Published: 11th March 2015
The North Yorkshire moors Railway (NYMR) celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ‘Beeching’ closure of its line this year and March sees its trains operating between Battersby and Whitby at speeds up to 45mph.
The normal top speed for preserved railways and their crews for passenger trains is 25mph but the NYMR will be operating faster services over the weekends of March 14/5 and 21/22 March along the scenic Esk Valley Line.
These trains will run between Battersby via Danby, Glaisdale and Grosmont to Whitby using visiting locomotives, LNER ‘K1’ No. 62005 and LNER ‘K4’ No. 61994 The Great Marquess on 14 March sharing duties with NYMR residents LMS ‘Black 5’ No. 45428 Eric Treacy and BR ‘Standard’ No. 76079 over both weekends.
Danielle Ramsey, NYMR marketing manager said “We are really lucky to be one of the only standard gauge heritage railways in the UK to offer this main line experience. Visitors will be able to travel at speeds of up to 45mph behind a steam locomotive, this is something that is purely unique to the NYMR and a day out not to be missed.”
Visitors wishing to travel on this exciting Esk Valley experience will need to join the trains at Grosmont or Whitby Stations. Trains run at 10.45 from Whitby and 11.05 from Grosmont. If you can’t travel on these dates, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs daily from March 28 to 1st November.
British Rail closed the Swanage branch line in January 1972 despite a fierce fight from Objectors, and then removed the six and a half miles of track that summer between Swanage and Motala. This is half a mile east of Furzebrook where there was an oil terminal keeping the line open to Wareham. Swanage Railway volunteers spent 30 years relaying the missing track that took just seven weeks to remove it.
That hard work paid off when Rail Minister Claire Perry MP travelled the first train to operate after a new signalling system costing £3.2million was commissioned. This will enable a test passenger train service between Wareham and Swanage to commence as for the last seven or eight years only a limited number of special services have been allowed to operate under the old signalling system.
The train was a two-coach South West Trains Class 158 carrying Purbeck Community Rail Partnership members, stakeholders and guests.
The new signalling system took Network Rail and the Swanage Railway four years to design, install and test and links Wareham and Corfe Castle with a Network Rail state of the art signalling control centre at Basingstoke with the award-winning Victorian-style signal box at Corfe Castle station.
Network Rail (NR) had closed the old mechanical signal boxes at Poole, Hamworthy, Wareham and Wool under the Dorset Coast resignaling project replacing them with modern technology. NR signallers now control trains between Poole and Wool including Worgret Junction which is close to the start of the Swanage Railway.
Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns said: "The commissioning of the new signalling system is a major milestone in joining Swanage and Corfe Castle to the national railway network which has been our aim since 1972. It will also enable trial train services to take place in 2016 and 2017.
"I would like to thank our dedicated volunteers and our stakeholders who have worked so hard, over several years, to help bring the new signalling scheme to fruition.
"Purbeck District Council and Dorset County Council, the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance and other members of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership also deserve thanks because it has been a real joint effort.
"It was a privilege to have the Rail Minister on board the first train running under the new signalling system and a pleasure to show her what working together in partnership can achieve for the improvement of the Isle of Purbeck's transport network as well as the local economy," added Mr Johns.
Purbeck Community Rail Partnership Chairman Mike Lovell – who is also a Purbeck district and Dorset county councillor – said: “We were delighted that the Rail Minister was able to travel on the first train to use the new signalling.
Gavin Johns explained: "The Swanage Railway is very heartened by the support that it engenders locally. We look forward to jointly developing the potential of a main line connected heritage railway with the help of our partners, stakeholders and volunteers."
"The new signalling system between Corfe Castle and Wareham is thought to be unique in the United Kingdom because of its scale and the way it works – being a safety interface between the Swanage Railway and Network Rail.
Last September , Dorset County Council awarded the Swanage Railway a 99-year lease of the three-mile former Network Rail line from south of Worgret Junction to the then start of the Swanage Railway east of Furzebrook.
The Swanage Railway is upgrading the line for passenger trains replacing 1,700 wooden sleepers, clearing embankments of overgrown trees and undergrowth as well as repairing bridges and six miles of lineside fences and drains.
Two years ago, the Swanage Railway was awarded a £1.47million grant by the Government's Coastal Communities Fund followed by a £390,000 'top-up' award in August 2014 to introduce a trial passenger train service between Wareham and Swanage. That trial train service is set to start during the first half of 2016 and run on 140 selected days over two years.
In 2010 that Dorset county and Purbeck district councils pledged to invest £3.2 million, over three years, to pay for a new signalling system to enable passenger trains between Wareham and Corfe Castle – £2.85 million going to Network Rail and £350,000 to the Swanage Railway for the work.
A decade ago, some former BR Diesel units were purchased for this operation and have been in store waiting for the line to be upgraded.