Tributes for Swanage Railway Champion
9:28am 17th January 2013
Tributes are being paid to a woman who fought to stop a by-pass being built on a disused railway track in Corfe Castle.
If it wasn't for the determined efforts of Monni Moss during the 70's and 80's, the Swanage Railway we have today couldn't have been rebuilt.
Mrs Moss has died aged 94.
Swanage Railway Trust chairman Liz Sellen said: "Everyone on the Swanage Railway is very saddened to hear of Monni's death and our condolences go out to her family and friends at this very difficult time.
"Without Monni's determined campaigning work, there would not be the Swanage Railway that so many people enjoy today because the line would only have been relaid the three miles from Swanage to Harman's Cross.
"A by-pass on the railway trackbed through Corfe Castle would have meant that the Norden park and ride scheme - taking thousands of cars off the narrow and winding A351 road to Swanage every year - could not have been built.
"The Swanage Railway would also not have been connected to the national railway system and special excursion trains from various parts of the country would not be bringing some 500 passengers a time into Swanage," added Mrs Sellen.
From a Purbeck family which farmed the land next to the Swanage branch line from 1939, Monni Moss lived for many years at Challow Farm - within sight and sound of Corfe Castle's railway station.
The Corfe Castle Eastern Preservation Group was formed as a pressure group to fight for the building of a by-pass around the west side of the picture postcard village, rather than through the centre of the village along the disused railway trackbed.
That was the official route for a by-pass after Dorset County Council purchased the railway trackbed from British Rail in March, 1974, after the railway tracks had been lifted back to just short of Furzebrook during the summer of 1972.
Swanage Railway founder member and volunteer Peter Frost new Monni for many years and campaigned alongside her: "Monni's leadership and popular following by local like-minded people in Corfe Castle was to play a major role in influencing her peer group within the parish, district and county councils.
"Monni was determined to give the councils a clear understanding of the feelings of a significant proportion of local people as well as the implications of a by-pass being built on the railway trackbed which would have greatly widened the cutting through the Purbeck Hills and seen the demolition of Corfe Castle station.
"Monni was a very special lady who was prepared to raise her head above the parapet and lead a fight for her community, a fight without which the Swanage Railway as we now know it would not exist.
"She affected the course of history in Corfe Castle - as did Lady Bankes who defended the castle at Corfe against two sieges mounted by Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian forces during the Civil War of the 17th Century.
"With the shelving of long-term plans for a Corfe Castle by-pass, Dorset County Council offered a lease of the disused railway trackbed between Harman's Cross, Corfe Castle and Motala near Furzebrook to the Swanage Railway. The rest is history," explained Mr Frost who has been driving steam locomotives on the Swanage Railway since the late 1970s.
(Photo courtesy of Edward Moss)