July 2016 & June 2017


Peter Bleasdale


Updated 02 July 2017

Quick link to view visit in June 2017




To visit the website

for the

West Somerset Railway

click below











To view the

RVR Historical Rail Map

for the

West Somerset Railway


click the image below

(or scroll down)



















To view

GWR Timetables

(Summer 1938)

for the route

of the

West Somerset Railway


click the image below





Modified Hall, no.4936, stands simmering at the head

of our afternoon train from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard,

enhanced by the backdrop of the trees and buildings

of this lovely seaside town.













Quietly simmering in the afternoon sunshine, ex Somerset and Dorset 7F, BR no.53809,

has apparently had some boiler work undertaken, judging by the lack of a steam dome,

as small plumes of smoke were drifting from the chimney,

the gentle fire slowly warming the firebox to prevent rapid expansion of the boiler tubes













Standing on the relief road at Minehead Station

are ex GWR, no.6960 Modified Hall, Raveningham Hall built at Swindon in 1944

and Large Prairie no.4110 awaiting restoration.


The Modified Halls were named after large country houses

and had numerous changes to their specifications

including larger superheaters, which made them very free steaming locomotives.


They were based on the original Star class,

but with different cylinders and smaller driving wheels

and proved to be a powerful and useful engine.













Standing at the end of the arrival platform is this attractive turntable.

A new restaurant has been built adjacent to this structure,

aptly named ‘The Turntable Cafe',


and is a credit to all the staff and volunteers

working on this wonderful Heritage Railway.













A period feature at the approach to the turntable

is this very pleasing water tank,


enabling locomotives being turned to replenish their water supplies.













A delightful Victorian drinking fountain on the station platform

at Minehead













Standing on the relief road at Minehead Station

is modified Hall, no.6960, Raveningham Hall.


This was built at Swindon in March 1944 to an improved design by Frederick Hawksworth.


This included larger superheaters,

which created a very free steaming locomotive.

They were named after large country houses

and proved to be a very useful form of motive power.


The locomotive is privately owned

and, after boiler repairs at the Dean Forest Railway in 2014,

was transferred from The Great Central Railway to the WSR on a long loan.













In front of no.6960, awaiting restoration,

is ex GWR Large Prairie ,no.4110, built at Swindon in October 1936

and withdrawn from Severn Tunnel Junction shed in 1965.


She was saved from the scrap man and preserved.













Last but not least, the very attractive preserved goods shed/maintenance workshop at Minehead Station,

stands proud in the summer sunshine.

In the foreground can be seen an old example of metal bending rolls,

used for forming the curved metal sheets,

which were used in lagging steam engine boilers













As we leave Minehead Station to commence our journey,

the fireman collects the token from the signalman for the next single line section to Williton.

Looking ahead we can just make out the road crossing and the 10mph speed limit for this section of the line.


The many rivets on the side of the 4000 gallon tender are also clearly in evidence.”













As we continue our onward journey, we cross the wooden footway between the platforms,

and on the right, a typical ex-GWR Platelayers corrugated shelter

stands adjacent to the point rodding for the passing loop.


At the top of the embankment, a lone telegraph pole stands in silent tribute to a former technology.


A clear view of the right hand ‘starter' and ‘outer home' signals

together with brick overbridge at the end of the loop come into view













Entering Blue Anchor Station, with the level crossing gates on the right,

we approach no.7828, ‘Odney Manor',

which is one of nine members of this preserved class of locomotive,

waiting in the passing loop to exchange tokens once more.


It was built in 1950 by BR, out of a batch of thirty.

They were very useful engines,

being used on lines where weight restrictions were in operation.













Continuing on our journey we eventually arrive at Watchet Station.

The station building here is unique, being built at right angles to the line,

the reason being that this was I.K.Brunel's original terminus for the branch.


Brunel wanted access from Taunton to the lucrative freight traffic by sea

and Watchet was ideal, boasting a lovely harbour.


Eventually, the Luttrell family, large land owners in the area and owners of Dunster village,

decided that they too would like a part of this increasing freight trade,

and so paid for the cost of extending the line through to the harbour at Minehead.













Approaching Williton Station,

on the right we observe the large depot owned by the Electric and Diesel Group ( E&DG ),

which was formed to preserve diesel locomotives,

built by BR in the 1960's, and in use from 1970 to the 1990's.













Here in the passing loop at Williton

we exchange tokens once again with the second train, hauled by no.53808,

the other ex- Somerset and Dorset ( S&D ) 7F,


which are excellent performers on this steeply-graded line,

being endowed with high tractive effort.













Adjacent to the turntable is this wonderful refurbished ‘Private Owner coal wagon,

a familiar sight in pre-grouping days,

and along with the ground frame for the siding turnouts,

invokes many memories of the ‘Good Old Days.”
























A delightful name for a country station













With the ‘starter' signal still showing danger

and the schoolboy sitting on a luggage trolley,

which your writer remembers vividly from his own schooldays,

our fireman awaits the ‘right away' from the guard.


This scene must have been enacted

many thousands of times at country stations,

all over our wonderful country,

in past times














This well-maintained terminus station and trackwork is a delight to the eye,

as are the other stations on the line.


The station building on the right is the current home of the local Model Railway Society.




JUNE 2017

The very attractive station at Bishops Lydeard looking towards Minehead












This attractive view of Bishops Lydeard Station looking towards Taunton

shows the old Stationmaster's House, ex GWR water tank,

semaphore gantry signals and signalbox;

almost unchanged since GWR days












Arriving at Bishops Lydeard amidst a cloud of steam is 4F, no.44422.

She is one of 722 machines built at Derby in 1911

as Superheater Freight Engines.

44422 spent much of her time on the Somerset and Dorset Railway

piloting West Country Pacifics and 9F's over the Mendip Hills.

She went to Barry Scrapyard in 1965,

and was rescued 11 years and 8 months later

to undergo restoration.

After the Spring Gala on the WSR this year,

she received new valve and piston rings.

She is one of four preserved 4F's

but is unique in being the only left hand drive example.












No.44422 replenishes the tender water supply

from the GWR tank at the South end of the station

before taking her place at the head of our train.


The GWR Lower Quadrant signal gantry

and the small steam leak from the loco

add interest to the scene in contrast to the overcast sky.












The attention to detail on this lovely station

is much enhanced

by this Railway-Themed floral display,

built by a local enthusiast

to celebrate 40 years of the West Somerset Heritage Railway.


It has been refurbished this year

to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty, The Queen.












With the driver keeping a watchful eye

our 4F runs round the loop

and takes up her position

at the head of the next train to Minehead.


This scene was recreated on branch lines all over the country

for 100 years or more.












Almost ready for the ‘Right Away'












On arrival at Minehead, ‘Western Class' D1010, Western Campaigner,

was at the head of the next diesel-hauled service to Bishops Lydeard.


These powerful locomotives were introduced by British Railways in 1961

and, by 1964, were heading many Western Region express trains.


However, their non-standard mechanical configuration

led to their early demise in 1977

and were much missed by enthusiasts.












Standing outside the shed at Minehead

was recently-refurbished ex S&D 7F 2-8-0, No.53808,

being prepared for return to WSR services.


These powerful locomotives are ideally suited to this challenging line

with its many curved and steep gradients,

being built and operated for many years

on the Somerset and Dorset main line over the Mendip Hills.


Your writer has been fortunate in the past

to have ridden behind this locomotive

and a wonderful aural experience it was!












After being detached from the arriving train,

and, with the ‘white feather' of steam drifting from the safety valves,

our 4F makes its way around the loop

to head the returning service from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard.












Looking forlorn with the lagging removed

and awaiting its 10 year boiler inspection,

was no.7828, ‘Odney Manor', at Minehead;

one of nine preserved examples of these fine locomotives

from a class of thirty.












With the blower drawing the fire and the safety valves lifting,

there is obviously an abundance of steam for the climb ahead,

as the fireman checks the pressure gauge.


Despite the dull weather, the train was very well loaded

for its return journey.












Arriving at the attractive station of Crowcombe Heathfield,

built in local red sandstone,  

we await the arrival of this goods train

headed by class 33 diesel electric on the passing loop.


The headboard proclaims that this is a Diesel Experience Course.


The clear Lower Quadrant ‘Outer Home' signal

can just be observed over the rear of the goods train

and the immaculate trackwork gives much credit to this fine railway.












Reaching Bishops Lydeard once more,

no. 44422 arrives with the last train of the day.















The delightful terminus of The Seaton Tramway in Devon

This delightful and well maintained narrow gauge tramway runs from Seaton,

along the estuary of the river Exe, to Colyton,

part of the old route of the standard gauge L&SW Railway from Seaton Junction to Seaton.


It was closed under the Beeching axe in 1966.


The next batch of excited passengers, filled with anticipation of the forthcoming journey,

take advantage of the warm summer's day to take their seats on the top deck of the open tram.”












There are many passing places on this busy line,

which add much to the enjoyment

and conversations are to be had with passengers travelling in the opposite direction












An amusing aside is this view of an old Victorian Gentlemen's Toilet,

relocated from one of the original stations on the old railway line












The passing places are situated in varying locations,

ranging from open vistas to wooded areas.












In the high season, trams arrive at the Colyton terminus every twenty minutes

making this a very intensive service.


I presume this was never experienced in the days of the railway












The old station at Colyton has been completely transformed

by the use of concrete block paving

and is complete with an excellent buffet serving Devon Cream Teas.


Your reviewer is ashamed to say that I was persuaded to try one by my long suffering wife!

( Or was it the other way round? I forget! )












Station Sign












As another crowded tram departs for Seaton,

we enjoy the delights of a warm sunny Devon afternoon, ( complete with cream tea! )












Arms must be kept inside the tram at all time

and don't stand up!












As we return to Seaton, we obtain this view of the maintenance depot,

rebuilt and extended in the 1990's.


A great credit to all, who are involved with this unique enterprise.

The Ticket Inspector examines all tickets before boarding our return tram

with good humour,

what a refreshing change












Lastly, a photo of the approach to the very professional station at Seaton,

very Victorian in appearance

and much in keeping with the whole tramway.


Click above to visit their website








Pictured below is ‘Much Natter', the terminus station of the Beer Heights 7 ¼” gauge Light Railway,

situated at Pecorama just outside Beer in North Devon.


Peco is the trade name of The Pritchard Patent Product Company,

producers of Model Railway equipment and accessories

and instigated by the late Mr. Sidney Pritchard, author of the popular ‘Railway Modeller' magazine,

with which your writer has been aquainted since the early 1960's.

The company was originally situated in Seaton

but relocated to this more advantageous site,

where production continues to this day, selling goods worldwide.


Being located at the top of a steep hill,

the views across to the English Channel and surrounding area are "Unrivalled.”












An example of the wonderful views obtained from this panoramic location,

with steam trains just behind you and entertaining company,

what more could a railway fanatic desire?











Also on site is this prime example of a 1950's Pullman Car ‘Orion' from the Golden Arrow train

and now in use as a tea room in luxurious surroundings.


( Yes, more cream teas, I am afraid! )












This view shows the inside ambience of Pullman Car 'Orion'.

Luxury, 1959 style!












The Builder's Plate mounted on the chassis of Pullman car 'Orion'.












As the passengers alight from the train,

the driver replenishes the fire in preparation for the next journey.


Completed in August 2005

and named during the railway's 30th anniversary celebration weekend

by T.V. celebrity and rail enthusiast Pete Waterman,

Claudine is a unique 2-4-4 single Fairlie tank locomotive.


Beer Heights Light Railway Chief Engineer, John Macdougall, designed and built the loco,

which has an articulated power bogie and rear truck,

making her eminently suited to the line's sharp curves and steep gradients.


The boiler, motion and cylinders are all the same as those on “Mr P”

except, in this case, piston valves have been employed on the slightly inclined cylinders.


Claudine is named after the late Sydney Pritchard's wife,

who was a co-founder of the Peco group of companies in 1946,

and is finished in L.B.S.C. “improved engine green”; livery (yellow ochre).












Whilst the driver relaxes slightly and continues to ensure the good health of his charge,

the long-suffering Station Master pushes Claudine round by hand on the turntable,

in readiness for the next timetabled journey around this delightful garden site.


The track has been extended many times to form the present doubl- reverse loop

and your reviewer has been fortunate to sample each stage of it's development over the years,

along with his wife and boys.












All his passengers having disembarked, our driver now reverses his train over the crossover

in preparation for the next journey.


The double starter signals and coal wagon add interest to the scene.












Having now changed tracks, ‘Claudine' and driver draw the carriages forward into the departure platform 2,

under the ever watchful eye of the dummy operator in the attractive signalbox.


Meanwhile, interested onlookers survey the scene below

from the typical GWR-styled footbridge,

whilst father make the most of the photographic opportunity.












Our train moves into Platform 2 to collect the waiting passengers


against the delightful background of the Devon hills












Against the background of colourful shrubs and with the wooden water tower much in evidence,

the Station Master, taking his duties very seriously but with good humour,

invites the new passengers to board the train for the next journey.


The driver meanwhile readies his steed for the challenge ahead,

ensuring a bright fire and a good head of steam.












This lovely railway is set in glorious surroundings

with colourful plants and shrubs in abundance.


The three tracks will eventually all be traversed in each direction,

creating much confusion and amusement amongst first time passengers.












This extremely interesting Track Indication Panel on Platform 1,

complete with track circuit lights,

shows the ingenious layout of the system,


which has evolved over several years

and utilises the most running lines in the smallest space.












We are now entering everyone's favourite railway item, the tunnel, for the first time.

Eventually, in the next shot, we will return through the same tunnel in the opposite direction.


The stone-built tunnel portal and colourful shrubs 

enhance the scene once more.












Traversing one of the many curves on the line,

we emerge from the relative gloom of the overhanging trees,

and back into the summer sunshine.


On such a glorious day as this, your writer finds it hard to imagine a more glorious pastime,

although his long suffering wife would probably disagree!












As on the full-sized railway, maintenance is a never ending process.


Here we can see a young volunteer carrying out ‘spot sleepering',

the replacement of rotten/life expired sleepers.


This was carried out even whilst the train was running.












Another view through the trees, as the young volunteer worker,

hurriedly removes his legs from the running line

in response to the driver's whistle.












This shot, taken from the footbridge,

illustrates once more this highly unusual and unique miniature railway

situated in glorious surroundings.












Passing through White Falls Halt on a slight curve,

the driver glances behind, despite a light load of passengers, to ensure all is well.


The wisp of smoke from the chimney and steam from the safety valves

indicate that the locomotive is hardly being stressed along this section.


In the background, the Motive Power Depot and ‘Dickie,

now stand in shadow in the late summer sunshine.












With draincocks wide open to prevent steam condensing in the cylinders,

a load of happy parents and children arrive back in ‘Much Natter',


whilst the Station Master keeps a watchful eye for excited children,

( and/or parents! ) trying to alight

before the train comes to a complete stop












Finally, an overall view of ‘Much Natter Station',

a miniature reminder of how things once were.


Until the next time!


We will return - further extensions maybe?












Alongside the white station fence and inserted under the relief road,

is an ash pit,


where, if the locomotive fire is becoming choked,

the driver is able to rod the fire grate

to remove clinker and ash

and restore the fire to its optimum steam raising capabilities.


The Union Jacks, fluttering in the warm summer sunshine,

add a ‘feel good' factor to the slightly carnival atmosphere

at this delightful location












Against the background of colourful shrubs

and with the wooden water tower much in evidence,

the Station Master, taking his duties very seriously but with good humour,

invites the new passengers to board the train for the next journey.


The driver meanwhile readies his steed for the challenge ahead,

ensuring a bright fire and a good head of steam.”







Delivered in 1976, and built by David Curwen of Devizes, Wiltshire,

is a 0-4-2 tender engine, the design being loosely based on the famous Douglas locomotive,

which operates on the Talyllyn 2ft 3in gauge railway in North Wales.


The loco has 9 inch driving wheels with two outside cylinders,

a bore of 3½ inches and a stroke of 4 inches,

with Walschaerts valve gear.


The boiler has a diameter of 10¾ inches

and it works at a steam pressure of 100lb per square inch.

“Dickie” was named by the comedian Richard Murdoch

and, having been re-boilered in 1992,

has seen continuous service for the past 30 years.












Passing the open end of the engine shed,

we gain a quick glimpse of further Hunslet steam engines

and the works diesel standing on the turntable.


Over the background fence,

we can just see the English Channel












This is the scene from the rear of the train

as we approach the engine shed on the left.


The left-hand ‘Home' signal on the bracket

has just returned to danger automatically as we pass.







The driver's office!


As he ensures the firebox door is firmly closed to increase the draught through the fire,

steam slowly drifts from the safety valves,


indicating that all is well with this lovely machine







As the driver closes the regulator,

whilst we drift downhill through a deep cutting


and enter the tunnel for the second time in the opposite direction,

the safety valves lift on the locomotive and release excess steam pressure,

which is now not required to power the cylinders.


The red colour light signal has returned to danger once again

as we pass







Having travelled through White Falls Halt already on our way to the tunnel,

we now return toward ‘Much Natter Station' on an adjacent track,

passing this magnificent garden scene complete with pond and fountain.


Note the replica level crossing gate forming a barrier to the footpath on the opposite side.


The detail features around this railway are really wonderful.













Crich, Derbyshire


A busy scene at the lower terminus of Crich Tramway Museum,

just outside Matlock Bath in Derbyshire.


This is from much gentler times when motor cars were a long way into the future.












As avid photographers record this scene from long ago,

this gentle giant pulls an early tramcar past the public house serving various ales and spirits.


The cobbled streets reminding your reviewer of parts of his early childhood in northern mill towns.












The horse-drawn tram prepares to make another journey along the cobbled street.


Meanwhile passengers alight from this tram,

which was imported from Portugal.


This is a delightful vehicle, with basket-work seats,

which are extremely comfortable and cool in the hot summers

of its native land.


It also has a delightful clerestory roof

with coloured glass panels

and rides the rails very smoothly, being a bogie vehicle.


The surroundings are enhanced by old type gas lamps,

with familiar metal signs adorning the walls.”












Transported from nearer home,

I was delighted to see this reminder of my early childhood,

what a thrill!












My very patient wife was entertained by the extremely knowledgeable inspector and driver

in the quite luxurious interior of this refurbished vehicle.


It was quite a task to persuade her to exchange this vehicle

for one of Great Britain's old 4-wheel double-deckers; quite a marked contrast in ride comfort!


After paying the entrance fee to the working museum,

one is given one old penny each which are exchanged, on board, for an original type tram ticket,

which entitles one to twelve months of travel on the trams,

as many times as you wish, quite a bargain.












Inside the tram shed there are some exquisite examples of refurbished tramcars across the years.


Here we see an early open balcony tram,

complete with outside staircase from Leicester.












Two very early examples of trams are on display here,

one horse drawn and the other electric.












There are some excellent examples of vehicles from across the country in this shed.


Amongst them was a tram from Blackburn,

but due to positioning I was unable to obtain a clear photo.


The cobbled yard area adds ambience to this delightful scene.












Displayed here are two more Blackpool trams,

one early single deck and a later double,

which was based on a design of bus.


The electric vehicle on the left

was used in some private works for shunting

and is very similar to the one used for many years

in Clitheroe Gasworks in the 1950's.

In the foreground of this picture stands no.1297,

an example of a North Glasgow tram,


and in the middle a well-remembered double-deck tram from Blackpool Corporation,

examples of which are still used for the "Illumination Tours.”


Standing in the middle is a tram bogie

complete with original examples of the electric motors and geared drive.”







I am sure that most people will remember this famous and attractive design of open tram,  

used in Blackpool when we enjoyed real summers!


Many is the time on a windy day, your reviewer has had his hair ruffled

on board one of these delightful vehicles;


and yes, I did have hair in those days!”







Last, but not least was this lovely example of Sheffield's last tram from 1960.


This is extremely pleasing to the eye

and the streamlined shape would not be out of place even today.


The cream and dark blue livery only serves to enhance this lovely vehicle.




Click the above map to visit the BHLR website














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