SOMETHING took place in Purbeck yesterday that hasn’t happened for 45 years.

A passenger train ran from Wareham to Swanage – a line that was closed by British Rail in 1972.

As part of a trial scheme, diesel trains will run the route four times a day on 60 dates this summer.

The initiative links Swanage Railway – whose steam trains are a familiar site winding through the Purbeck countryside – with the main line from London to Weymouth.

The link, made possible by the investment of £5.5million in government and private sector money, is a dream come true for the railway enthusiasts who have been keeping alive the hope of linking Swanage with the main railway line again.

The 10-mile branch line from Wareham to Swanage was opened in May, 1885, after businesses worked for 40 years to bring it to fruition.

Trains ran for almost 87 years – until the evening of January 1, 1972, when the last British Rail service went from Wareham to Swanage and back.

Some 500 passengers made the last return trip on a six-coach train, which consisted of two 1957-built Hampshire class diesel multiple units.

A special ticket had been printed by British Rail, costing 50p for adults and 25p for children.

The driver was ‘Johnny’ Walker, from BR’s Bournemouth depot. He had also driven the last timetabled steam train out of Swanage in September 1966. The signalman at Corfe Castle was Bob Richards, who was to move to the Wareham signal box and continue working there until 2007.

The train left Wareham at 9.45pm, calling at Corfe Castle at 10pm and arriving at a crowded platform at Swanage station at 10.10pm.

The return train left at 10.15pm, reaching Corfe Castle at 10.24pm and Wareham at 10.40pm. After that, it ran to all stations to Bournemouth, leaving Purbeck without its branch line, apparently for good.

The closure left a three-mile stub from the main line to Furzebrook for clay and later for Wytch Farm oil field trains.

It took just seven weeks to rip up 6.5 miles of track from Swanage to Motala, half a mile east of Furzebrook. The 1,232 steel rails weighed a tonne each.

But railway enthusiasts were not taking the closure of so many British branch lines lying down. That same year, Swanage Railway Society was formed with the aim of bringing passenger trains back to the Swanage-Wareham route.

Work on rebuilding the line from nothing began in February 1976, after the council granted the society’s volunteers a one-year lease on the derelict Swanage station.

Diesel trains started running over a few hundred yards of track at Swanage in August, 1979, with steam trains following at Easter, 1980.

Passenger trains ran to the one-mile point at Herston Halt in 1984 and then to the 1.5-mile point at New Barn in 1987.

In 1989, the line stretched three miles to Harman’s Cross, and in 1995 it reached the five-mile point to Corfe Castle and half a mile on to Norden.

Swanage Railway’s tracks met the national railway system at Motala – then the end of the freight line from Worgret Junction – in January 2002. By then, volunteers had laid 1,232 metal rails.

A signalled junction with the national railway network at Motala was installed in 2006. The first diesel train from London to Swanage since 1972 was able to run in April 2009 – and the first steam train since 1967 ran the following month.

A new signalling system between Swanage Railway and Network Rail was commissioned in June 2014 – a complicated four-year project.

Swanage Railway leased the three mile line from Motala to near Worgret Junction from Dorset County Council in 2014 and work started on upgrading the line.

Half a line of continuously welded track was laid, a quarter-mile embankment was upgraded, other embankments and drains were cleared and lineside fencing renewed.

A main line standard level crossing was built at Norden Gates, west of Norden station, in August 2015, to protect the Wytch Farm oil field access road.

The three-mile extensions upgrade was completed in April last year, with train speeds raised to 25mph.

Last June, the £500,000 Norden Gates welcomed its first passenger train, a 12-carriage excursion from the Midlands.

The restoration of passenger services involved a £1.8million grant from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund and an investment of £3.2m by Purbeck and Dorset councils, which came from money collected from housing developers.

But most of all it came about thanks to the determination of those original volunteers, who refused to believe that a torn-up track was the end of the story for the Wareham to Swanage line.