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Published: June 27, 2014

Story by Andrew P.M. Wright
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer

Patriotic Swanage Railway volunteers are supporting the seaside town's part in the national Armed Forces and Veterans' Day on Saturday, 28 June, 2014 – with free weekend train travel for serving servicepeople and veterans carrying a valid military identity card or veteran's badge.

The annual awareness and fund-raising event in Swanage organised by the town's Army Link group will see steam and diesel train services operating on the five and a half miles of relaid Purbeck Line between Norden Park & Ride, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross, Herston Halt and Swanage.

The special national Armed Forces and Veterans' Day comes as the 11th Signals Regiment – based at Blandford Forum in Dorset – celebrates its 30 year association with the Swanage Railway where it has held telecommunications work exercises since 1984.

Sunday, 29 June, 2014, will see a veterans' parade, supported by the Royal Corps of Signals, take place in Swanage at 2.30pm – starting from the Prince Albert Memorial by the pier and ending at the annual Mayor of Swanage's Civic Service in St Mary's Church, opposite the railway station, which begins at 3pm.

Swanage Railway General Manager Richard Jones: "We're absolutely delighted to play our part in supporting the national Armed Forces and Veterans' Day – and Swanage's part in it – by offering free train travel on the Saturday and Sunday for serving members of our armed forces as well as our veterans.

"The Swanage Railway has a very close association with the military because the 11th Signals Regiment based at Blandford Forum has held many exercises on the Railway across the past 30 years.

"The Royal Corps of Signals has kindly helped with the continual development of the Swanage Railway since 1984 when the line only ran to the one mile point at Herston on the outskirts of Swanage.

"Over the years, the Royal Corps of Signals has very kindly assisted in installing lineside telephone poles, cabling and telephone exchanges as the 

relaid tracks of the Swanage Railway were slowly laid up to Harman's Cross, Corfe Castle and then on to Norden where the 'park and ride' station and car park were built.

"The soldiers from the 11th Signals Regiment have also helped with the maintenance and improvement of Herston Halt which was the first station to be built by Swanage Railway volunteers back in 1983.

"The Swanage Army Link is a dynamic association that has evolved over nearly 30 years between the Swanage Railway, the British Army, the townspeople of Swanage and the Royal British Legion," explained Mr Jones.

Rebuilt from nothing since 1976, the volunteer-run Swanage Railway carries more than 210,000 passengers a year on the six miles of relaid railway line between Norden Park & Ride, Corfe Castle, Harman's Cross, Herston Halt and Swanage.

The award-winning heritage railway contributes around £14 million to the Purbeck economy and profits from the running of train services and special events are ploughed back into the development and extension of the Swanage Railway and its facilities.

The Swanage Railway is run by some 500 regular volunteers – assisted by a team of more than 30 full-time staff – and the value of the Swanage Railway volunteers' work is some £2 million a year if they were paid.