Swanage Railway general manager Richard Jones with the tourism award and some of the staff who run the heritage railway which carries some 200,000 passengers a year.

Swanage Railway general manager Richard Jones with the tourism award and some of the staff who run the heritage railway which carries some 200,000 passengers a year.

Dedicated staff and members of the Swanage Railway in Dorset are celebrating after their rebuilt heritage line through the Isle of Purbeck received an award – for its important contribution in boosting local tourism and increasing the number of visitors.

The five and a half mile steam-operated railway from Norden Park & Ride to Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross, Herston Halt and Swanage carries around 200,000 passengers a year and contributes some £10 million a year to the local economy.

Praising and recognising the Swanage Railway’s investment and effort which ‘significantly increases’ the number of visitors to Poole and the surrounding area, the supporting tourism accolade came at the 2013 Poole Tourism Awards sponsored by property agents and surveyors Sibbett Gregory.

Earlier in the year, the Swanage Railway won a bronze award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme organised by the not-for-profit Green Business organisation based in the Scottish town of Perth.

Managed and developed by the volunteer-run Swanage Railway Trust, a registered charity – with the steam and diesel trains run by the Swanage Railway Company – all profits from the operations are ploughed back into the Swanage Railway in order to develop, improve and extend the heritage line.

The Swanage Railway Trust has some 4,000 members and some 400 regular volunteers who help to run the train services – and maintain the infrastructure – supported by a team of paid staff, both full-time and seasonal.

Swanage Railway general manager Richard Jones said: “We pride ourselves on giving our visitors an enjoyable, friendly and memorable day out and this award is recognition of the Swanage Railway’s important contribution in increasing the number of visitors to the area.

“As well as offering a return steam train trip over five and a half miles of line through the beautiful Isle of Purbeck – from a castle to the coast – there is the ball clay mine museum next to Norden station as well as the goods shed museum, exhibition coach and cinema coach at Corfe Castle station.

“By leaving your vehicle next to our park and ride station at Norden, the Swanage Railway is also a very enjoyable and hassle free way of exploring the history of Corfe Castle and Swanage as well as all that Purbeck countryside in between.

“Our dedicated staff – both volunteer and paid – work very hard, day in and day out, to run the Swanage Railway’s train services and it’s a major commitment for our people because we run daily from the end of March to the end of October and then during weekends for the rest of the year.

“So the first passenger train of the day can run at 10am, a driver, fireman and cleaner will have been up since 6am raising stream in the locomotive and preparing the day’s train service. While we have local volunteers, others travel from further afield such as London, the west country and the midlands.

“The only break our staff have from running trains is during our annual six week engineering shutdown ­– in January and the first half of February – when our staff work on renewal projects and maintenance work before the Swanage Railway reopens for business,” explained Mr Jones.

Controversially closed by British Rail and demolished in 1972, the Swanage Railway has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976 – the line taking just seven weeks to lift for scrap and more than 30 long years to relay.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers with full training being given. For an informal chat – and to find out more – contact volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email volunteer@swanagerailwaytrust.org.uk


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