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PHOTO REPORT – NEW SUMMER SATURDAYS TRAIN SERVICE LINKS CORFE CASTLE WITH WEST & NORTH DORSET, WILTSHIRE & SOMERSET

Published: May 29, 2018

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

An innovative new partnership between the Swanage Railway and South Western Railway is linking west and north Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire with Corfe Castle – thanks to a new summer Saturdays train service.​

Using a three-carriage Class 159 diesel train – and featuring South Western Railway and Swanage Railway promotional fares – the new South Western Railway service for day-trippers started on Saturday, 26 May, 2018 and runs on Saturdays until Saturday, 8 September, 2018, inclusive.

Such has been the level of public interest about the new service in social media that the Swanage Railway recorded a ten-fold increase in traffic on its Facebook page and a five-fold increase in traffic on Twitter over a 24-hour period.

Starting at Salisbury, the weekly train calls at Tisbury, Gillingham, Templecombe, Sherborne, Yeovil, Maiden Newton, Weymouth, Dorchester South, Moreton, Wool and Wareham before running to Corfe Castle and returning to Wareham.

The train then makes two further return trips to Corfe Castle before departing Wareham just after 4pm for the return trip to Salisbury – the route being via the same stations as the inward-bound morning trip – with the train arriving at London Waterloo at 8.19pm.

South Western Railway passengers from Bournemouth, Branksome, Parkstone and Poole will also be able to change trains at Wareham for the new summer Saturdays shuttle service to Corfe Castle.

Swanage Railway Company chairman Trevor Parsons said: “This new summer Saturdays service to Corfe Castle shows what can be achieved through joint working and the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership. We’re delighted at how well the first day went and I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to make it happen.

“After the investment in the future grant contributions from the Purbeck and Dorset councils – and the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund – in helping us upgrade the link between the Swanage Railway and the national railway network, we are keen to see the four-mile line between Norden station and Worgret Junction – a mile west of Wareham – used as much as possible,” added the volunteer signalman and train guard.

South Western Railway’s head of service strategy, Chris Loder, said the new train service was thanks to a “new ground-breaking partnership” with the Swanage Railway and that the aim was to encourage new rail journeys and boost the Isle of Purbeck’s tourist economy through “great promotional fares”.

“It was astonishing to see so many people coming to Corfe Castle by train from across the region – more than 100 people on the first train alone. Our new partnership with the Swanage Railway will make this innovation a great success. We’ll be gathering feedback to improve the service as much as we can over the summer,” he added.

With the new service from Salisbury to Corfe Castle terminating at London Waterloo in the evening, it is the first time since October, 1969 – when British Rail axed through trains from London to Swanage – that Corfe Castle has been linked with the Capital thanks to a main line service.

Purbeck Community Rail Partnership chairman Bill Trite praised the new partnership between the Swanage Railway and the South Western Railway’s – describing the new service to Corfe Castle as an “enterprising arrangement” and “a great step forward”.

Swanage Railway Project Wareham director Mark Woolley said: "We look forward to continuing to work closely with South Western Railway in bringing more people to the Swanage Railway and welcoming trains from the national railway network.

"In addition to running our heritage steam train services between Swanage, Corfe Castle and Norden, we remain committed to operating a 90-day trial diesel train service to Wareham during 2019," added the long-time Swanage Railway volunteer.

The new summer Saturdays South Western Railway train service departs Wareham for Corfe Castle at 11.17am, 12.40pm and 2.40pm with the train leaving Corfe Castle for Wareham at 12.10pm, 2.10pm and 3.45pm.

Passengers on the new South Western Railway service can also purchase a Corfe Castle to Swanage return ticket for the steam or diesel heritage train, depending on the timetable in use, at a discounted price of £10 for an adult and £5 for a child.

To book tickets – or for more information about the new South Western Railway train service – visit www.swanagerailway.co.uk/summersaturdays or www.southwesternrailway.com/summersaturdays.​

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at [email protected]