Published 10th July 2013
Although the West Somerset Railway, (WSR) Britain’s longest standard gauge heritage railway at more than 20 miles is noted for its steam operations, it also boasts a fine fleet of main line diesel locomotives.
These are maintained and operated on behalf of the WSR by the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group, (D&EPG) based at Williton station, an important passing place on the line. Here, they have established a well-equipped workshop and heritage centre. Major restoration work and loco overhauls are undertaken to maintain its fleet of carefully selected locos in operational condition. Most of these are of appropriate BR Western Region origin and include six former WR diesel-hydraulics of four designs: Class 52 ‘Western’, Class 42 ‘Warship’, two Class 35 ‘Hymeks’, and two Class 14s, nicknamed ‘Teddy Bears’.
Subject to availability, diesel locos will be at the head of WSR trains on the following dates: July 19 Class 47 No. D1661 North Star; July 20 Class 52 No. D1010 Western Campaigner; July 26 ‘Hymek’ No. D7017, and July 27 Class 33 ‘Crompton’ No. D6575.
August 10 No. D1661; August 17 No. D6575 and August 24 ‘Warship’ No. D832 Onslaught.
September 8 No. D1010, and September 13 and 14 No. D7017.
This will be the 11.40 and 15.10 departures from Bishops Lydeard, and 13.20 and 17.35 from Minehead.
If wishing to see or be hauled by a particular locomotive it is advisable to check with the WSR beforehand by telephoning 01643 704996.
In addition to selected service trains, the WSR’s ‘Quantock Belle’ dining train is also diesel hauled on Wednesdays, July to September. Duties are shared between Class 33 ‘Crompton’ No. D6575 and Class 14 No. D9526, on July 17 and 31; August 11, 14 and 25, and September 4 and 18.
Lunch, including first class travel is £26 (compared with the £48 of Sunday luncheon trains which are also diesel hauled on August 11 and 25), with a cream tea on the return for £4. A special evening QB train runs on August 17 headed by the ‘Warship’.
These trains must be pre-booked: tel. 01823 433856 (Tuesdays to Saturdays).
Diesel-driving courses run on August 10 and 24 (No. D7017); September 14 and 28, and October 12 and 26 with No. D6575. These are operated by the WSR in conjunction with the D&EPG and can be booked online or by telephone, 01643 704996.
The appropriately–named No. D1010 is booked to appear during the CAMRA Real Ale Festival on September 7/8.
This iconic loco, currently in BR maroon livery, and sometimes carries the identity of long-gone sister No. D1035 Western Yeoman on one side. This is a tribute to the Somerset quarry company, Foster Yeoman, which saved the loco from scrap originally. It will be much in prominence on July 20 when it heads two return workings from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead where the harbour festival takes place.
Bishops Lydeard departures will be 11.40 and 15.10, returning from Minehead at 13.20 and 17.35. These are timetabled service trains so there is no need to book in advance, but an adult rover ticket is £15.60 if bought beforehand, or £17 on the day.
‘Hymek’ No. D7017 and ‘Warship’ No. D832 Onslaught are due to put in appearances at the annual steam fayre at Norton Fitzwarren on August 3 and 4 respectively, and are expected to work some trains during the day.
The Late Summer Weekend Celebration, August 31 and September 1, features the WSR’s home fleet of steam and diesel locos with Nos D832, D1010, D1661, D6575, D7017 and D9526 all due to be running.
Note all diesel services are subject to availability of the various locos on the day.
Taunton main line station is served by trains from the north, south west and from London. First Bus No. 28 runs regularly between Taunton and WSR Bishops Lydeard stations.