Take a trip through time on the Isle of Purbeck’s heritage railway

Steam train going past Corfe Castle

The historic Swanage Railway has been much-loved by many for generations since its first locomotive took to the tracks in 1885. 

It draws some 200,000 visitors every year from all over the country and makes a lasting impression on young and old alike. Let a lovingly restored steam train take you on an unforgettable journey beneath the foot of the Purbeck Hills and through the picturesque countryside surrounding Swanage.

There is nothing quite like riding on an original steam-powered train to evoke the sentiment of simpler times of bygone days. Stepping into the 1940s-style ticket office and waiting room to be greeted by a soot-stained fire man or waving to the driver in his traditional attire will transport you into the Purbeck of the past in a truly nostalgic experience.Side view of Swanage Railway steam train

There’s plenty to see on your journey too, from grazing ponies in the fields as you pass leisurely by to the stunning and varied views of Corfe Castle as you approach in vintage style  – and, if travelling as a family and like Harry and Ron on the Hogwarts Express, you can’t resist a snack as you go there are regular dining trains running throughout the year.

If you’re staying in Swanage the steam train is the perfect way to visit Corfe Castle for the day. 

Arial view of Corfe Castle and Swanage steam train

Credit: Andrew PM Wright

Fuel up before you ride:

You can fuel up before your journey at Swanage Station’s Bird’s Nest buffet, or look forward to a light lunch or afternoon tea on your return.

There are various options for light snacks and afternoon tea nearby to Swanage Railway station, including:

  • Love Cake, for afternoon tea
  • Fortes, for a panini and coffee
  • The Cornish bakery, for a pasty and brownie

For something a little more hearty try:

  • Gee Whites, for fish and chips by the bay
  • The Black Swan, for exceptional pub grub
  • The Trattoria, for authentic Italian cuisine

There is also a Co-Op opposite and a Budgens nearby for stocking up on picnic essentials, as well as several sandwich shops for ready-to-go lunch.

The stations

Ticket man at Swanage railway ticket office Swanage railway Dorset poster Swanage railway footman on platform Swanage station platform and information sign The tracks and waiting area at Corfe Castle railway station
  • Swanage – complete with buffet coach, traditional waiting room and recently restored canopy, Swanage station really is like stepping back in time. You’ll also find the Railway’s gift shop here
  • Herston Halt – a request stop between Swanage and Harman’s Cross mainly used by residents and visitors to the nearby campsite
  • Harman’s Cross – you’ll find a village hall thriving with community spirit here, as well as a great adventure playground for young and older children
  • Corfe Castle – with period features, a ladies’ waiting room – and even a webcam to watch you favourite train come through even when you’re not here
  • Norden – park up and explore the Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum and play area before heading on to Swanage in style on a steam train

The trains

No. 31806 steam train passing through Purbeck Hills Built in the late 1920s for Southern Railway, the 31806 hauled bucket-and-spade day trippers and holiday trains from Hampshire to Corfe Castle and Swanage during the 1950s. She was rescued from the Barry scrapyard in South Wales and restored to full working order. U Class No. 31806 No. 34072 257 Squadron on Swanage Railway Battle of Britain class Bulleid Pacific No. 34072 '257 Squadron' Built in the 1940s for the Southern Railway and designed to haul express trains from London down to Dorset, she was named after named after one of the squadrons that fought in the Battle of Britain in 1940. Class 33 No. 33 111 on Swanage Railway by Corfe Castle Class 33 No. 33 111 Built in Birmingham in 1960, this Ex-British Railways diesel-electric locomotive was regularly used on the London to Weymouth line, as well as the Swanage branch line. Class 33 No 6561 below Corfe Castle on the Swanage Railway Built in 1960 in Birmingham this locomotive hauled London to Swanage trains in the summer of 1966. She is named in memory of a Fleet Air Arm helicopter crew member who died when her helicopter came down in the sea of the eastern United States while on a military exercise. Class 33 No. D6515 'Lt Jenny Lewis RN'

When the Flying Scotsman came to Swanage

To say the excitement was palpable would be an understatement. The waiting room, platform and streets surrounding all five stations were abuzz with locals and visitors all clamouring good-naturedly to catch a glimpse of this historic visitor. Grown ups were giddy; children excitedly poised with their camera and Swanage Railway staff waiting proudly to welcome this most famous locomotive in the world to the town.

(Credit: Flying Scotsman images, Andrew PM Wright)