Saturday, July 30, 2011


The West Somerset Railway is England’s longest heritage line, linking the busy resort of Minehead to the big trains at Taunton. Or almost. The track is intact to Taunton, which is how rail vehicles join and leave the WSR. But passengers have to find some other way to get to the start of the service at Bishops Lydeard (left), 6 miles north of Taunton by road. Daft. Absolutely. The WSR carries many more passengers today as a heritage line than it did under British Rail. But it could so easily be making a contribution to the real transport needs of the area. Who is responsible for this colossal lack of vision and why are they still in a job?

Back at the start of the month, I travelled on the line to Minehead, admiring the vast amount of work put in by the volunteers since the last train under BR auspices ran in 1971. Stations are themed to represent various GWR and BR period styles and a number house small museums. There’s even a Southern station at Washford – reactions from Paddington unprintable – accounted for by the presence of the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust. There’ll be an opportunity for them to relocate to the real S&D in due course, naturally. Minehead was in a world of its own – the island of Sodor – as it played host to a ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ day. I could have filled in my Junior Engineer’s Certificate and had it signed by the Fat Controller himself (above). But I can’t really spare the wall space.

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