Steam trains are back in Minehead

GWR Modified Hall 4-6-0 No. 6960 Raveningham Hall passes Watersmeet with the West Somerset Railway’s 16.15 Bishop’s Lydeard-Minehead train. Quentin Hawkes

Train travellers returned to Minehead at the weekend as the West Somerset Railway celebrated running passenger services for the first time in well over a year.

Work to improve and update the level crossing in Seaward Way last season meant that trains from Bishops Lydeard had to stop at Dunster station and passengers were then treated to a vintage bus ride to complete their trip.

Company chairman Jon Jones-Pratt said: “We’re obviously very excited that after a difficult time, steam trains can once again run right back in to Minehead. It’s a very important step for the railway and for the local tourism industry.

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“We’re extremely grateful to all our staff and volunteers who’ve worked so hard over the months to make this possible. Our locomotives and passengers coaches have been given full checks and are looking spic and span and as good as they ever have.

“A lot of work has been done by our teams at all the stations, which have been spruced up, the gardeners have been busy, and the whole line is looking wonderful.”

And one station that is re-opening after being closed for quite a while is Washford, which is back in business following a revamp. At Minehead, volunteers have even designed and built two new locomotives – in wood as planters to add colour to the platform displays.

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Engineering trains have used the Seaward Way crossing for several weeks, but the first passenger service was the 10.15am on Saturday, March 18, from Bishops Lydeard, due to arrive at 11.35am. That was followed by a lunchtime Fish and Chips Special.

This weekend (March 26/27), Mothers’ Day will be marked by running the line’s Quantock Belle first-class dining coaches, providing a slap-up three-course lunch.

But the big moment comes on the week-end of April 2 and 3, when the crossing – repaired after extensive damage by Storm Eunace – will be officially re-opened with a civic ceremony attended by community leaders and serenaded by Watchet Town Band.

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