Volunteers at Swanage Railway have produced two fundraising videos which give a real insight into the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the award-winning heritage railway.
The videos also dedicate the hard work and the strong level of community support required to keep the line maintained during lockdown.
The popular preserved railway in Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck carries more than 200,000 passengers a year between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Swanage and contributes more than £15 million a year to the local economy.
Facing ‘financial jeopardy’
Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: “Taking 40 years to rebuild and reconnect with the national railway network near Wareham, the Swanage Railway is facing financial jeopardy and is engaged in the most critical fight in its history – the survival of the heritage line is on a knife edge.”
“Unlike never before, the public’s help and support is absolutely crucial if the Swanage Railway’s £360,000 ‘Save Our Service’ appeal target is to be achieved by the Autumn,” added Mr Johns who is also a volunteer signalman on the heritage railway.
Filmed observing social distancing, and in two 15-minute parts – ‘Survival on a Knife Edge’ and ‘Standing Together’ – the new online video demonstrates the strong level of community support for the heritage line’s vital battle for survival and is viewable on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “If this line went, I dread to imagine how many businesses would be affected, particularly in the hospitality area. It would be catastrophic.”
Mayor of Swanage Mike Bonfield said: “The railway is a big organisation in Swanage but we have many others and we need to pull together to protect the things we have for our visitors and locals alike and this is not just for Swanage, it’s for the whole Purbeck area.”
Swanage Town Council tourism committee chair Caroline Finch explained:“I would like to see us all come together and really help Swanage Railway out of this crisis. I think we need to put minds and hearts together and look at different ways of helping.”
Gavin Johns explained: “Our staff and volunteers desperately need support and are imploring the public to donate to our ‘Save Our Service’ appeal and share the Swanage Railway’s plea to spread the message. The Swanage Railway – and its place in the Purbeck community – needs saving now.
“In line with the Government’s guidance, the Swanage Railway has been closed for since Thursday, 19 March, 2020, and that has left it without valuable income.
“Even when services can eventually restart, social distancing measures will keep its customers safe but restrict its earnings and increase the railway’s financial challenges.
“Our new two behind the scenes videos help the public to understand some of the hidden costs behind mothballing a steam railway and illustrate just how much the Swanage Railway means to the Purbeck community – why it’s so vital for people do as much as they can to help ensure its existence,” added Mr Johns.
After being launched on Wednesday, 25 March, 2020, the Swanage Railway’s ‘Save Our Service’ appeal had raised £188,078 by Wednesday, 10 June, 2020, and is half way towards the target of £360,000.
Gavin Johns explained: “To keep the railway in a care and maintenance state costs £46,000 a month, its overheads having been reduced as much as possible with nearly all the 46 paid full and part-time staff having been furloughed and a skeleton staff carrying out vital maintenance work.
“Normally, it costs £200,000 a month to run the Swanage Railway and by the end of June its train services would have brought in £1.1 million so the railway is at a significant loss without that passenger revenue.
“That’s why donations offer such a vital lifeline to help its recovery for the benefit of the Isle of Purbeck economy,” added Mr Johns.
How can you help?
The Swanage Railway Trust ‘Save Our Service’ website, at saveourservice.co.uk, has also been re-designed.
‘Survival on a Knife Edge’ and ‘Standing Together’ can be viewed on the Swanage Railway’s YouTube channel, respectively, on social media at Facebook @swanagerailway, on Twitter @swanrail, on Instagram @swanagerailwayofficial.
To make a donation, visit www.saveourservice.co.uk for PayPal or www.swanagerailwaytrust.org/giving for details about bank transfers and cheques along with Gift Aid that can further boost your donation by per cent.Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.