A STEAM train full of holidaymakers has helped to rescue a seriously injured motorcyclist after he plunged into a deep and inaccessible railway cutting on the Swanage Railway's Purbeck Line in Dorset.
The drama involving an unconscious 62 year old Swanage man happened at Afflington Bridge, a mile south of Corfe Castle, around 2.15 pm on Monday, September 13, 1999
The 62 year old motorcyclist was riding his machine along the main A351 Corfe Castle to Swanage road towards the village of Harman's Cross when the accident happened.
For some reason, the motorcyclist left the busy main road at the Afflington road bridge and plunged 30 feet on to the railway line in the cutting below.
He landed on the 'up' side of the railway track, just two feet away from one of the rails. His motorcycle was left teetering on the edge of the cutting at Afflington bridge - a popular vantage point for railway photographers.
Swanage Railway chairman and local councillor Bill Trite was on board the 2 pm steam train from Swanage when it came across the accident while running between Harman's Cross and Swanage.
The four coach train was being hauled by 1927 Southern Railway S15 class No. 828 'Harry A. Frith'.
"As we rounded the bend and approached the cutting at Afflington, we could see people on the bridge frantically waving at us to stop," explained Mr Trite.
"The motorcyclist had hit the ground about two feet from the railway track and was lying on his back in a very bad way."
Passers-by had scrambled down the embankment to help the injured man and railway staff on the train - including Bill Trite - help give first aid at the scene. The ambulance service was called by someone with a mobile phone.
"The problem was how we could get him out of the railway cutting which has steep sides and undergrowth," explained Mr Trite.
"I suggested to the ambulance paramedics that we put the injured motorcyclist - who was unconscious - on to the train instead of having three or four people trying to man-handle the stretcher up the embankment sides.
"The train enabled the man to be quickly evacuated from a very difficult spot because short of a helicopter there wasn't any other easy way of getting him out of the cutting," added Mr Trite.
After the unconscious motorcyclist was treated by ambulance paramedics, he was stretchered on to the steam train and taken to the Norden park and ride station north of Corfe Castle.
Still unconscious, the injured motorcyclist was transferred to an ambulance and rushed to Dorset's Poole Hospital under a police escort.
"Our volunteers and staff are always prepared for emergencies such as this," explained Mr Trite.
"It was fortunate that the train was available to help rescue the injured motorcyclist from such an inaccessible cutting. He was very badly injured and speed was of the essence in getting him to the intensive care unit of Poole Hospital," added Mr Trite.
In case the ambulance paramedics wanted the injured man to be taken by train back to Harman's Cross station, the Swanage Railway's 08 shunter was brought up to the train at Afflington bridge by Swanage Railway operations manager Paul McDonald. It would have hauled the train back to Harman's Cross if needed.
On Tuesday morning (14/9/99) a Poole Hospital spokeswoman said that the injured motorcyclist was in a poorly condition.
Police want to speak to the occupants of a blue/grey car said to be immediately in front of the motorcyclist just before it left the road and plunged into the railway cutting.
The Swanage Railway's train service (a train every 70 minutes as it was the middle season timetable) was delayed by some 45 minutes because of the rescue drama.