Here’s a chance to act out a scene from the Famous Five. Passing through some of Dorset’s finest countryside via the magical ruins of Corfe Castle to the coast at Swanage, these lovingly restored steam trains shuttle between Norden, Corfe and Swanage, the starting point for many of Enid Blyton’s stories.
The typical day-to-day service runs steam trains, but do check the timetable for special services, which include diesel trains, evening dining experiences and seasonal trains such as the Santa Special. There are five stops on the route, and a standard Freedom of the Line ticket allows you to hop on and hop off all day long. Try to experience as many of the stations as you can though – they are mini museum pieces in themselves, complete with their original fittings. The three main stations are definitely worth visiting: Swanage station has a small picnic and viewing area, a shop and a café, while Corfe is in a beautiful setting with excellent views of the castle from the picnic area and has its own free museum. Norden has a picnic area, playground and a small mining museum, complete with a narrow gauge railway.
The trains have “open access” carriages suitable for powered scooters and wheelchairs. It makes sense to call ahead to check they are in operation, before arriving – if they aren’t, and you can transfer from a chair, then your wheelchair could be stored in the guard’s van. These dedicated carriages also have disabled toilets, which is handy because, the only stations that do are Norden and Harmans Cross, where there is a RADAR key-accessible toilet. Norden is the most accessible station all-round – it has dedicated parking, which is a level two-hundred-yard journey from the station – while Swanage station has level access to the town centre and beach promenade. All the stations have disabled ramps on the platforms and helpful staff to assist, though there are no low-access ticket offices along the entire route. Dogs on leads are welcomed on the trains.
Food & drink: Norden and Swanage both have station cafés, based in old railway carriages. Neither has wheelchair access but there is adjacent seating outdoors and staff can serve you in the picnic area. Both sell inexpensive snacks and light meals such as soup, baps or egg, sausage and chips for under £6.