Swanley Park was purchased by the local council from a Farmer 30 years ago and very soon opened for public use as a civic amenity. It now celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Facilities included a boating lake, café, play area and a vast area of open grassland used for picnics and lazing around in the sun. But, one of the most interesting developments yet seen in any British public park is the development of the 7 ¼ inch gauge miniature railway which has gone from strength to strength over the years.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the railway and is a great time to visit and see how successful the volunteers have been. Today’s operation is large and complex and uses an extensive amount of steam and diesel traction. Trains run very frequently, and certainly for children, provide something of a “Midas touch” to any trip to the Park.
I may be slightly biased owing to the fact that I am now one of the volunteers, and have progressed to being one of the Signalling staff (a job which must be said, often leaves me breathless and with chest pains!) It must be said, however, I frequently visited and used the trains prior to working there, and the amusement and marvel of the miniature trains never ceased to inspire and amaze.
The anniversary Gala is over the weekend of September 10 and 11.
The railway operates from April through October at weekends except during school and bank holidays when it opens in the week as well. The line also opens in December operating “Santa Specials”, ensuring the railway is open when the bulk of people visit the park.
This year, we have regularly been running up to 15 trains per hour carrying with anywhere in the region of 700 travelling passengers every 60 minutes; a rate very few similar railways can boast. This is also more trains per hour than on most of the UK main line routes.
The railway is now open daily until September 4th.
Although Swanley, (in Kent), is not in a recognised tourist area in its own right, the Swanley & New Barn Railway does serve a large urban area anywhere up to a five mile radius. It is also easily accessible from the National Rail Network. There is a frequent train service serving Swanley from London Victoria, Bromley South, the Medway Towns, Maidstone and Sevenoaks.
During the week, the Thameslink route also runs trains to Swanley from Kentish Town, St Pancras and Blackfriars. The bus route 233 also operates from Sidcup and Eltham stations, which drops you no more than a five minute (and hence shorter) walk from the Park in “Northview”.
Services to Eltham and Sidcup operate from Dartford, Lewisham, London Bridge, Waterloo, Charing Cross and Cannon Street, meaning a trip to this park is only around half an hour from London making it an easy and enjoyable hassle free day out.
Author: Nick Hair