The public is being invited to enjoy a ‘behind the scenes’ community engagement weekend on the Swanage Railway on February 11 and 12 to encourage more volunteers to help run and maintain the heritage line.
The Swanage Railway was rebuilt from nothing by dedicated volunteers since 1976 after the 10-mile branch line from Wareham to Swanage was controversially closed by British Rail in 1972 with seven miles of track from Swanage through Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle, Norden and on to east of Furzebrook being lifted in seven weeks.
Taking place between 10am and 4pm on the Saturday and Sunday, the open days will be a chance for the public to experience the excitement of going behind the scenes of the working heritage railway at Swanage and Corfe Castle stations.
Passengers will also be able to enjoy beautiful Purbeck countryside views not often enjoyed from a train thanks to a special heritage diesel train service on the occasionally used four-mile line between Norden and the River Frome, within sight of Wareham.
At Swanage station, the public will be able to board the footplate of a steam locomotive, drive a 1950s heritage Class 08 shunting diesel locomotive for £5 (subject to a health and safety declaration) and see where heritage carriages are restored and overhauled.
At Corfe Castle station, visitors will be able to see the award-winning signalbox – a replica of the original Victorian signal box dating from 1885 when the Wareham to Swanage branch line opened, which signals trains on and off the national railway network at Worgret Junction, a mile west of Wareham.
The public will have the chance to have a go at signalling trains in the signal box museum at Corfe Castle which was the station’s British Railways signal box for 15 years from 1956 and signalled the last British Rail train from Swanage to Wareham in 1972.
There will also be a five steam trains a day service between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross, Herston and Swanage set to be hauled by 1940s Southern Railway Battle of Britain Class Bulleid Pacific express steam locomotive No. 34070 Manston.
Subject to providing proof of residence in the BH19 and BH20 postcode areas, Purbeck area residents will be able to purchase discounted Freedom of the Line train tickets, subject to availability, at station ticket offices during the special weekend giving unlimited train travel on the day of purchase (£10 for adults and £5 for children). Normal train ticket prices apply for passengers not living in the BH19 and BH20 areas.
Robert Patterson, the volunteer chair of the Swanage Railway Company, which runs the trains for the Swanage Railway Trust, and volunteer station porter, said: “This is an exciting event to enable Purbeck residents enjoy ‘their’ railway at a heavily discounted price as well as being able to go behind the scenes to see what we do – and perhaps becoming a volunteer. We would not be able to run the Swanage Railway without our fantastic team of more than 400 volunteers who are responsible for everything from running trains, keeping our stations looking great to selling tickets and refreshments and much more.”
Swanage Railway Trust volunteer chair Gavin Johns, a volunteer signalman, added: “Swanage Railway volunteers don’t need to be train enthusiasts to enjoy themselves and we have a wide range of positions available. Our aim is to ensure that our volunteers have an enjoyable and rewarding experience while making an important contribution to Purbeck life – both for residents and visitors alike.”
Anyone interested in finding out more should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention office on 01929 475212 or email to [email protected]
More details about the volunteering opportunities on the Swanage Railway can be found here.
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