Dorset

Swanage Railway: First cross-country train on restored track

Diesel train at Corfe Castle Image copyright Andrew PM Wright
Image caption The trial services will use 1960s diesel trains upgraded to meet modern passenger carrying standards

The first mainline cross-country train has run across four-miles of restored track on a Dorset heritage line.

The excursion train from Derby to Swanage ran on the new Swanage Railway heritage line between Wareham and the seaside resort.

Trial passenger services to reconnect Swanage with the Network Rail mainline at Wareham are due to start in June next year.

The original rail line was closed by British Rail and ripped up in 1972.

Image copyright Dr Neil Clifton
Image caption The line was closed by British Rail in 1972 following a government review of branch lines

Volunteers originally rebuilt a 5.5-mile (8.8km) stretch from Swanage to Norden over 30 years and have been running it as a tourist attraction since the late 1990s.

About 1,500 sleepers have been replaced and an eroding embankment has been repaired during the restoration of the line from Norden to Wareham.

Image copyright Andrew PM Wright

Mark Woolley, director of Swanage Railway Company, said the project to reconnect the heritage line with the mainline had been "a 40-year struggle".

"To actually get to the point where we can say we've nearly finished the job is just brilliant," he added.

Image copyright Andrew PM Wright
Image caption Work to restore the overgrown line between Norden and Wareham began in 2014 following a government grant
Image copyright Andrew PM Wright
Image caption Work on the new line has included the replacement of about 1,500 wooden sleepers

Barry Light, who has been involved with Swanage Railway since 1987, said those involved with the reconnection works were "righting a wrong".

"The railway should never have got ripped up in the first place," he said.

The original 10-mile (16km) line from Swanage to Wareham was removed over seven weeks in 1972.

Image copyright Andrew PM Wright
Image caption A new level crossing has been created at Norden as part of the reconnection works
Image copyright Andrew PM Wright
Image caption Trees and weeds have also been removed during the project

The excursion train, run by Pathfinder rail tours, also collected passengers in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Oxfordshire before arriving at Swanage.

Trials between Swanage and Wareham were originally expected to begin last year but were delayed due to upgrade works on two 1960s diesel trains.

They are now expected to run for at least 50 days next year, starting in June, and 90 days the following year.

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