Sheriff opens gates to Wareham

The Swanage Railway’s £500,000 state-of-the-art level crossing at Norden, which will enable the running of regular trains to Wareham, has been opened by Sir Philip Williams, the High Sherriff of Dorset.

With the level crossing and extension to Wareham in the background, the High Sheriff of Dorset, Sir Philip Williams, cuts the ceremonial ribbon officially opening the Swanage Railway’s new level crossing at Norden on October 6. ANDREW P. M. WRIGHT

With the level crossing and extension to Wareham in the background, the High Sheriff of Dorset, Sir Philip Williams, cuts the ceremonial ribbon officially opening the Swanage Railway’s new level crossing at Norden on October 6. ANDREW P. M. WRIGHT

At the ceremony on October 6, Sir Philip cut a ceremonial ribbon and unveiled a brass plaque, commemorating the various parties that have brought the Norden level crossing project to fruition.

The level crossing, which has taken Swanage Railway volunteers four years and more than 3,000 hours of design, building and testing work, was funded by a legacy left by the Wytch Farm oilfield’s previous operator, BP. The crossing controls traffic on a busy stretch of road accessing not only the oilfield but also the Norden station park-and-ride car park.

The first timetabled steam-hauled services used the Norden level crossing as par of the Swanage Railway’s Spring Steam Gala on April 8, allowing regular trains over the line’s northern extension towards Wareham for the first time in 49 years.

Sir Philip has local railway connections; his ancestors were among the promoters for the Southampton-Dorchester line, which opened in 1847 and his great grandfather was a director of the LSWR until the company ceased to exist in 1922.

After the official opening of the crossing, the High Sheriff of Dorset and his wife joined more than 60 guests on a special five-coach train that ran over the level crossing and on to the line’s four-mile extension that takes the Swanage Railway within a ¼-mile of Worgret Junction and the main line to Wareham.