 class locomotives hauled trains from London on the west of England main line, across Dorset and down to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

Designed in 1890 by William Adams – one of the greatest locomotive designers of the 19th century – for smooth running at up to 80mph, and built at Nine Elms in London, the 81-tonne No. 563 was not scrapped in 1948.

Instead, the unique locomotive – that carried three tonnes of coal and 3,300 gallons of water – was selected for restoration and display at London's Waterloo station centenary celebrations during 1948 in a move that guaranteed the preservation of No. 563.

Ownership of the classic T3 locomotive has been transferred by the National Railway Museum to the Swanage Railway Trust whose volunteers will conserve and preserve the 86-tonne engine – and display it to the public with the aim of returning it to steam.

Delighted National Railway Museum head curator Andrew McLean unveiled No. 563 during a welcoming ceremony at the Victorian Corfe Castle station in front of guests as well as Swanage Railway staff, volunteers and supporters on Saturday, 27 May, 2017.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "It was an exciting moment when Andrew McLean pulled the cover sheet off the locomotive to reveal its glorious Victorian lines with gasps of admiration and appreciation from our guests, staff and members.

"Seeing the expressions of delight on the faces of William Adams' descendants was wonderful – a special and moving moment. It was a very memorable day," he added.

Attending the welcoming ceremony for No. 563 were Dr Robert Adams – whose great-great grandparents were the parents of William Adams – as well as Alex Campbell, the great-great grandson of William Adams' brother John.

Robert said: "It was truly fabulous and extremely enjoyable – an occasion that my wife Margaret and I will never forget. The importance rightly placed on William Adams as one of the greatest locomotive designers of the 19th century was well illustrated.

"It was a real thrill to see No. 563 unveiled at Corfe Castle station. Like all of William Adams' designs, the locomotive is beautiful in appearance as well as efficiency. It has been described by locomotive experts as one of William Adams' great masterpieces.  

"The ceremony at Corfe Castle station was amazing and fabulous – a real credit to all those connected with the Swanage Railway. Anything that promotes the awareness  of the importance of the London and South Western Railway to the public is a good thing.

"Hopefully, No. 563 will eventually be returned to steam and become one of the Swanage Railway's main attractions resulting in an increased public interest in William Adams as a person," added Robert who lives in Sidmouth.

Alex Campbell explained: "The unveiling and welcoming ceremony for the T3 made me wonder what William Adams would have made of the day and how perhaps his heart would have warmed to see the pleasure that his locomotive still gives to others some 120 years later – and hopefully to many more in the years to come.

"I'm very proud of what William Adams achieved during his lifetime as well as the respect and friendship that he shared with his peers and colleagues. The Swanage Railway is the rightful resting place for the No. 563 and Corfe Castle's restored Victorian station made a lovely backdrop to the locomotive.

"Looking at the locomotive, it's amazing how something so functional can also be so beautiful.  The T3 represents a bygone era of technical excellence that combined strength, durability and aesthetic beauty that augmented functionality with grandeur that typified Victorian technology.

"It was good to meet the volunteers and staff of the Swanage Railway who value aspects of the past and make them come alive so that people in the future can benefit from them," added Alex who lives in Surrey and attended with his dog Scampy.

Public Train Service to link Swanage & Corfe Castle with the Main Line at Wareham – for the first time since 1972

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

 

History is to be made next month with the return of a public diesel train service from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham – for the first time in 45 years.

The volunteer-led Swanage Railway plans to run its first diesel-hauled passenger train into Wareham station on Tuesday, 13 June, 2017.

That will be the achievement of a long-held aim by determined railway campaigners dating back to 1972 when the Purbeck branch line was controversially closed and demolished by British Rail.

The special first train will mark the start of a two-year trial public service using diesel trains operating on 60 selected days during this summer – with four trains a day in each direction between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage.

Visitors from London, and stations across the country, will be able to visit Swanage and Corfe Castle by train while the service will enable tourists in campsites around Wareham to visit Corfe Castle and Swanage by rail.

To avoid disappointment, and guarantee a seat, passengers should book their tickets on-line via the Swanage Railway at www.swanagerailway.co.uk. Limited parking at Wareham station – especially on weekdays – means that passengers are advised to travel to the station by public transport.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons said: "This is the culmination of a far-sighted investment by our stakeholders of £5.5 million to re-connect Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham. We're working very closely with our partners at Network Rail and South West Trains to finalise arrangements for what is a complex operation.

"The trial public service will be historic because it has been the Swanage Railway's ambition to return passenger trains to Wareham for more than 40 years – with several generations of volunteers working to achieve this," added the Swanage Railway volunteer signalman and train guard.

After the last public British Rail train ran to Corfe Castle and Swanage in January, 1972, – leaving a three-mile stub from the main line to Furzebrook for clay and later Wytch Farm oil field trains – few people thought that passenger trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle would ever return to Wareham.

It took seven short weeks to demolish Purbeck's 87-year old rail link to the main line at Wareham but 40 long years for the Swanage Railway to rebuild it.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns explained: "This is the culmination of a huge amount of hard work by our dedicated volunteers and the support of our valued stakeholders. It shows just what can be achieved thanks to a strong vision, determination and working together in partnership.

"My thanks go to the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership, the Government's Coastal Communities Fund for its £1.8 million grant, Purbeck District Council, Dorset County Council, Network Rail, South West Trains and the Department for Transport for their help in reaching this historic milestone for Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck," he added.

To enable a public train service to run from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage, Purbeck District Council and Dorset County Council together made a strategic investment of £3.2 million – the money coming from a transport development fund paid into by housing developers across Purbeck.

That £3.2 million enabled Network Rail to upgrade the track at Worgret Junction – a mile west of Wareham where the line from Swanage joins the main line – and also install new signalling equipment at Wareham and Worgret Junction. The investment also paid for Swanage Railway signalling equipment between Wareham station, Worgret Junction and Corfe Castle signal box.

The trial public service of four return trains a day between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays until Sunday, 3 September, 2017, inclusive.

On the first day of the public service – Tuesday, 13 June, 2017 – the first public train will be the 2.23pm from Swanage that will form the 3.15pm train from Wareham. The last train of the day will be the 4.23pm from Swanage and the 5.15pm from Wareham.

The first two trains from Swanage to Wareham and return on that day will be for Swanage Railway guests, stakeholders, volunteers, staff and supporters.

Main line train operator West Coast Railways is supplying two diesel locomotives and train crews to operate the Swanage Railway's trial train service between Swanage, Corfe Castle and Wareham on 60 selected days during the summer.

With a diesel locomotive at each end, the four-carriage trains will run four times a day – in each direction – between Wareham, Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage with the ten mile journey taking 45 minutes. Train times and fares for the Wareham service can be viewed on the Swanage Railway website.

To enable regular passenger trains to again run to Wareham, three miles of former Network Rail line – from south of Worgret Junction to half a mile east of Furzebrook –has been restored and upgraded over a two-year period.

That challenging work has seen 1,200 wooden track sleepers replaced, half a mile of new track laid, a quarter-mile-long embankment upgraded as well as undergrowth and drainage ditches cleared along three miles of railway line.

Linking the Swanage Railway with the national railway system, a unique and trail-blazing signalling system has been installed, tested and commissioned between Corfe Castle and Wareham in what was a four-year project.

Thanks to a £500,000 legacy donation from BP, the Swanage Railway has built a new level crossing west of Norden station – on the access road to Perenco's Wytch Farm oilfield – so that regular passenger trains can run to Wareham.

Tickets will be £15 for an adult or senior citizen day-return between Swanage and Wareham and £9 for an adult or senior citizen single. Children, aged 5 to 15, will be £10 for a return and £6 for a single. Swanage Railway Purbeck resident's discount card holders will receive a 33 per cent discount while National Railcards will not accepted.

The Swanage Railway's Project Wareham director Mark Woolley said: "Our two 1960s-built heritage diesel trains, which together make up four carriages, will be used for the second year of the trial service to Wareham.

"They are being refurbished and upgraded to main line standards which is challenging and specialist work because of the age of the heritage diesel units, their design as well as modern health and safety standards," added Mr Woolley, a dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer since the mid-1980s.

Passengers on the new Wareham service should book seats in advance via the Swanage Railway website at www.swanagerailway.co.uk

Former Dorset High Sheriff appointed a Patron of The Swanage Railway Trust

 

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright

 

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

 

A former High Sheriff of Dorset – whose Victorian ancestors helped to bring and build the first railway line into the county from Hampshire during the 1840s – has been appointed a Patron of the Swanage Railway Trust. 

Living in Littlebredy near Dorchester, Sir Philip Williams has been given the honour by the registered charity that plans and governs the award-winning Swanage Railway which has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976.

Sir Philip's great-grandfather was the longest-serving director of the London and South Western Railway Company until the company was merged into the new Southern Railway Company in 1923.

Sir Philip said: "It was with great pride and pleasure that I accepted the invitation to become a Patron of the Swanage Railway Trust. I am full of admiration for those dedicated people who have achieved so much, against the odds, in rebuilding the Swanage Railway from nothing since 1976."

Currently a Deputy Lieutenant for Dorset, Sir Philip was the High Sheriff of Dorset for a year from March, 2016, in a post created during the 16th century.

In October, 2016, Sir Philip had the honour of officially opening the Swanage Railway's Norden Gates level crossing and its three-mile section of restored and upgraded line between Norden and Network Rail near Worgret Junction.

The Swanage Railway Trust has more than 4,000 members with some 450 of those members regularly volunteering on the award-winning heritage railway which last year carried more than 211,000 passengers on its steam trains.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "Sir Philip is very enthusiastic about the work that the Swanage Railway does and we are delighted that he is happy to help the Trust as an honorary Patron.

"He is a committed railway enthusiast so it's a great pleasure to welcome Sir Philip to the role of Swanage Railway Trust Patron and we thank him for his support in our endeavours.

 "Sir Philip's family is steeped in Dorset railway history and his ancestors have lived in the county since 1797. During the 1840s, his family campaigned and promoted the building of the first railway into the county.

"The Southampton to Dorchester railway – which ran via Totton, Brockenhurst, Lymington Junction, Ringwood, West Moors Wimborne, Broadstone, Hamworthy, Wareham, Wool and Moreton – opened in 1847 and the line to Lymington Junction and onwards from Hamworthy is still in use today.

"Sir Philip's great-grandfather joined the London and South Western Railway Company's board of directors in 1892 just before becoming the Member of Parliament for West Dorset.

"Being ambassadors for the Swanage Railway – and enhancing its standing and activities – the Trust's four Patrons are individuals of distinction with an affinity for the Swanage Railway and a notable interest in heritage railways as well as the county of Dorset," added Gavin who is a volunteer signalman on the Swanage Railway.

Giving the benefit of their varied experience to the heritage line, in addition to Sir Philip Williams, the Swanage Railway Trust's other Patrons are Sir William McAlpine, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Alan Moore CBE.

The Swanage Railway Trust focuses on development of the Swanage Railway by recruiting the members and volunteers on which this progress depends as well as the appeals and fundraising needed to support their efforts.

The Trust's website provides information for members and supporters, updates on appeals, details of the Trust's aims and background information.

To find out more about the Swanage Railway Trust, visit www.swanagerailwaytrust.org.uk for details about becoming a member, making a donation and volunteering.

 

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email

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Classic steam locomotive that hauled trains between Bournemouth and Bath stars In Autumn Steam Gala

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

 

A classic Somerset and Dorset steam locomotive that hauled passenger and freight trains between Bournemouth and Bath – via Poole, Broadstone and Blandford – for almost 40 years has starred in the Swanage Railway's three-day Autumn Steam Gala.

The annual event saw Friday and Saturday evening timetabled passenger trains run in the dark on the newly restored four-mile line between Norden and the River Frome, near Wareham, for the first time since January, 1972, when British Rail closed the branch line to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

There were also nostalgic goods trains that ran between Norden and Swanage, re-creating the everyday railway scene from yesteryear.

Built in 1925, the Somerset and Joint Railway Fowler-designed 7F No. 53809 ran on one of Britain's most popular railway lines among railway enthusiasts – the Somerset and Dorset – which was closed 50 years ago in 1966.

Also taking part in the three-day steam gala was a fellow visitor – a powerful Stanier 8F locomotive No. 48624 which spent its working life based in the London area.

Dating from 1943, No. 48624 is the only surviving member of the class to be built by the Southern Railway for hauling heavy freight, munitions and troop trains during the Second World War.

As well as a frequent steam train service between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross and Swanage, the gala will also saw steam trains operating on the Swanage Railway's newly restored  four-mile section of line between Norden and the River Frome, within sight of Wareham.

Running to a point half a mile south of Worgret Junction – at the River Frome – on the main London to Weymouth line west of Wareham station, the trains had a steam locomotive at each end.

Fowler 7F No. 53809 and Stanier 8F No. 48624 were joined by the Swanage Railway's fleet of steam locomotives – Victorian-designed M7 tank No. 30053 built in 1905, late 1920s Southern Railway U-class No. 31806 and 1940s Southern Railway Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34070 'Manston'.

Swanage Railway General Manager Matt Green said: "With two visiting classic steam locomotives built in the 1920s and the 1940s – and six trains a day running to the River Frome near Wareham, two of them in the evening when it's dark – this year's Autumn Steam Gala was certainly one to remember.

"We had a very successful Autumn steam gala while the two visiting steam locomotives performed well and were well liked by the crews. The Swanage Railway has a well deserved reputation for putting on a good show and the Autumn steam gala was a superb event.

"I would like to thank everyone on the Swanage Railway who worked so hard in planning and delivering such an enjoyable Autumn steam gala – and also the public who supported such a wonderful event as well as the owners who agreed to their precious locomotives visiting the Swanage Railway.

"It was a Stanier 8F locomotive that hauled one of the last passenger trains – an enthusiasts' special from Bath to Bournemouth via Blandford and Broadstone – on the last day of Somerset and Dorset line in March, 1966.

"The Somerset and Dorset 7F locomotives were marvellous locomotives and were the workhorses of the Somerset and Dorset line, from Broadstone to Bath via Blandford, for almost 40 years. No. 53809 was withdrawn in 1964.

"Built in 1943 at Ashford in Kent, 8F No. 48624 was withdrawn by British Railways in 1965 and sent to a scrapyard at Barry in South Wales. It escaped the cutter's torch after being purchased by dedicated enthusiasts in 1981 who took 28 years to restore it to full working order," explained Mr Green.

The award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum, next to Norden station, was open during all three days of the gala, as was the goods shed museum, exhibition coach and cinema coach at Corfe Castle station.

The refreshment kiosk on the platform at Norden station, as well as the station buffet coach at Swanage, was also open during the three-day steam gala – as was the fund-raising shop at Swanage station.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons explained: "Equipped with full barriers, warning lights and audible alerts, the Norden Gates level crossing allows passenger trains to run beyond Norden and on to our newly restored and upgraded four-mile line to the River Frome – within sight of Wareham.

"Built of wood – with a slate roof – the signal box at Norden Gates level crossing has been built in the style of the branch line signal box at Lyme Regis station in west Dorset.

"A lot of detailed work has gone into designing, building and installing the signal box and signalling system at Norden Gates – together with its electrical operation and safety systems," added Trevor, a Swanage Railway train guard and signalman.

Approved by the Government's Department for Transport, Norden Gates level crossing's computer-controlled safety systems, crossing barriers and road user warning systems were designed and installed by Schweizer Electronic of Switzerland.

Trevor Parsons added: "Thanks to a grant from the Government's Coastal Communities Fund and Swanage Railway resources, the work between Norden Gates and the River Frome has included raising the line speed to 25mph.

"We have also upgraded and widened a quarter-mile long embankment near Furzebrook and laid half a mile of continuously welded rail on concrete sleepers through the protected Creech Heath to reduce intrusive track maintenance.               

"We have also repaired three miles of fencing; carried out tree and vegetation removal and repair works; replaced more than 1,000 sleepers; increased the track ballast to improve rail and train ride quality," he added.

Rebuilt from nothing since 1976, the volunteer-run Swanage Railway carries more than 200,000 passengers a year on the six miles of relaid railway line between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross, Herston Halt and Swanage.

The heritage railway contributes more than £14 million to the Purbeck economy every year and profits from the running of train services and special events are ploughed back into the development and extension of the Swanage Railway and its facilities.

The Swanage Railway is run by some 500 regular volunteers – assisted by a team of more than 30 paid staff – and the value of the Swanage Railway volunteers' work is £2 million a year if they were paid.           

The Swanage Railway contributes to the public transport system in the Isle of Purbeck thanks to the Purbeck District Council pay and display car park located next to Norden station – located off the main A351 road from Wareham to Corfe Castle – and also the Swanage Railway's discounted fares scheme for Purbeck residents.

British Rail controversially closed its ten mile branch line from Wareham to Swanage in January, 1972, and the six and a half miles of track from Swanage to near Furzebrook was torn up for scrap during the summer of 1972.

It took dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers 30 years to relay the tracks.

The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers – for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email '

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End of Southern Steam 50th Anniversary Celebration is Swanage Railway's most successful Steam Gala

 

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright

 

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

 

An evocative celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of steam trains in southern England – gathering the largest number of working Bulleid Pacific locomotives since the summer of 1967 – has resulted in the most successful steam gala in the history of the Swanage Railway.

The three-day 'Strictly Bulleid' event – staged between Friday, 31 March, and Sunday, 2 April, 2017 – saw a record-breaking 5,700 passengers carried on the trains all hauled by the classic 1940s-built Bulleid Pacific class of steam locomotives.

The record-breaking 5,700 passengers carried is more than the population of Wareham and four times the population of Corfe Castle.

For the special event, steam trains also operated on the Swanage Railway's four-mile newly completed extension from Norden station westwards to the River Frome – half a mile short of the main London to Weymouth line and within sight of Wareham.

Swanage Railway general manager Matt Green said: "We had an absolutely fantastic 'Strictly Bulleid' event with some 110 volunteers and staff helping to stage the event each day. It was a real Bulleid bonanza enjoyed by everyone.

"It has been a memorable and record-breaking event with the largest gathering of working Bullied Pacific steam locomotives in one place since the end of main line southern steam in the summer of 1967 – 50 years ago.

"We also had a record-breaking number of visitors to the event and while we had some train delays, in what was a tight timetable, there was a great atmosphere about the place.

"The quality of the workmanship that has gone into the visiting Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives was incredible. All the engines performed well, they were well-liked by the footplate crews and they came with some excellent locomotive owners and representatives," he added.

Designed by Oliver Bulleid for the Southern Railway during the Second World War, the massive Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives were built at Eastleigh and Brighton during the mid to late 1940s for hauling long express trains between London and the coast – from Kent down to Cornwall.

Matt Green added: "The 'Strictly Bulleid' event saw the most intensive operation of train services over the nine-mile branch – from Swanage to the River Frome, half a mile short of the main line near Wareham – since the major infrastructure works along the line were completed last year.

"Our volunteers and staff really pulled out all the stops to help put on a fantastic show and we have received many compliments from visitors who really enjoyed the event and appreciated the huge amount of work and dedication that went into staging it.

"The 'Strictly Bulleid' steam gala committee – as well as a great number of volunteers and staff – put in a phenomenal amount of hours to help us mark in style 50 years since the end of steam trains in the south of England. I can't thank them enough because the event's success is a result of their planning and hard work during the three days.

"The Swanage Railway's hard-working retail and catering outlets were exceptionally busy and we expect them to have produced record takings once the figures have been fully analysed," added Mr Green.

For one of the event's visiting Bulleid Pacifics – Battle of Britain class No. 34053 'Sir Keith Park' – it was the first time that the classic locomotive was seen at Swanage and Corfe Castle since the summer of 1964 when it hauled a long train from the Purbeck seaside resort to London's Waterloo station.

Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns was equally delighted with the success of the Strictly Bulleid commemorative event: "The wonderful turnout for, and success of, this event – bringing many people to the Isle of Purbeck – demonstrates the continuing interest in what the Swanage Railway offers.

"Our volunteers and staff worked really hard to plan and deliver this complex event and its success reflects this dedication. The 50th anniversary of the end of steam in the south of England was celebrated in style," he added.

It was on Sunday, 9 July, 1967, that the last Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives hauled long express trains, at speeds of up to 100 mph, between London, Basingstoke, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole, Dorchester and Weymouth.

The end of steam trains on British Rail's Southern Region on Monday, 10 July, 1967, saw electric trains brought in between London and Bournemouth with diesel trains operating between Bournemouth and Weymouth.

The huge frames of yet to be restored West Country class Bulleid Pacific No. 34010 'Sidmouth' were on display at Corfe Castle station during the 'Strictly Bulleid' event.

And the Swanage Railway's Herston engineering works – on the outskirts of Swanage – was open on the Saturday and Sunday so the public could admire Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34072 '257 Squadron' in the final stages of its complex restoration.

The four Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives that visited the Swanage Railway for the three days of Bulleid brilliance were West Country classes No. 34046 'Braunton' and No. 34092 'City of Wells' as well as Battle of Britain classes No. 34053 'Sir Keith Park' and No. 34081 '92 Squadron'.

The fifth Bulleid Pacific appearing at the 'Strictly Bulleid' commemorative event was Swanage Railway-based Battle of Britain class No. 34070 'Manston' sporting its original 1940s air-smoothed casing over the boiler.

Certified for hauling excursion trains on the main line and based in London, visiting Bulleid Pacific No. 34046 'Braunton' appeared in the guise of fellow Bulleid Pacific No. 34052 'Lord Dowding' scrapped in the 1960s.

The award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum was open next to Norden station as was the popular goods shed museum, exhibition coach and cinema coach at Corfe Castle station.

There were also enthusiast and trade sales stands at Swanage and Corfe Castle stations.

 

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email '

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Dorset High Sheriff officially opens new £500,000 level crossing enabling passenger trains to Wareham

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright                          

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

A new £500,000 level crossing enabling regular passenger trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham – for the first time since 1972 – has been officially opened by the High Sheriff of Dorset.

During Victorian times, the family of Sir Philip Williams were among the promoters who brought the 1847-opened railway from Southampton to Dorchester via Wareham – and his great-grandfather was a director of the London and South Western Railway until the company's end in 1922.

The High Sheriff of Dorset cut a ceremonial ribbon at Norden Gates level crossing –located just west of Norden station and half a mile north of Corfe Castle – that has taken dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers four years and more than 3,000 hours of design, building and testing work.

Also a celebration of the completion of the 18-month restoration and upgrade of three miles of former Network Rail line – to within a quarter of a mile of Worgret Junction and the main line to Wareham – Sir Philip unveiled a brass plaque on Norden station.

After the official opening, the High Sheriff of Dorset and his wife joined more than 60 guests on a special five-coach train that ran over the level crossing and on to the four-mile line that takes the Swanage Railway's tracks to within a quarter of a mile of Worgret Junction and the main line to Wareham.

A key part of the Swanage Railway's two-year trial train service to Wareham from June, 2017, the funding of Norden Gates level crossing has been provided thanks to the 'legacy' support of the Wytch Farm oil field's previous operator British Petroleum (BP).

Located west of the Swanage Railway's Norden station, the state of the art level crossing called 'Norden Gates' allows trains to cross a busy and important road giving access to the Wytch Farm on-shore oilfield as well as Purbeck District Council's car park next to Norden station.

Her Majesty the Queen's judicial representative in Dorset, a delighted Sir Philip Williams said: "It is a great honour, as well as obviously a great pleasure, to be asked to open this latest stage in the full re-integration of the Swanage Railway into the national railway network.

"I am proud and privileged that this occasion has fallen within my year as High Sheriff and that, as a life-long railwayman, I can therefore play a part.

"The official opening of Norden Gates level crossing marks one more decisive stage in the long and tireless efforts of numerous enthusiasts, volunteers and staff who – by their vision and their contribution with time and abilities of brain or muscle – have refused to let the Swanage Railway die."

"I congratulate all who have brought the revival of the Swanage Railway to this stage and I look forward to its enjoying many years of success and prosperity into the future."

"My family first became involved in extending the railways into Dorset and the West Country by facilitating the Southampton and Dorchester Railway nearly 200 years ago."

"I’m not sure if my great-grandfather, who was the longest-serving director of the London & South Western Railway when it lost its identity in 1922, ever opened a line himself but I do hope that he would be proud that Wareham and Swanage will soon be connected by passenger-carrying rails again," added the High Sheriff who is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "The safety of the public, and our passengers, is our paramount concern. The new full-barrier level crossing will enable regular passenger trains to run from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the Wareham for the first time since 1972.

"A hugely complex infrastructure project has been successfully completed by a volunteer-led organisation and is about to bring main line-connected rail travel back to a corner of south-east Dorset for the first time in more than 40 years. The infrastructure has been completed and is ready for trial services to take place on 140 selected days over two years from the summer of 2017.

"This success is thanks to the foresight of our Project Wareham funders as well as the commitment of our volunteers and supporters. The Swanage Railway's hard-working staff are also to be congratulated.

"The Swanage Railway is also grateful to former Wytch Farm oil field operator British Petroleum (BP) for providing the 'legacy' payment of £500,000 so the new Norden Gates level crossing could be built," added Mr Johns.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons explained: "Equipped with full barriers, warning lights and audible alerts, the signal box for Norden Gates level crossing has been built of wood – with a slate roof – in the style of the branch line signal box at Lyme Regis station in west Dorset.

"A lot of detailed work has gone into designing, building and installing the signal box and signalling system at Norden Gates – together with its electrical operation and safety systems – and I thank everyone involved, including Project Wareham director Mark Woolley and his project manager Frank Roberts," added Trevor, a Swanage Railway train guard and signalman.

Approved by the Government's Department for Transport, the level crossing's computer-controlled safety systems, crossing barriers and road user warning systems were designed and installed by Schweizer Electronic of Switzerland.

Swanage Railway's Project Wareham director Mark Woolley said: "Thanks to a grant from the Government's Coastal Communities Fund and Swanage Railway resources, the work has included raising the line speed to 25mph, upgrading and widening a quarter-mile long embankment near Furzebrook as well as laying half a mile of continuously welded rail on concrete sleepers through the protected Creech Heath to reduce intrusive track maintenance.               

"We have also repaired three miles of fencing; carried out tree and vegetation removal and repair works; replaced more than 1,000 sleepers; increased the track ballast to improve rail and train ride quality," explained Mark, a dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer since the early 1980s.

Purbeck Community Rail Partnership chairman, Councillor Mike Lovell, said:  “This is a huge step in the project to enable a regular passenger service from Wareham to Swanage.

"On behalf of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership, I would like to thank the Swanage Railway and all the contractors and funders who have made this possible. We very much look forward to the start of a trial service," he added.

The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers – for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email '

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Where People Matter

Watch a video about the contributions made by the volunteers on the railway. Click below to watch it on our YouTube site.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYNibDP8Xz0

 

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