AN appeal launched to safeguard the future of a Dorset heritage railway has already raised more than £136,000.

Swanage Railway announced its 'Save Our Service' appeal last month, after it closed down services temporarily in light of the lockdown.

Railway supporters fear the line could become another economic victim of the coronavirus unless the £360,000 target is met.

Gavin Johns, the chairman of Swanage Railway Trust, said: "The Swanage Railway is facing the most urgent and potentially devastating challenge in its history, due to extraordinary and terrible circumstances beyond its control.

"I would like to thank everyone who has already made a donation to the Swanage Railway’s ‘Save Our Service’ appeal during these extraordinary and challenging times.

"We urgently need the help of the public through donations to our ‘Save Our Service’ appeal because the Swanage Railway is fighting for its very existence."

Mr Johns says several generations of people have rebuilt the Swanage Railway from nothing since 1976.

Monthly maintenance costs, which still have to be met despite no trains running, are £46,000.

Mr Johns said: "We have reduced our costs as much as possible, using Government schemes resulting in most of our 46 paid staff being furloughed, and our dedicated volunteers being asked to stay at home for the time being.

"The Swanage Railway Trust has launched a number of fund-raising initiatives and the ability for people to make a donation via text message is one of the initiatives that we are taking to encourage public support at this critical time.

"We are monitoring the advice and guidance given by the Government and its public health experts. The safety and well-being of our paid staff, volunteers and passengers is always of the utmost importance.

"Essential staff are maintaining, repairing and keeping the Swanage Railway secure – while taking precautions and exercising social distancing as per Government advice – until train operations can be resumed."

The railway ran its last public trains on the March 14/15 weekend,with its shop and café at Swanage station closing four days later.

n SWANAGE Railway fundraising chairman Randy Coldham said: “People can now easily donate by phone to the Swanage Railway’s ‘Save Our Service’ appeal by texting ‘SOS’ to 70470 to donate £10 which costs £10 plus a standard rate message.

“Donors can also choose to give any whole amount between £1 and £20. For example, texting ‘SOS 4’ equals a £4 donation plus a standard rate message."

Clearly marked ‘Save Our Service’ appeal, cheques can also be sent to the Swanage Railway Trust at Station House, Station Approach, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 1HB.

Alternatively, visit or Swanage Railway’s Facebook page for details.