WSR 'The Early Years'
At Taunton Trains we always welcome photos of peoples memories to feature on the website. We were contacted by the Daughter of railway photographer Reg Jones from Devon. Sadly Reg has recently passed away, however he left a sizable collection of railway photographs in his wake. Hidden amongst a stunning selection of South West based photos were several gems featuring the West Somerset Railway. The provide a timely reminder of just how far the line has progressed in the last 35 years, and record the heritage and grass routes from which every preserved line he's developed. All the images featured are taken in Black and White, and self processed. Thankfully are the time, he had the forethought to record these early images of the line, when it was still in its infancy, returning from the dereliction of the Beeching Axe. We would like to thank Julie (Reg's Daughter) for giving us the opportunity to host these images in her fathers memory. We would also like to thank Steve Martin from the West Somerset Railway for providing additional information for the photos.
During September 1977 Bagnall Tank 2994 'Vulcan' gets up a good turn of speed as it departs from Minehead heading for Williton with Driver David Butcher (the WSR’s first General Manager). The cosist includes BSO 9278 one of three MK1s that started in 1976and are still in traffic (the other two are 4346 and 4814 interestingly now both converted to Buffets) The loco also carried two WSR markers on the front of the locomotive. At this time any promotion for the railway was a good thing. (Photo: Reg Jones)
On the 5th September 1980 Bagnell Tank locomotive 2994 'Vulcan' departs from Minehead with a four coach passenger train heading towards Bishops Lydeard, with Driver Arthur Young looking out as the train passes. The town of Minehead can be seen clearly in the background. The photographer noted several different exposures in the processing of this photo were required to achieve the finished image. (Photo: Reg Jones)
At the other end of the line in 1979 Bishops Lydeard resembled more of a graveyard than a working preserved railway. Prairie Tanks No's 5542 & 5521 were stored in the open pending restoration, there were several wrecked cars and lorry's scattered around the station yard, and the station area was un kept. 35 years later you would be hard pressed to find a spec of dereliction at Bishops Lydeard. The next three photos depict scenes from 1979 taken at Bishops Lydeard. Note the derelic Austin 16 dumped at Bishops Lydeard these were made juts after World War 2 using the same body design as the Austin 12. The short section of track in the first photo joining the old up line formed the unloading siding for road deliveries, the track being slewed as required. (Photos: Reg Jones)
One of the highlights for the line in the early years, which went largely unrecorded, was the display of LMS Duchess No. 6229 (BR: 46629) ;Duchess of Hamilton at Butlins Holiday Camp. Luckily Reg Jones was able to record this event in July 1972.
This amazing photo not only has a brilliant record of the location, but is set in time, by the multitude of cars which adorn the Butlins Car Park. The photo is further dates by the famous Butlins Cable Car which gave an ariel view of the complex for holiday makers staying at the complex. The Duchess later moved from Butlins back to a mainline career.(Photo: Reg Jones)
Minehead servicing facilities have changed vastly over the years, the need to service and restore more locomotives has lead to Minehead behind the main maintenance facility. This image was taken during Easter 1976 showing working Pannier Tank No.6412, Prairie Tank No.4561 and Newport Bagnal 'Vulcan' stabled adjacent to the station. The convoy had arrived at Minehead after 6412 failed at Chrowcombe whilst hauling 4561 and Vulcan from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead. 6412 was out of traffic for a few months awaiting repairs to piston. (Photo: Reg Jones)
During Easter 1979 Volunteers (thought to be Mike Grimoldby, Frank Houlding and possibly Steve Martin) are seen working on the ex-Pwllheli turntable at Minehead. Little did these three know it would be another 32 years before the turntable would find a new home at Minehead Station after a lengthy restoration. (Photo: Reg Jones)
During Easter 1976 Minehead Station looks desolate compared to the modern scene which greets passengers today. The servicing facilities are basic. There are no flowers, or seats in the photo, the Station are Minehead was very much as British Rail had left the line when the closed the branch line. (Photo: Reg Jones)
Pannier Tank No.6412 was a real workhorse for the West Somerset Railway, it served the line well over the years, it was with some trepidation that the locomotive was finally sold to the South Devon Railway in 2009. The little loco could no longer haul the long summer trains and was sold to the South Devon for restoration and a retirement working lighter trains. As a point of interest, Reg Jones daughter (Julie) is seen here as a young girl talking to the driver of the Pannier Tank at Minehead. (Photos: Reg Jones)
Also taken during the Easter of 1976, is this show taken broadside of recent arrivals onto the West Somerset Railway, stored at Minehead. Purchased from BR was Class 35 Hymek No.D7017 & Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway No.88 (BR:53808). (Photos: Reg Jones)
By September 1979 D7017 had already received a repaint into BR Green from it's Blue livery. It's seen here at Minehead, which at the time offered very few facilities for volunteers to restore locomotives.(Photo: Reg Jones)
On the 30th August 1978 SDJR 7F No.88 (BR 53808) had been moved to Washford for storage. The basic facilities are clearly evident at this point. (Photo: Reg Jones)
September 1978 6412 can be seen running around at Minehead adjacent to Terrier Tank No.32678 which is now based on the Kent and East Sussex Railway. (Photo: Reg Jones)
6412 arrives into Minehead during April 1978 with a passenger service from Blue Anchor. The coaching stock rakes clearly increasing by this date. (Photo: Reg Jones)
Seen at Bishops Lydeard on the 26th August 1978. it was clearly evident how much work was required to repair 5542 and 5521 to working condition. It also begs the question just how much original steelwork is left on these locos! (Photo: Reg Jones)
Taken on the same date 5521 and 5542 stand in the desolation of Bishops Lydeard waiting their turn to be moved up to Minehead for future restoration.(Photo: Reg Jones)
On the 25th August 1978 2296 'Vulcan' departs Blue Anchor for Minehead. (Photo: Reg Jones)
25th August 1978 2296 'Vulcan' runs around it's train at Blue Anchor having arrived with a service from Minehead. Steve Martin from the WSR was also able to provide some additional information. The Driver was Arthur Young, Fireman climbing of the loco is ex Shrewsbury Fireman Tony Price. Guy on the ground in original WSR red nylon overall is I believe a TTI by the name of Ross Chamberlain. At this time Victor must have had a coupling at each end, as for quite a while it had only one that had to be swapped over at each run round, a long walk if you forgot it. (Photo: Reg Jones)
As part of a separate collection, we felt this image also complimented the bygone days of the West Somerset Railway. Here the WSR's 'Cravens' DMU departs from Watchet heading for Bishops Lydeard looking very smart with full yellow ends and painted is all over green. (Photo: Taunton Trains Collection)
GWR 2-6-2 Prairie Tank No.5572 was saved for preservation in 1971, and soon made its way onto the West Somerset Railway, 5572 is pictured above stabled behind Taunton Station pending preservation. (Photo: Garry Stroud)
By 1987 the tank engine had been bought back to life and was already operating trains on the West Somerset Railway. No.5572 is seen arriving at Washford on the 13th September 1987 hauling a Park Royal DMU and three Mk1 coaches. (Photo: Taunton Trains Collection)
Class 103 Park Royal DMU (W50413 & W56169) are pictured at Minehead on an unknown date. It's thought this image may date back to the late 1970's. The Class 103's were powered by 2 x AEC 150 bhp (112 kW) engines.
(Photo: Taunton Trains Collection)
BR Class 103 Park Royal DMU No.P200 was previously based at Plymouth (Laira) and used on the Kingswear Branch before clousure. It's seen here at Minehead wearing the West Somerset Railway colours of the time.
(Photo: Taunton Trains Collection)