Published: December 16, 2016
Story and Photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer
An evocative Victorian carol concert has brought Christmas delights to Corfe Castle with the event being staged at the station's restored goods shed.
Dating from the 1884 and built of Purbeck stone, the restored goods shed – closed by British Railways in 1965 – was specially lit for the occasion.
With many passengers attending in Victorian costume, the special event took place on Friday, 9 December, 2016, and featured the Swanage Town Band as well as the popular Harmony Rocks ladies' choir which is based in the Isle of Purbeck.
The public attended the evening of festive Christmas music and song by rail from Swanage with the train being hauled by Southern Railway late 1920s U-class steam locomotive No. 31806 which visited Corfe Castle in the 1950s.
There was an hour of carol singing in the goods shed and later at Swanage station on the steam train's return – with carol sheets being provided so passengers could sing along.
Mulled wine was on sale after the festively decorated Christmas carol steam train arrived at Corfe Castle station while passengers received a complimentary festive drink and mince pie.
On arrival at Swanage station for their journey back in time, passengers were welcomed Swanage Town Crier Andrew Fleming to the accompaniment of festive songs performed on the platform by the Swanage School Choir led by Leah Howell.
A refreshment trolley selling soft drinks, beers, lager and wines was available at Swanage and Corfe Castle stations.
Featuring ladies from east Purbeck – including the village of Harman's Cross and the town of Swanage – the popular Harmony Rocks choir meets at the Harman's Cross village hall on Wednesday afternoons.
Swanage Railway General Manager Matt Green said: "This year's Victorian Christmas carol event was an exciting one because it was the first time that we used the restored Victorian goods shed at Corfe Castle station which houses the Swanage Railway's fascinating museum.
"The interior of the goods shed was specially lit for the occasion with the Swanage Town Band playing from the museum's extensive balcony while the Harmony Rocks Choir sang in front of the splendid Victorian-built narrow gauge steam locomotive 'Secundus' that hauled ball clay trains in Purbeck up to 1955.
"It was a memorable, evocative and enjoyable evening because Corfe Castle's restored Victorian station and goods shed have a very special atmosphere – especially at night.
"Our annual festive Christmas carol train was, yet again, a memorable event and the perfect start to December's Christmas preparations.
"I would like to thank the dedicated team of volunteers that has organised the Christmas carol train for their months of hard work and attention to detail for what was a very special, evocative and enjoyable evening," he added.
The Harmony Rocks choir is led by Clare Perriss who studied choir and ensemble musical direction at the University of Melbourne in Australia where she specialised in instrumental music tuition.
Concert organiser and long-time Swanage Railway volunteer Bob Bunyar explained: "An experienced piano accompanist and professional jazz pianist, Clare has considerable experience in directing musical productions, concert bands, small ensembles and choirs.
"She has an extensive repertoire of traditional and contemporary Christmas music," he added.
This year's Victorian Christmas carol concert was again staged by a dedicated group of Swanage Railway volunteers that maintains and develops Harman's Cross station which has been built from scratch since 1988.
The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so for an informal chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email '[email protected]'.