SWANAGE Railway celebrated 35 years since its first passenger train took to the track this weekend.

The line was merely a few hundred yards long back in 1979, playing host to an industrial diesel shunter and a half-painted coach.

Fast forward three-and-a-half decades and more than 200,000 passengers travel on the railway every year in a range of vintage steam and diesel engines which have been exquisitely maintained or restored.

To mark the achievement of the track’s panel-by-panel restoration, Swanage Railway Company arranged for an iconic Tornado steam locomotive to join in the festivities.

Tourists and residents flocked to the event, snapping pictures of the classic engines and taking advantage of the opportunity to see and travel on such rare trains.

The company’s chairman, Peter Sills, said he was delighted to see so many people at the gala enjoying themselves across the two days.

“It has been very busy,” said Peter. “The place was heaving with visitors who had come to see the Tornado.

“I am sure the visiting locomotives played no small part in the number of people here.

“I think they appeal to local people as well as the enthusiasts.”

The special weekend gala also featured the Purbeck line’s home fleet of steam and diesel locomotives.

As part of the anniversary celebrations Tornado driver experience days, costing £595 per person, were available on Friday – and will be again this coming weekend, July 18-19.