West Somerset Railway – 2017 Spring Steam Gala

Time passes quickly and once again I find myself reviewing my snaps from the West Somerset Railway (WSR) 2017 Spring Steam Gala. The opportunity to take great photographs was there as ever, although on this occasion I’m not so pleased with my efforts having messed up the metering for some of my time at the railway.  The lesson to be learned for me is “Alan, don’t play around with the camera settings at a big event, always have the camera manual to hand and then take some test photographs!”. Regardless I did manage to get some just passable photographs – I think!

As for the event, it had no particular theme other than a great collection of steam locos running on a great railway. I attended for the first three days, so Thursday to Saturday, during which the weather was in part kind with only some very light rain on the Friday morning, but also unkind with little sunshine to light up the locomotives and glint off the brass work.

I’ve been to 7 or 8 WSR Galas over the years and never alighted at the very pretty station of  Stogumber, mainly because I’ve always feared being ‘stranded’ as it is not a crossing point for trains and not all trains stop there. However on this occasion I did make a point of getting off and I was not disappointed as the station offers some excellent vantage points all within its boundaries. The station is absolutely delightful in its presentation and in addition excellent bacon rolls are on offer together with suitable (non-alcoholic) liquid refreshment.

So let’s move on and see what we could see….

The Locomotives
The range of locomotives at the gala was, as usual, impressive. Particularly notable was the attendance of two LMS Class 4F locos which double-headed a number of trains over the Gala period. One of the WSR staff shared the opinion that this might be the first time this has happened in preservation, whether he was correct or not it certainly made for a very splendid spectacle.

  • SDJR Class 7F 2-8-0 No. 53808
  • SDJR Class 7F 2-8-0 No. 53809
  • GWR ‘Large Prairie’ 2-6-2 No. 5199 (from the Llangollen Railway)
  • LMS Class 4F 0-6-0 No. 43924 (from the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway)
  • LMS Class 4F 0-6-0 No. 44422
  • GWR Modifield Hall No. 6960 “Raveningham Hall”
  • BR Standard Class 2 2-6-0 No. 78018 (from the Great Central Railway)
  • BR(WR) Class 1500 0-6-0 Pammier Tank No. 1501 (from the Severn Valley railway)
  • Peckett Saddle Tank “Kilmersdon”
  • Andrew barclay 0-4-0ST No. 1219 (from Ryan Pope)
  • BR Standard Class 4 2-6-0 No. 76017

The Locations
The locations are listed in no particular order other than that in which they occur to me. For those visiting the line I would recommend Ordnance Survey map 181 Minehead & Brendon Hills and I have included approximate grid references to the locations in brackets (remember Eastings first!)

  • Location 1 – pedestrian crossing just east of Minehead Station (SS 985456)
  • Location 2 – Minehead Station, (SS 975464)
  • Location 3 – Crowcombe Heathfield Station (ST 138343)
  • Location 4 – Wiliton Station (ST 086416)
  • Location 5 – Wiliton Station foot bridge (ST 086416).
  • Location 6 – Wiliton Station loco yard / workshop (ST 086416)
  • Location 7 – Watchet Station (ST 072434)
  • Location 8 – Norton Fitzwarren Triangle (ST 190257)
  • Location 9 – Bishops Lydeard Station (ST 164290)
  • Location 10 – Stogumber south (non platform) side of the line (110373)
  • Location 11 – Stogumber north (platform) side of the line. (110373)

The Pictures
So on to the pictures. Captions are minimal using just a description of the locomotive and the location, expressed as Location 1 through to Location 11.

You may notice that all the pictures of trains (as opposed to light engines) are boiler first, this is thanks to the turntable at Minehead and the turning triangle at the Bishops Lydeard end of the line. This is definitely a great feature of the railway, a steam train always looks more impressive going the ‘right way around’.

Added Attractions
As usual in addition to the timetabled trains the WSR offered a number of gala specific added attractions to provide some variety and keep visitors entertained.

  • A ride in Victorian splendour in Coach No. 4 behind “Kilmersden”
  • Travel to the platform at Norton Fitzwarren to see the turning triangle
  • Real ale bar on the platform at Minehead
  • Shunting demonstration at Washford station
  • A very large model railway at Bishops Lydeard

Spotlight on Stogumber
Having said in my introductory ‘blather’ that Stogumber is delightful, I thought I’d share just a few snaps of the station.

I think the pictures speak for themselves and so I’ve not felt the need to add captions. I will just say that the layout is unusual with the station house on the opposite side of the track to the platform. I should perhaps also add the the “Army Club” advertisement sign is included because I think it’s a great period piece that adds to the atmosphere of the station and not because I approve of the unhealthy practice of smoking (I gave up 20+ years ago myself).

The Event Guide

As usual the event guide is a good quality booklet providing details of the stations, locomotives running and a working timetable. A folded A4 sheet with a working timetable was also available free to all paying passengers on the day.

Places to Stay

My article on the 2016 WSR Spring Gala talks briefly about accommodation generally available in Dunster. For this gala I stayed at one of my two favourite places, this being The Luttrell Arms. Here are a few pictures of that establishment including two 1930’s advertising posters from Minehead station that were just too good to leave out.

I always find this hotel an excellent place to stay with an old world coaching inn atmosphere. The bar is well stocked with local ales and ciders and the bar food is excellent. Among the dishes that I sampled were the Luttrel Arms scotch egg (starter), the rabbit terrine (starter), ham egg and chips (a basic dish but very well done here with real locally sourced ham and ‘proper’ thick cut chips) and the cheese board (desert). All were excellent with perhaps the cheese board being especially well done. Service in the bar was both efficient and friendly.

My room was well appointed with a very effective and easy to control shower and a good sized bath should one feel the need of a soak after a hard day of ‘train spotting’! The bed was both large and comfortable. The now usual teas and coffees were present together with a fridge (handy if you fancy a cold one watching TV in your room) and complimentary bottled water.

And Finally…

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So what did I enjoy most about the WSR 2017 Spring Steam Gala? Two things immediately come to mind…. first sitting in the station garden at Stogumber waiting for the next train to come along while eating bacon rolls (yes OK I had two!) and enjoying the lovely spring morning…. second my ride in the Victorian Carriage No. 4 behind “Kilmersden”, the ride only lasted 5 minutes or so going out over the Minehead level crossing and then back to the platform but it was splendid in the spacious carriage with the plush Prussian Blue seats. Once again my thanks go out to the WSR for a splendid long weekend with special thanks to all those who volunteer their time to keep the railway running and make such events possible.

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