TWO pioneering Swanage Railway founders – who as university students started the battle to rebuild the Dorset heritage line in 1972 – have returned to Swanage 50 years later to honour those who have realised their dream.
Andrew Goltz and John Sloboda were keen 22-year-old railway enthusiasts when they travelled from London to the disused station in the village of Corfe Castle during May, 1972.
The pair, both sons of Polish immigrants, walked along the abandoned and rusting tracks just weeks before they were lifted by demolition contractors working for British Rail. It was during that afternoon walk around the boarded-up Victorian station, in the shadow of the medieval castle ruins, the pair decided to form the Swanage Railway Society to reopen the 10-mile branch line from Wareham after it was controversially closed by British Rail in January 1972.
Just a few weeks after the Swanage Railway Society was formed, British Rail lifted the tracks for scrap, with the Society having to fight a four-year battle to be allowed to rebuild the line and re-lay the tracks so that steam trains could be returned to the Isle of Purbeck.
Flying in from his home in Poland to visit Corfe Castle station 50 years later, Andrew said: “It’s very moving and gut-wrenching to be back. With the castle ruins rising above, Corfe Castle station had a powerful magic and I remember John saying, ‘We have to save it’.”
Now in his early 70s, John travelled from his London home to be reunited with his former student railway campaigner.
After being shown around Corfe Castle station the pair took a train trip to Harman’s Cross station to visit a poignant memorial stone paying tribute to generations of dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers.