The West Somerset Railway

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright October 2018, Roger Cornfoot; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
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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 to Bishops Lydeard


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.

ST2225 : Station forecourt, Taunton by Roger Cornfoot ST2225 : Northern entrance, Taunton station by Roger Cornfoot ST2225 : Stairway, Taunton Station, Somerset by Christine Matthews ST2225 : Taunton arrival by John Sutton
ST2225 : Waiting for the off by Neil Owen ST2225 : Platform 5 Taunton Station by Rod Allday ST2225 : Taunton station looking eastwards by Richard Green ST2225 : Plymouth to Edinburgh train at Taunton by Stephen Craven

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:

ST2225 : First Great Western 'shuttle' train for Bishop's Lydeard, stands at Platform 2, Taunton Station by Roger Cornfoot

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.

ST2225 : Liverpool - Plymouth express at Taunton Station by Ben Brooksbank

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:

ST2225 : No smoke without fire by roger geach ST2225 : HST approaches Taunton from the west by Roger Cornfoot


ST2125 : A Cross Country train heads west, from Taunton by Roger Cornfoot ST2125 : View towards Staplegrove Road bridge by Roger Cornfoot


ST2025 : Silk Mill Crossing as it was in 1977 by roger geach ST2025 : An HST bound for Exeter passes beneath the road bridge at Silk Mills by Roger Cornfoot

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.

ST1925 : Scots Guardsman at Norton Fitzwarren by Roger Cornfoot ST1925 : Cross-Country train approaches Taunton by Roger Cornfoot ST1925 : Norton Fitzwarren by Wayland Smith

All that remains of the original Norton station is this footbridge:

ST1925 : Railway footbridge, Norton Fitzwarren by Roger Cornfoot

The new platform at Norton Fitzwarren, used occasionally for WSR 'gala' shuttle services to and from Bishops Lydeard:

ST1925 : GWR Auto-train terminates at the new West Somerset Railway platform, near Norton Fitzwarren by Roger Cornfoot ST1925 : 41312 has arrived with a shuttle train from Bishops Lydeard by Roger Cornfoot


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:

ST1825 : Pair of 4F locomotives run round the 'triangle' at Norton Fitzwarren by Roger Cornfoot ST1825 : First traverse on the new Norton Triangle by a steam loco by Martin Southwood ST1825 : 44422 at Norton Fitzwarren by Kevin Pearson

The line was once double-track as far as Bishops Lydeard, but now continues north under Norton bridge as single track:

ST1825 : Norton Bridge by Steve Edge


The line crosses Halse Water and skirts the Royal Marines army camp at Norton:

ST1826 : Halse Water Culvert, West Somerset Railway by Steve Edge ST1826 : Passing Norton Manor Marines Camp by Roger Cornfoot


ST1827 : West Somerset Railway near Norton Fitzwarren by Gareth James ST1827 : Train passing under Montys Lane by Roger Cornfoot ST1827 : A4 'Union of South Africa' passes Wick Farm by Roger Cornfoot ST1827 : Ex-LMS Jubilee Class 'Bahamas' with an excursion from Paddington by Roger Cornfoot


ST1727 : The line east, to Taunton, from Deane Bridge by Roger Cornfoot


ST1728 : First day of new shuttle service to Taunton by Roger Cornfoot ST1728 : Shuttle train to Taunton, from Bishops Lydeard by Roger Cornfoot

Bishops Lydeard:

Once a lowly 'halt', this station is now a major hub on the line, with engine shed, museum, shop and café:


ST1628 : Bishops Lydeard by Mary and Angus Hogg ST1628 : Recently completed Ash Shelter at Bishops Lydeard by Roger Cornfoot ST1628 : A water stop for Sir Lamiel by Chris Allen ST1628 : The signal box on Bishops Lydeard station by Steve Daniels ST1628 : Erlestoke Manor at Shrewsbury? by Roger Cornfoot


ST1629 : Bishop's Lydeard Station by Ben Brooksbank ST1629 : Bishops Lydeard : West Somerset Railway by Lewis Clarke ST1629 : Guest loco 37215, waits at Bishop's Lydeard with a train for Minehead by Roger Cornfoot ST1629 : Departure for Minehead by Roger Cornfoot ST1629 : Road Bridge at Bishops Lydeard Station by Ashley Dace

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:

ST1628 : A4 'Union of South Africa' arrives at Bishops Lydeard by Roger Cornfoot ST1628 : Ex-LMS Jubilee Class 'Bahamas' with an excursion from Paddington by Roger Cornfoot

This is also the place where 'guest' locomotives are received or dispatched by road:

ST1628 : Heavy haulage at Bishops Lydeard by Roger Cornfoot


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