Steam services have resumed across the Dorset countryside with reopening of the popular Swanage Railway.
Featuring assigned seating and social distancing measures, trains between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage have resumed as the Government eased lockdown restrictions.
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April 12 saw Southern Railway 1940s Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34072 257 Squadron haul the first steam train out of Swanage since December 29, 2020.
Trevor Parsons, Swanage Railway trustee and passenger services director, said: “It was wonderful to smell steam in the air and watch the magnificent sight of a steam train, with excited passengers on board, leave Swanage station for the first time in almost four months.
“Our volunteers and staff have responded wonderfully to the challenge of returning a Covid-safe steam train service and it’s great to see the Swanage Railway again doing what is does best – help to provide people with a wonderful day out in the Isle of Purbeck,” added Mr Parsons.
Swanage Railway chairman Gavin Johns said: “It was good to see a gleaming ‘257 Squadron’ head our first passenger train of the season and watch it steam past the magnificent ruins of Corfe Castle. Being able to resume our Covid-safe socially distanced steam train services is an absolute delight.
“After a lot of planning work, refresher training and Covid-safe preparation, the Swanage Railway is ready to help people have a great day out in the Isle of Purbeck – whether it’s going to Swanage for the town and sea, visiting Corfe Castle for the village and iconic ruins or Norden for walks over the heathland and the Purbeck Hills.
“The safety of our passengers and staff is always our prime concern and detailed work has gone into our planning for the Swanage Railway’s reopening.
“The Swanage Railway is COVID-19 compliant with a long-life anti-bacterial spray being used on its trains and stations while the trains are cleaned, and the tables wiped, after every round trip,” added Gavin who is also a volunteer signalman on the heritage line.
The easing of restrictions on April 12 also saw the reopening of the fundraising shop at Swanage station.
Trevor Parsons adds: “We strongly recommend on-line booking in advance, via our upgraded and improved website, to avoid disappointment as seat numbers are reduced – to ensure the prescribed social distancing – with any unsold seats being available for sale on the day at our Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage station ticket offices.
“Passengers still have to wear face coverings on our platforms and trains – unless they are exempt – with hand sanitiser points available on our stations. Children under the age of 11 do not need to wear a face covering,” he added.
Subject to the lifting of Government restrictions, the Swanage Railway hopes to re-open its Corfe Castle station museum, return catering facilities to Swanage and Norden stations and re-introduce its dining trains, in a Covid-safe manner, from May 17, 2021.
The Swanage Railway’s Harman’s Cross station and Herston Halt will remain closed – in compliance with current Government guidance – and are set to re-open when the Government lifts the Covid-19 restrictions regarding social distancing.
Covid-safe passenger services ran on the Swanage Railway during 2020, including the successful Steam and Lights festive trains in December.
The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers and anyone interested in finding out more should contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email email@example.com.
Details of how the Swanage Railway keeps its passengers safe can be found at www.swanagerailway.co.uk/covid-19-passenger-information.
Up to date train service information is available from the Swanage Railway website at swanagerailway.co.uk where train tickets can be booked.