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FIRST TIMETABLED DIESEL TRAIN SERVICE TO RUN WITHIN SIGHT OF WAREHAM – FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1972

Published: July 22, 2016

Story and Photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright                                                                                         Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

History is to be made with the first timetabled diesel train service running from Corfe Castle and Norden on to the Swanage Railway's newly completed four-mile extension to the within sight of Wareham – for the first time since January, 1972.

With a 1960-built heritage diesel rail bus train running from Corfe Castle every 45 minutes between 10.23 am and 5.43pm, the special two-day service takes place on Monday and Tuesday, 25 and 26 July, 2016.

It's a chance for the public to see the huge transformation that has been made by the Swanage Railway over an 18-month period in restoring and upgrading the former Network Rail freight-only line between Motala, Furzebrook and Worgret Junction which saw its last gas train from Furzebrook in July, 2005.

The special 12 trains a day diesel service between Corfe Castle and the River Frome bridge – within sight of Wareham – is being operated because Swanage and Harman's Cross stations are to be closed on those two days while shooting takes place for a new feature film set in 1940 at the start of the Second World War.

No trains will be running between Swanage and Corfe Castle on Monday and Tuesday, 25 and 26 July, 2016, and during those two days no steam trains will be operating on the Swanage Railway which has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976.

Each round trip on the four-mile extension to the River Frome from Corfe Castle and Norden will take 35 minutes with the two-coach diesel train  using the Swanage Railway's newly commissioned Norden Gates level crossing just west of Norden station.

Passengers cannot board or alight the special trains at the River Frome and there are no lavatory facilities on the diesel multiple unit.

Standard train fares apply between Norden and Corfe Castle stations while special fares apply for passengers travelling on the newly upgraded four-mile line between Norden, Furzebrook, Creech Bottom, Holme Lane and the River Frome.

It was on the dull and cold Saturday, 1 January, 1972 – New Year's Day – that the last British Rail passenger trains ran between Swanage, Corfe Castle, Norden and the River Frome en route to Wareham.

For more than five years, the Swanage branch train service had been formed of moaning and juddering three-coach ' Hampshire' diesel-electric multiple units (DEMUs) built at Eastleigh during 1957.

Opened in May, 1885, the ten-mile branch line from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage officially closed on Monday, 3 January, 1972, in the line's 87th year of operation.

Seven miles of track between Swanage, Corfe Castle, Norden and Motala – a spot half a mile east of Furzebrook – was lifted for scrap in just seven weeks during July and August, 1972.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons said: "I hope the public will be excited and attracted by the chance to travel on our newly completed four-mile extension between Norden and the River Frome which is within sight of Wareham.

"It's a lovely piece of line that travels through countryside very different to that between Norden and Corfe Castle – and there are views of the Purbeck Hills, rare heathland and also Wareham across the River Frome water meadows.

"Our two-carriage 1960-built heritage diesel train is perfectly suited to enjoying the delights of  the countryside because it also has windows as each end of the train so you can see the line ahead and behind," Mr Parsons added.

It was in September, 2014, that the Swanage Railway took on the lease of three miles of former Network Rail line – from Motala, a mile west of Norden station, to a quarter of a mile south of Worgret Junction near Wareham – to give tracks, bridges and embankments a major upgrade.

The restoration work has seen 1,200 wooden track sleepers replaced, half a mile of track laid, a quarter-mile-long embankment given a major upgrade, undergrowth and drainage cleared along six miles of embankments as well as the installation of a new set of track points at Furzebrook.

A new state of the art level crossing has been installed on the access road to the Wytch Farm oil field and Norden station while 2,235 cubic metres of earth has been excavated – and a new siding laid – so a new road-rail interchange could be built to enable the creation of the Norden Gates level crossing.

Swanage Railway Project Wareham director Mark Woolley said: "The historic transformation has been remarkable and I'd like to pay tribute to everyone – on the ground and behind the scenes in planning and logistics – for all their hard work which saw the ambitious upgrade of our three-mile extension completed in May.

"It has been a major undertaking – the laying of half a mile of track, the replacement of 1,200 wooden sleepers, the major upgrade of a quarter-mile long embankment, the installation of a state of the art level crossing and associated signalling at Norden as well as the creation of the new road-rail interchange at Norden for the transfer of locomotives and carriages," explained Mr Woolley.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons said: "We apologise for any inconvenience or disappointment that may be caused to the public because of the filming.

"We are confident that the filming at Swanage station will benefit not just the Isle of Purbeck but also other parts of Dorset – attracting visitors to see the filming location and bringing more film and TV production to the area.

"The filming is good for Swanage and the Swanage Railway, it's good for the Isle of Purbeck and east Dorset – and it's also good for showing that the area is willing to work with business.

"We can't give further details of the filming for contractual reasons but I can say the scenes being filmed at Swanage station are planned to be the feel-good climax to the film's dramatic story," added Mr Parsons, also a volunteer guard and signalman on the Swanage Railway.

Standard train fares between Norden and Corfe Castle stations are an adult return at £2.70 and a child return at £1.60.

Special fares for passengers travelling on the four-mile extension between Norden and the River Frome will be an adult return at £8 and a child return at £6.

The two-day closure of Swanage station on Monday and Tuesday, 25 and 26 July, 2016, includes the station shop, Bird's Nest buffet and platform toilets.

The bus stops, Co-op supermarket, health centre, taxi office and taxi ranks in front of the Swanage station building will not be closed during the filming.

Swanage Railway train times – and special event details – are available online at www.swanagerailway.co.uk or by telephone on 01929 425800.