Two Swanage Railway founders who began the battle to rebuild Dorset’s heritage line as university students in 1972 have returned 50 years later to lay flowers at a memorial to generations of dedicated railway volunteers.
Andrew Goltz and John Sloboda were 22-year-old railway enthusiasts when they traveled from London to the disused station in the village of Corfe Castle in May 1972 and walked along the abandoned, rusting tracks just weeks before their demolition. contractors working for British Rail.
It was during this inspiring afternoon walk around the condemned Victorian station that the couple decided to form the Swanage Railway Society to reopen the ten-mile branch line from Wareham after it was closed by British Rail in January 1972.
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Just weeks after the Swanage Railway Society was formed in June 1972, British Rail quickly lifted the tracks for scrap as the society faced a determined four-year battle to be allowed to rebuild the line and relay the tracks so that the steam trains could be sent back to the Isle of Purbeck.
Flying from his home in Poland to visit Corfe Castle station 50 years after that crucial walk around the abandoned station that changed history and sparked the start of the Swanage Railway, Andrew Goltz said: ‘C It’s very moving and heartbreaking to be back.”
“With the ruins of the castle towering above, Corfe Castle station had a powerful magic and I remember walking along the rusty tracks on that hot early summer day with John saying the words memorable: “It’s too attractive to be allowed to be carried away during a circumvention of Corfe Castle. We have to save him. ” he added.
Now aged around 70, John Sloboda left his London home to reunite with his former fellow student railway activist at Corfe Castle station.
John said: “It was very moving to see the difference between what we saw in 1972 and what we admire today, namely a dynamic and appreciated railway to which many people have devoted the better part of their life to make it successful.is today.There is so much care and love for the Swanage Railway, which is wonderful.
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After being shown around Corfe Castle station by Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns and Swanage Railway Company Chairman Robert Patterson, Andrew and John enjoyed a steam train journey to Harman’s Cross Station to visit a poignant memorial stone honoring generations of dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers.
Joined by Catherine Shaw, a granddaughter of one of the Swanage Railway Society’s early campaigners – Dorothy Gosling who retired to Swanage with her husband in the 1960s – Andrew and John laid flowers at the simple memorial in stone next to a platform at Harman’s Cross, a station Swanage Railway volunteers built in the late 1980s.
Swanage Railway Company Chairman Robert Patterson said: “What the dedicated volunteers of the Swanage Railway Society have achieved against all odds shows what the power of the human spirit can achieve. I pay tribute to all those volunteers who have given so much over the years to the Swanage Railway, many of whom are no longer with us.
Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers and anyone interested in learning about the many opportunities available should contact the Swanage Railway Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Office on 01929 408466 or email [email protected]