The West Somerset Railway
The heritage railway of today usually runs from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead, but is connected to the main Bristol to Exeter line at Norton Fitzwarren. However, until services were discontinued in 1971, the railway's branch line trains always began at Taunton.
Taunton railway station:
First opened to passengers by the Bristol and Exeter Railway in 1832. Some thirty years later, became the terminus for West Somerset Railway.
Some footage from 1970 shows a typical branch train to Minehead, in its final years under B.R.:
In the 'preservation' era, we see a shuttle train to Bishops Lydeard, during a 'WSR gala' weekend:
Up to the 1960's there were timetabled summer Saturday trains direct to Minehead from London Paddington and holiday specials from elsewhere. These were usually hauled as far as Taunton by Mainline express locomotives, but taken onwards to Minehead by a tank or 2-6-0 locomotive.
Latterly, these services were operated throughout by 'Hymeck' diesels or 'inter-city' diesel-multiple units:
Nowadays, special excursion trains, (including many bound for Minehead) are a frequent sight at Taunton:
Leaving Taunton, branch trains followed the quadruple track main line west, towards Norton Fitzwarren:
The West Somerset Railway proper, began at this junction; opening as far as Watchet in 1863. However, a station was not built here until 1873 (and closed to passengers in 1961).
Site of the original station at Norton Fitzwarren junction. This is where the 'heritage' rail track diverges from that of Network Rail.
All that remains of the original Norton station is this footbridge:
The new platform at Norton Fitzwarren, used occasionally for WSR 'gala' shuttle services to and from Bishops Lydeard:
The WSR Association bought the land between the main line and WSR branch to create a triangle of track, facilitating the reversing of complete trains. Here we see locos using the triangle to change direction for the next service to Minehead:
The line was once double-track as far as Bishops Lydeard, but now continues north under Norton bridge as single track:
The line crosses Halse Water and skirts the Royal Marines army camp at Norton:
Once a lowly 'halt', this station is now a major hub on the line, with engine shed, museum, shop and café:
Taunton Model Railway Club have an excellent model railway exhibit at the station, depicting Bath (Green Park):
Mainline steam hauled excursion trains to Minehead usually change locomotives here, to be taken onwards by West Somerset engines:
This is also the place where 'guest' locomotives are received or dispatched by road:
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