The West Somerset Railway (WSR) is now running steam trains almost the full length of the line from Bishops Lydeard through to Dunster, linking up with a small fleet of heritage buses to travel onwards to Minehead, before returning later in the day.
Two of the vintage buses are open-top types, both of which were very popular with visitors given the sunny weather, with another disabled friendly bus on hand, too, so that everyone can travel.
The WSR has also opened all staffed stations between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead. This means that passengers can walk up, buy a ticket and travel again on the historic West Country branch line without pre-booking.
These include stations at Bishops Lydeard, Crowcombe Heathfield, Williton, Watchet, Blue Anchor, Dunster and Minehead. although the connection between Dunster and Minehead will, for the time being, continue to be made by historic open top vintage bus.
Smaller stations at Doniford and Washford will remain closed for the time being.
Trains will depart from Bishops Lydeard at 10.15, 12.35 and 14.45 for all stations (except Doniford and Williton) to Dunster, and then use the free vintage bus connection to Minehead. The buses leave Minehead at 11.50, 14.10 and 16.15 to connect with trains back up the line to Bishops Lydeard. Throughout the remainder of July and August, trains run every day except Mondays and Fridays.
All trains will be hauled by Great Western designed steam engines. New to service on the line is GW large tank Class 5101 locomotive No. 5199. Originally built in Swindon in 1934, this locomotive has recently been refurbished and completely repainted in the WSR’s Minehead locomotive works.
GWR 5101 Class locomotives of this type operated on the Minehead Branch for three decades from the 1940s to the 1960s, although this particular engine spent much of its time in the West Midlands. It has come to the WSR after spending time on the Llangollen Railway in North Wales.