ALMOST 211,000 passengers travelled on the Swanage Railway last year, figures have revealed.

This total – representing the second best year ever for passenger numbers – included 8,631 people who rode the festive ‘Santa Special’ Christmas steam trains, during just 10 days between November and Christmas Eve.

Railway manager Richard Jones said: “2013 was a fantastic year for the Swanage Railway.

“For the railway to achieve such a significant increase in passenger numbers on 2012 is a terrific achievement and a result of the hard work and commitment of our many staff – both paid and volunteer.

“We’re grateful to everyone who has supported the Swanage Railway this year.”

Last year’s total of 210,984 was only narrowly beaten by 2009’s record 212,095 passengers.

However, last year’s December was the attraction’s best performance for that month, with a 1,155 (15.4 per cent) increase, on 2012.

Mr Jones said: “Our success during 2013 has been due to the more favourable weather, increased marketing activity and public awareness, as well as a conscious effort to continually improve the railway and the range and quality of what we offer visitors.

“Mostly volunteers, our staff have worked wonders in running the trains throughout 2013 and this success is a tribute to their enthusiasm, dedication and support.”

This year is the 35th anniversary of the first Swanage Railway passenger trains in 1979, and there will be activities throughout 2014 marking the milestone.

“We will be celebrating in style with a range of exciting and memorable events,” said Mr Jones.