Autumn on a West Somerset Railway Steam Train.

Posted on 03/11/2019 By

West Somerset Railway

Autumn in Somerset on a Steam Train.

Many of our heritage railways stage special events in October. Galas, or for the Bluebell Line, “Giants of Steam“.

Two "Giants of Steam": Britannia” (left) Mayflower (right). Bluebell Line, October 2019.

Two “Giants of Steam”: Britannia” (left) Mayflower (right). Bluebell Line, October 2019.

We featured “Giants of Steam” last year, but also spent a glorious weekend on the West Somerset Autumn Gala a week later. The intention was to go back to both this year. We managed “Giants of Steam” recently. On a very wet day, riding up and down the line to keep dry and falling asleep with all the other oldies. It was a Friday. Few children or families.

Our granddaughter, Jasmine, asked what the point was in spending £27 to fall asleep on a steam train? To which the answer was, “that is the point. To relax, trundle along at a maximum speed of 25mph and dream of days gone by. Talk to your fellow oldies about your trainspotting days”. And, in Bobby’s case, he found a compatriot who had train-spotted from the same footbridge at Wimbledon at the same time as him. “Do you remember the Atlantic Coast Express?” and so on…

The Bluebell is far nearer than the West Somerset Railway, which could not be contemplated this year. So back we go to 2018 and a weekend of unbroken sunshine. Staying at the Travelodge, Ilminster and buying a two day rover for the gala. What more could a trainspotter want?

So this is a photographic story of what fun a gala on the WSR can be. At 20 miles, the longest heritage railway of all. They all have their special attraction. The Bluebell has a wealth of engines and rolling stock. Fantastic old sets of Victorian carriages. Fascinating stations like Horsted Keynes. But it is quite short and far less scenic than the WSR, which is essentially an old Great Western Railway Branch line to the sea at Minehead. Lots of atmospheric stations, glorious scenery and a real purpose in getting a steam train to the seaside.

The West Somerset Railway Gala, October 2018.


Down to Crowcombe Heathfield to get the first train out. The line starts at Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, but the former offered more photo opportunities that morning.

And the first train towards Minehead is a DOUBLE HEADER. Two GWR steam engines.

West Somerset Railway 7822 Foxcote Manor.

7822 Foxcote Manor…

West Somerset Railway 6960 Raveningham Hall.

… and 6960 Raveningham Hall.

West Somerset Railway station sign. Trains to Bishops Lydeard This Platform; Trains to Minehead Far Platform.

West Somerset Railway - Historic Poster for trains to Burnham-on-Sea.

West Somerset Railway: A Map of the line and its stations.

A Map of the line and its stations.

West Somerset Railway - Busy time at Crowcombe Heathfield.

Double header coming the other way. “Come on Bertie over the footbridge to catch the train on the other platform”.

West Somerset Railway: 53808. A Fowler engine, built by Robert Stephenson and Co in 1925. Another engine rescued from Woodham Brothers scrapyard at Barry, Wales.

53808. A Fowler engine, built by Robert Stephenson and Co in 1925. Another engine rescued from Woodham Brothers scrapyard at Barry, Wales.

Just like our own 30506.

This one rescued in 1965 and finally returned to service in 1987. It spent its life on the Somerset and Dorset Line.

Bertie in the Cab Window of 53808.

See the engine driver and fireman first.

West Somerset Railway - Bertie sat in a coach at a window seat.

Off we go through the beautiful Somerset countryside.

West Somerset Railway - Bertie sat in his window seat at Stogumber Station.

Diddley loved Stogumber. The Quantock Hills one way and the Brendon Hills the other. The village at the top of a hill looking down on the railway. They walked there one day and had a pub lunch before returning to the railway for Blue Anchor where they used to stay close to the sea.

West Somerset Railway: Bertie alongside a Golden Retriever.

West Somerset Railway: Bertie alongside a Golden Retriever.

He is nice. Dogs have special tickets on the West Somerset. £2.50 for a day at the gala.

West Somerset Railway - Bertie sat next to another bear on the train.

One middle aged couple noticed me sitting by the window and we were invited into the next carriage to meet their enormous bear. He had a very posh double-barrelled name, which I have forgotten. Goes everywhere with them, apparently.

West Somerset Railway - A crowded Minehead Station.

On we went through all those wonderful stations, knowing that we would be back to each one over the weekend. Here is the terminus at Minehead. An iconic station, right by the sea. The gala attracts large crowds. Especially when the sun is out.

West Somerset Railway - Minehead locomotive yard.

Minehead station. 53808 simmering, waiting for its next train. With 73802 Camelot, a BR Standard Class 5. A wartime American austerity Baldwin in the background.

West Somerset Railway - West Country 34052 Lord Dowding on the turntable at Minehead.

Staff pushing a locomotive on the turntable at Minehead.

The West Somerset Railway has a massive advantage over other heritage railways in one respect. At Minehead, it has a turntable. At Bishops Lydeard – a turning triangle. This means that tender engines are always facing the the right way. Forwards. Really important for the photographers that gather all the way down the line. On bridges, stations, fields, the beach – even hillsides, with telephotos seeking that elusive special photo. The turntable at Minehead was recovered from elsewhere and installed some years ago. It has become an attraction in its own right with its own “Turntable Café”. And is totally eco friendly, in being powered by two station staff!

West Somerset Railway - Bertie sat on the Station Sign at Dunster.

Back down the line, we went to Dunster. Famous for its castle. But also the start of a nice walk by the sea to the next station. Blue Anchor.

West Somerset Railway - The Observeration Car.

The observation car carriage leaving Dunster. Wonderful views from that.

West Somerset Railway - lamp at Station Sign at Dunster.

West Somerset Railway - Bertie sat on a luggage trolley at Dunster Station.

Dunster Station.

Bertie standing by a sign pointing towards Minehead to the left and Blue Anchor to the right.

Walking to Blue Anchor.

West Somerset Railway - The Pines Express Double Header with 53808 leading.

West Somerset Railway - The Pines Express Double Header with 34052 behind.

The Pines Express . A double header between Dunster and Blue Anchor filmed from the beach.

Bertie on the beach on the way to Blue Anchor. Wales across the bay in the distant horizon.

Blue Anchor ahead. Wales across the bay on the horizon.

Close up of Bertie sat on the beach with the shadow of a person wearing a hat.

I would recognise that hat anywhere!

West Somerset Railway - Blue Anchor Station, with 6960 Raveningham Hall pulling in, alongside another train on the opposite platform.

Blue Anchor. Where Diddley and Bobby used to stay. Just up the road, at Mike and Anne’s B&B.

West Somerset Railway - Bertie on a set of steps up to one of two coaches used as accommodation for volunteers.

Not camping coaches (that were a feature of the past) but accommodation for WSR volunteers.

West Somerset Railway - Enamel Sign "Agent for Robbialac Paints" attached to a station fence.

West Somerset Railway - Enamel Sign "Army Club Cigarettes" attached to a station fence.

These Enamel Signs look original. Many are replicas.

West Somerset Railway - Bertie sat in a carriage by the window at Blue Anchor Station.

Blue Anchor. We will be back. Tomorrow!

West Somerset Railway - The lady of the café at Stogumber holding Bertie and waving.

Back to Stogumber. The café staff wave to every single train. (He hadn’t dumped me. The train wasn’t moving for 15 minutes!)

West Somerset Railway - "Teddy Bear Crossing". A post with a large number of Teddy Bears on it.

Near Williton. “Teddy Bear Crossing”. A teddy bear appeared on this post a few years before. As you can see, more have joined him. No-one knows who puts them there. They all look a bit bedraggled to be honest.

West Somerset Railway - Washford Station Museum, with Bertie sat on the front of a locomotive from Caledonia Works.

Washford station is also a museum…

Notice: Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust. If the ambience of the Gnetlemens' (sic) lavatory (which is genuine Victorian Great Western) is not to your liking please ask to use the Ladies' facility which is inside the station, through the shop.

With very interesting facilities. (The Technical Director has also noticed the minor grammatical error…)

Somerset & Dorset Railway Museum - Victorian Urinal.

Genuine Victorian Urinal.

Somerset & Dorset Railway Museum: Bertie in front of a sign in the Gentlemen's toilet that reads "Please adjust your dress before leaving".

Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust: Bertie standing in front of an old Great Western Railway enamel sign advertising Platform Tickets at 1d - to be 'given up on leaving the platform'!

Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust: Washford Museum.

Washford Museum.


West Somerset Railway: Train at Blue Anchor station.

On Sunday we did it all again. Late afternoon, we had a choice from Blue Anchor. Train back to Crowcombe and the end of a glorious weekend. But, instead, we chose to return to Minehead from Blue Anchor to get the last train back. That’s trainspotters for you.

West Somerset Railway: Anchor Station. GWR 7822 Foxcote Manor at the platform with visiting loco 73082 Camelot approaching in the opposite direction.

Blue Anchor. 73082 (approaching in the distance) heading back to Crowcombe. Foxcote Manor heading for Minehead. With us!

West Somerset Railway: Bertie enjoying the view from the train window across the beach with the mist drifting in.

Clouding over across the beach and the bay. Last train back.

We had a wonderful weekend on the West Somerset Railway.

Lighting a Candle for Diddley.

Our friend David took his family to Corfu for some late summer sunshine. They found this monastery at Paleokastritsa, where Emma lit a candle to Diddley and those in her family they miss.

The ornate interior of the monastery in Paleokastritsa.

The ornate interior of the monastery in Paleokastritsa.

As David said: “I never knew Diddley, but have heard so much about her that we included her in this little memorial to all those we miss”.

Lighting a Candle for Diddley: Emma, a lady with pig tails, stands with her back to the camera lighting a candle on an ornate table in front of her.

Emma lighting the candle.


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  1. Nick Heath says:

    Lovely post. Our annual family holiday was always to a guest house (remember those?) in Porlock. Mr and Mrs Barwick. The kind of thing that wouldn’t pass today! Mrs Barwick cooking a fry up with a cigarette in her mouth. We would have sat and all watched tv together in their lounge.
    But anyway we always went to the WSR as I was a huge train fan in my youth and also there was a tv show that nearly fitted into my Childhood too filmed there – The Flockton Flyer. Wonderful heritage railway and one that I will get the kids to eventually!!

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