VOLUNTEERS who have worked for more than 20 years to help prepare a line so a landmark public train service could run have won a national award.

Swanage Railway supporters have received the Manisty Award for Excellence from the Heritage Railway Association.

It recognises the effort to restore passenger services over the full length of the line from Swanage to Wareham, something the Heritage Railway Association described as “an incredible project”.

The first year of trains to Wareham – on 60 days using contractors which supplied the trains, drivers and guards – took place last summer.

More than 13,000 passengers travelled on the service and almost three quarters of them arrived or departed from Wareham by a main line train which fulfilled one of the trial service’s key objectives.

Unfortunately the service has been hit by delays in the second year. Plans to run another trial train service using diesel multiple units have been scuppered due to a "challenging project" to restore and upgrade the trains.

Instead the service will start in Easter 2019.

Steam trains will run as normal on the branch from Swanage to Norden this year, operating from the end of March to the end of October.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: “The award for excellence in returning a train service to the main line at Wareham is an accolade that everyone on the Swanage Railway is very proud and delighted to receive.

“It’s very gratifying to receive this important recognition of our work from our peers in the heritage railway movement."

He added: “Our success in returning trains to Wareham has been possible through the help and support of our stakeholders in the Purbeck Community Partnership."

A Heritage Railway Association spokesman said: “This prestigious award recognises the huge effort over many years to restore passenger services over the full length of the line from Swanage to Wareham – an incredible project that restored a public service.”

The project has seen volunteers complete several detailed and challenging projects.

They have included restoring and upgrading three miles of former Network Rail line, designing and installing a signalling system linking into the main line, a new level crossing and road-rail interchange at Norden as well as a lease from Dorset County Council enabling the Swanage Railway to run into Wareham.

The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers. If you are interested call Mike Whitwam on 01929 408492 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk