Monday, 23 March 2015

Steam Travel - Swanage Railway

Swanage Railway 
Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a familiarisation day at Swange Railway.  It was something I had never done before so I was quite excited about it.  So that I wasn't travelling alone I joined up with my friends from Little Hayes Guesthouse, their daughter and 2 grandchildren and after a slight mishap of missing the train, lol, we caught up with it at the other end.

It's a 12 mile return trip on a beautiful historic steam hauled train that runs between Swanage, Herston, Harmans Cross, Corfe Castle & Norden.  The weather wasn't particularly kind to us as it was cold and  drizzling for most of the journey, but luckily the sun almost made it through while we were at Corfe Castle for some beautiful photographs.

We were welcomed in the dining car at Swanage station for a brief overview of the railway and the day ahead with coffee & very nice scones, then at 11.30am we boarded the train.
Swanage station
Initially we were all seated in the special viewing carriage which has extremely large windows purposely for making the most of the views.  Then for the rest of the journey we were able to occupy the traditional carriages with all the features that you see in movies.
We rode the train through Herston & Harmans Cross going through small tunnels and under bridges with countryside passing us by, steam billowing and the whistle tooting until we arrived at Corfe Castle station.
Corfe Castle 
I have to say that for me this stop was the best part of the whole experience.  Many times I've driven by the iconic Corfe Castle but never actually stopped to take it in.  The station is situated pretty much right underneath the National Trust's stunning castle remains that once belonged to William the Conqueror, which if you have never seen it - sits majestically on top of quite a large hill.  The station is about as close as you can get to the remains without actually going to them.
Initially when you get off the train, the view is obscured by the picturesque station which has been lovingly restored to how it was back in 1885 when it was opened, so at that point I was still naively unaware.
We were guided round the small but interesting museum of steam railway memorabilia which has FREE admission (donations welcomed).  Ordinarily there are also 2 further renovated train carriage museums here; 1 being a cinema with films & photo's about the reconstruction of the railway, all FREE admission, but unfortunately they were not open today.
Some of us were then guided round the signal box on the other side of the track but as space was quite limited we decided to just make the most of taking photographs.  We walked up the steps of the footbridge to cross over the line, taking photo's of each other, when suddenly once we reached the middle of the bridge I turned & was blown away with the sight.

Time travel ?
The beautiful remains were suddenly centre stage looking stunning just in the background with the historic steam locomotive billowing steam at the station in the foreground.  The sight, smell and ambiance was like being in a scene from a whole other era, very nostalgic and wonderful, it's not every day you see something like this.  As you can imagine I was very busy clicking away with my camera.  For information ordinarily you can get off here to visit the pretty village and remains.
my favourite shot of the day 

Our journey then continued down to the end of the line: Norden Station, where we decided to have some lunch in the buffet car there, but if you have more time, there is another museum here; the award winning Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum which again has FREE admission.

The return journey was just direct back to Swange, passing by all the same places through the pretty Isle of Purbeck countryside.  At Swanage station there is a souvenir shop with gifts suitable for all ages.  The station is ideally located in the heart of the town for easy access to shops and the beautiful blue flag beach. Swanage is also known as the "Gateway to the Jurassic Coast" with  lots more stunning places of outstanding natural beauty to explore.

All in all it was a lovely day out for all ages as we travelled as a mixed age group, ranging from 18 months to 50+, it has the flexibility to be a whole day out or just a couple of hours and it doesn't really matter what the weather does while you are on the train.  For a family of 4 it's £32.00 which really isn't bad value for money and you are contributing towards keeping this non profit heritage railway attraction alive.

Would I go again ? - Yes, especially if I was staying in Swanage as it really is just a short walk and then you are on the train. From Lyndhurst it's at least a 1 hour drive so you would want to make a full day out of it.

Would I recommend it ? - Yes, just for the stunning view of Corfe Castle from the footbridge and platform.


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