A £1.49m project to restore passenger services from Wareham to Swanage has run a special train along the route to show how the scheme is developing.
It was the first time that a SouthWest Trains diesel train had visited a heritage railway, the Class 159 unit passing the popular Swanage Railway steam service – hauled by 1940s Brighton-built West Country class Bulleid Pacific No. 34028 'Eddystone' – at Harman's Cross station.
History has been made with SouthWest Trains running its first passenger train from Bournemouth to Corfe Castle and Swanage as part of a £1.49m project to restore services on the line by April 2015. It's been more than 40 years since services ended under British Rail.
A special class 159 diesel train picked up dignitaries and stakeholders at Bournemouth, Poole and Wareham before travelling to down to Corfe Castle and Swanage.
A second return trip from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage took place for Swanage Railway volunteers and staff – some of whom had travelled on the last British Rail train from Swanage to Wareham in January, 1972.
The chairman of a project to restore regular rail services between Swanage and Corfe Castle and Wareham has thanked SouthWest trains and Network Rail for the chance to run a special train along the route.
Peter Sills travelled on the last British Rail train from Swanage as a teenager in 1972.
The chairman said the special train was allowed to run on routes with usually limited access.
Swanage Railway was awarded a £1.47m Government grant from the Coastal Communities Fund in February 2013 to re-introduce a regular train service from Swanage and Corfe Castle to Wareham by spring 2015 - with the aim of boosting transport, tourism and employment boost to the Isle of Purbeck.
The funding bid bid was supported by the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership including Purbeck District Council, Dorset County Council, Poole Borough Council, Network Rail and South West Trains and Perenco which runs the Wytch Farm oil field north of Corfe Castle.
Swanage Railway is also working in conjunction with the Swanage and Purbeck Hospitality Association and the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership to deliver improved transport and communication links to the residents and businesses of Purbeck.
History has been made by the running of first passenger train from Bournemouth to Corfe Castle and Swanage since New Year's Day in 1972.
The trip was to show dignitaries and stakeholders the progress being made towards re-introducing a regular train service between Swanage and Wareham.
The last British Rail trains ran on the dying Swanage branch line in 1972 before it was closed and the tracks taken up for scrap.
The visit of the modern three-coach SouthWest Trains Class 159 diesel train took place on the day before the 50th anniversary of the controversial Beeching Report, of 1963, which closed several railway lines in Dorset.