DEDICATED volunteers are embarking on an ambitious £150,000 refurbishment of Swanage station's 1930s canopy – 40 years after it came close to being demolished and replaced by a supermarket, hotel, public house and car park.
When the ambitious 12-week scheme is complete, it is expected the 254-feet long metal and wood platform canopy covering 5,000 square feet – and made up of 350 separate panes of glass – will be as new and not require further attention for another 50 years.
The impressive canopy was completed by the Southern Railway Company in 1938 when the station building was mostly rebuilt and greatly extended.
Work has started on stripping, restoring and repainting the platform canopy which will be repainted in authentic 1930s Southern Railway Company colours using a hi-tech paint used on North Sea oil and gas platforms.
Chairman of the volunteer-run Swanage Railway Trust, Liz Sellen, said: "This ambitious project represents a once in a lifetime makeover with the Swanage station canopy celebrating its 75th birthday this year.
"The station canopy restoration project is being managed by Swanage Railway trainee fireman Nick Coram and we have been fortunate that local contractors have offered excellent value for money and service which has enabled us to support the local Purbeck economy.
"We are investing in an important piece of Swanage Railway infrastructure and the future of an architecturally important building in the centre of Swanage. The specialist work is being carried out by a team of sub-contractors.
"The work on the station canopy includes the shot blasting of the steel structure back to bare metal, a full repaint as well as the replacement of all the glass and wood. The Swanage station building is also being repainted," she explained.
Opened in May, 1885, Swanage station's small Victorian platform canopy was rebuilt and extended in 1938 – along with the station building – because more passengers were visiting Swanage on holidays and day trips.
Swanage station's Purbeck stone buildings were boarded up and abandoned after British Rail ran the last passenger train to Corfe Castle and Wareham on the cold night of New Year's Day, Saturday, 1 January, 1972.
Liz Sellen explained: "While the Swanage Railway has been based at the station since 1976, we have been so busy rebuilding and developing the seven miles of line back to the national railway network that this is the first chance that we have had to completely restore the station canopy.
"While the platform canopy was restored as best we could with very limited financial resources back in 1976 and 1977, since then we have only been able to repair the ravages that the salty sea air inflicts," she added.
Currently closed for its winter maintenance shutdown, the Swanage Railway re-opens on Saturday, 16th February, so steam trains can operate daily over the school half-term week during which the canopy restoration work will be suspended.
Work on the station canopy restoration will then resume on weekdays only – so that steam trains can operate every weekend – and be complete before the start of daily running on Monday, 25 March.
Swanage Railway train service details are available by going online to www.swanagerailway.co.uk or calling the Swanage Railway on 01929 425800.