Swanage Railway signals start to Christmas with first festive test run

Residents got a first glimpse of the Swanage Railway Steam and Lights service as it completed a trial journey before its official start at the weekend.

The light and music experience, which was a sellout success last year during a brief period between Covid lockdowns in 2020, returns to shine a festive glow though Swanage and the surrounding countryside.


The Steam and Lights service will run on selected days between Saturday 27th November and Friday 31st December 2021.

Swanage Railway station

The test run on Wednesday 24th November 2021 saw the carriages and station lit up in preparation for the weekend

Two round trips from Swanage Station

On the days the train is running, there are two round trips from Swanage Station at 5.15 pm and 7.15 pm.

In order to test that all the lights and music are working before paying customers travel on the service, the train will be able to be spotted in the evening on Thursday 25th November 2021 completing a dress rehearsal.

The lit up carriages pulled by a diesel train, successfully did a test run in the evening on Wednesday 24th November 2021.

The carriages with lights for 2021 completed a test run

New light displays to look out for

There’ll be new light displays to look out for this year at the stations and beside the track. In between Harmans Cross and Corfe Castle there’s fairies and a fairy coach and a Santa’s sleigh on the platform at Corfe Castle Station.

The event company SLX, that has produced the light and music show for Swanage Railway, is also responsible for the lighting for New Year’s Eve in London, the Channel 4 Bake off television programme and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.


Rigging the carriages with the light display at Corfe Castle Station

“There are certainly challenges to overcome

SLX project manager Andrew Gardiner said:

“Creating the lighting, coordinated with music, on a train, is the most interesting environment we work in. As a moving object, there are certainly challenges to overcome, however the technology we use is pretty standard for us.

“The whole show is produced by our creative director Andrew Pooley, who first conceived of the idea for the Dartmouth Steam Railway and now there are several heritage railways, including Swanage, who have embraced the concept.

“This year, I put in an order for 20,500 cable ties to secure all the lights to the locos and carriages, so it has certainly taken off!”

Offering a 25 percent discount

Swanage Railway says that it has already sold 70 percent of the tickets and while there is little availability left for the 5.15 pm train, people can still book seats for the 7.15 pm departure on most days.

Initially, tickets had to be booked in groups of four but now bookings may be made for groups of two as well.

Between Friday 26th and Sunday 28th November 2021, Swanage Railway is offering a 25 percent discount when booking a Steam and Lights trip via its website using the code LIGHTS25.

All ready to roll for the first weekend of the Steam and Lights service in 2021

“It really is something our whole community can enjoy

The Swanage Railway’s passenger services director Trevor Parsons said:

“The Steam And Lights service was such a success last year that we just had to repeat it this year. It really was one of the few things to cheer everyone up at a very difficult time.

“We’re still conscious that Covid is still here, so we’re continuing with sensible precautions like having the windows open, sanitising the carriages and keeping the wooden partitions in place between groups of seats.

“Whether you book tickets and go on the one hour round trip or watch it from the bridges or across the fields, it really is something our whole community can enjoy and appreciate.

“We like to think it will kick off the festive season in Swanage and across Purbeck!

Trevor Parsons at Swanage Railway

Swanage Railway’s passenger services director Trevor Parsons keeping an eye on the preparation work from the Corfe Castle signal box

Santa may be back next year

Unlike pre-Covid years, the festive service won’t have Santa on board the train. However will Santa ever return?

Trevor added:

“I’d like to think Santa will come and visit us on Swanage Railway again – maybe next year!”

Further information

More about the Steam and Lights service is on the Swanage Railway website

Watch the Steam and Lights service finishing its first 2021 test run at Swanage Station

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