Regular passenger trains will return to a destroyed railway line in the “Beeching Ax” thanks to an army of volunteers who have spent 45 years rebuilding it.
Swanage in Dorset was disconnected from the main line in 1972 after Dr Richard Beeching, a government rail advisor, recommended it to be one of hundreds of loss-making rural lines cut.
It will reconnect to the main rail network next month when a scheduled train service launches.
Swanage will reconnect to the main rail network next month. Pictured: the track being restored in 2015 with charcoal placed around it
Then: Members of the public board the last train to leave Wareham in 1972
The West Coast Railways operator will run diesel trains four times a day along the 10 miles of reconstructed track that connects Wareham to the Victorian station.
Since the discontinuation of the 87-year-old line in 1972, hundreds of volunteers and rail enthusiasts have worked tirelessly to restore the track and build new signal posts, a level crossing and embankments.
Collecting scraps of old British Rail material, the volunteers first laid 5.5 miles of track to operate the Swanage Railway, a heritage steam railway that is now a tourist attraction flourishing with more than 200,000 passengers per year.
But in order for a public train service to operate from the main line, they had to restore and modernize three miles of the old Network Rail line from Worgret Junction, near Wareham, to the railway line heritage.
Some Â£ 3.2million had to be spent on modernizing the track, installing new signaling equipment, laying 1,200 wooden ties, constructing embankments and improving undergrowth and drainage ditches.
A map showing where the line will pass when it opens next month. The red dotted line shows the newly restored track that will again connect Swanage to the mainline
Since the 87-year-old line was cut in 1972, hundreds of volunteers and rail enthusiasts have worked tirelessly to restore the track. In the photo: part of the track that has not been cut
This photo shows Worget Junction on January 1, 1972, just before the trail was removed
This photo shows volunteers rebuilding the line near East Furzebrook in December 2014
The Last Ticket: This is the last Swanage branch train ticket from 1972 when the track was closed
Trevor Parsons, Chairman of the Swanage Railway Company, said: âPublic service will be historic as our ambition has been to bring passenger trains from Swanage to Wareham for over 40 years – with generations of volunteers working to make it happen.
âThis is the culmination of tremendous hard work by our dedicated volunteers.
1971 Swanage Branch Closure Poster
âVisitors to London and stations across the country will be able to tour Swanage and Corfe Castle by train.
“It is also the culmination of a far-sighted investment by our stakeholders of Â£ 5.5million to reconnect Swanage to the mainline at Wareham.”
The new level crossing west of Nordon station cost Â£ 500,000, donated by BP, which owns an oil field locally.
The government’s Coastal Communities Fund gave the project a grant of Â£ 1.8million and Â£ 3.2million came from money the Isle of Purbeck property developers had donated.
Regular service will operate this summer, then again in summer 2018.
There will be four return trains per day that will run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from June 13 to September 3.
Tickets will cost Â£ 15 for an adult round trip from Swanage to Wareham and Â£ 9 for a one-way ticket.
West Coast Railways will supply two diesel locomotives and train crews to operate the service this summer. There will be four cars per service.
Spring 2015: Volunteers made great progress in 2015 to prepare the track for summer 2017
DR BEECHING: HERO OR VILLAIN OF THE BRITISH RAILWAYS?
Richard Beeching, right, in 1985
Dr Beeching is synonymous with the massive destruction of the UK rail network.
His infamous report, Reshaping British Railways, led to a massive program of track and station closures.
Dr Beeching’s report identified 2,363 stations – one-third of those in the network – and about 6,000 miles of track to be closed.
His proposal sparked outrage among commuters, local councils and unions, who were appalled at the mention of 70,000 job cuts.
But others have called Dr Beeching a brave man who forced the railways to face business realities.
In 1961, when Beeching launched his commission, the network was losing Â£ 140million a year.
Battles between management and unions were numerous and led to a railway strike in 1955 which lasted 17 days and brought the country to such a halt that the government had to declare a state of emergency.
Despite all the blame placed on him, he did not make the real decisions about the line closures.
This was done by transport ministers of the Conservative and Labor governments of the sixties.