The day dawned overcast, grey and with light intermittent rain as I drove down from Ringwood (my overnight stay) to Swanage Station, the Southern end of The Swanage Railway. It was the Railway’s spring steam gala with the theme of “Strictly Bulleid” to mark the 50th anniversary of the last steam trains on British Railways Southern Region. To do justice to this event The Swanage gathered no less than 5 of O V Bulleid’s Light Pacfic locomotives. For fans of Southern steam – and me in particular who favours this loco above all others – this promised to be a real treat and so it turned out to be.
By lunchtime the rain had cleared and as the weekend went on – the event lasted 3 days from Friday 31st March to Sunday 2nd April – the weather continued to improve.
All of the locos behaved themselves and in my opinion it was the best Swanage steam gala that I have so far attended. The Bulleid Light Pacific locomotives that we had in steam were:
- 34081 92 Squadron
- 34092 City of Wells
- 34052 Lord Dowding (this is the recently renamed 34052 Braunton)
- 34070 Manston
- 34053 Sir Keith Park
Also in steam was local boy BR Standard Class 4MT 80146 (in reality 80104) acting as station pilot at Swanage.
The Swanage Railway is one of my favourite heritage lines for a number of reasons including its picturesque setting, fleet of locomotives (I just love the M7) and because they inevitably put on a good show at galas. I would add to this list the fact that there are many locations to get great pictures – assuming one knows how to use a camera of course – and you don’t have to work too hard to get to them. For the benefit of that lonely web traveller who happens to like steam, is contemplating a trip to ‘The Swanage’ and has happened upon this page I shall list the locations from where I took these photos.
On this trip I was fairly lazy and spent most of my time in and around the village of Corfe Castle. The locations are listed in no particular order other than that in which they occur to me as I scribble these few words. For those visiting the line I would recommend Ordnance Survey map 195 Bournemouth & Purbeck and I have included approximate grid references to the locations in brackets (remember Eastings first!)
- Location 1 – Northern End of Platform 2, Corfe Castle Station (SY 029789).
- Location 2 – Northern End of Platform 1, Corfe Castle Station (SY 029789).
- Location 3 – entrance to the car park of the Bankes Arms hotel, this is just outside of Corfe Station (SY 962822).
- Location 4 – National Trust (NT) Visitor Centre car park (SY 959824).
- Location 5 – large field adjacent to the NT Visitor Centre. There is a public footpath from the NT Visitor Centre car park that leads to the field and an occupational crossing over the railway. Ultimately the foot path leads to Norden Station, being just a short walk of ¼ mile or so. I have no knowledge of the status of the field with regards to public access, I.E I don’t know if the land is private or common (SY 953825).
- Location 6 – from the castle at Corfe Castle, specifically the broken wall of the inner bailey on the eastern side (SY 956823).
- Location 7 – from the castle mound, about 1/3rd of the way up on the eastern side(SY 956823).
- Location 8 – from a field at the Southern end of Corfe village. A NT public footpath leads from the A351 to both the field and a small stone bridge over the railway. Locals I met told me that the field is common land and freely available for the law abiding use of all (SY 966812).
The above are just the locations that I used on this trip, of course there are many, many more good locations including at the other stations along the line.
So on to the pictures. Captions are minimal using just the name of the locomotive and the location, expressed as Location 1 through to Location 8.
The Time Table
Learning More About the Swanage
For those interested in learning more about the Swanage Railway I can most certainly recommend this DVD by Kingfisher Productions. I purchased mine at full price from the shop at Swanage Station and at £16.95 some may think this expensive, but you get 117 minutes and a great quality documentary. There is plenty of original archive footage of the railway and interviews with the people that ‘made things happen’. The story of how the railway came to be saved by a small group of determined volunteers and to grow to the splendid heritage line of today is fascinating, as is the story of how the connection with the main line at Wareham has come to pass. Finally the documentary talks about the intention to run a regular service to Wareham which, as a trial, is soon be a reality. Overall the DVD is great value I think.
Places to Stay
This is a tricky one since I always struggle to decide whether to stay in the village of Corfe Castle or the town of Swanage. Both locations have their benefits these primarily being the proximity to either really great shooting locations (the village) or the southern terminus of the railway (the town). The latter is especially useful for getting a front seat in the Pullman observation carriage directly behind the engine.
For this trip I finally decided to stay at the Mortons House Hotel in the centre of the village, and a very good choice it was. The hotel is a 16th Century Elizabethan manor house which has been turned into a very fine and comfortable hotel. The greeting that awaits guests is both friendly and genuine. My room was well appointed with a very comfortable bed and décor appropriate for the property. The food was excellent and plentiful, a combination of fine cooking without the rabbit size, nouvelle cuisine portions of some places I have stayed. Bread is made on the premises and is perhaps the best bread I have ever tasted. No real ales are on tap – my favoured beverage as you may guess – but a very acceptable bottled selection is available. Breakfast is included with both the quality and choice up to a very high standard.
Other watering holes in the village include The Greyhound, The Castle Inn and the Bankes Arms Hotel. All three serve well kept ales, while the Bankes Arms is on the corner of Station Road next to the railway station and the trains can be watched from the beer garden. This establishment is soon to offer accommodation and is clearly ‘one to watch’ for those visiting the railway and wanting to stay over.
I have attended several Swanage railway steam galas over the last few years and as usual I thoroughly enjoyed myself at “Strictly Bulleid”. I am now looking forward to the Autumn Gala for which I have both my tickets and my accommodation already booked. Finally my very great thanks to all at The Swanage – in particular the volunteers – for putting on such a great show and running such a great heritage railway. Long may this railway continue to run… “Go Swange Go!”