SWANAGE Railway volunteers have gathered to mark the historic 40th anniversary of the start of restoration work.

Back in 1976 work started to restore the derelict and disused Swanage station.

The branch line from Wareham was closed and demolished in 1972.

Then teenagers, the railway preservation stalwarts are now aged in their 50s and still involved in the award-winning Swanage Railway.

Back in 1976, on Valentine’s Day, the members of the fledgling Swanage Railway Society moved into the boarded-up Victorian station building to start restoration work after obtaining a one-year lease from the Swanage Town Council.

Forty years on, some of those original railway restorers gathered on the platform at Swanage station to exchange stories and anecdotes about their historic work re-building the Swanage Railway.

Present were station porter Jonathan Burke, steam locomotive drivers Nigel Clark, Peter Frost, Bob McGaw and Nick Hanham, Neil Tatchell and carriage restorer Jeremy Weller.

Retired to his home town of Swanage, Mr Burke said: “Many people said it would never happen so it was good to gain access to Swanage station. The railway was very dear to my heart and it still is.”

Aged 14 in 1976, Nigel Clark, said: “My mother and father had been involved in previous attempts by the Isle of Purbeck Preservation Group to keep the railway open in the late 1960s. My dad later died in 1976 but I stayed involved with the railway as did my mother.”

He added: “We took the boards off the windows of Swanage station and gained access to the station with a lot of enthusiasm and felt that we were going to do it, which we have.”

Growing up in the village of Corfe Castle, the British Rail branch line from Wareham to Swanage was Peter Frost’s childhood playground with the railway staff being his friends. Aged 17 in 1976, Peter said he “leapt at the chance” to be involved in the restoration, adding: “We were able to recreate part of our history and rebuild the railway.”

Nick Hanham, was among the first volunteers to gain access to the Victorian-built station.

He said: “Back in 1976, we didn’t know what was in store, the battles we would fight, the hurdles we would overcome. We just carried on – relaying the track and bringing in the locomotives, carriages and other items by road needed to rebuild a railway.”

He added: “The Swanage Railway has been a huge part of our lives and the sacrifices have been worth it.

“The backing of our wives and girlfriends has kept us volunteering and pushing the Swanage Railway forward.”

To find out more contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email volunteer@swanagerailwaytrust.org.uk.


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