Discover Dorset's Hidden Gem

EXPLORE THE ISLE OF PURBECK THANKS TO TWO-DAY SERVICE FORMED OF RESTORED 1950s HERITAGE DIESEL TRAIN

A restored 1950s heritage diesel train – of the same type that ran on Dorset’s last remaining branch line between Maiden Newton and Bridport for a decade – is to operate a two-day Winter Explorer train service between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Swanage.

A restored 1950s heritage diesel train – of the same type that ran on Dorset’s last remaining branch line between Maiden Newton and Bridport for a decade – is to operate a two-day Winter Explorer train service between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Swanage.

Photo: Andrew P.M. Wright

The 1950s ex-British Railways three-carriage Class 117 diesel mechanical multiple unit – known as a DMMU for short – will be operating on the Swanage Railway on Sunday, 31 December, 2023, and New Year’s Day, Monday, 1 January, 2024.

Six Trains a day on the Winter Explorer at Swanage

With its all-round windows, and the ability for passengers to sit behind the driver and watch the train being driven, the heritage diesel train is the perfect way to enjoy the stunning landscapes that the Isle of Purbeck has to offer; the area being a protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

British Railways diesel mechanical multiple units – including the Class 117 units – operated the Bridport branch in west Dorset from 1965 until the county’s last remaining branch line was closed in May, 1975.

The Class 117 diesel mechanical multiple units also visited the Swanage branch line during its last summer of operation in 1971 on promotional day-tripper trains from London and the Thames valley.

Operating six trains a day, the Winter Explorer heritage diesel train service departs Norden at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.00pm, 3.00pm and 4.00pm.

The special heritage diesel trains depart Swanage at 11.00am, 12 noon, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm and 4.30pm.

Volunteer driver at Swanage Railway - Tim Reynolds
Photo: Andrew P.M. Wright

'The perfect way to explore the Isle of Purbeck"

Volunteer Swanage Railway Company chairman Gavin Johns said: “The diesel mechanical multiple units represent an important part of this country’s post-war railway history as they were developed as part of the 1955 modernisation plan drawn up by British Railways.

Replacing steam trains, the diesel mechanical multiple units were used on branch lines and secondary routes for almost 50 years – the last of the now heritage trains being withdrawn in the early to mid-1990s.

The diesel mechanical multiple units not only worked the west Dorset branch line from Maiden Newton to Bridport for ten years, up to the line’s closure in May, 1975, but also the secondary line from Westbury, Castle Cary and Yeovil Penn Mill down to Dorchester West and Weymouth.

With windows all the way round the heritage unit, the 1950s heritage diesel mechanical multiple unit gives passengers wonderful views and is the perfect way to explore the Isle of Purbeck whose countryside is a protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of the designated Jurassic Coast.

There is also the chance to sit behind the driver and watch, through a glass window, the driver at the controls of the train as the diesel mechanical multiple unit runs along the tracks,” added Gavin who is a volunteer signalman on the popular Purbeck heritage line.

For 90 selected days between April and September 2023, the three-carriage Class 117 diesel mechanical multiple unit operated the Swanage Railway’s second year trial train service from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham.

Steam trains return to Swange Railay for the New Year

Steam trains return to the Swanage Railway for the weekend of Saturday, 6 January, and Sunday,7 January, 2024, and a special Winter Warm Up event featuring both steam and heritage diesel locomotive trains.

The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers and anyone interested in finding out more should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention officer Lisa Gravett on 01929 475212 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk.

Details about volunteering can also be found at swanagerailwaytrust.org/volunteering.

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