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NETWORK RAIL BOUNDARY REMOVED AS WORK STARTS TO RESTORE THREE MILE LINE FOR TRIAL WAREHAM TRAIN SERVICE

Published: October 15, 2014

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

An historic step forward towards a trial train service to Wareham has been taken with the volunteer-led Swanage Railway dismantling its old boundary connection with the national railway system.

The removal of two track points and signalling equipment at Motala – between Furzebrook and Norden – marks the start of the Swanage Railway's year-long upgrading of three miles of newly acquired line from Motala to near Worgret Junction.

Last month, the Swanage Railway signed an historic 99-year lease with Dorset County Council after the three miles of line – formerly owned by Network Rail – passed to the county authority.

The new boundary between the Swanage Railway and the national railway system near Worgret Junction is now protected by a new Network Rail signalling system and is marked by notices.

Installed as a safety system when the Swanage Railway signed a connection agreement with Network Rail in 2006, the Motala boundary with the national railway system was removed on Wednesday, 15 October, 2014, using a large rail-mounted crane and two road-rail machines.

The five-hour operation also saw the removal of a pair of metal gates across the track, a lever frame signalling system for operating the two track points and also a lineside hut.

The two track points were replaced with a length of plain track to form part of the continuous stretch of line between Norden – a mile east of Motala and the current limit of Swanage Railway passenger train operations – and Worgret Junction.

The last passenger train to pass over the clipped and padlocked points at Motala was the UK Railtours London to Swanage 'Purbeck Breezer' of Saturday, 11 October, 2014, composed to two South West Trains Class 159 diesel multiple units.

Swanage Railway Company Chairman Peter Sills said: "The historic removal of the old Swanage Railway boundary with the national railway system at Motala is a great achievement and very significant in the long campaign to return regular passenger trains between Swanage and Wareham.

"The Motala boundary removal also marks the start of a year-long project to upgrade three miles of railway line to near Worgret Junction.

"It's a major project involving the replacement of 1,700 wooden sleepers, the clearing of six miles of embankments and drains as well as the checking and upgrading of six miles of lineside fencing.

"Through the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership, we hope to start running a trial passenger train service to Wareham during the Autumn of 2015 – on 50 days during the first year and 90 days during the second," explained Mr Sills who travelled on the last British Rail train from Swanage to Wareham in 1972.

The new boundary between Network Rail and the Swanage Railway is now located a quarter of a mile south of Worgret Junction, the Junction being a mile west of Wareham on the London to Weymouth main line.

Mr Sills explained: "Until the Motala boundary was abolished, special trains from the national railway system down to Corfe Castle and Swanage and return had to stop at Motala because of the physical connection.

"Installed as a safety measure protecting both the Swanage Railway line and Network Rail line, Motala's track points were unlocked by keys held by the two parties so trains could pass from one side to the other.

"Motala is historically important to the Swanage Railway because it was where British Rail cut short the old branch line and set up a stopblock in the summer of 1972 – six months after the last passenger train ran from Swanage and Corfe Castle to Wareham in January of that year," he added.

In January, 2002 – 30 years to the day after British Rail controversially closed the Swanage branch line – the Swanage Railway's tracks finally reached the national railway system at Motala, six and a half miles from Swanage and 25 years after the first tracks were relaid at Swanage station.