An exciting year of train services operating over a longer season than for several years and the return of crowd-pleasing galas and special events are being promised by the West Somerset Railway.
The line will celebrate the re-opening of a station, and the fact that trains can again run from Bishops Lydeard into Minehead thanks to the complete rebuilding of the busy Seaward Way level crossing.
A long length of track between Dunster and the resort has been relaid and updated, and company chairman Jon Jones-Pratt said the season was set to be a busy one. The last year had been especially difficult because of Covid, but they had come through with flying colours.
“The railway is ready to begin operating from March 19 with celebrations marking our trains running to Minehead again. I want to thank our whole team who have worked tirelessly over the winter to achieve a wonderfully-prepared railway for everyone to enjoy.”
Three return trips a day will run in March, April and October while four trains are timetabled in May, June and part of July, increasing to five each way at the height of the summer.
Discussions have also been going on into the possibility of regular scheduled services between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard and the return of a week-end shuttle service between the two.
The station which is re-opening is Washford, closed to passengers all of last year. Mr Jones-Pratt said he was pleased and relieved at the decision, and they were now setting up a team to operate it and welcome passengers once more.
Anyone willing to help with the project should contact the line’s volunteer co-ordinator by email at [email protected]
The WSR is also looking to recruit volunteers for other tasks, and stations co-ordinator Alan Smithers said: “Aside from running trains we have ten stations which require regular care and attention to keep them looking beautiful and welcoming to our visitors.
“There are plenty of opportunities to practice gardening skills or to keep your hand in with a little DIY. Many people you will work with is a volunteer, there because they enjoy what they are doing, and that means the welcome is always a warm one.”
Five dates have been announced for special events: April 2 and 3, official Return to Minehead events; May 5-8, Spring Steam Gala; June 9-11, 1960s Diesel Gala; September 10 and 11, 1940s Week-end; and September 29-October 2, Autumn Steam Gala.
The line is planning to take part in celebrations of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, while Brunel family fun days will be held on Wednesdays and Sundays during the school holidays to give young visitors a chance to meet WSR’s mascot Brunel the beagle and enjoy various activities, vintage bus rides and behind-the-scenes workshop tours.