The West Somerset Railway has had a prolonged closed period over the first three months of 2019. This closure has enabled the railway to focus its efforts on vital track works and other maintenance along the line, although the works are well advanced, it means that this year’s services will begin with trains operating between Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, and Watchet. There will be a road connection by bus, between Watchet and Minehead for those wishing to use it on 30th and 31st March only.
Great Western Railway 6960 “Raveningham Hall” will steam out of Bishops Lydeard station at 10.15 on Saturday March 30th and will operate the services through the springtime beauties of the Quantock Hills and the return from Watchet will be by 1960's Heritage Diesel Locomotives provided by the D&EPG at Williton. This will recreate a 1960's branch line. Trains will also run on the same service pattern on all running days marked in our timetable up until 19th April, where they will run their first service of the season through to Minehead. The “Quantock Belle” dining train on March 31st will traverse the line between Bishops Lydeard and Norton Fitzwarren, which is rarely used by passenger trains before taking its Mothers Day customers on their journey through the hills to Watchet.
Paul Conibeare General Manager commented: “Although we are all looking forward to our services continuing through to Minehead, the work needed at Blue Anchor has been more extensive than first thought. Accessing just over half of the line allows us much needed time to complete the works to the high standards with which we are accustomed. The Permanent Way Engineers and volunteers have been working extremely hard in all weathers over the closed period, to ensure that we can get our services back up and running as soon as possible and we are grateful for all their efforts so far”.
He continued:- “ I hope now that plenty of passengers will turn up in our first week of operating to support the Railway and enjoy the services that we have to offer. Watchet is a vibrant destination and we have been in communication with the town to enhance this period as much as possible. The support which the Railway has received from volunteers, staff, shareholders, support organisations and the general public over the closure period has been extremely humbling”.
2019 marks the 40th Anniversary of the completion of the re-opening of the West Somerset Railway and a celebration weekend will take place on 8th and 9th June. Information about this and other special events including dining trains, childrens events, driving experiences and more can be seen at www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk or obtained by ringing 01643 704996.