“ The award-winning Swanage Railway currently operates on the six miles of track between Swanage and Norden, through the beautiful Isle of Purbeck, passing the magnificent ruins of Corfe Castle. The goals of the Swanage Railway Trust (the controlling body of the Swanage Railway) are to restore the rail link between Swanage and Wareham, re-establishing a daily service to connect with main line trains, and to create a comprehensive historical record of steam railways and steam technology in Southern England. This goal was brought a step closer on 3rd January 2002 when the remaining sections of track were laid at Norden. A special service operated on 8th September 2002 when the first through train from the main line at Wareham visited Swanage. „
Whilst on holiday in east Dorset we wanted to visit Swanage and it was recommended that we use the park and ride from Norden, however this park and ride is not a bus service but a steam and deisel railway line, located between Poole and Swanage on the Isle of Purbeck.
It is possible to book tickets in advance online. The tickets were £9 for an adult and £7 for children.
The journey from Norden to Swanage is 6 miles and stops at Corfe, Harmans Cross and Herston Halt (by request only). I would recommend stopping off at Corfe to visit the castle (see seperate review) to enjoy the superb views of the Isle of Purbeck.
All of the stations that you pass through are old fashoined and beautifully maintained. The station masters room at Corfe Station is open to view and worth a look. I also enjoyed the old fashioned book stores on barrows at each station, especially if you are a steam enthusiast.
The journey time from Norden to Swannage is just over half an hour. The car park at Norden shuts at 6pm.
The trains were crowded and we stood for the return journey. For steam enthusiatrs check the time table as the trains were alternate between deisel and steam. The trains also didn't leave on time. There were no steps to the platforms at either stations making access for all easy.
Swanage is a typical seaside town and I would recommend a boat trip from the harbour to see old Harry's Rock and enjoy the veiws of the cliffs. also you can participate in a bit of crab fishing from the habour walls.
If you like trains you will obviously love this place. If you also love to lap up a bit of British heritage and wallow in its nostalgia, this is a must visit day out.
I am not a train buff, so you must excuse my lack of terminology and straightforward, if perhaps naive, review.
The Swanage Railway was set up by enthusiasts keen to preserve the local line after being chopped by the Beeching Axe.
There are a number of ways you can enjoy the Swanage railway. You might wish to start at the historic Corfe Castle end, or at the seaside Swanage end. Obviously Corfe Castle and Swanage have their own merits, but I won't dwell on those. I will concentrate on the railway experience.
As with most rail heritage sites, there are various events happening at different times of the year and as a consequence, if you choose to go for a train ride, there may be a number of different trains, or should i say engines, that might pull your train.
This particular day out started at the Swanage end. The station is typically something of past-times Britain. This 'scene' is helped along by the main station building, which appears to be built from the local Purbeck stone.
As you go onto the station you might encounter, as I did, older steam, or diesel trains parked on one of the tracks oppostite the main platform. If it is not already in station, you will eventually be greeted by whichever train is running that day (there may be more than one).
Buying a ticket is a charming experience - the ticket office is very 1950s and the ticket seller might be dressed in 'period' costume.
After buying the ticket I waited with the other excited travellers for the train to come in. And what a sight when it did, huffing and puffing away. I got on and found my seat. The carriage, although old, was within my memory, and I remember riding in these when I was younger. At a guess these were still in use in the 1990s, although did look old.
I got stuck into my packed lunch and enjoyed the Dorset scenery and the relatively slow, easy going and occasionally bumpy ride. I got off at Corfe, checked the time of the train I wanted to get back and wandered around Corfe, taking in its scenery before grabbing a pint. As you might expect Corfe Castle Station in its capacity as part of a heritage line is utterly charming.
I headed back to Swanage, and when I arrived I took advantage of the restaurant/cafe. On the other platform there ar a group of carriages consisting of a buffet car and dining carriages.
I plumped for a cup of tea and a slice of jam sponge, though looking around me the other diners' food looked excellent and judging by the contented looks on their faces, must have tasted good. My tea and cake was very satisfactory!
Swanage station has an excellent shop selling railway memorabilia, books, model trains, and let's not foget sweets and ice cream too!
Toilet facilities are clean.
The irony is, if you don't drive, you can't get a train to Swanage - for the time being. Swanage Station is right next to the bus station.
There have been plans to connect the Swanage line back to the main line, and this has been done, though cannot be used in its fullest capacity. Should Swanage station and its line ever become part of the main network again, I wonder if it will remain a heritage line. Either way it still serves a very useful purpose. In the meantime, get yourself down to Swanage in Dorset and enjoy this exprerience.
On a recent trip to Dorset we had already decided before going that going to the Swanage Railway was one of the things that we'd do. It had been recommended by my Dads colleague and after looking it up it did look like an enjoyable day out. I'm not exactly a train enthusiast but I thought it would be a nice nostalgic day out and a trip down memory lane for my Gran. The line runs six miles from Norden to Swanage and passes the stunning Corfe Castle. The trains are steam run and having never been on a steam run train before I was looking forward to it.
***History of Swanage Railway***
Swanage Railway originally opened in 1885 and was operated by the London and South Western Railway Company. In January 1972 it was closed and the line itself was lifted. In 1975 a group of men decided it was worth saving and started to restore it. The train is run by volunteers and throughout the years the line has been extended as well as the trains themselves being preserved. Their aim was not only to restore it but also try and create a transport link to Wareham. When the volunteers started to restore the line they only managed to go as far as Herston which is just outside Swanage. Then it went as far as Harmans Cross, which is 3 miles away. It wasn't until 1995 that the line went as far as Corfe Castle and Norden. Then in 1998 the Park and Ride at Norden was opened and is now the suggested starting point of your journey. In 2002 they managed to achieve one of their objectives and a train from Wareham went to Swanage.
***Places the train goes to***
This is the opposite end of the line to Swanage. If you're driving from somewhere then this is the best place to start from, as there is a Park and Ride, which certainly makes life easier. The parking is free which is another plus as well. When we pulled up we decided to go to the front and get my Gran and her wheelchair out first. As we were doing that a rather polite man who was obviously a volunteer came up to offer his assistance. He also provided us with a timetable and explained how it worked depending on which timetable they were using.
There are plenty of facilities here so if you do get there too early then it isn't so bad. There are toilets, a children's play area as well as a unique refreshment area called Norden Nest Buffet. This is a restored carriage, which has been converted. As we got there a little early we had a cup of tea whilst we were waiting. I personally didn't go into the carriage but it was nice inside and I was told there were homemade cakes on sale, which looked yummy. It's probably just as well I didn't go in!
The volunteers are obviously proud of their work and they had a lovely rockery with a figure of Kermit and two other characters from The Muppets. There was also paraphernalia relating to the railway near the line so there is plenty to keep you amused when waiting for the train. There is also a mining display here which you see as you're leaving the station and on the way back to the car park.
Corfe Castle doesn't only refer to the castle but also a small picturesque village. There are plenty of pubs and shops here so it's worth spending a little time here. For all those who like Enid Blyton there is the Ginger Pop Shop in which you can buy things from Enid Blyton books to ginger beer. There are also other quaint shops such as a sweet shop and a gem shop. There is also a National Trust shop as well as a Post Office.
The National Trust owns the ruins of Corfe Castle and they are currently trying to restore it. When we went in September a section at the top was actually shut due to restoration. This was only a small part though and it is still well worth going to. The castle is thought to have been rebuilt in the 11th century as it had previously been made of wood dating back to the 9th century.
There is also a model village of Corfe Castle of how it looked back in 1646, which I wasn't aware of, until I was back home. There is also The Railway Museum at the station.
Harmans Cross is halfway in-between Swanage and Norden. There isn't really anything there that I'm aware of though.
The train doesn't stop here unless you request it to.
Swanage is the end of the line and many people got off here to spend the day at the seaside. Swanage has a number of shops as well as its award winning sandy beach. At the station you'll find a refreshment area in an old carriage like there is at Norden. Birds Nest Buffet is open daily and offers a range of snacks and drinks just like Norden Nest Buffet. There is also a Railway shop at the station, which sells books, and other railway related things.
As mentioned earlier we started the journey at Norden. After waiting a short time the train arrived. As soon as the train came into view everyone was trying to get a picture of it as it came into the station. When it turned up we puzzled over where to get on as my Gran was in a wheelchair. Before we thought to ask one of the volunteers dressed in the traditional uniform came up and said he'd get the ramp set up for us. There was also another lady in a wheelchair and several families with pushchairs. Getting on board is easy because of the helpfulness of the volunteers. He also had a cracking sense of humour and had my Gran laughing when he told her she was to walk the plank. Once on the train a few of us sat in the luggage area as it saved my Gran getting out of her wheelchair and struggling to get to a seat. There are a few seats here so we were ok. If anyone else is doing this then make sure the brakes are good as a few times we had to catch my Gran from rolling about. She didn't seem to mind though and thought it was funny!
The rest of the train has ample seats with tables. All the volunteers were helpful and even when we were asking questions they didn't mind and they were extremely knowledgeable. We asked what the ladder was for and were surprised to learn it was in case they stopped and had to get off the train. I never gave that a thought, as the drop would be quite high if the train wasn't at a railway platform. It wasn't long before we were on the move and I stood near the window poised with my camera so I could get a decent shot of Corfe Castle. One of the volunteers saw me doing this and came up to me to tell me the best time to take one, as I'd get the best picture. It was little things like this that made the journey pleasurable. The actual journey was smooth and although we were going at a reasonable speed we weren't going really fast. This was good though as it meant we could soak up the scenery better. You have to be careful if you're looking out the open window in case the smoke is blowing in your direction. I was lucky that when I was taking my pictures it was blowing the other way. I wouldn't have wanted to end up with a black face! I'm sure it wouldn't as such but it is worth bearing in mind all the same.
We decided to go all the way from Norden to Swanage without getting off. Then on the way back getting off at Corfe Castle. This worked out better for us as we'd been to Swanage and didn't need to get off there. Those who haven't been might wish to get off there for the day and enjoy a day at the beach (weather permitting of course!) The main purpose of our trip was to see Corfe Castle. I'd been in the area before and not made it to I was looking forward to that. The journey from Norden to Swanage took approximately 23 minutes. I never noticed how long it took on the way back to Corfe Castle but if you were thinking of going and planning it well then the timetable should be ample for this.
Getting off at Corfe Castle if you've never been is an absolute must. Corfe Castle ruins is one of the most impressive I've seen and the surrounding countryside is beautiful. I'd been through the village on my way down, as we were staying in a cottage not that far from it. I was impressed then and actually going to it was one of the highlights of my trip. Once we were off the train we paid a visit to the toilets before heading off.
After our visit to the castle we headed back to the station and made our journey from Corfe Castle back to Norden.
There are a number of special events, which would make the journey extra special to the usual one. This changes throughout the year so it's worth checking the website if you are planning a visit as there maybe something of interest to you. For the children and big kids amongst us they have a Day Out With Thomas (The Tank Engine) and for those who like their beer there is a Swanage Railway Beer Festival in May. Plus the Santa Specials operate during the weekends in December so if you have children then this would be well worth visiting then. Every child will get a present and the adults get a mince pie and a seasonal drink.
If dining in style is more your thing then they have various dining experiences. The Wessex Belle provides this on Saturday evenings and for special occasions. The fixed price (£32.95) includes a 3 course meal which is served on a two round journey between Norden and Swanage. The Travelling Tavern operates on Friday evenings, which costs £19 per person. The Dorsetman offers a traditional luncheon service for £24. Most these experiences booking is essential. For further details please look on the website.
For all those who would like to drive a train there is the Driving Experience. This costs £160 per person a will last roughly an hour. You must be over 21 in order to do this and unfortunately no passengers are allowed on.
***Times and prices***
As mentioned earlier they work on various different timetables according to the time of the year. When we went they were operating the Blue timetable. This is the off peak season really as it has the fewest amount of times. During the busier times of the year the Green timetable and Yellow timetable will be in use. They also have Special Events throughout the year so that is worth checking out if something tickles your fancy. Details of the timetables can be found out on their website. As a rough guide line the trains start around 9am from Swanage and Norden at 10.30am, of course this all depends on what timetable is in use so it's worth finding out before you go. When you get there they tell you when the last train is but its worth knowing in advance so you can plan your day better.
An Adult Return will cost from £7.50, a Concession Return from £5.50. Family tickets are also available at £21, which includes 2 adults, and up to 3 children. There are also Evening Rover Fares which mean you can travel on any train after 5pm and you'll have unlimited travel for the evening. This will cost £4 for adults and £3 for senior citizens.
It's worth noting that if you show your train ticket at Corfe Castle then you get a discount. I can't recall what that was now but I think it was something like 50p.
Overall it was a fantastic day out and being on the train was fun as well as it taking us to Corfe Castle. The staff were extremely helpful, knowledgeable and polite which made the journey more of a pleasure. I'd certainly recommend this to anyone whether they have an interest in trains or not. Children should enjoy themselves as well. There were no children in our group but I saw a few looking eagerly out the window and I over heard one saying it was a train like Harry Potter. So it really does appeal to all ages from children to those who are older and remember the old steam trains from their youth.