After a long absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, Swanage Railway was finally able to offer a steam train service to its first paying passengers this weekend.
Across the town and through the Purbeck countryside, the familiar sight, smell and sound of a steam locomotive returned, following many months of the railway’s enforced closure.
Southern Railway U class No.31806
With fire in its box and water in its boiler and all the certifications in order, the steam locomotive, Southern Railway U class No.31806 pulled out of Swanage Station at 10.30 am on Saturday 18th July 2020 – the first with passengers since lockdown.
The steam locomotive was built in the late 1920’s and used to haul trains from Hampshire to Corfe Castle and Swanage during the 1950s. Currently the service is operating to Norden and back with no stops at Corfe Castle, Harmans Cross and Herston Halt. Trains depart from Swanage at 10.30 am, 12 noon, 1.30 pm and 3 pm.
In order to make it safe for passengers in light of coronavirus, the railway has put in place socially distanced queuing at Swanage and Norden stations, and socially distanced assigned seating on trains.
As on all forms of transport, everyone has to wear face coverings unless they have a medical reason that excludes them.
Steam locomotive driver, Oscar Martin (right) and fireman.
“We are continuing to look at the practicality of re-opening Corfe Castle station”
Swanage Railway chairman, Gavin Johns said:
“I’m delighted to see the return of steam locomotives on our trains and the re-opening of Norden station so that visitors can book a day out at the seaside confident in the knowledge that they will be safe.
“We are pleased with the progress we are making with re-starting train services after the enforced closure due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Our risk assessment has proven its worth, ensuring that customers and staff can confidently travel with us to enjoy the Swanage Railway and the magnificent Purbeck countryside.
“We are continuing to look at the practicality of re-opening Corfe Castle station and hope to be able to make announcements concerning this station in due course.”
Ideally, passengers are being asked to book their journey in advance but there is a limited amount of turn up and go availability.
Tickets can be booked at the Swanage booking office or via the Swanage Railway website