Thanks to funding by Dorset County Council, trains will eventually be able to run off the main line at Wareham and down to Swanage on the preserved Isle of Purbeck line.
Network Rail plans to install signalling costing £2.7m over the next two years. The Swanage Railway has been running steam and diesel trains between Swanage and Norden, near Corfe Castle – half way between Swanage and Wareham – since 1995.
Volunteers drive the trains, staff the ticket offices, mend the track and balance the books. On special occasions excursion trains travel to Swanage from various parts of the country, but the track points at Worgret Junction have to be changed manually and people waving flags provide signalling.
However, Dorset has handed over the first instalment of the funding and finalised the agreement with Network Rail. The money is part of the Purbeck Transportation Strategy.
By installing modern signalling, the charity will be able to run up to eight return journeys per day. This will increase its income and put it among the biggest community railways in the country.
Trains now run daily
When the Swanage Railway began work in 1976, Swanage station was boarded-up, platforms had been bulldozed and there was no track. Trains now run daily.
Swanage Railway Company’s chairman, Peter Sills, said: “We’re delighted that this once-in-a-generation opportunity has come to fruition. It has been a team effort by everyone involved, especially the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership.”