West Somerset Railway
Ian Brodie

Diesel Trains and Locomotives

Diesel Trains and Locomotives on the West Somerset Railway

Most diesel services on the West Somerset Railway are worked by a diesel multiple unit train (dmu), also known as diesel railcars. Diesel railcars were introduced by the Great Western in the 1930’s, but the idea was widely adapted by British Railways as part of the Modernisation Plan of the 1950’s. The DMUs replaced many steam worked local services and proved popular with the passengers who appreciated their cleanliness, higher speeds and good all round views of the surroundings. On many services the entry of the DMUs into service meant a general increase in passenger traffic. The units employed on the WSR spent the last part of their working lives with British Rail working around Birmingham before the Cross City routes there were electrified.

The preservation of heritage diesels  began in the 1970’s, as some far-sighted enthusiasts (including some railway industry professionals), recognised the fact that the ranks of the first generation of main line diesel locomotives were being thinned as some traffic types left the railways and standardisation of equipment advanced. Already, some historic locomotives such as the pair of prototype LMS main line machines and the trio built for the Southern Railway had been scrapped and without the efforts of the pioneers many other historic classes would now be only images in books and back numbers of magazines.

The Diesel and Electric Preservation Group were one of the first into the field and have been associated with the West Somerset for most of its history. In three and a half decades, they have built-up a splendid collection of machines, including as comprehensive a fleet of the Western Region Diesel Hydraulic machines, as is possible to do so (this group of engines lasted only one generation in B.R. use with the last being switched-off in 1977). Starting off in the former goods shed they have established a large depot and a heritage centre at Williton  which is generally open at weekends and during Galas and if you have an interest in heritage locomotives in particular or railway history generally you will probably enjoy a visit there if time permits.