Friday, 15 May 2009

All aboard the Swanage Railway

Advantages: A fantastic day out, and hope for a network rail link to Swanage

Disadvantages: None

If you like trains you will obviously love this place. If you also love to lap up a bit of British heritage and wallow in its nostalgia, this is a must visit day out. 

I am not a train buff, so you must excuse my lack of terminology and straightforward, if perhaps naive, review. 

The Swanage Railway was set up by enthusiasts keen to preserve the local line after being chopped by the Beeching Axe. 

There are a number of ways you can enjoy the Swanage railway. You might wish to start at the historic Corfe Castle end, or at the seaside Swanage end. Obviously Corfe Castle and Swanage have their own merits, but I won't dwell on those. I will concentrate on the railway experience. 

As with most rail heritage sites, there are various events happening at different times of the year and as a consequence, if you choose to go for a train ride, there may be a number of different trains, or should i say engines, that might pull your train. 

This particular day out started at the Swanage end. The station is typically something of past-times Britain. This 'scene' is helped along by the main station building, which appears to be built from the local Purbeck stone. 

As you go onto the station you might encounter, as I did, older steam, or diesel trains parked on one of the tracks oppostite the main platform. If it is not already in station, you will eventually be greeted by whichever train is running that day (there may be more than one). 

Buying a ticket is a charming experience - the ticket office is very 1950s and the ticket seller might be dressed in 'period' costume. 

After buying the ticket I waited with the other excited travellers for the train to come in. And what a sight when it did, huffing and puffing away. I got on and found my seat. The carriage, although old, was within my memory, and I remember riding in these when I was younger. At a guess these were still in use in the 1990s, although did look old. 

I got stuck into my packed lunch and enjoyed the Dorset scenery and the relatively slow, easy going and occasionally bumpy ride. I got off at Corfe, checked the time of the train I wanted to get back and wandered around Corfe, taking in its scenery before grabbing a pint. As you might expect Corfe Castle Station in its capacity as part of a heritage line is utterly charming. 

I headed back to Swanage, and when I arrived I took advantage of the restaurant/cafe. On the other platform there ar a group of carriages consisting of a buffet car and dining carriages. 

I plumped for a cup of tea and a slice of jam sponge, though looking around me the other diners' food looked excellent and judging by the contented looks on their faces, must have tasted good. My tea and cake was very satisfactory! 

Swanage station has an excellent shop selling railway memorabilia, books, model trains, and let's not foget sweets and ice cream too! 

Toilet facilities are clean. 

The irony is, if you don't drive, you can't get a train to Swanage - for the time being. Swanage Station is right next to the bus station. 

There have been plans to connect the Swanage line back to the main line, and this has been done, though cannot be used in its fullest capacity. Should Swanage station and its line ever become part of the main network again, I wonder if it will remain a heritage line. Either way it still serves a very useful purpose. In the meantime, get yourself down to Swanage in Dorset and enjoy this exprerience.

Summary: Great enjoyment to be had by all.

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