I mentioned in another one of my blogs about going on holiday by train when I was a child. Trains are still a big part of our family today. Last Summer, we had a walking holiday with HF holidays at Selworthy near Minehead. My wife suggested that we travel there by train alighting from the mainline at Taunton and getting a bus to the West Somerset Railway. This really would be like turning the clock back fifty years! Clearly thousands visit heritage railways but how many use them to reach their holiday destination?
We arrived at Bishop’s Lydeard armed with our cases. No PLIA – (Passengers Luggage In Advance) on today’s railways unfortunately. However, the seasoned railway traveller knows how to pack and does not lug around large heavy suitcases containing any number of items that will probably not be required on holiday. We purchased our tickets from the booking office and made our way to the waiting train. The guard was very chilled when we asked where was the best place to store our luggage. It was as though families turning up with cases was a regular occurrence on the West Somerset Railway.
After buying food and drink, we took our seats in the buffet car. I then realized we still had a few minutes before departure. Time for an obligatory walk to the front of the train to see what the motive power would be hauling our train.
I was delighted to see it was LMS 4F 44422. This engine spent a number of years on the Somerset and Dorset allocated to 71G Bath Green Park. It is highly likely that it was not only operated on local passenger trains but also as a pilot engine on the Pine’s Express and other Expresses on the S and D taking thousands of people to and from their holidays.
The West Somerset Railway passes through beautiful Somerset countryside and later by the coast with its lovely beaches. Looking out of the carriage window with the sound of the 4F wafting through the open side light was truly idyllic.
As Sir John Betjeman said in his journey over the Somerset countryside on the Somerset and Dorset between Evercreech junction and Highbridge in his very enjoyable 1963 programme Branch Line Railway, you really do see much more country from a train than you ever do from a motor car. He goes on to say ‘no road signs, no lorries in front of you and know neurotics hooting behind you!’ which clearly sums up road travel both then and now!
Branch Line Railway is hard to get hold of now but you might get lucky and find a copy on Ebay – click here to see if it’s your lucky day(!) Make sure you check if you are buying a DVD or VHS.
Each of the country stations we called at were beautifully presented and a credit to the volunteers and staff responsible. At Williton I glanced D1661 North Star one of the original Brush type fours named by the Western Region in the mid 196os in the company of diesel hydraulics Hymek D7017 and Class 14 D9526.
Minehead Station Terminus
Before we left Minehead Station there was time for a look round and I was rewarded with the sight of two other S and D stalwarts in the shape of 7Fs 53808 and 53809 on the shed roads.
A DMU complete with Buffet car shunted into the platform road resplendent in BR green and even this presented a nostalgic sight.
We repeated this idyllic journey a week later to return home. This time the train was double-headed with 7F 53808 piloted by 4F 44422 complete with Pines Express headboard.
How truly magnificent a fitting end to a marvelous trip. Could you consider incorporating train journey on a heritage railway as part of your travel plans to your holiday destination?