Way back in 1971 I took a couple of trips to the Swanage branch just before it's ridiculous closure and on one trip got off at Corfe Castle to explore a bit. I'd spotted a small bridge crossing the track near the station and wanted to see what it was.
Amazingly when I got there there was a two foot gauge railway complete with wagons, that led off on to the heath. I didn't have time to explore further as I had a train to catch back, but took a few photos. Sadly the whole roll of film didn't come out so all I have is memories, but the line was one of the many NG lines on the Furzebrook peninsular.
Now the Swanage railway - rebuilt and thriving - has opened a museum to celebrate these fascinating lines!
Star opening for heritage museum
AN INDUSTRIAL museum celebrating Dorset’s clay mining heritage will be officially opened today.
Antiques Roadshow star Paul Atterbury, an expert on ceramics and author of railway books, has been invited to open the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum.
It was built by volunteers on the site of old ball clay works demolished during the 1970s.
Explaining the history and technology behind ball clay mining – which dates back 2,000 years – the museum features a realistic reconstruction of an under-ground mine tunnel, a rebuilt ball clay trans-shipment building, a 300-metre section of narrow gauge railway as well as an engine shed with viewing area.
Purbeck ball clay was used in the manufacture of fine china and was also used in the 27,000 ceramic tiles making up the space shuttle’s outer skin and preventing the hi-tech spacecraft from burning up during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The museum, which has been built over the past decade, won the Heritage Railway Association’s Interpretation Award for quality earlier this year recognising its value as an educational resource and quality visitor attraction.
Museum chairman Peter Sills said: “We are delighted that Paul Atterbury has agreed to officially open the museum which has taken volunteers some 12 years and 40,000 hours to plan and build from scratch.It will be opened in a ceremony beginning at 2pm witnessed by guests including South Dorset MP Richard Drax and Swanage Railway Trust patron Sir William McAlpine who is a keen railway expert and enthusiast.
“Part of the Swanage Railway Trust and its educational remit, the museum has been achieved thanks to a £100,000 European Union grant from the Chalk and Cheese organisation as well as £40,000 donated by generous members of the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum.”