Swanage Railway

Swanage Railway

The Swanage Railway is a six mile-long heritage railway in the Purbeck district of Dorset, England. The railway follows the route of the Purbeck branch line (Norden Park & Ride - Corfe Castle - Harman's Cross - Herston Halt - Swanage), and has been re−connected to the mainline at Wareham along a stretch of the branch line that remained open to freight until 2005. Trains operate on the Swanage Railway between Swanage and Norden Park & Ride every weekend and Bank Holiday from mid-February to the end of the year, and every day of the week from April to October. The link between the Swanage Railway and the main line at Wareham is currently used only for locomotive and stock movements, and work is continuing to provide the infrastructure needed to enable regular services via Wareham to be implemented in the future.


The branch was built in 1885 and operated by the London and South Western Railway Company and latterly by the Southern Region of British Railways. It was in the 1950s that the Branchline Committee identified this branch line as a candidate for closure, such a plan was in reality over-optimistic for a busy branch line such as this. It was met with a great deal of opposition and was then shelved. This line was not mentioned in the Reshaping of British Railways (also known as the Beeching Axe) report of 1963. It is possible that it was omitted either due to political considerations or the fact that the existing roads in the area were unable to take the additional traffic caused by the line's closure.

Indeed, it was in the mid 1960s that a programme of third rail electrification took place on the main line running from Waterloo, Basingstoke, Southampton to Bournemouth route in preparation for withdrawal of steam. But the electrification of the Swanage Branch was not sought by BR. Subsequently the line was operated until the end of the BR era using a British Rail Class 205 DEMU. Given that the then government of the day, had refused to allow BR to purchase more DEMUs in the mid 1960s, this led to problems of trying to run existing services with a significantly reduced level of motive power available following the total withdrawal of steam in 1967. Thus a number of lines had to close because there were not enough DEMUs to go around.

It was in May 1967, that the Network for Development Plans were issued by Barbara Castle, the then Labour Minister of Transport following a study. Where lines were at the remunerative end of the scale, such as the main trunk routes and some secondary lines, these would be developed. But those that failed to meet the financial criterion, but served a social need were to be retained and subsidised under the 1968 Transport Act. The problem would be for lines that were not in the abovementioned categories which could be candidates for closure as they did not form part of the basic railway network. The Swanage line was one of those that fell into this category. It was a line that may well have carried considerable traffic, and perhaps made a small profit, but it did not meet the Government's social, economic and commercial criteria for retention.

It was in the later part of 1967 that BR issued a notice that the Swanage line was to be closed by September 1968. But due in part to the level of opposition to the closure and also by the fact that BR had underestimated the logistical problems in providing a replacement bus service in the summer months, due to the summer traffic, the line remained open. Indeed the line was still open in 1969. The opposition from the various pressure groups was so vociferous that a public enquiry was called for. Subsequently a Department of the Environment Inspector, after hearing the evidence, that a replacement bus service would be unable to handle the traffic, in the summer months, the Inspector ruled that the line should remain open. His decision was later overturned by the Secretary of State for the Environment. Up to this time it is possible that the line may have been in receipt of a subsidy under the terms of the 1968 Transport Act whilst all the issues concerning the pending closure of the line was discussed. So the line was closed in 1972. The track was removed during the summer of 1972; protests ensued and an agreement led to half a mile of track being left in situ past the Furzebrook sidings. The track from Furzebrook to the main line junction at Worgret remained in freight use, for the ball clay and the oilfield at Wytch Farm. After some debate with the local authorities the track was acquired from BR in 1975 by a group of local enthusiasts who formed a charity with the aim of relaying and reopening the railway both as a public transport link to Wareham, and as a museum of steam and railway technology.

In 1979 a short line opened, the length of King George's playing fields. This was extended first to Herston Halt and then to Harman's Cross in 1988. Neither Herston Halt nor Harman's Cross had been stations previously. In 1995 the railway reopened from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden Park and Ride, another post BR station. The opening of Corfe Castle was delayed until Norden was ready as Dorset County Council had concerns about the effects of traffic on Corfe's narrow main street (the A351 Wareham to Swanage road).

On January 3 2002 the track was temporarily joined with the Furzebrook freight line at Motala and the Purbeck branch line was once again complete, thirty years to the day after it was closed. On September 8 a brand new Virgin Trains Class 220 "Voyager" diesel multiple unit, no. 220018, became the first mainline train to use the new track when it made a special journey for a ceremony where it was named "Dorset Voyager" and began its first passenger journey. [http://www.swanagerailway.co.uk/news159.htm Click here to read the illustrated Press Release on this historic journey.] Following this historic event, the efforts of the Swanage Railway's volunteers were redoubled working with Network Rail to replace the temporary connection with a permanent ground frame and catch-point arrangement at Motala.

On May 10 2007 history was made when the Swanage Railway’s permanent connection with Network Rail was used for the first time – four large ex-BR diesel locomotives running from Eastleigh down to Swanage to star in the Purbeck Line’s largest ever diesel gala and beer festival in May 2007. Also making the trip – the first such working since the summer of 1972 when the tracks to Corfe Castle and Swanage were lifted – was a preserved four-carriage electric VEP unit kindly provided by South West Trains. [http://www.swanagerailway.co.uk/news369.htm Click here to read the illustrated Press Release on this historic journey.]

Although no passenger services are yet scheduled to use the link, it was again used in July 2007 when a steam locomotive for the Swanage Railway's [http://www.swanagerailway.co.uk/news384.htm 40th Anniversay of the End of Southern Steam] special event used the link to travel to Swanage via the main line at Wareham.

It should be noted that the Swanage Railway's works at Herston, on the outskirts of Swanage, are not physically connected to the running line. Movements of locomotives for overhaul are carried out by road transporter as the Swanage Railway has been unable to reach agreement with local landowners to build a branch connection into Herston Works.

Aims of Swanage Railway

* The restoration of the rail link between Swanage and Wareham and the re-establishment of a daily service to connect with main line trains.
* The creation of a comprehensive historical record of steam railways and steam technology in Southern England.

Norden - Wareham restoration

There are currently no regular timetabled trains between Swanage and Wareham, as the present intensive rail service from Swanage operates only as far as Norden, via Harman's Cross and Corfe Castle.

The Swanage Railway is continuing to work with Network Rail and the local authorities to identify suitable rolling stock and the infrastructure needed to enable regular services via Wareham to be implemented in the future.

[http://www.swanagerailway.co.uk/news369.htm Click here for an illustrated Press Statement on the Swanage Railway's work with Network Rail on re-establishing the permanent connection between Norden and Wareham.]


*June 18 2007 - a steam train on the Swanage Railway collided with a coach at Quarr Crossing, near Harman's Cross. The coach driver was believed to be the only person on board the coach, and was seriously injured. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/dorset/6764095.stm BBC NEWS | England | Dorset | One hurt in level-crossing crash ] ]



*Steam Locomotives
**SR 4-6-2 "West Country" Class no. 34028 "Eddystone" - BR lined green with late crest
**SR 4-6-2 "Battle of Britain" Class No. 34070 "Manston" - BR lined green with late crest
**LSWR 0-4-4T Class M7 no. 30053 - BR lined black with early crest
**BR 2-6-4T Class 4MT No. 80104 - BR Lined black with late crest
**BR 2-6-4T Class 4MT No. 80078 - BR lined black with early crest

*Diesel Locomotives
**BR 0-6-0 Class 08 No. 08436. Used regularly as the Swanage shunter.
**BR Bo-Bo Class 33 "Crompton" No. D6515 (33012) "Stan Symes".
**BR Bo-Bo Class 33 "Crompton" No. 33111.


*Steam Locomotives
**GWR 0-6-2T 5600 Class no. 6695 - BR lined green with late crest, at Williton, on the West Somerset Railway for heavy repairs.

Undergoing restoration/overhaul/out of service

*Steam Locomotives
**SR 4-6-2 "Battle of Britain" Class No. 34072 "257 Squadron". Withdrawn in 2002 and currently awaiting a ten yearly Overhaul which includes major firebox work and a new tender. Unknown when work will start.
**SR 4-6-2 "West Country" Class No. 34010 "Sidmouth". Awaiting restoration.
**Austerity 0-6-0ST No. 27 "Norman". Undergoing restoration, the frames have been completed and re-wheeled, a new front tubeplate has been made and fitted to the boiler, the boiler has been re-tubed and a new smokebox has been made, could be done in 2008.
**"Battle of Britain" Class 4-6-2 No. 34053 "Sir Keith Park". Undergoing restoration, the boiler is away at Crewe for restoration and the frames are being worked on.

*Diesel Locomotives
**BR 0-6-0 Class 08 No. D3591. Currently not in working order and undergoing a major power unit repair.
**BR Bo-Bo Class 33 "Crompton" No. D6552 (33034). Stored at Norden being stripped of parts.
*Diesel Multiple Units
**BR Class 108 unit 51933+56504. Power Car 51933 undergoing repairs to cab.
**BR Class 117 unit 51346+51388. Undergoing minor repairs ready for return to operational condition with two power cars only. Trailer car 59516 away undergoing restoration.


* Swanage
* Herston Halt (trains stop only on request)
* Harman's Cross
* Corfe Castle
* Norden Park & Ride (Park & Ride for Corfe Castle and Swanage)

outhern Catering Project Group

The Southern Catering Project Group has a number of railway wagons stored on the Swanage Railway.


Railways of Dorset J.H.Lucking Railway Correspondence and Travel Society 1968 (No ISBN)

The Great Railway Conspiracy D.Henshaw Leading Edge 1994 ISBN 0-948135-30-1

Beeching Champion of the Railway? R.Hardy Ian Allen 1989 ISBN 0-7110-1855-3

The Railways of Purbeck R.W. Kidner The Oakwood Press 1973 (reprinted 1979, reprinted & enlarged 1988) ISBN 0 85361 372 9

The Swanage Branch Then and Now Andrew P.M. Wright Ian Allan 1992 ISBN 0-7110-2046-9 (Amazon)

Branch Line to Swanage revised edition to 1992 Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith Middleton Press 1992 ISBN 0-906520-33-9

External links

Official Swanage Railway links

* [http://www.swanagerailway.co.uk Swanage Railway website]
* [http://www.swanagerailwaytrust.org.uk Swanage Railway Trust website]
* [http://www.swanagerailway.co.uk/news369.htm Press Statement on the first use of the new permanent link with Network Rail at Wareham on 10th May 2007]

Other Swanage Railway links

* [http://www.swanagerailwayphotos.com Photographs of the Swanage Railway,An unofficial Swanage Railway web site supporting Swanage Railway, with photographs mainly taken by working volunteers on the line.]
* [http://www.steinsky.me.uk/special:search.php?key=Swanage_Railway Photographs of the Swanage Railway]
* [http://www.weymouth-pictures.co.uk/dor/sth/cor/pic_swanagerailway.htm Pictures of the Swanage Railway at Corfe Castle]
* [http://www.heritagerail.co.uk/index.php?searchStr=Swanage&act=viewCat&Submit=Go HeritageRail.co.uk - Swanage Railway Photographs]


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