Bridgwater has rarely been covered by Taunton Trains, as it's always been considered as just slightly outside of our usual Taunton Railway Coverage. However there is one train which has been operating since 1987 to Bridgwater which has provided some of the most interesting and varied locomotive workings in the area, which many have simply ignored (despite the location only being 7 miles away from Taunton!). Without going into to much detail the Crewe - Bridgwater - Crewe trip conveys used nuclear waste material from Hinkley Point for processing at Sellafield. Timings for the train are not a secret but it's day of operation is run 'as required' meaning it can turn up any day from Monday to Friday at any given frequency during any given month. The Bridgwater - Crewe Flask trip will continue to run by rail as long as Hinkley Point Power Station continues to operate.
The used material is conveyed in specially designed flasks designed to the highest safety standards. In 1984 British Rail were keen to provide the public with reassurances about moving nuclear waste in this way. They commissioned a test to prove to the public that safety was the number on factor with regards to the design. A BBC News clip exists on Youtube showing a staged crash, where a Class 46 was crashed into an flask at nearly 100 miles an hour. To watch the clip click on this link to our Youtube Channel.
The Bridgwater Flask 'Log' was the brainchild of an man from Dawlish named Paul Webber. Back in the early days of South West Rail Gen, many people started to compile lists of specific workings to record just how many locomotives had operated the train. His love of Class 31's sparked the idea, but over time Paul found other interests and drifted away from the project. However by then the wheels had ben set in motion, and a dedicated band of enthusiasts from Bridgwater had already started to look back through their notes to provide a written list. This was no mean feat, around 3 years passed from the original concept, and a full handwritten list was presented to Taunton Trains detailing every locomotive which had worked the train from 1987 through to 2007. This was a fantastic achievement, the list was comprehensive down to wagon numbers, and locomotive failures. It was a credit to the Bridgwater Enthusiasts who'd turned out to see this unique train operate and to those who'd manage to obtain photos of these workings.
The list was presented to Taunton Trains during late 2008 but this was no good to us. We had to sit down and type out 1196 rows of information, compile a tally chart to record locomotive frequency, and a log of any notable operations. This sort of work is best left until the Winter months, and it took most of October and half of November 2009 to get the LOG into a digital form to display online.
The haulage for the Bridgwater Flask has to be one of the most wide and varied of any train since 1987. The Flask can really be split into three distinct eras with regards to the traction used on the train. It's probably provided the most interest with regards to any locomotive hauled train in the South West:
British Rail : Class 20, Class 31, Class 33, Class 37, Class 47, Class 56
Transrail / EWS : Class 31, Class 37, Class 47, Class 56
Direct Rail Services: Class 20, Class 37, Class 57, Class 66
The current operation is run by Direct Rail Services, based at Carlisle. Locomotives work to Bridgwater from Crewe and back. The company are specialists in providing transport for material from power stations, and transporting it to Sellafield for processing.
The mission is to record every working of the Bridgwater Flask since it started running. We currently have thousands of entries entered into a spreadsheet. We also have a tally chart where we record how many times each loco has worked the train and any special comments which need to be added. We would like to point out that the purpose of the log is to provide an insight into the locomotives which have worked the train since 1987 to the current day. As mentioned above, the LOG has been complied from actual enthusiast sightings/ photos.
Please feel free to email: Taunton Trains if you have any information you think could be relevant to the quest!
Many thanks to the for all the information supplied so far there are so many people to mention, here are just a few:
Jeff Treece, Paul Webber, Cellophane Steve, & Cellophane Nick
Keep up the good work, and don't forget, any information or photos which you may have will be of use and can be added to the already huge list!!!