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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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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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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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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Spring Stream Gala - Drummond M7 operates public trains to the new Swanage Railway boundary at the River Frome

A rare Victorian-designed M7 tank steam locomotive has hauled a passenger train to Furzebrook, Creech Bottom, East Holme and down to the River Frome – within sight of Wareham – for the first time in more than 50 years.

The special piece of railway history involving Drummond Locomotive Society-owned No. 30053 took place on Friday, 8 April, 2016, on the first day of the Swanage Railway's Spring Steam Gala.

A veteran of the Swanage branch in the late 1930s and during the 1940s – as well as from late 1963 to May, 1964 – the M7 was built for the London and South Western Railway at Nine Elms in London during 1905.

No. 30053's historic first run started when it departed Swanage station with the 4.30pm to Norden where 1916-built Great Western Railway Tank locomotive No. 4247 was attached to the rear of the train for the four-mile run to the River Frome.

Then, at 5.02pm, the train departed Norden station for the River Frome with No. 30053 hauling its first passenger train between Norden and half-a-mile short of Worgret Junction for the first time since May, 1964, when the last of the M7s – including No. 30053 – were withdrawn from traffic at Bournemouth shed.

After reaching the Frome River bridge No. 4 at 5.15pm – location of the new Network Rail distant signal for Worgret Junction on the London to Weymouth main line west of Wareham – the train stopped for ten minutes to allow passengers to take in the views of the Frome valley as well as Wareham with the bell tower of the Medieval Lady St Mary's church by the town quay.

At 5.25pm, the train departed the Frome River with No. 4247 on the front and M7 No. 30053 on the back – passing over the Norden Gates level crossing at 5.40pm before running into Norden station.

On the footplate of No. 30053 for its historic first run between Norden, Motala, Furzebrook, Creech Bottom, East Holme and the River Frome since May, 1964, was driver Ian McDavid and fireman Alexander Atkins.

A delighted Alexander said: "It was fantastic to go over the new Norden Gates level crossing and on to Furzebrook and down the bank to the River Frome because it was the first time that an M7 has been on that stretch of line since 1964 which is amazing in itself.

"Luckily, we didn't run out of steam or water on the way up to Furzebrook and, in fact, No. 30053 she flew up with the equivalent of around eight coaches on. It was the perfect way to start a new era.

"It was very pleasing to fire the M7 on its first run down to the River Frome, mainly due to the ability of No. 30053 to haul the equivalent of eight coaches up the 1 in 78 gradient – coming back from the River Frome to Furzebrook – unassisted. Moreover, the M7 actually accelerated up the bank. 

"Ian McDavid, my driver, and I were rather chuffed that we managed the climb the two mile gradient from the River Frome to Furzebrook in such fine fashion – full second valve, 25 per cent cut off, injector on and pressure hovering on the red line all the way to the top.

"It was a real thrill to fire No. 30053 on its first passenger train between Norden, Furzebrook and the River Frome since May, 1964 – the Edwardian locomotive is an absolutely marvellous machine," added the former member of the Swanage Railway's Sygnets youth group.

The Swanage Railway's three-day Spring Steam Gala also saw two other firsts take place on the newly completed four-mile extension between Norden Gates level crossing and the River Frome.

It was the first time that a Bulleid Pacific steam locomotive had hauled a timetabled passenger train on that section of line since September, 1966.

And it was also the first time since the early 1960s that a Southern Railway 'U' class locomotive had performed the train-hauling honours between Norden, Furzebrook and the River Frome.

Starting from Swanage, four passenger trains a day during the Spring Steam Gala ran the four miles beyond Norden station, over the newly installed Norden Gates level crossing and on past Motala, Furzebrook, Creech Bottom and East Holme before stopping at the River Frome – within sight of the town of Wareham.

Passengers were not able to board or alight the steam trains running over the four-mile extension beyond Norden station and the trains operating between Norden and the River Frome had a steam locomotive at each end.

Swanage Railway Company director and director for Project Wareham, Mark Woolley, said: "It was a real thrill to see the Drummond Locomotive Society's M7 tank make such a special piece of history and run past locations that the locomotive last visited more than 50 years ago.

"It was very lucky that No. 30053 escaped the cutter's torch in 1964 and was purchased by an American millionaire for his locomotive museum in the United States.

"It was even more remarkable that a group of Swanage Railway volunteers was able to purchase the locomotive from the museum more than 20 years later, return No. 30053 to the Swanage Railway and restore her to full working order.

"The M7 represents some 40 years of Swanage Railway locomotive history, from the 1920s through to the 1960s, and it is the archetypal Purbeck branch line engine.

"Our dedicated teams have worked very hard over the past 18 months restoring and upgrading the three-mile former Network Rail line from Motala through Furzebrook, Creech Bottom and East Holme down to the Frome River.

"Half a mile of new track has been laid, almost 2,000 wooden track sleepers replaced, a quarter-mile long embankment upgraded and six miles of lineside embankments cut back, fences repaired and drains cleared," added Mr Woolley, a dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer since the early 1980s.

General Manager Matt Green said: "I would like to say a very big thank you to everyone on the Swanage Railway who has made the train service to the River Frome, within sight of Wareham, and the Spring Steam Gala possible.

"That includes our permanent way team which has performed miracles on our new three-mile stretch of line between Motala and the River Frome over the past 18 months.

"There has been a lot of preparation as well as a lot of hard work during the Spring Steam Gala to make sure that everything runs smoothly for what is a very historic event.

"It has been a great team effort and there has been a real buzz around the railway about the first passenger trains using our new £500,000 state of the art level crossing at Norden Gates, just west of Norden station, before continuing on for some four miles to the River Frome," added Mr Green.

The guest locomotive for this year's Spring Steam Gala was a powerful hundred-year-old veteran of the Great Western Railway built in Wiltshire during the First World War for a working career hauling heavy coal trains in South Wales.

A few years before its withdrawal by British Railways in 1964 – and with a powerful tractive effort of more than 31,000 lbs – steam locomotive No. 4247 was transferred south to Cornwall where it hauled trains of China Clay from the pits to the port of Fowey.

After spending 20 years languishing in a South Wales scrapyard, the 82-tonne locomotive was rescued and restored to full working order by a dedicated band of railway enthusiasts from the 4247 Preservation Society.

Also appearing during the Spring Steam Gala was the Swanage Railway's stable of four steam ex-main line locomotives dating from 1905 through to 1955.

There was London and South Western Railway M7 tank No. 30053 built in 1905, Southern Railway U-class locomotive No. 31806 built in the late 1920s, Southern Railway Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34070 'Manston' from the mid-1940s and British Railways Standard Class 4 Tank No. 80104 built at Brighton in 1955.

A 2-8-0 wheel arrangement steam locomotive, No. 4247 visited the Swanage Railway from its home on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway in Cornwell where it has been hauling trains on the heritage line for ten years.

Matt Green explained: "The locomotive hauled long 1,000-tonne coal trains from the South Wales mines down to ports for export before hauling the empty wagons back to the coal mines. No. 4247 was a reliable and hard-working stalwart.

"After being rescued from the famous steam locomotive scrapyard at Barry in South Wales, dedicated volunteers spent 20 years of hard work restoring No. 4247 to the gleaming steam locomotive seen and enjoyed today," he added.

The Swanage Railway's Spring Steam Gala also saw the award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum next to Norden station open as well as the goods shed museum, exhibition and cinema coach at Corfe Castle station.

Swanage Railway train times – and special event details – are available online at www.swanagerailway.co.uk or by telephone on 01929 425800.

The Swanage Railway Trust wins £75,000 Government Grant to help return Swanage Steam Trains to the Main Line at Wareham

 

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright, 

Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.

 

The historic return of steam trains running from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham – for the first time since 1966 – is a step closer with dedicated volunteers overhauling a 1920s steam locomotive winning a £75,000 Government grant.

The money from the Department for Transport will pay for main line safety and communication equipment to be installed on Southern Railway 'N' class 'Mogul' steam locomotive No. 31874 and also pay for the upgrade of a rake of five carriages to main line standard.

Members of the Swanage Railway Trust's Moguls Group are half way through a four-year £500,000 project to overhaul the 1925-built locomotive – designed by Richard Maunsell for passenger and freight work – to main line standards.

Withdrawn for scrap by British Railways in 1964, it is hoped that No. 31874 will haul its first passenger train since 1998 during late 2016 or early 2017 – and be ready for main line running to Wareham in late 2017 or early 2018.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: "It's hoped that the return of steam trains between Swanage and Wareham – which is subject to track access agreements with Network Rail – will increase tourism and boost the Isle of Purbeck economy in a sustainable way."

Members of the Swanage Railway Trust's Swanage Moguls Fund won the prize money after pitching their proposal to judges in a 'Dragon's Den'-style event held in London as part of the Department of Transport's Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation Competition.

Announcing the news, a delighted Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and heritage and community railways are part of that package.

“I am delighted that the Swanage Railway is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Dorset,” she added.

Gavin Johns explained: "Regular steam trains from Swanage to the main line at Wareham – for the first time since 1966 – will increase the attractiveness of the Swanage Railway and encourage more people to make car-free journeys to the Isle of Purbeck.

"Steam trains to the main line at Wareham will also increase the capacity of Swanage Railway services and make them more robust, provide a service that our customers are seeking and also make for a great day out in the Isle of Purbeck by rail from London.

"I would like to thank Swanage Railway Trustee Nick Coram, our General Manager Matt Green, our carriage and wagon manager James Cox and project development advisor Colin Morgan for their professionalism and hard work in putting together our winning bid – and for making such an effective presentation to the Department of Transport judges in London," he added.

Southern Railway Maunsell-designed sister locomotive, 'U' class No. 31806 is one of the Swanage Railway's stable of operational locomotives and hauls trains between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross, Herston and Swanage.

The Southern Railway's 'N' class and 'U' class steam locomotives were nicknamed 'Moguls' because of their 2-6-0 wheel arrangement.

The Department of Transport's £75,000 grant to the Swanage Railway Trust is being matched by the Trust to the tune of £25,000 worth of labour.

No. 31874 was sent to the railway scrapyard in Barry, South Wales, during 1964 to be cut up. Luckily, the locomotive escaped the cutter's torch and was saved for preservation in 1974 – returning to the rails in Hampshire in 1977.

A two-year trial diesel train service linking Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham is due to begin in June, 2017, thanks to a £1.8 million grant from the Government's Coastal Communities Fund in 2014.

 

To help the Swanage Moguls Fund with its overhaul of Maunsell 'Mogul' No. 31874, visit www.swanagemoguls.com

Maunsell Mogul Fundraising team

The Swanage Railway N Class overhaul team is looking for a Fundraising Co-ordinator and Fund Raising Team Members.

This is the perfect role for someone who wants to get involved with this exciting project, yet keep their hands clean. Your role is just as important as the fitters and volunteers who are putting No.31874 back together and offers of help are urgently required.

Once 31874 is completed, the attentions will turn to U Class no.31625 and, eventually, the overhaul of U class No.31806. The fundraising team will help develop the Swanage Mogul 'Brand' and this will eventually become a rolling fundraising group and overhaul department.

This is a challenging and exciting project and these roles being offered promise to put you right in the centre of the action. You will be given the most up to date information on progress, see where targeted fundraising is required and then work out fundraising initiatives to raise money quickly.

The N Class team want you to think of new and modern ways of fundraising, be that by text or Paypal or other online donations via our website and Facebook and Twitter pages, to sponsorship of components and by corporate sponsorship. The N fundraising team will also need to think about how to make sure we continue to receive the traditional donations from our travelling public and wider membership.

You will work with the fundraising group to come up with ideas and suggestions. We are looking for leaders and followers and if you feel you could contribute please get in touch!

So, are you up for the challenge? We look forward to welcoming you to the N team!

Matt McManus
SRT Director and N Class Project Sponsor

If you are interested, please contact Matt McManus by email:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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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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