A PASSENGER on the last British Rail train from Swanage to Wareham is making a return journey some 50 years later – as a conductor.
Peter Frost was aboard the final train in 1972, as a teenager, and will return to the route tomorrow (April 4) as the conductor driver on the first Swanage Railway passenger train into Wareham using the heritage line’s 1950s diesel train.
He will be in the cab of the former British Railways diesel when the four-carriage train forms the 10.44am Corfe Castle to Wareham, and the return 11.19am Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage.
April 4 marks the first day of a four-day-a-week trial heritage diesel train service from the main line at Wareham into the heart of the Isle of Purbeck, running until September 10.
Peter, from Swanage, is a volunteer on the railway, and said: “It will be a great moment when our 1950s heritage diesel train runs into Wareham for the first time and then out 10 minutes later bound for Corfe Castle and Swanage – something that several generations of dedicated and determined Swanage Railway volunteers have worked towards since 1972.
“As a 13-year old, I rode on the last British Rail train from Swanage to Wareham on that cold night in January, 1972, and watched the depressing sight of the track ripped up for scrap during that hot summer when it seemed the Swanage branch line would never come back. Rebuilding the line and returning trains to Wareham seemed impossible.
“I remember the first day of restoration work at a disused and boarded up Swanage station in February, 1976, when most people thought we were mad. We ran our first fledgling diesel trains in 1979 and the first steam trains over a few hundred yards of hand-laid track at Swanage in 1980.”
Swanage Railway Trust director Peter Sills will also be on the train.
As a 13-year old, Mr Sills travelled on the last British Rail passenger train from Swanage to Wareham on the evening of Saturday, 1 January, 1972, and who still has his ticket from that last diesel train.
He will be travelling on the first train from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage with his 16-year old son Frederick, a keen member of the Swanage Railway’s popular Sygnets youth group.
Mr Sills, 65 and from Wareham, said: “Riding on the first train from Wareham in the Swanage Railway’s heritage diesel train with my son – 51 years after riding on the last British Rail train from Wareham to Swanage in 1972, with my late father – will be a very special piece of history and rather poignant. It will be like turning back the clock.”
The 90-day trial Wareham service operates on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with the first train departing Wareham at 11.19am and the last train leaving Swanage for Wareham at 4.20pm.
From the end of April, tickets for the Swanage Railway’s Wareham service will also be available from main line train operating company South Western Railway so its passengers can purchase add-on tickets for Corfe Castle and Swanage to their main line tickets.
Gavin Johns, volunteer chairman of the Swanage Railway Trust, said: “This trial train service is the result of working in partnership with the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund, the Department of Transport, the former Purbeck District Council, Dorset Council, British Petroleum, Perenco, Network Rail and South Western Railway.
“I would like to thank our valued stakeholders for their far-sighted investment of £5.5 million to re-connect Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham which included £1.8 million from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund so we could restore and upgrade our 1950s heritage diesel trains for running on the main line directly into Wareham station,” added Gavin who is also a volunteer Swanage Railway signalman.
Tickets for the trial heritage diesel train service between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage are available at swanagerailway.co.uk.