Trains are back between Swanage and Wareham

Tuesday 11th April 2023

The ten mile heritage railway line run by Swanage Railway saw trains reconnected to the National Rail network again last week with a three/four journey a day four-days-a-week service through to Wareham.

The line was severed in 1972 when British Rail ripped up the tracks after the train service was withdrawn but the southern end was subsequently revived as a heritage railway and began carrying passengers in 1995.

The line was reconnected to main line tracks at Worgret Junction south of Wareham in 2014 but it wasn’t for another three years, and after much perseverance, Swanage Railway finally was given permission to extend diesel trains on its line through to Wareham on up to 60 days during summer 2017.

The railway hired in a locomotive from West Coast Railways ….

…. and carriages including a restored first class coach once used by London Transport …

…. to operate the service as restoration work on its own two diesel trains (a three coach Class 117 and one coach ‘Bubble Car’ Class 121) hadn’t been completed.

The following summer in 2018 (and repeated in 2019) South Western Railway ran a through train from London Waterloo to Wareham and Corfe Castle via Salisbury, Yeovil, Weymouth and Dorchester then shuttling between Corfe Castle and Wareham three times before returning to London in late afternoon.

It proved very popular, especially the shuttles.

Nothing happened during the following three summers due to Covid but this year Swanage Railway’s diesel train is running three return journeys about every two hours between Wareham and Swanage (with a fourth – starter and finisher from/to Corfe Castle) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until 9th September.

You can buy tickets online up to an hour before departure or at Swanage, Norden and Corfe Castle stations or pay on the train (cash only). A day ticket costs £25 and a single journey from Wareham to Swanage is £20. South Western Railway will begin selling through tickets from stations on its network at the end of the month.

It’s a 41 minute journey through the delightful Isle of Purbeck with some lovely countryside views to enjoy, not least of Corfe Castle.

I took a ride on the first departure at 11:19 from Wareham to Swanage last Thursday morning operated by the Class 117. It wasn’t too crowded and I got a great view of the track ahead being lucky enough to get a seat close to the front of the train……

… which was always one of the great delights of a journey on such DMUs (Diesel Multiple Unit). Although the driver and co-driver annoyingly do get in the way!!

It’s great news this service is back this year and will hopefully persuade some motorists to forgo clogging up the roads as they head down to Swanage, leaving them free flowing for morebus’s great Purbeck Breezer network of bus routes.

Here are a few photographs from the journey.

About to turn off the main line at Worgret Junction
The track runs pretty much in a straight line for most of the 10 mile journey….
…with the occasional curve and road bridge above.
I noticed all the infrastructure along the route is marked (note the token in the cab).
Getting ready to exchange tokens as we approach the first station after Wareham at Norden
The ruins of Corfe Castle are a highlight of the journey.
As is passing the steam train at Corfe Castle station.
Passing the ‘Bubble Car’ Class 121 in sidings south of Corfe Castle station.
The Isle of Purbeck offers some great scenery.
Pulling into the southern terminus at Swanage.
As you can see it’s a great ride.

In November 2020 it was announced Swanage Railway had won a £50,000 grant from the DfT’s Restoring Your Railway fund to update a previous feasibility study and business case to reinstate a regular all year round service to Wareham. Last year a DfT update report confirmed it was one of 23 projects developing a Strategic Outline Business Case but I doubt we’ll be seeing another Okehampton style full reinstatement any time soon. In the meantime if you’re in the Dorset area this summer it’s well worth a ride.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

11 thoughts on “Trains are back between Swanage and Wareham

Add yours

  1. Yes,the fares are a bit steep so may not attract motorists off the roads.However you have a consider that Swanage Railway has to hire West Coast Railway to operate the service,that’s where the costs come in!
    It’s been a long time coming so I wish Swanage Railway well and let’s hope we all have a decent Summer!

    Alan Barber


  2. Some DMU Drivers, on all lines, would also spoil the passengers’ view by, apparently unnecessarily, lowering the blinds in their cab – presumably because of a greater “need to be alone”.


  3. I was fortunate to be able to do this in July 2018 although no DMUs then. I seem to remember that the service hardly ran that season due to RMT strikes but getting a train from Wareham to Corfe Castle was worth it. Publicity wasn’t brilliant then and only seemed to have been posted locally. Why do SWR have to wait until the end of the month to sell tickets from every station ? Let’s hope it succeeds but SWRs marketing isn’t exactly ‘top of the league’ and I suppose you have to wait until you get to Dorset to get served a cup of tea ?


  4. I did this last Sat – it was the first time I’d gone from Wareham to Swanage without needing to change trains and was a really pleasant day out. As for the price – how does this compare per mile versus other preserved railways? Or even other forms of entertainment?


  5. The 2018 train was rather more than “carriages including a restored first class coach once used by London Transport”. It was in fact a former Southern Region 4TC, now owned by London Underground and registered for use on the main line. It is a not unfamiliar visitor to many preserved railways, including the Mid Hants which has used it in traditional push-pull format on at least one occasion.

    The 4TCs just made it to Swanage in genuine service, principally on summer services, before the line closed.


      1. he service ran between Verny Junction and Liverpool Street

        One mystery was a Station called Sandy Lodge, It turns out is was renamed Moor Park


  6. Looks like a good day out & will hopefully fit it in over the summer.

    I do question if this was a good use of funds though given it’s very hard to argue this is public transport not a tourist attraction:

    “This trial train service would not be possible without the former Purbeck District Council committing £3.2million from housing developers’ transport improvement contributions for re-signalling improvements between Wareham, Worgret Junction and the Swanage Railway


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