THE PRESERVED Swanage Railway ran its first passenger service connecting to the main line network at Wareham on 13 June.

The service marks the achievement of a long-held aim to restore passenger services from Swanage and Corfe Castle to Wareham, which were withdrawn when the line closed in 1972. The preserved railway presently runs to Norden, just north of Corfe.

A two-year trial service will operate, with four trains a day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays this summer until 3 September, with the service returning next year.

The railway has worked with Network Rail and South West Trains to introduce the service. A £3.2 million investment has come from local authorities, enabling NR to upgrade the track at Worgret Junction, where the Swanage branch joins the main line, and to install new signalling equipment between Wareham and Worgret Junction. The investment also paid for Swanage Railway signalling equipment on the line towards Corfe Castle. Work by the Swanage Railway itself has seen the branch upgraded, with sleepers replaced, new track laid and a quarter-mile embankment upgraded. A new level crossing has also been built west of Norden station.

The railway eventually intends to use its own heritage diesel units to operate the service, but they first require refurbishment and upgrading to main line standards. They are due to be operate the service in 2018, so for this year West Coast Railways is supplying two diesels to top-and-tail a 4-TC rake. The 10-mile journey from Wareham to Swanage will take around 45 minutes, with services operating between standard steam services from Norden to Swanage.