The West Somerset Railway 2013

PUBLISHED: 16:50 05 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:41 20 February 2013

The West Somerset Railway 2013

The West Somerset Railway 2013

Find out what's on the timetable for the west Somerset Railway in 2013

The West Somerset Railway 2013

Find out what's on the timetable for the west Somerset Railway in 2013

The West Somerset Railway was created to run from Norton Fitzwarren Junction, just west of Taunton on the Bristol and Exeter Railway main line through the Quantock Hills to Watchet. Recognising that having a famous engineer linked to the project would help to attract local and financial support the promoters approached Isambard Kingdom Brunel whose practice agreed to survey and oversee the building of the WSR. In reality in 1856 Brunel himself was fully occupied with the Saltash railway bridge and the ship the Great Eastern and so the work was delegated to one of his assistants Mr. Burke. Construction began with the large cutting near the site of Crowcombe Heathfield (which gave a reserve store of waste soil and stone to build embankments as required elsewhere) and by 1862 the line was complete.

In 1874 the line was extended to Minehead as part of a wider scheme to convert a generally moribund harbour town into a resort for the rapidly growing popularity of seaside holidays. The final expansion came in 1934 which is when for example the station platform at Minehead reached its length of a quarter of a mile.

Although the holiday traffic continued to develop, reaching a peak in the 1950s and seeing Butlins open a holiday centre at Minehead in the late 1960s local all year round traffic had begun a decline in the 1920s and 30s as firstly the rural bus and then the private car ate into business. The buses could go through villages whilst stations such as Crowcombe Heathfield and Stogumber were a good distance from local communities and the car offered even more flexibility as to journeys without having to wait for a branch line train delayed by a late running main line connection. When in 1962 Dr. Richard Beeching produced his Report The Reshaping of British Railways the Minehead line was earmarked for closure.

As the 1970s dawned the County Council moved all of the schools traffic to the roads and with the loss of that all year round revenue closure came at the start of 1971. Almost certainly had the line lasted a couple of years more into the changing attitudes towards railways in the 70s it would not have closed, although survival would have been as a single line basic railway with bus shelters on platforms and possibly a relocated terminus at Minehead. Much reduction had already taken place with goods yards and other track torn up and buildings closed and demolished.

However during the long time it took to close the Minehead line plans had been laid to re-open it as a private railway. The first train ran between Minehead and Blue Anchor when it was flagged away by Lord Montague of Beaulieu on March 28th 1976 and from then on the expansion of services proceeded at a rapid pace with Bishops Lydeard formally becoming the southern terminus on June 9th 1979.

Today the West Somerset Railway is firmly established as a major attraction in South West England carrying over 200,000 passengers per annum There is a paid staff of over fifty and some nine hundred volunteers involved in all aspects of keeping the trains running and the Railway as a whole presenting its best aspect to visitors.

Our Railway, a true country branch line of the old Great Western Railway is full of fascination whether you are looking for a nostalgic ride back in time through lovely countryside or to study the railway and industrial heritage which our line preserves. The historic steam locomotives, coaches and wagons, and the buildings of our ten unique stations linked by a twenty mile scenic journey will repay hours of exploration. The surrounding countryside is as varied as it is beautiful. The gently rolling Quantock hills and distant Exmoor, unspoilt villages and farms nestling in leafy lanes, the cliffs and coast of the Bristol Channel with views of distant South-Wales, confident Church Towers, Dunster's imposing Castle and Minehead's seaside charm are all waiting to be discovered.

2013 Special Events

  • Snowdrops & Steam: February 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 23rd & 24th.

  • Dunster Castle Express: Runs Saturday 9th & Wednesday 20th March and then every Saturday and Wednesday from Sat 30th March to Sat 2nd Nov inclusive.

  • Mothers Day Special: March 10th & Fathers Day Special on June 16th

  • Spring Steam Gala: March 16th - 19th and 21st - 24th.

  • Peppa Pig & George: April 6th

  • Hestercombe Express: Every Wednesday from May 2nd to Sept 25th

  • Fireman Sam: May 4th

  • Murder Mystery Evening Specials: May 25th, June 29th, Oct 26th & Dec 14th

  • Mixed Traction Weekend: June 7th - 9th.

  • Day out with Thomas: July 6th and 7th, July 13th and 14th

  • Cheese & Cider Lunch: June 21st, July 29th, Sept 6th & Sept 20th

  • Steam and Cream: June 21st, July 12th & 19th, Sept 6th, 13th, 20th

  • Combined Fish and Chip and Ale Train Special: July 27th & September 28th

  • Toy and Train Collectors Fair: July 28th

  • Steam Fayre and Vintage Vehicle Rally: August 3rd and 4th

  • Somerset CAMRA Real Ale Festival: September 7th and 8th

  • Late Summer Weekend: August 31st and September 1st.

  • Mike the Knight: September 21st

  • Autumn Steam Gala: October 3rd - 6th.

  • Scooby-Doo: October 26th

  • Santa Trains: November 30th & December 1st, 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st to 24th

  • Carol Trains: November 30th & December 9th, 10th & 11th

  • Dunster by Candlelight: December 6th & 7th

  • Winter Steam Festival: December 28th - 29th.

The West Somerset Railway re-opens for the 2013 season on Saturday 9th February.

Group rates available for parties of 16 above. Carriage or whole train charters available.

Book online at or contact 01643 704996 or email for further information.

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