Please support the work of British Heritage Railways by making a donation towards
building and maintaining this website. Payments are processed securely by PayPal.
By train - The nearest main line station is Wareham which is served by South West
Trains services from London, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth
By Car - Norden is now the inland terminus of the railway and is located just off
the A351 directing visitors to the railway away from Corfe Castle itself and it’s
really easy to find. If you are travelling to the Isle of Purbeck by road, this is
the place to park.
By Bus - The railway is accessible by bus from Bournemouth (Wilts and Dorset route
50), Poole and Wareham (Wilts and Dorset route 40).
By Boat - From Bournemouth and Poole.
A frequent daily service is provided from April to October with a selection of tender
and larger tank steam locomotives, Class 33 diesel locomotives and diesel multiple
units. A service is also run at weekends and school holidays for the rest of the
year except January. Refer to the Swanage Railway website for the timetable (see
Daytime services are steam and sometimes, diesel locomotive hauled depending on the
timetable, diesel multiple units are used for evening and early morning services.
Up and down trains usually pass at Harmans Cross but there is another passing loop
at Corfe castle which gives flexibility for excursions and special events.
Travelling the whole length of the 6 mile line takes about 25 minutes.
The Swanage Railway is home to a quantity of locomotives and multiple units as follows,
some of which are undergoing restoration, overhaul or are out of service.
10 ex SR, GWR and BR steam locomotives
6 ex BR diesel locomotives including shunters
3 ex BR diesel multiple units
Further variety is provided by visiting locomotives.
The majority of coaching stock is British Railways Mk1 dating from the 1950s painted
in Malachite Green with British Railways crests.
It was about 1970 when I first visited Swanage whilst on holiday with my family.
I fell in love with the Dorset resort back then and remember seeing the BR Southern
Region 3H (later class 205) DEMUs operating the line. I can’t explain why but I did
not return for 40 years despite living only about 90 minutes drive away since 2001.
I’ve put that right now and have visited the Purbeck Line twice before writing this,
both were on days when the line was host to an excursion via Network Rail metals.
As well as Swanage itself, the historic village of Corfe Castle, also served by the
Swanage Railway, is a terrific tourist magnet. The narrow main street is the A351
Wareham to Swanage road so it is understandable that the station could not be reopened
until alternative arrangements had been made to deal with traffic. The solution,
Norden Park and Ride, is a stroke of genius and the Pay and Display charge is very
reasonable. The visitor centre provides toilet facilities and information, access
to the platform is via a short level path. Refreshments are available from a BR Mk1
buffet car with outside picnic area adjacent to the station.
Corfe Castle is a short train ride from Norden with excellent views of the ruined
castle on the way, the station is original and has been restored to 1950s style.
The Corfe Castle Railway Museum is housed in the old goods shed adjacent to the station
and provides a fascinating view of the line’s history. The museum closes long before
the last trains so if you want to visit, check the opening times. The castle ruins
are a short walk and a steep climb away but provide some excellent viewpoints for
Harmans Cross and Herston Halt stations were built since preservation but the period
atmosphere is still maintained, Herston Halt is a request stop, you need to let the
guard know if you want to alight there.
Swanage station has been restored in 1930s style and has a ticket office and bookshop
in the station building and the Bird’s Nest Buffet housed in another Mk1 buffet car
with additional outside seating on the platform. There is an engine shed viewing
area opposite the turntable just a short walk away which is also a good place to
photograph arriving and departing trains.
A short walk in the opposite direction takes you to the town centre and seafront
with its beautiful long sandy beach, you won’t want to leave in a hurry. Fortunately
the trains run late but the car park at Norden closes before the last trains so be
careful you don’t get locked in.
The Swanage Railway is a very popular attraction, particularly in the Summer and
quite rightly so. No holiday on the Isle of Purbeck would be complete without a steam
train ride on the line. Since moving to the West Country I have tended to visit heritage
railways in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall but a regular visit to Dorset has now joined
Also known as The Purbeck Line, Dorset’s only heritage railway.
The 6 mile standard gauge Swanage Railway is located on the Isle of Purbeck in the
south east corner of Dorset and passes through the picturesque village of Corfe Castle.
The Isle of Purbeck is not a true island even though the English Channel, Poole Harbour
and the River Frome almost surround it.
The map below shows the location of all the stations on the Swanage Railway, click
on any of the markers to see the station name and postcode. Use the zoom and pan
tools to explore the map.
Attractions and Facilities
Here’s a summary of what can be found at each station on the Swanage Railway:
Norden - Large Pay and Display car park, Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum (under development),
Visitor Centre with toilets including disabled and baby changing facility, ticket
office, Norden’s Nest Buffet.
Corfe Castle - Historic village with castle ruins, Swanage railway Museum, ticket
Harmans Cross - Starting point for country walks, close to a number of camp sites,
Herston Halt (request stop) - Starting point for coast and country walks, serves
local camp sites.
Swanage - Popular seaside town, Gateway to the Jurassic Coast, Durlston Castle and
Country Park, engine shed viewing area, Railway Shop, Bird’s Nest Buffet, ticket
office, Pay and Display car park, toilets.
Swanage Railway Co. Ltd, Station House Swanage, Dorset. BH19 1HB
1880 - an Act of Parliament authorised an extension of the London and South Western
Railway’s existing line from Wareham to Swanage. Several previous attempts had been
thwarted by residents of Wareham who objected to the line going through the town
centre. The 1880 bill succeeded because it avoided the centre of Wareham.
1885 - The line, built by the locally promoted Swanage Railway Company, was opened.
It was operated by the london & South Western Railway (LSWR) from the outset, the
first train consisted of a Beattie well tank 2-4-0WT and five four-wheeled carriages.
1923 - The LSWR was absorbed into the Southern Railway.
1948 - The Swanage branch became part of British Railways Southern Region.
1950s - The line survived despite being identified as a possible candidate for closure.
1963 - The line was not mentioned in Dr Beeching’s report.
1960s - The main line was electrified as far as Bournemouth.
1968 - services west of Bournemouth needed diesel traction following the withdrawal
of steam from British Railways. The Swanage branch was operated by a 3H (later class
205) diesel electric multiple unit but there were not enough units for all the branches
that needed them. The government had refused to allow BR to purchase further DEMUs
in the mid 1960s which created a shortage. British Railways gave notice that the
line would be closed in September 1968 however, due to strong opposition it did not
1972 - The Swanage branch finally closed and in the summer of the same year the track
was lifted as far as Furzebrook sidings which remained open for freight operations.
Shortly after closure a group of enthusiasts formed the Swanage Railway Society with
the purpose of rebuilding and reopening the line.
1975 - A licence was granted to the Society to occupy the Swanage Station site following
an overwhelming vote by the townspeople in favour of the station being re-opened
rather than redevelopment of the site.
1979 - A short line the length of King George's playing fields was opened.
1984 - Line extended to Herston Halt.
1989 - Line extended to Harmans Cross.
Neither station had existed on the original branch.
1995 - The Purbeck line was opened to it’s current terminus at Norden Park and Ride,
the railway was not permitted to open Corfe Castle station until Norden was completed
due to concerns about traffic congestion in the village's narrow main street (the
2002 - The final piece of track to reconnect the line to the national network at
Motala near Furzebrook was laid, 30 years to the day since closure. A brand new Virgin
Trains Class 220 Voyager diesel multiple unit became the first mainline train to
use the new track when it made a special journey to Swanage where it was named ‘Dorset
Voyager’ and began its first passenger journey.
2007 - A ground frame and two opposing trap points were installed at the Network
Rail boundary at Motala, this allows controlled access to the national network for
rolling stock, visiting locomotives and ballast trains.
2009 - First through trains ran to Swanage since 1972.