Swanage Railway News Gallery - Page 159
Virgin Voyager visit to Swanage on 7th & 8th September
Press Release from Andrew P.M. Wright - dated 9th Sept 2002
Official photographer & press officer, Swanage Railway.
Photographs are copyright Andrew P.M. Wright
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First train from Wareham to Swanage in 30 years is welcomed by a crowd of 2,000 people
before a Swanage Railway pioneer and a veteran Dorset railwayman name the county's newest hi-tech train.
Two thousand jubilant people packed Swanage station yesterday, Sunday, September 8th, 2002,
when the first train from Wareham in 30 years drew into the seaside town - making an important
piece of Dorset history.
The historic occasion that Swanage Railway campaigners had been battling for since the last BR
train ran into the town in January, 1972, also saw Purbeck Line pioneer Moyra Cross of Swanage -
and veteran Dorset steam locomotive driver Stan Symes of Bournemouth - name Virgin Trains' newest
train, the Class 220 Voyager No. 018.
Set to begin work carrying passengers between Dorset, the midlands, the north and Scotland from the
end of September, the £4 million train with a top speed of 125 mph was named Dorset Voyager at Swanage
After naming the hi-tech train, Moyra Cross - an 80 year old widow whose fellow Swanage Railway
campaigner husband Roger Cross sadly died ten years ago - said: "I was very excited but also very
emotional. It's the realisation of all our dreams.
"We all struggled and a lot of people said it would never happen but a few determined people were
absolutely certain that it was going to happen so we pressed on and this is the result today.
"My late husband Roger was very involved in the railway and today would have been a very proud day for
him. In my wildest dreams I never thought it would be like this - I thought there would just be a few
people on the platform," added Mrs Cross.
As well as 2,000 people packing Swanage station - taking advantage of every vantage point, including the
Northbrook Road bridge - hundreds of people lined the first train's route through Norden, Corfe Castle,
Harman's Cross and Herston; watching from the lineside, from bridges and even from back gardens.
The Virgin Voyager's arrival at Norden station - the Swanage Railway's current end of passenger train
operations - saw the new £4 million express train set off pyrotechnics before it ran through a special
commemorative banner across the tracks at precisely 12 noon. The special train departed Norden station
at 12.19 pm and ran non-stop to Swanage - arriving at a packed station at 12.38 pm.
On his arrival at Swanage on the historic first train from Wareham, the Mayor of Wareham, Councillor
Charles Patterson, was welcomed by the Mayor of Swanage, Councillor Tony Miller, as the Swanage Town
Band played Congratulations on the platform.
The Virgin Voyager then hauled five passenger-carrying trains from Swanage to Norden park and ride and
back - the 12.50 pm, the 2 pm, the 3.10 pm, the 4.20 pm and the 5.30 pm; the Swanage Railway printing
special commemorative tickets for the occasion.
The dynamic and highly respected Chief Executive of Virgin Trains, Chris Green, said: "Speaking on
behalf of the rail industry - because we have Railtrack, Balfour Beatty, the Strategic Rail Authority
and South West Trains here today - we are delighted to be rolling back Beeching with the Swanage
Railway, and to be standing here 30 years after the last train from Wareham is terrific.
"The job is three quarters done - we have just to get that last quarter where you can get regular
services in and out of Wareham. I believe those meetings are going to start soon.
"I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this first train from Wareham - it's a victory
for the Swanage Railway which is now in the top league of private railways and should be taking
first place when it runs to Wareham.
"It's also victory for the rail industry in that we have been able to get our act together on a
fragmented railway and work with the Swanage Railway on this. Above all, it's a victory for Moyra
Cross who in 1969 pledged to get this line reconnected and here we are today meeting her dream at last.
"Today is also about a bigger picture of rolling back Beeching. The Strategic Rail Authority have
said it wants 50 per cent more passengers on the railways - if they want that we've got to invest
and expand, and the Swanage Railway is doing that in connecting yourself up to Wareham.
"We would also like to think that we are doing that in Virgin Trains with this new £4 million
Voyager train behind me. I do really want to make the point that yesterday this train was in
York and today it's at Swanage so the Swanage Railway is part of the national network which is
what we all wanted.
"We particularly wanted a Virgin Voyager to be the first through train to Swanage because it's symbolic.
The new railway and the old railway can work together in a great partnership and we want to bring
passengers to Dorset for tourism, for railway nostalgia and just for the sheer beauty of your
countryside and the area.
"So we feel very much a part of it and today I think we are celebrating a joint success with
Virgin cross-country and the Swanage Railway," added Mr Green.
After the official naming, Chris Green presented a mounted replica of the Dorset Voyager
nameplate to Bill Trite, Swanage Railway chairman, and another to Michael Holden, boss of
Railtrack's southern region.
In return, Bill Trite - on behalf of the Swanage Railway - presented Chris Green with a large
replica of the nameplate that used to be carried by the unrebuilt West Country class Bulleid
Pacific No. 34105 'Swanage' which used to work to the resort during the 1950s.
After returning to Swanage at 6.28 pm with the 6.05 pm train from Norden park and ride, the
Virgin Voyager departed Swanage empty for its final trip up to Norden. Arriving at 6.56 pm,
it then ran along the one-mile extension of the Swanage Railway to the boundary with Railtrack
at Motala - half a mile east of Furzebrook - which was reached at 7.18 pm. It then ran back on
to the main line and passed through Wareham at 7.50 pm en route to Bournemouth where the train
terminated at 8.15 pm.
Swanage Railway chairman, Bill Trite, said: "I was not expecting the huge crowds that we have today.
This is truly an historic occasion for the Swanage Railway. We've had one or two historic occasions
in the past but I don't think we've had anything yet that matches this.
"I welcome Virgin Trains chief executive Chris Green especially because 12 years ago, when the Swanage
Railway opened to Harman's Cross, Chris vowed that he would come back when we connected.
"This is the culmination of a vast amount of work, of course, and I would like to pay tribute to those
who started this project right back in 1972. Who would have believed 30 years ago that we would be
standing here at the very spot where the last train in January, 1972, arrived at Swanage and indeed left.
"Thirty years on and the answer to my question who would have believed it is a small band of determined
people. They have been augmented over the years but in those early years, the 1970s and early 1980s it
required a tremendous act of faith to keep going and a belief that this could be gone.
"Through many trials and tribulations, frustration piled upon frustration, we are where we are today.
It's only a matter of time before regular services start and I would like to pay full tribute to those
who kept the faith despite all the odds. It's a triumph of determination over logic.
"It would to give our full thanks to Railtrack, Balfour Beatty and South West Trains for helping us in
the recent past particularly to get that crucial half-mile section of line up to a standard that we
could get this train through at a very low speed.
"I would especially like to thank Virgin Trains because they have made this whole thing possibly - thank
you Chris for all your interest in us," added Mr Trite.
Bound for the Swanage Railway, the Virgin Voyager had departed Eastleigh at 3.30 pm on Saturday, 7th
September, 2002, arriving at Wareham at 5.04 pm before passing on to the Swanage Railway at Motala at
around 5.35 pm.
It was stabled for the night, with a guard, in the Woodpecker Cutting near Eldon's Siding - half a
mile west of Norden station - as the train waited for its triumphant entry into Swanage.
In an amazing co-incidence and twist of fate, the Virgin Voyager's trip on and off the Swanage Railway
was signalled by the man who signalled the final BR train from Swanage and Corfe Castle to Wareham on
New Year's Day, 1972.
On that dark winter's night, a Saturday, Bob Richards was the last signalman at Corfe Castle station.
On the Monday, January 3rd, 1972, the day that the Swanage branch line officially closed, Bob started
work at Wareham signal box.
Thirty years later, Bob was on duty at Wareham signal box when the Virgin Voyager came through Wareham
bound for Swanage on the Saturday evening. Also seen here with Bob is signalling manager Steve Vine.
And the man who started his railway career at Corfe Castle in 1962, Bob was on duty in the same Wareham
signal box on Sunday evening when the Virgin Voyager ran off the Swanage Railway and back on to the
national railway network.
The Virgin Voyager's historic trip to Swanage took place on the 40th anniversary - to the day - of
the last Pines Express inter-regional cross country train running on the Somerset and Dorset line
between Bournemouth and Bath. Forty years on, Sunday, September 8th, 2002, saw Southern Locomotives
Ltd's unrebuilt Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34072 '257 Squadron' run on the Swanage
With a Pines Express headboard on the front - and with Peter Smith, who drove the last 'up' Pines
Express on the Somerset and Dorset, at the controls - '257 Squadron' hauled the 2.35 pm train from
Swanage; the Pines Express passing the Dorset Voyager, the first new inter-regional cross country
train since the Pines Express, at Harman's Cross station as it worked the 2.35 pm Norden to Swanage
Last Updated 20th Sept 2002
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