The new Steam and Lights service will replace the traditional Santa Specials, which cannot operate because of the measures that need to be taken to counter the spread of COVID-19.
Instead of Father Christmas handing out presents, the new service will see trains covered in brightly coloured lights puffing through the Isle of Purbeck in the dark of the evening.
There will also be special lighting displays at stations, as well as at other locations along the five-and-a-half mile heritage line, as the train steams from Swanage to Corfe Castle and Norden on the one-hour round trip.
The interiors of the cosy carriages will also be festively decorated. On-board music synchronised to lineside lighting displays passing the carriage windows will be seen on the journey.
Before passengers board at Swanage station, which will only be open to those who have pre-booked the service, there will be a dramatic switch-on of the train lights at the platform.
Herston Halt, Harman’s Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden stations will be closed to the public.
“This new Steam and Lights train service in the run-up to Christmas is a festive first for the Swanage Railway and we are very excited because it will be very special and out of this world – colourful, evocative and dramatic. We are looking forward to it tremendously,” said Swanage Railway volunteer and commercial director, Steve Williams. “The need to keep our passengers and staff safe against the threat of COVID-19 – by following social distancing and the wearing of face coverings – means that we cannot run our traditional, and very popular, Santa Special trains where Father Christmas gives presents to children on the train and has his photograph taken.
“With the help of an experienced and reputable company specialising in synchronised lighting and music, we have been working very hard to design a special festive train service that will make wonderful and magical memories for children and adults in the run-up to Christmas.”
The Steam and Lights trains will operate on the first two weekends of December and then daily from Friday, 18 to Wednesday, 23 December, 2020, inclusive, with departures from Swanage station at 5.15pm and 7.15pm. Seats must be booked in advance and there is a maximum of six people per booking.
Steve explained, “At the time of booking, passengers can purchase a special festive picnic box filled with tasty treats and drinks to make their Steam and Lights journey extra special.
“To comply with government health regulations, no bookings can be taken for groups comprising more than six people and face coverings should be worn on the platform at Swanage station as well as on the Steam and Lights train.”
There will be no catering available at Swanage station, or on the special festive trains, because of the need to keep passengers and staff safe against the threat of COVID-19 but, subject to volunteer availability, a socially distanced Swanage Station shop will be open when the Steam and Lights trains are running.
The Swanage Railway uses the Zoono long-life anti-bacterial spray – proven to kill the coronavirus – on its trains and stations, to keep passengers and staff safe, while the trains are cleaned and tables wiped after every round trip.
Visit swanagerailway.co.uk/events/detail/steam-lights to view a preview video and book.
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