Closed down by Covid, the heritage railway launched an ambitious appeal in March 2020 to raise £360,000 and it’s just announced it’s surpassed its goal.
The railway, which normally runs steam and diesel heritage locomotives from Swanage to Norden, had to stop operating for much of 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions, meaning the loss of thousands of pounds in income.
No timetable for when the railway will operate again
Now in a third lockdown in 2021, there’s currently no timetable for when the railway will be able to operate again.
A Swanage Railway spokesperson said:
“We are delighted to announce the success of our ‘Save Our Service Appeal’, set up to assist the Swanage Railway’s survival as we all continue to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic.
“Thanks to our generous supporters our appeal surpassed the target and raised a total of £363,206.83!
“Our SOS appeal was launched in March 2020 in response to the developing crisis caused by the spread of coronavirus and the inevitable loss of income due to a curtailed operating season.”
Monthly running costs of £46,000
In 2020, Swanage Railway had to furlough some staff and make others redundant as it had to continue to cover monthly running costs of £46,000 even while it was closed.
After 15 long weeks of closure, the railway was able to reopen in July 2020 on a limited timetable with coronavirus safety measures in place.
Lockdown again in November meant that the tracks fell silent, although plans for a festive Steam and Lights service were already in place.
Actual light at the end of the tunnel
Fortunately in December there was actual light at the end of the tunnel, as the Christmas steam train service was able to go ahead and delighted everyone with its magical light display as it chugged through the Purbeck countryside.
It was sadly curtailed as restrictions were again tightened in view of the growing number of Covid cases.
“2020 was more challenging than we could have ever imagined”
Now back in lockdown in 2021 and with no timings in place for trains to be allowed to operate again, the railway is not out of the woods yet.
Swanage Railway added:
“Money raised from this appeal has given the railway the vital lifeline we needed to get through this winter, enabling us to undertake essential care and maintenance work which would not have been possible without your donations.
“We will soon be ready to operate trains, when restrictions permit, and be in a position to try and make our recovery.
“2020 was more challenging than we could have ever imagined and we are incredibly grateful for the hard work and determination of our staff, volunteers and supporters.
“Although we have reached our SOS appeal target, the future for our railway remains uncertain as we await government guidance on the lifting of lockdown restrictions.”
“Potential for the railway to be closed for the foreseeable future”
During the spring half term, the steam train whistle would be a regular sound as the railway would normally operate a full timetable but this year everything remains quiet and despite meeting its fundraising target, the future remains uncertain.
The spokesperson said:
“Our tenacious staff and volunteers are planning for every eventuality, however, it is clear that the ongoing effects of coronavirus will be felt by Swanage Railway for some time to come. In normal years February half term marked the start of our operating season.
“With the potential for the railway to be closed for the foreseeable future we are already on the back foot, therefore any continued support you can give to our SOS appeal is gratefully received.”
Lockdown February 2021 and the trains remain parked up in the sidings