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Tag Archives: West Somerset Railway
Steam Locomotives of a More Leisurely Era
No.81 as originally built with tender cab
This railway was jointly owned by the Midland and the London & South Western Railways, and the former was responsible for the provision of motive power. It was not surprising therefore that the locomotives were based largely on Derby practice, and the 2-8-0s introduced in 1914 by Sir Henry Fowler were pure Midland, although, strangely enough, that railway never built anything larger than an 0-6-0 for its own heavy freight traffic. Six engines, Nos. 80-5, came from Derby in 1914, and in 1925 a further five, Nos. 86-90, were built by Stephenson & Co. These latter had larger boilers, but as these were of non-standard Derby dimensions the engine in later years were rebuilt to conform with the original ones as the boilers required replacement.
The S & DJR locomotive stock was absorbed into the LMS in 1930, and the 2-8-0s at first took the numbers 9670-80, but they were soon afterwards altered to 13800-10. On passing into BR hands they became 53800-10.
The class remained intact until 1959, when the first one, No. 53800, was withdrawn. The engines were built for working freight traffic over the steeply graded main line of the S & DJR between Bath and Bournemouth, on which route they have spent their entire working life. To assist in coping with the heavy holiday traffic on Saturdays during the summer months they have frequently been called upon to work passenger trains. For a few months during 1918 No. 85 was lent to the parent Midland Railway which used it on coal trains between Wellingborough and Brent, with a view to constructing some for its own use, but nothing came of the idea. Owing to the absence of a large-enough turntable they worked for many years always facing south, and because of the large amount of tender-first running involved, Nos. 80-5 were fitted with cabs to the tenders, but these were later removed.
Nos. 80-5 – Driving wheels – 4’ 8½”, Cylinders (2) 21”x 28”, Boiler diameter – 4’ 9”, Pressure – 190 lb., Tractive effort – 35295 lb., Weight – 64 tons 15 cwt, BR classification – 7F
Nos.86-90 as built – Driving wheels – 4’ 8½”, Cylinders (2) 21”x 28”, Boiler diameter – 5’ 3”, Pressure – 190 lb., Tractive effort – 35295 lb., Weight – 68 tons 11 cwt, BR classification – 7F No.88 preserved on the West Somerset Railway
Some Early Lines
Taunton to Minehead Railway
West Somerset Railway
The official confirmation to engage engineers to plan and build the line came in 1857 when the advantages of rail communication with the busy harbour at Watchet and the County Town at Taunton became apparent.
The following extract from ‘The History of the Great Western Railway’ by E.T.MacDermot, M.A. gives a brief description of the origin of the line:
‘The West Somerset Company, promoted chiefly by the local landowners with Sir Peregine Acland for Chairman, was incorporated in 1857 to make a railway from the Bristol and Exeter near Taunton to the harbour of Watchet. Brunel was retained as engineer, though he himself probably had very little to do with the undertaking, which must have been about the last to be brought out under his auspices. He was soon succeeded by his chief assistant, R.P.Brereton. The Directors had much trouble in raising the capital of £160,000, but at last work was begun at Woolston Moor on the 10th April, 1859. Owing to mainly financial difficulties, it proceeded very slowly and nearly three years elapsed before these 14½ miles of broad gauge single line were finished. They were opened by the Bristol & Exeter Company, to whom the line was leased in perpetuity on the 31st March, 1862, for passenger traffic only, the goods shed not being ready till August. The stations between Taunton and Watchet were Bishops Lydeard, Crowcombe Heathfield, Stogumber and Williton, there being none as yet at the junction two miles west of Taunton.’
The Minehead Extension
As the traffic on the line grew during the early years it became obvious to the Directors of the West Somerset Company that an extension of the line as far as Minehead would increase the business from areas as far afield as Porlock and Lynton.
It was decided that a local company should be set up to deal with the affairs of the new line, and although the work was due to start in1865, financial difficulties delayed the opening for a further nine years.
The ‘History of the Great Western Railway’ by E.T.MacDermot, M.A. recalls:
‘An extension of the West Somerset Railway from Watchet to Minehead was first authorised in 1865 to be made by a local company, entitled the Minehead Railway Company, which, however, failed to proceed with its undertaking and was dissolved in 1870. It was reconstituted under the same name by an Act of the following year with better results, and succeeded in opening its 8¼ miles of broad-gauge single line on the 16th July, 1874, to be worked by the Bristol and Exeter Company at a rent of half the net receipts with a guaranteed minimum of £2,000 a year.’
The Minehead Company was absorbed in 1897, by which time all its capital had been acquired on behalf of the Great Western.
Alteration of Gauge
In 1882 the Directors of the West Somerset Railway authorised the reduction of gauge from the 7ft wide gauge track to the 4ft 8½ins. narrow gauge.
Due to the necessity of completing the work as rapidly as possible, a large number of railway workmen were engaged in the project.
The change-over was successfully completed between the last train on the Saturday evening and the first train on the Monday morning.
On 5 February 1971, a Minehead Railway Preservation Society organised a meeting in Taunton and a working party headed by Douglas Fear, a local business man, was tasked with investigating how the line could be reopened as a privately-owned railway. In May, a new West Somerset Railway Company was formed to acquire the line and operate a year-round commuter service from Minehead to Taunton alongside which a limited summer steam service could also run. A deal was agreed with British Rail to purchase the line with the support of Somerset County Council, however the council was wary of the lucrative Minehead station site falling into private hands should the railway fail. Instead, it purchased the line itself in 1973 and leased back the operational land to the West Somerset Railway Company.
The proposed commuter service never materialised but the line was slowly reopened as a heritage railway. Minehead to Blue Anchor was the first section to see trains restored, opening on 28 March 1976 and services were extended to Williton on 28 August the same year. Trains returned to Stogumber on 7 May 1978 and they reached Bishops Lydeard on 9 June 1979. A new station at Doniford Halt was opened on the coast east of Watchet on 27 June 1987 to serve a holiday camp at Helwell Bay.
In 2004, work started on constructing a new triangle at Norton Fitzwarren which included a part of the old Devon and Somerset line and a ballast reclamation depot opened there in 2006. In 2008, a new turntable was brought into use at Minehead. A new station opened on 1 August 2009 at Norton Fitzwarren on a new site a short distance north of the main line.
145 – Chasewater RailwayMuseum Bits & Pieces – From Chasewater News Spring 1992 – Part 1
A lot of progress has been made over the winter months at Chasewater to the extent that it is now very difficult to keep the news sections of the magazine updated before it is printed. This is because there now seem to be a lot more people than ever before working regularly on our railway, and the effect of this is beginning to show. The track extension is proceeding at a very impressive pace, and we are on the verge of having three steam locos available for running trains, and a choice of passenger and goods rolling stock in gradually improving condition.
Anyone wishing to help in any department on the railway will be most welcome at Chasewater this summer – if in doubt, please ask for details at the booking office.
No.4 Asbestos – This loco finally passed its hydraulic test in March, and is now being re-assembled ready for steam testing. A repaint is also being carried out so that the loco will re-enter service in green livery later in the year.
No.5 Sentinel – This loco has passed its annual visual boiler examination and was back in service on 11th April to work a special train for the Industrial Railway Society. Trouble was again experienced with rust from the inside of the superheater coil being drawn up through the regulator box and blocking the steam supply to the Weir pump, steam brake and blower. It is hoped that this will not become a regular occurrence otherwise our train service may suffer badly.
No.2 Lion – Progress on this loco has continued slowly, but following the recent delivery of the last of the long awaited new washout plugs the hydraulic test can now be carried out. All of the copper pipe needed to replace that stolen a number of years ago has now been acquired and will shortly be bent and fitted.
S100 – The first of six pairs of axlebox hornguides have now been re-ground to a highly accurate mirror-like finish. Work on the other five pairs is continuing.
Fowler – This loco has remained in service as our only working diesel, carrying out all shunting and works train duties.
DL7 – This loco has remained out of service with its engine partially stripped awaiting refurbishment of the cylinder heads.
No.21 Diesel – This loco has now been moved into the shed where work has continued on its restoration. One major problem appears to be the radiator matrix which has rotted through and will require replacement.
Smith Rodley Crane – This was recently used to remove the saddle tank from Asbestos but has otherwise remained idle.
E1 0-6-0T 110 leaves Mendip Vale for Cranmore 4/6/95. – John Chalcroft
When the former LBSCR loco was sold to three members of the East Somerset Railway and left Chasewater in 1978 for pastures new at Cranmore, it was agreed that we should receive regular updates on its restoration.
Following extensive (and expensive) repairs to just about every component part, the loco first steamed at Cranmore in July 1990. This was a steam test minus tanks and a resultant fusible plug leak saw the fire dropped in order to affect repairs and try again another day. Subsequent steam tests have found out other irritating problems – leaking pipework, regulator blowing past and so on.
The latest position gleaned from a phone conversation with the East Somerset Railway’s Barry Buckfield on 31st December, 1991 is that both tanks have been fitted, as has lagging and cladding, however a troublesome fusible plug has to be replaced, and valve setting is still to be carried out. Sometime during 1992 the E1 will move under its own power for the first time in twenty nine years.
At one time it had been intended to restore the loco as British Railways 32110 in black livery which, of course, it never carried as it was sold by the Southern Railway to the Cannock and Rugeley Colliery Company in 1926. The loco, it has now been decided, will be restored to traffic in Stroudley’s improved engine green, although it will not carry the name ‘Burgundy’ associated with it during most of its LBSCR days.E1 Brian Rands1996
Once remaining work has been completed and running-in trials have taken place, the hundred and fifteen year-old will join that rare group of working centenarians in railway preservation.
Sisters, Sisters – P.Aldridge
While much of our collection at Chasewater is unique, some locomotives and carriages are similar to others preserved elsewhere. Readers may be interested to know what is happening to these vehicles, and so here is a brief résumé –S100’s sister is at the Yorkshire Dales (sorry, Embsay Steam) Railway, and has sat derelict for many years, but during 1991 work started. The loco, ‘140’, has been stripped down to its individual components, and with a large work force and plenty of money, progress is quite rapid. New tanks, bunker and cab have now been built and the horn guides are being ground to something like the proper shape. It is quite likely that ‘140’ will run again in 1994.H C 140 Embsay Charles Adams
Also at the YDR is ‘Annie’, a Peckett identical to our No.917. This loco was in a very similar condition to ours, with a rotten tank and problems with the smokebox tubeplate. Once again, this engine is likely to run in the next two years but it is difficult to see what use such a small engine would be at Embsay. Perhaps we could borrow it!‘Annie’ Peckett 0-4-0ST – Pic, Simon Gott
Our long-suffering Gloucester DMU trailer is rapidly becoming an endangered species, as the West Somerset Railway have given up with its sister and sent it for scrap. When DMUs were first preserved in the late sixties many enthusiasts complained, arguing that such vehicles were too commonplace to warrant preservation. Now enthusiasts are complaining that the lines are disposing of these coaches. (Being cynical, I expect they are the self-same people!) It certainly proves that, as the old saying goes, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be!Gloucester DMU and Cravens DMU in early morning sun at Bishops Lydeard, West Somerset Railway, on 21 April 1987 – Photo by Stephen Edge
131 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces From Chasewater News January 1991 Out and About – Peter Aldridge
131 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News January 1991
Out and About – Peter Aldridge
Regular members and visitors to our railway will probably remember a red Reliant Robin three wheeler belonging to Pete Aldridge. When not working at Chasewater, Pete visits many of the other preservation centres throughout the country. These trips, irreverently known as ‘Flying Pig Tours’ often involve travelling four or five hundred miles in a day, but it is always worth the long drive, and many features of Chasewater have been inspired after visits to other lines. The reaction of the other societies is often amusing.
After arriving very early at the Yorkshire Dales Railway one morning, the members of one ‘Fling Pig Tour’ were told to ‘Sod off back to Chasewater and work on your own line!’
The West Somerset Railway was rather more appreciative. The station staff at Bishops Lydeard had managed to padlock themselves out of the signal box. Fortunately, theCLRmembers produced a large hacksaw and soon chopped the offending item off. This earned theCLRmembers a free drink at the bar, not to mention some very strange looks from the operating staff who thought that the box was being burgled!
The Isle of Wight Society at Havenstreet are obviously an enlightened society. When they found that we were from Chasewater they pulled two ‘Terriers’ and the ‘02’ from the engine shed and asked ‘How’s Asbestos?’ Few other societies have even heard of Chasewater, let alone any of our engines!
‘Terriers’ were also in evidence at the Kent & East Sussex Railway at Tenterden. The K &ESRis a wonderful railway, but it illustrates one of the pitfalls of preservation. Much of the light railway atmosphere of the Colonel Stephens Line has sadly gone. In fact, Chasewater looks far more like the K &ESRthan the K &ESR– if you see what I mean!