MICHAEL PORTILLO'S 'GREAT BRITISH RAILWAY JOURNEYS' BBC DOCUMENTARY SERIES VISITS THE SWANAGE RAILWAY
Broadcast: BBC2 6.30pm on Friday, 13 January, 2012
News Item from Andrew P.M. Wright - dated 20th December 2011
Official photographer & press officer, Swanage Railway.
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Michael Portillo, star of Great British Railway Journeys Series 3, which includes a visit to the Swanage Railway.
Photograph © BBC
Rebuilt by volunteers after being closed and demolished by British Rail back in 1972 -
with part of it nearly flattened for a by-pass - the award-winning Swanage Railway is to
feature in Michael Portillo's popular 'Great British Railway Journeys' BBC documentary series.
And in a startling co-incidence, the programme featuring a journey on the relaid Purbeck Line to Corfe Castle will be transmitted on BBC Two at 6.30pm on Friday, 13 January, 2012 - almost 40 years to the day since the last passenger train ran from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Wareham.
With a copy of George Bradshaw's classic Victorian railway guidebook in hand, Michael Portillo takes a steam train to Corfe Castle during an epic rail journey from Windsor in Berkshire to the Isle of Portland in south Dorset.
Swanage Railway commercial manager Martin Payne said: "Through the medium of a train journey - and referring to Bradshaw's
Victorian railway guidebook - Michael Portillo explores how our railways built, linked and changed communities, and
discovers what remains of Bradshaw's Britain.
"The opening of the ten-mile branch line from Wareham in 1885 changed Swanage from a quarrying and fishing community into a Victorian and Edwardian seaside resort.
"Purbeck stone was exported from Swanage by train while Purbeck ball clay was exported by rail from Norden and Furzebrook, north of Corfe Castle, to the midlands potteries. Previously, stone and clay were exported from the Isle of Purbeck by sea.
"Farm exports from the Isle of Purbeck also went out by rail with coal coming in by train to Swanage to fire the town's gasworks.
"Everyone on the Swanage Railway was delighted to help the BBC make a small part of this wonderful documentary series, now in its third series, which appeals to everyone - not just railway enthusiasts - because it's a social and political history explored by train.
"The 'Great British Railway Journeys' episode featuring the Swanage Railway was filmed during the summer and looks absolutely fantastic. Seeing those awesome Medieval ruins of Corfe Castle from our steam train makes a stunning and really striking visual for television," added Martin.
Reproduction copies of Bradshaw's Guide are available through the Swanage Railway shop - and on-line - for £24.95 so people can experience George Bradshaw's words as they undertake their own railway journeys.
The first proposal by Purbeck businessmen and entrepreneurs for a ten-mile branch line from Wareham to Corfe Castle and down to Swanage was put forward during the 1840s when Queen Victoria was on the throne.
But, it was not until 1883 that work started on building the branch line at a cost of £77,000 and the first passenger train ran from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Wareham two years later in May, 1885.
Martin Payne said: "After 35 years of rebuilding work, that once dying branch line now carries more than 200,000 passengers a year and has become the most visited paid-for attraction in Dorset - and the second most visited heritage railway in south west England.
"The award-winning Swanage Railway operates some 2,800 trains a year, mostly steam-hauled with those trains clocking up a total of almost 17,000 miles - that is two thirds of the way around the world.
"Contributing around £10 million to the Purbeck economy, profits from the Swanage Railway's train services are ploughed back into the development and extension of the heritage railway and its facilities," he added.
The Swanage Railway is run by some 500 regular volunteers - assisted by a team of more than 30 paid staff - and the value of the volunteers' work is some £2 million a year if they were paid.
Michael Portillo's five-part railway journey from Windsor to Portland will be transmitted nightly on BBC Two from 9 to 13 January, 2012, at 6.30pm.
Swanage Railway service details are available from the Swanage Railway on 01929 425800 - or by
following the links in the index on the left of this page.
All photographs on this page are copyright BBC.