Locals snap up Swanage Railway’s open day offer

With greatly reduced ticket prices available to Purbeck residents, there was a queue outside Swanage station on the first morning of the heritage railway’s public engagement weekend.

The event on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th February 2023 saw many, including Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster, visiting the footplate of a steam locomotive, trying their hand at signalling and driving a diesel cab along the track.

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Swanage Railway community engagement evebnt with Mayor Tina Foster
Andrew PM Wright

Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster in the driving seat of the steam locomotive Eddystone

Volunteer on Swanage Railway

The aim was to encourage more locals to learn about, get involved and volunteer with Swanage Railway, while having an enjoyable time.

Chair of Swanage Railway Company Robert Patterson said:

“It certainly appears to have been a success with plenty of people here, milling around. I spotted a queue to visit the Corfe Castle signal box so I’m pleased to see visitors are keen to look behind the scenes and find out what goes on at their local railway.

“I’m hopeful we will beat last year’s February half term visitor numbers, with plenty going on all week.”

Swanage Railway community engagement evebnt with Mayor Tina Foster
Andrew PM Wright

The mayor visiting the footplate

Swanage Railway engagement weekend

Driving the 1950s diesel locomotive

Driver for a fiver sold out quickly

Over the two open days, among other opportunities, there was the chance to drive a 1950s heritage Class 08 shunting diesel locomotive for £5.

Dubbed ‘driver for a fiver’ – the experience was completely sold out in a matter of hours after bookings opened.

Of course taking the train, hauled by steam locomotive Manston between Swanage and Norden was popular. There was also a special heritage diesel train service between Norden and the River Frome, within sight of Wareham.

Swanage Railway community engagement event
Andrew PM Wright

Chair of Swanage Railway Company Robert Patterson (centre) with local councillors in the Pullman carriage finding out more of what goes on behind the scenes at the railway

Swanage Railway engagement weekend

The end of the line for the time being, within sight of Wareham

Going all the way to Wareham

It’s hoped that an announcement about a trial passenger service from Swanage up to the main line at Wareham, starting in April 2023, will be able to be confirmed soon.

Taking the diesel train up to the bridge crossing the River Frome near Wareham, gave passengers a taste of what the extended journey would be like.

Swanage Railway community engagement event
Andrew PM Wright

Meeting the Sygnets – one of the latest projects has been making bird boxes for trees along the line

Swanage Railway engagement weekend

Sygnets’s leaders, Derek Patterson (left) and Aidan Wright (right)

Sygnets, the Swanage Railway youth group

At Norden, visitors could meet Swanage Railway’s youth group, the Sygnets. Founded in 1997, hundreds of boys and girls aged 13 to 18 years have benefitted from learning about the railway and being part of the organisation.

One of the Sygnets’s leaders and a former Sygnet Aidan Wright who lives in Swanage said:

“Sygnets is a great way for young people who are interested in the railway to get involved and take part in activities that they wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to do.

“They get plenty of training under supervision. It’s learning but not in a school environment and there’s lots of opportunities to have a laugh!”

Manston Locomotive and Corfe Castle
Peter Milford

Manston steaming past Corfe Castle

Swanage Railway community engagement event
Andrew PM Wright

Visiting the railway left to right: Wareham’s representative on Dorset Council councillor Beryl Izzard, Swanage’s represenative on Dorset Council councillor Bill Trite, Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster, SWanage Town Deputy Mayor Chris Moreton, Swanage Railway trustee Frank Roberts, Swanage Deputy Mayoress Liz Moreton, Chair Swanage Railway Company Robert Patterson and Swanage Town Council councillor Avril Harris

“I would like to see more collaboration”

As well as local residents, a number of local Swanage Town Council and Dorset Council councillors also took the time to explore Swanage Railway and find out more about what it has to offer.

Swanage Town Mayor Tina Foster said:

“My visit to the Swanage Railway has been very interesting. The weekend has come along at a very opportune time – I would like to see more collaboration between the town council and Swanage Railway.

“Our local economy is very dependent on the tourism that the railway attracts, so it should be seen as part of our community and not separate from the town.

“I welcome the initiative of the public engagement weekend and it’s good to see lots of people enjoying themselves.

“Swanage station should be promoted much more as a transport hub and I’m very much looking forward to the trial branch line service between Swanage and Wareham, with the hope it will encourage less cars on the road.”

Swanage Railway engagement weekend

Swanage station is in the heart of the town

“Integrating Swanage Railway more into the life of the town”

In what is expected to be a tough financial year for Swanage Railway with a weak economy depressing visitor numbers and the price of coal doubling, Robert Patterson added:

“It’s been good to welcome the mayor and other local councillors to come and view what we achieve and the challenges that we face.

“We’d like to continue and strengthen the relationship with Swanage Town Council, as well as integrating Swanage Railway more into the life of the town.”

Further information

  • There’s lots of opportunities to get involved with the railway, including working with the Sygnets. More about how to join as a volunteer is on the Swanage Railway website

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