South Dorset Member of Parliament Richard Drax hopped on board a steam locomotive at Swanage Railway on Thursday to learn more about its £14 million annual contribution to the Purbeck and Dorset economy.
Mr Drax visited Dorset's award-winning five and a half mile heritage line that runs from Norden Park and Ride to Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross, Herston and Swanage as part of English Tourism Week.
Rebuilt from nothing since 1976 and now carrying more than 210,000 passengers a year, the Swanage Railway takes 40,000 cars a year off the narrow and winding A351 Corfe Castle to Swanage road thanks to a 350-space car park next to Norden station.
Arriving by steam train at Swanage station after riding in a newly restored rare 1940s Southern Railway Bulleid carriage from Norden Park & Ride, Mr Drax was welcomed by the Mayor of Swanage, Ali Patrick, as well as tourism staff from Swanage and Purbeck councils.
Mr Drax said: “This team has worked tirelessly to provide a service for residents and tourists alike and my visit to the Swanage Railway was a highly enjoyable, informative and action-packed afternoon."
Speaking to some of the dedicated volunteers that run the train services, Mr Drax saw behind the scenes of the Swanage Railway – riding on the footplate of 1940s Southern Railway express steam locomotive 'Eddystone', shovelling coal into its firebox, visiting Corfe Castle station and viewing the national award-winning Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum next to Norden station.
The South Dorset MP's visit was hosted by Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns and Swanage Railway Company Chairman Peter Sills.