'Battle of Britain' No. 34070 Manston, owned by Southern Locomotives Ltd and based at the Swanage Railway, is the headline guest for the West Somerset Railway’s September 29-October 2 Autumn Steam Gala.
In addition to Manston, also visiting the West Somerset Railway are the Gresley Society’s Great Central Railway-based LNER N2 0-6-2T No. 1744 and Locomotive 5542 Ltd’s GWR Small Prairie No. 5542.
The home fleet should comprise GWR 4-6-0 No. 7828 Norton Manor (nee Odney Manor), rebuilt ‘West Country’ No. 34046 Braunton, WSR Mogul No. 9351, S&DJR 7F No. 88, the Dinmore Manor Locomotive Fund’s GWR No. 3850, ’Large Prairie’ No. 4160 and ‘Small Prairie’ No. 5553.
The star name missing from the event line-up is No. 6960 Raveningham Hall. The final stages of the loco’s overhaul have been undertaken at Williton but it looks as though the GWR ‘Modified Hall’ will not be quite ready to run. Expect to see it displayed in the yard at Williton.
With concerns arising from thefts of metal from heritage lines neither the loco shed at Minehead nor WSRA restoration works at Williton will be opened to the public during this event. A marquee is likely to be in Williton’s South Yard to accommodate traders’ stands.
The WSR has hired Auto Coach No. 178 which is expected to provide Minehead - Dunster shuttle services on the gala Thursday/Friday and Bishops Lydeard - Norton Fitzwarren shuttles on the Saturday/Sunday.
Hopes that a First Great Western shuttle service might be run between Taunton main line station and the WSR’s Bishops Lydeard did not finally come together. Also, economic considerations mean there will not be a free bus link from Taunton station or Silk Mills Park and Ride to the WSR for this event.