Full Steam Ahead

Category: News 16th April 2024

If you are fan of steam trains, then Somerset has plenty to offer you. Many of the sites are close to Berry’s drop off points and are ideal for a day trip from London or if you are on a short break.

Combined with these steam railways there are also opportunities to take a flight of fancy and experience the thrill of steam on a day trip from centres around the county. One such trip aboard The Royal Duchy leaves Bristol on the 5th May, picking up at Taunton on its way to Cornwall where passengers can alight at either Plymouth or travel further on to Par to connect with Fowey or the delightful Charlestown. The train is due to leave Bristol at 8.50 and will be pulled by a Black 5 locomotive. The trip which picks up at Yatton and Taunton will climb out of Taunton station up to Whiteball Summit taking on water in Exeter and collecting more passengers before travelling along the famous sea wall between Dawlish and Teignmouth. After passing through Newton Abbot and up some very steep gradients it will travel through Totnes. Passenger will then be able to alight at Plymouth or continue onto Par. The train will then be serviced  at St Blazey and leave Par at around 17.40 picking up at Plymouth and setting down passengers at Exeter, Taunton ,Yatton and finally Bristol. The pickup time at Taunton is 10.00 returning at 21.10.  There are a variety of different packages available from the Rail Touring Company at www.railwaytouring.net or on  01553 661 500.

For those of you alighting a Berrys’ coach at Yeovil, Yeovilton RNAS, or one of the other local drop off points there is the magnificent Yeovil Rail Centre.

Based at Yeovil Junction Station it is a steam buffs’ paradise and includes a shop, café and small railway museum. Started in 1993, they organise lots of events during the year including a plethora of steam days when you can experience some amazing locomotives or take a trip up part of the Clifton Maybank Branch Line Spur which was constructed back in 1864 together with  a goods station south of the London and South Western Railway’s Yeovil Junction Station for the transhipment of goods on to their standard gauge network.

It is not necessary to prebook steam days so just look on their website for further details. There are train rides during the day and turntable demonstrations. Gates usually open at 10.30am and last admissions are at 3.15pm. Other activities and events usually include light refreshments, a model railway, and a chance to experience the Chard signalling panel. Regular train days are held up until the end of September. Their next event in May will include a chance to ride on a train pulled by a Peckett 0-4-0 engine. Driver experiences can also be  prebooked and special arrangements can be made for groups of 4 to 8 people. There is also free parking. More details can be obtained by going to www.yeovilrailway.freeservers.com or phoning 01935 410420.

About an hour from Glastonbury and Wells, 30 minutes from Bridgwater and 15 minutes from Taunton is the famous West Somerset Railway which runs from Bishops Lydiard to Minehead

Today it carries over 200,000 passengers a year and is one of the largest attractions in Southwest England having around 50 paid staff and 900 volunteers. Trains run on certain dates in all months outside the main season throughout the year and daily from early April to early October. There are plenty of stations en-route and this spectacular trip is a real Somerset gem.

The West Somerset Railway (WSR) is a 22.75-mile  long heritage railway line The freehold of the line and stations is owned by Somerset Council and is leased to and operated by West Somerset Railway plc (WSR plc) charitable trust and the West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust (WSRHT). It operates both heritage steam and diesel trains.

The spectacular route takes in Watchet and some of Somerset’s finest countryside. It the longest standard gauge heritage railway line in the UK and whilst the line generally operates between Minehead and Bishops Lydiard during special events it is extended to Norton Fitzwarren. Look out for special events on their website www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk. phone  01643 704996 including their popular 1940’s weekend. Celebrating the sights and sounds of the 1940s it will feature musical performances, costumed performers and some amazing happenings at stations along the line. 

Planned for September their popular Saturday night platform dance will take place at Minehead station. Several musical acts will be performing so get out your best 1940’s outfit and start dancing. You will need a dance ticket to access Minehead platform on the Saturday evening.

For those near Shepton Mallet, Wells and Frome drop off points there is the magnificent East Somerset Railway www.eastsomersetrailway.com. phone 01749 880417.Based at Cranmore you can take a relaxing trip on one of their marvellous heritage trains. The round journey takes 35 minutes and well worth it. You can ride as many times as you like on your visit, space permitting,  and they are one of the only steam railways in the country where you can also visit the engine shed and workshop. There is a well-stocked shop and excellent café. You can take afternoon tea on some trips, or you might like to investigate on of their special events or evenings. The restored station and waiting room at Cranmore are very special and  this is very much a family friendly experience with lots to entertain all ages.

Finally, there is the Midsomer Norton Railway just outside Radstock and close to Wells around 20 minutes’ drive and Glastonbury and Street which are 30 minutes away by car. An ideal day out for the whole family they have one mile of historic track all centred around a magnificent Victorian railway station. Not only will you have the chance to visit the station but also take a trip on one of their historic trains, enjoy a snack in the station buffet carriage and possibly take a Wickham Trolley Ride or Brake Van trip. Run by enthusiastic volunteers it is a great way to spend your day.