The Branch Line Society

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West Somerset Railway Wayfarer - No.2 & No.3
Friday 17th and Monday 20th April 2015

(No.1 ran in 1998!)

Two Society brake van trips took place on Friday 17 and Monday 20 April when there was no WSR public service, allowing the freedom of the route. They ran from Bishops Lydeard (BL) to Minehead (MH) and return, and then covered the Norton Triangle before terminating at BL. Motive power for the three vans was Class 09, D4107, for the main run with Class 03, D2133, at MH. The weather was generally kind on both days. On the Friday, having made good use of the Café and Shop facilities (specially open), with early arrivers able to visit the Museum, 40 members joined the train at BL P2, the loco proudly displaying our special 'Diamond Jubilee' headboard, used for the first time. With a travelling signalman on board, a southerly departure and reversal through P1 preceded the run to MH, taking in the lovely scenery of the Quantock area to Crowcombe summit and down through Stogumber to Williton. Here, the tour entered the North Yard and enjoyed the bonus of the South Yard before a short break to view the workshops. On past Doniford Halt and Watchet, after which, when the tour passed over the trackbed of the West Somerset Mineral Railway, the party was able to 'watch it' (BLN1223.1916). The train, surprising the locals, climbed again to Washford, where it was welcomed by the S&D Railway Trust into their yard for a brief viewing of the shed/works. They have a lease here until 2020. Then it was via Blue Anchor to Dunster, reversing through the haunted goods shed and on to the back road (which serves as the CCE yard) with most of the lines clear of stock.

At Minehead, the party had a break and refreshments in the Turntable Café (the staff doing us a good turn by opening specially), after which the 03, now on the tail end of the vans, shunted the train about the sidings, to the end of line, run-round loops and crossovers, then offered the vans for a turntable spin. Unfortunately, all this took longer than planned for three reasons. Most significantly, the three vans unexpectedly did not fit on to the turntable, necessitating splitting the train and having two spins. One of the ground frames had suffered damage the day before (over-exuberance by a strong fireman but the wood was going rotten anyway!), which meant that certain points had to be clipped and scotched which slowed the running. A diesel loco, not directly associated with our visit, was being moved to create space for us but temporarily broke down blocking our route for some 20 minutes! But it was all worth it and, after the 09 replaced the 03, the group left MH in a good frame of mind and, with the bonus of the previously refused Dunster West track, arrived at BL some 150 minutes later than originally planned. The party were then joined by a patient member (another had given up) before heading off for swiftly expedited, but complete, coverage of the Norton Triangle area, returning to BL for the available sidings and finishing over the loco compound pit 'only' about 90 minutes late.

The Monday trip was to have been identical but inevitably, a few things turned out slightly differently, beginning with an extra! A bit like 6015**, D4107 and the vans started from the car park on the roadrail loading line outside the compound gates, with 38 passengers including 4 non-members. The train covered the BL sidings first before leaving for MH through P2. The Friday route was repeated but with the travelling signalman taking to the tarmac roads instead (so popping up at all sorts of strange places) speeding things up considerably. There was a small change at MH as the ground frame was under repair and time was saved on the turntable by only turning two vans (but all participants rotated)! Back at BL, the train again picked up a member (the one who gave up on Friday but was keen for the unusual lines!) and had the 100% Triangle coverage in a different route order terminating in BL P2 after another excellent trip. Thanks to the very friendly WSR staff and the S&DR Trust for their warm, friendly welcomes and for pandering to our varied interests. Particular thanks to our organiser and knowledgeable guide, local member Robert Green, who had spent several years and numerous hours on this project.

**for those not old enough to remember, 6015 was a GWR King Class loco!

The Society made a substantial donation towards covered accommodation for the BL loco roads. Many interesting pictures and information http://goo.gl/bKa240 from the Cornwall Railway Society.