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A visit to the Swanage Railway

Keith Willis

KEITH WILLIS tells about his day out to this preserved line on the South Coast of England.

Swanage Railway

When driving towards Swanage through the beautiful Dorset Purbecks you may be lucky enough to catch sight of puffs of smoke rising from a nearby cutting. This will tell you that you are near the Swanage Railway, a preserved Southern Region branch line that captures the magic of the railways in the 1950s.

The line operates between Norden (park and ride) via Corfe Castle, Herston Halt (a request stop) and Swanage. The service runs to a timetable and during peak times a train departs from Swanage every 40 minutes to make the 25 minute journey along the very pleasant single track line with passing places to Norden. The route gently meanders and passes under the road on several occasions and the interesting site of Corfe Castle standing high on its dramatic peak can also be seen during the ride.

For this article I am going to concentrate on the lovely station at Swanage which captures the sights, sounds and smells of a steam railway at its best.

Swanage itself is a typical old fashioned sea side town set in a beautiful bay. The beach is sandy and there is always interesting boating activity on the water. A short walk up through the small, busy town then brings you to the station. Whether travelling or not the single platform is open to all and a walk along its length will provide much activity and interest.

Swanage Railway

This station would make a super project for a model layout and has the advantage of being able to visit it and see and photograph the whole thing. The station building could be made from a commercially available model or kit and then tweaked to make a good representation or for the more ambitious it would provide an excellent basis for a scratch built project.

Swanage Railway

At the end of the platform there is a water tower and a short way across is a lovely little signal box set into the attractive, grassy bank on the north side of the station. Opposite the signal box is the old goods shed and all the buildings are made from Purbeck stone.

The track plan is simple being basically a line running along the platform length with its own run round loop. There is a small siding taking about a third of the platform’s south side which stops before it reaches the station building. The line leaves the station and travels under a road bridge and then passes a small engine shed and turntable. There are a couple of other sidings to complete the scene. It is worth taking a walk up along the edge of the grassy bank to the bridge where more views and photo opportunities will present themselves

Swanage Railway

During our visit we were witness to some interesting running which could be replicated in model form. The incoming train would stop just outside the station and the steam loco would be uncoupled there so that it could then proceed into the loop where it would take on water and be prepared for its next journey. Meanwhile the 08 diesel shunter would move into position and haul the coaches the final few hundred yards into the station. The shunter would then uncouple and wait near the buffer stops. When ready the steam loco would move into position and attach itself to the other end of the coaches and at the appropriate time would be given clearance onto the line and with whistle blown the journey would commence.

Swanage Railway

At present the Swanage railway are working on a major project to extend the line to Wareham where it will connect with the main line. It is expected that the first trial trains will run during 2015 and normal services will commence in either 2016/17.

Swanage Railway

Whether planning a model or just taking a day out, a visit to Swanage and its outstanding railway can be recommended to all. The locos seen on our recent visit included:

  • SR 4-6-2 West Country class no. 34028 "Eddystone"
  • SR 4-6-2 Battle of Britain class no.34070 "Manston"
  • LSWR 0-4-4T class M7 no. 30053
  • GWR 0-6-2T 5600 class no.6695
  • BR 0-6-0 class 08 no. 08436
  • BR Bo-Bo class 33 "Crompton" no.33111
  • BR 0-6-0 class 08 no. D3591

Keith is the Despatch Manager in our warehouse, although he is mainly interested in aviation he obviously enjoys a train or two at the same time!

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