THE pictures in the gallery above feature a sight you won’t see at Poole Park this summer.

The park’s miniature railway, which has been a highlight of family trips since 1949, is currently out of action.

And while it’s only half a mile of track, with a train running round it at approximately 5mph, the Poole Park Railway has been the subject of a few dramas worthy of a national rail franchise.

Borough of Poole tendered for new operators for the railway last year, eventually selecting the Friends of Poole Park over Chris Bullen, who had run the attraction for more than a decade.

But the new operator ran into trouble, including derailments and a mass walkout of volunteers and staff.

Poole council terminated its contract earlier this year, with no new operator ready to take over.

Councillors will decide the next steps later this summer, by which time thousands of locals and holiday-makers alike will have missed out on the chance to ride the trains.

The history of the railway was recounted in Keith Guy’s book Poole Park Railway: The First Fifty Years 1949-99.

George Vimpany, who had been running a miniature railway at Southsea since 1933, came up with the idea, but his business Southern Miniature Railways was required to compete with other potential operators for the opportunity.

The proposal attracted some objections, but Poole council voted to go ahead with it.

The track was laid and a bridge constructed across the park’s freshwater lake, in time for Mr Vimpany to drive the steam locomotive for the first official trip on April 9, 1949.

In those early days, many people were happy to wait for up to an hour to ride the train.

A Poole-built diesel engine, D7000, was added in 1960, and steam trains were withdrawn from daily use in 1965, although they were used occasionally until 1970.

In 1969, passenger numbers stood at 180,000.

The railway was transferred in 1979 to the partnership of Geoff Tapper and Brian Merrifield, with Mr Merrifield alone running it from 1990. Chris Bullen took over in 2005.

The railway has seen off a number of threats over years – including a draft proposal in the late 1980s to tear it up in favour of a new road.

And it continues to have strong support from those who have taken children and grandchildren on the ride they once loved themselves.