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West Somerset Railway

INFORMATION FOR THE VISITOR

RCD’s Overview

This is one of the UK’s premier heritage lines. Along with just 12 railways, it gets our very top rating.

This is the longest heritage railway in England, running through the Somerset countryside from Bishops Lydeard (with road connections to Taunton) to the seaside resort of Minehead. It is noted for its varying scenery including the Quantock hills and distant Exmoor, and the views of the Somerset coast as the railway approaches the towns of Watchet and Minehead. It successfully recreates a country branch line of the old Great Western Railway. The railway passes through or near very popular tourist areas, including Minehead, the harbour town of Watchet and the historic village of Dunster (famous for its castle), as well as being on the edge of Exmoor. A visitor to this area in strongly advised to include a trip along the West Somerset Railway.

 

Key Facts (where and when)

Extent of Railway (where to where):

Minehead and Bishops Lydeard (occasional to Norton Fitzwarren)

Principal Visitor Centre:

Minehead Station

Period of Operation*

- Late March to October (weekends)

- April to October (also Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

- July and August (also selected other days)

- Late November and December (Special event trains)

 [* This is a summary. Please go to the railway’s website for definitive operating days] 

 

Key Facts (what you’ll see)

Services usually steam or diesel?

With an emphasis on steam, both steam and diesel are run

Type of Steam / Diesel Locomotives Used:

Range of steam and diesel locomotives

Length of Line:

20.5 miles (22.5 miles to Norton Fitzwarren)

Time taken for a round trip:

3 to 4 hours

Number of trains per day:

Up to 5 in each direction

Number of Stations:

11 stations

Prices:

Adult Rover: £30. Child Rover: £15. Family: £75

Time to allow for Visit:

Half day

Museum:

(1) Gauge Museum - Bishops Lydeard Station

(2) Great Western Railway Museum - Blue Anchor Station

Shop/Cafe:

Yes/Yes

Picnic/Play areas:

Yes

Preservation Established:

1971

Car Park Facilities:

Bishops Lydeard (free). Watchet and Minehead (pay & display)

 

Key Facts (Galas/Events/Dining)

Dining Trains:

- The Quantock Belle Dining Train                                                               

Event Trains:

- Winterlights: Mid November and December

- Santa Express: December

 Principal Galas:

- Spring Gala: March

- Diesel Gala: June

- Autumn Steam Gala: September/October

Experiences:

- Range of Steam Engineman Courses

- Work Experience on the West Somerset Railway

 

Contacts

Email:                                                                  info@wsrail.net

Telephone:                                                          01643-704996

Website:                                                              www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk

Social Media:                                                     www.facebook.com/WSrail

                                                                             Also on Twitter and YouTube


INFORMATION FOR THE ENTHUSIAST

Brief History of the Railway and its Preservation  

In 1845 the main line from Bristol to Exeter was completed, and from that time various schemes were suggested to link the north Somerset towns of Watchet and Minehead with the main line, either at Taunton or Bridgewater. Several of these schemes involved linking by railway harbours in the Bristol Channel with harbours in the English Channel to provide an alternative to the much longer and more dangerous sea passage around Land's End. Ultimately none of the scheme came to fruition. However in 1857 local businessmen resolved to build a railway from Taunton to Watchet, to be built under the direction of Brunel. The railway was opened in 1862, and extended to Minehead in 1874. The railway was always popular with holiday makers, with direct trains to London, the Midlands and beyond in the summer months. This was bolstered by the opening of a Butlins holiday camp at Minehead in 1962. However, the Beeching Report of 1963 slated the Minehead branch for closure, and from that time the line was rationalised and run down with closure in mind. The line finally closed in January 1971.  At the same time a preservation society was established to investigate how the line could be reopened as a private concern. The initial intent was to provide a year-round commuter service from Minehead to Taunton supplemented by a summer steam service.  The Somerset County Council was generally supportive, and it purchased the track bed in 1973 and leased it back to the preservation group. The proposed commuter service was frustrated in several ways, and ultimately the line reopened in stages as a traditional heritage railway. Minehead to Blue Anchor was opened in 1976, extended to Williton later that year, to Stogumber in 1978 and to Bishops Lydeard in 1979.

 

Principal Aspiration

To develop Norton Fitzwarren station, triangle and Network Rail connection (to enable regular trains to use the station, and to facilitate occasional through services to Taunton and beyond).  

 

Steam Operational Locomotives:

(1) GWR ‘Manor’ Class 4-6-0 - No. 7828 ‘Odney Manor’

(2) GWR Collett Class 2-6-0 - No. 9351

 

Diesel Operational Locomotives:

(1) BR Class 47 - No. D1661 ‘North Star’

(2) BR Class 35 Hymek - No. D 7018

(3) BR Class 33 - No. D6566

(4) BR Class 33 - No. D6575

(5) BR Class 14 Teddy Bear - No. D9526

(6) BR Class 09 - No. D4017 (09019)

(7) BR Class 03 - No. D2133

(8) Andrew Barclay industrial shunter - No. 1 (Works 578)

(9) Andrew Barclay industrial shunter - No. 2 (Works 579)

 

Steam Locomotives Under Overhaul:

GWR ‘Small Prairie’- No. 4561

 

Diesel Locomotives Under Overhaul:

(1) Class 52 Western - No. D1010 ‘Western Campaigner’

(2) Class 35 Hymek - No.7018

 

INFORMATION ON THE SUPPORT GROUP

There are a number of means of supporting the WSR, in particular:

- through its operating company (West Somerset Railway PLC); and

- through its supporting group (the West Somerset Railway Association).

 

Name of Operating Company:

West Somerset Railway PLC

 Ownership of Shares:

It is possible to become a shareholder of the WSR PLC. Share purchases fund essential capital works and improvements to the Railway. If interested, go to www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/shareholders for further information. Benefits of being a shareholder include free travel warrants and discount vouchers.

 

What They Say About Volunteering:

There are around 800 active volunteers whose contribution help makes the West Somerset Railway 'tick'. Volunteers are able to assist (subject to undertaking a training programme and passing a medical in some cases) in all aspects of the WSR, and their contribution is absolutely vital towards ensuring the success and future growth of the railway. On any given day, the footplate crew, guard, ticket inspector, booking clerk, stationmaster, track worker, buffet car steward - and many, many more are likely to be volunteers.

 

How to Volunteer:                                        Go to www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/volunteer

 

How to donate to the Railway:                     Go to www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/donations


Name of Support Group:

West Somerset Railway Association

 Annual membership fee:

Adult: £27. Senior: £24. Student: £11. Family: £50

Own Website:

www.wsra.org.uk

Email:

info@wsra.org.uk

 

Benefits of membership:                                  

-          Discount off the full price of travel, courtesy of the WSR PLC.

-          Members area of the Association website

-          Discounts available at some of the retail outlets on the WSR

-          Quarterly Magazine, ‘West Somerset Railway Journal’ 

-          Periodic e-newsletter

 

How to Join:                                                          Go to www.wsra.org.uk

 

Volunteering Opportunities:

The Association seeks volunteers for on-train advocates, fundraising event work, administrative work, rally admin and preparation work, rally weekend help and Community Outreach.

 

How to donate to the Association:                   Go to www.wsra.org.uk/fundraising

 

WHY JOIN:   A heritage railway of this length requires considerable financial and volunteer assistance. Join to help it maintain its extensive operations, and to help it develop the Norton Fitzwarren station, triangle and main line connection.

 

INFORMATION ON OTHER SOCIETIES WITH RELATED INTEREST

Those interested in this railway may also be interested in the following railway societies also listed on this

website:

 

Traditional Railway Societies:

- Great Western Railway Society (Taunton Group)

 

Model Railway Clubs:

- Somerset Railway Modellers Club

- Taunton Model Railway Group

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