Dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers are to operate two extra ‘Steam and Lights’ trains on December 31, 2020 – due to unprecedented demand for the service.
With a steam locomotive at each end, the brightly lit six-carriage train departs Swanage station at 5.15pm and 7.15pm for the one-hour round trip to Corfe Castle and Norden.
Visitors can also book adult and child festive picnic boxes, as well as drinks, to make their festive ‘Steam and Lights’ train trip even more of a memorable occasion.
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The Swanage Railway’s volunteer Commercial Director Steve Williams said: “The demand from the public for tickets for our new colourful, evocative and dramatic ‘Steam and Lights’ train service continues to be unprecedented which is very gratifying.
“The special trains are very important to the Swanage Railway because the profits from their operation go towards helping the heritage railway survive the potentially devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are delighted to be able to run an extra day of two ‘Steam and Lights’ trains because the feedback from passengers has been very encouraging and a lovely thank you to our volunteers who put in such a lot of hard work into making the magic happen.
“One passenger loved their trip so much that he emailed me to say well done, adding that it had been ‘a magical experience’ and that ‘the production was absolutely amazing’.
“He went on to say that ‘the warm welcome everyone received from your staff made it a night to remember’ which makes all the hours of preparation, and all the hard work on the evening, worthwhile.
“Because of the need to keep people safe, the number of people on a ‘Steam and Lights’ train booking cannot exceed six from the same household, or care bubble, and we cannot take bookings from people who live in a Tier Three area because of Government regulations.
“The Swanage Railway uses a long-life anti-bacterial spray on its trains and stations, to keep passengers and staff safe, while the trains are cleaned, and the tables wiped, after every round trip.”
Before the decision to run an extra day of ‘Steam and Lights’ trains on Thursday, 31 December, 2020, was made – due to public demand for tickets – the Swanage Railway had committed to run the festive trains on 17 days during December with two of the brightly lit six-carriage trains running in darkness on each of the days.
The ‘Steam and Lights’ trains feature special lighting displays at stations, as well as at three other locations along the five and a half mile heritage line, as the steam train runs from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden.
The interiors of the cosy steam-heated carriages are also festively decorated for the one-hour round trip which sees on-board music synchronised to lineside lighting displays that pass the carriage windows.
Steve Williams explained: “Before passengers board the ‘Steam and Lights’ train at Swanage station for their magical journey, there is also a dramatic switch-on of the train lights at the platform by a lucky child who is chosen to press the switch.
“Swanage station is only open to ‘Steam and Lights’ passengers while Herston Halt, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden stations are closed to the public,” he added.
A socially distanced Swanage station shop is open, subject to volunteer availability, when the ‘Steam and Lights’ trains are operating. There is no catering at Swanage station, or on the special festive trains, because of the need to keep passengers and staff safe against the threat of COVID-19.
Tickets for the ‘Steam and Lights’ trains are £20 each for passengers aged 15 and above, £15 for children aged three to 15 and free for children aged under three if they sit on an adult lap and do not occupy a seat.
There is a maximum of six people – from the same household or care bubble – per booking.
Visit swanagerailway.co.uk/events/detail/steam-lights to view a preview video and book.