Published: 14th August 2015
Swanwick-on-Sea, a beach resort near the Midlands town of Ripley in Derbyshire opened for business a couple of years ago. Coastal erosion is a serious issue, but a beach in Derbyshire?
Beach yes. Sea, well in truth, no – but Midland Railway-Butterley will be re-creating seaside special excursions to the coast by running trains from Butterley station to Swanwick-on-Sea (more usually known as Swanwick Junction) every day until September 6.
“Creating a beach in Derbyshire, which is about as far from the sea as you can make it in this country, might seem a bit strange but we are sure that it will be popular,” commented MR-B’s Alan Calladine. “We hope it will bring back memories of those trains that took so many holidaymakers to the seaside before the advent of package holidays.”
Excursion trains ran from the earliest days of railways. Before long, setting off for holidays by train became firmly established with the railways even creating their own resorts. “One of the very first excursion trains was operated on the Midland Railway on July 5 1841 by a gentleman named Thomas Cook, “Allan Calladine observed. To say Mr Cook rapidly made his name organising holidays would be no little understatement!
The idea first arose in 2013. “Before cheap air travel and mass car ownership, the annual seaside holiday by train was a national institution, and we wanted to recreate that experience here at Swanwick Junction,” recalled Allan Calladine. Volunteers set to work creating an authentic seaside scene with tonnes of sand, some inventive props and creative painting. An appeal for a plastic seagull did not bear fruit (a wooden seagull outline sits atop the helpful signpost instead) and the Swanwick-on-Sea ‘Trains to the seaside’ attraction was ready to receive visitors.
The beach proved very popular, returned last year and has been recreated again this summer. The adjacent railway shop (in the relocated Syston station building) even sells buckets, spades and beach-type paraphernalia!
Naturally, there is far more than beach huts and sand castles at
at Swanwick Junction, a location transformed over the decades from post-industrial dereliction to a fascinating museum complex with excellent display buildings and the terrific 2ft Golden Valley Light Railway. Essentially, MR-B is offering a train ride to a destination capable of forming a complete family day out – you chose which members opt for the railway exhibits and which choose to build sand castles……..
Heritage lines such as the West Somerset and Swanage Railways offer train travel to the seaside, why should MR-B not do the next best thing!