Volunteers at Swanage Railway are to give the public a rare chance to see behind the scenes of the award winning heritage railway – with half price train tickets available for all local visitors.
The special event will take place over the weekend of Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2024, giving visitors the chance to shadow a train guard or ticket inspector, tour the signal boxes at Corfe Castle or Harman’s Cross, or even drive a diesel train at Swanage.
Take the opportunity to see how the Swanage Railway’s signal boxes work
Come and enjoy the Swanage Railway experience at February’s Community Weekend
Half-price standard train tickets for the Community Weekend are available in advance from the Swanage Railway website for people living in the BH and DT postcodes.
- Community adult return: £10
- Community child return: £5
- Community family return: £27.50
- Infant under 5 years: free
Proof of local residence will be required when picking up tickets from Swanage Railway ticket office on the day.
“Rare opportunity to see behind the scenes”
Event organiser and volunteer guard Clare Collins said:
“Our Community Weekend is a different and interesting day out for all the family, a rare opportunity to see behind the scenes of a working heritage railway.
“You will have the chance to explore some of the many roles required to operate the Swanage Railway and find out about different volunteering opportunities.
“Volunteering on the Swanage Railway is very fulfilling, it’s a great way of meeting new people while assisting with worthwhile community projects at what has become one of Dorset’s major tourist attractions.”
Shadow a ticket inspector on a journey along the heritage railway
The hospitality staff are always very bubbly…
Advance booking is recommended
The weekend is expected to be very popular so advance booking is recommended, especially for those who want to try the optional extras, such as driving a 1950s heritage diesel shunter at Swanage for £20.
Visitors will also be able to watch a train guard or travelling ticket inspector for £5, or take a £5 behind the scenes tour of the railway’s award winning signal boxes.
Free attractions will include guided access to the footplate of a steam locomotive at Swanage, visits to the 1960s heritage telephone exchanges at Harman’s Cross and Corfe Castle stations and the chance to have a go at signalling at the Corfe Castle signalling museum.
Nathan Au, who led the restoration of the Victorian locomotive T3 No. 563
Taking the controls of one of Swanage Railway’s diesel trains
Restorers of coaches and wagons
Visitors will also be able to chat to volunteers at Herston Halt, which is only accessible on foot or by train, about the development of Swanage Railway’s first station since it welcomed its first train from Swanage in 1984.
There will also be a chance to chat to the restorers of heritage coaches and wagons at Corfe Castle station as well as watch demonstration lifts by 1940s and 1950s railway cranes at Norden station, one of which relaid the tracks from Herston Halt to Furzebrook between 1983 and 2002.
Demonstration narrow gauge diesel trains will also be operating between 11 am and 3 pm on both days at the Swanage Railway Trust’s Purbeck Mining Museum, next to Norden station. The museum explains and celebrates the 2,000 year history of Isle of Purbeck ball clay mining.
Hundreds of active volunteers at the Swanage Railway tackle everything from polishing up the brass…
…to serving up mouth watering cakes from the buffet
“A very special heritage railway”
Chair of Swanage Railway Trust Frank Roberts, who helped install the lineside telephone system in the 1980s and 1990s, said:
“It takes more people to operate, maintain and develop the Swanage Railway than many people realise. Our community weekend is the first of several special events across 2024 that we hope will be attractive to a wide variety of people of all ages.
“I have been lucky enough to have been a Swanage Railway volunteer for more than 40 years and I find volunteering very fulfilling and enjoyable, while working with a splendid group of people of all ages.
“With the Swanage Railway contributing more than £15 million a year to the local economy, we are delighted to give people across the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset and beyond the chance to enjoy a behind the scenes view of a very special heritage railway.”
Volunteers make sure that tracks along the railway’s ten mile route are kept in perfect condition
All manner of railway themed gifts are available in the volunteer run shop
Demolished in just seven weeks
The ten-mile branch line from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage was first opened in May 1885 after businessmen tried for 40 years to gain permission to build a railway – and it was eventually closed by British Rail in January 1972.
Six and a half miles of track was lifted for scrap during the summer of 1972, demolishing much of the Swanage branch line in just seven short weeks. It then took volunteers some 30 years to relay the track.
Work on completely rebuilding the railway started at a derelict Swanage station in 1976 and the first diesel trains ran over a few hundred yards of hand laid track at Swanage three years later.
The first steam train, composed of a small former industrial steam locomotive hauling one or two carriages, started running at Swanage in 1980.
Swanage Railway’s heritage locomotives couldn’t run without its keen volunteers
There’s always a friendly welcome at the railway ticket office
450 people volunteer their services
Today, the Swanage Railway Trust has a national membership of some 4,000 people and around 450 people regularly volunteer their services on the Swanage Railway in a variety of operational, maintenance and restoration roles.
These include running trains, restoring and maintaining locomotives and carriages, retail and catering, track maintenance, signalling, marketing and publicity.
Swanage Railway volunteers are supported by a team of full-time and part-time employed staff to ensure a seven days a week operation – even when trains are not running.
Taking pride in their work, the volunteers of Swanage Railway pose for an iconic picture