What is now Norden Park & Ride station on the Swanage Railway was until the early 1970s part of Norden Clay Works.
At one time this was the centre of a network of industrial railways built by B Fayle & Co.
Their first line was the Middlebere Plateway from near here to Middlebere Creek. Building commenced in 1805 making this the oldest line in Dorset.
In 1854 they built another railway connecting Newton clay pit to Goathorn Pier, and in 1907 this was extended to Norden forming Fayle's Tramway. The old plateway was abandoned.
The line to Goathorn closed in the late 1930s, and the rest of the above ground lines were abandoned in 1970 when lorries started loading directly from the mines. Narrow gauge railways continued to be used underground at Norden No 6 & 7 mines until mining ceased in 1999.
Centre piece of the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum is the buildings from the redundant ECC Norden No 7 mine, complete with original winch gear and underground tubs. This was originally located on the west of the A351 behind Norden Farm.
The sides of the ramp have been boarded in, and this leads down to re-creation of the mine, which is very effective despite being above ground. When you come out through the exit door and find yourself on the same level as the car park it comes a quite a surprise.
For opening times please see the official site detailed below.
Although you don't have to venture far from the car park to find evidence of old ball clay pits, the only substantial remainder of the Clay Works is the so called Skew Bridge carrying the narrow gauge line from the mines to the west over the main line to Eldon Sidings, the exchange sidings that were just to the north of the present day level crossing.
Part of this line has been relaid, and at one time was reconnected to the recently damaged Skew Bridge. This connection was subsequently removed, due in part no doubt to the popularity of this area with photographers.
At the time of my visit (2015) the former Hampshire Narrow Gauge Railway Trust's Cloister was running "Be a Driver for a Fiver" sessions, having recently be refitted in the workshops at Holton Heath. It is now based at the Statfold Barn Railway
Eventually they hope to move this engine to a new building at Norden, and to open up one of the nearby flooded clay pits to display how ball clay was also extracted by surface quarrying.