Some Early Lines
Plus a museum item
Bristol and North Somerset Railway
The Bristol and North Somerset Railway was a railway line in the West of England that connected Bristol with towns in the Somerset coalfield. The line ran almost due south from Bristol and was 16 miles long.
The main railway
The line was opened in 1873 between Bristol and Radstock, where it joined with an earlier freight only line from Frome to Radstock that had been built in 1854 as part of the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway. Through services between Bristol and Frome began two years later, in 1875, at which point the line was formally taken into ownership by the Great Western Railway, which had absorbed the WS&WR in 1850.
The Last Train to Frome ran on Sad Saturday
With a huff and a puff and a nostalgic whistle, The Last Train on the old North Somerset branch line chugged out of Temple Meads Station on Saturday. Groups of train-lovers leaned out of every carriage window, some waving, some looking sad, some apprehensive, and some just excited.
The ancient engine – British Railways 5532 – wobbled slightly as it neared the platform end, chuffed billows of steam, recovered breath and settled down for the journey to Frome. ‘Keep right on to the end of the line’ it seemed to say. ‘Keep right on, Keep right on’ – as it had done for many a year.
It was Sad Saturday for the 110 train enthusiasts aboard, for it saw the end of another branch line – Bristol – Radstock – Frome. To many enthusiasts the end of a branch line is a tragedy. Too many are folding, they say. They look upon the Diabolical Diesel with animosity. This was a route that began in 1873 and for Driver F. Herring, who has driven on it for more than 40 years, it was an even more sad occasion.
“IT’S A SHAME”
Polishing a gleam into the green engine, Driver Herring of Avenue Road, Frome, declared: “It’s a shame. I wish it didn’t have to happen, but there it is. Modern times. After 40 years on the line you’re bound to feel sad, aren’t you?”
Mr Herring who is going on to the Cheddar Valley line, picked up a polishing rag, climbed into the cab with his fireman, Mr E Edwards of Butts Hill, Frome, and let off steam.
Two minutes to go … one … zero … and engine 5532 pulled out of the station dead on time. Driver Herring put on a brave face, smiled and gave a wave. The old train called at Brislington, Whitchurch, Pensford, Clutton, Hallatrow, Farrington Gurney, Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Mells Road and Frome.
Why do train-lovers turn up on such occasions? What prompts their boyish interest in locomotives?
Mr H. B. Warburton, vice-Chairman of Bristol and district branch Railway Correspondence and Travel Society told me: “All our members go on branch line engines within reasonable distance of Bristol. They go on the last train mainly for sentimental reasons, and of course we all like travelling on trains.” “The train will stop at all stations down the line,” he said, dragging me into the refreshment room to escape the noisy steaming of engine 5532. “ The train will be about half an hour late. We get off at stations to take last photographs”. He added sadly “ If any line closes we all feel a nostalgia. Let’s say we like to be in at the kill”.
© Copyright Tudor Williams and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.