TRAIN travelers will return to Minehead this weekend as the West Somerset Railway celebrates its ability to run passenger services to the station for the first time in over a year.
Improvements and updates to the Seaward Way level crossing meant that last season trains from Bishops Lydeard had to stop at Dunster station, and passengers were then treated to a bus ride from time to complete their journey.
Company chairman Jon Jones-Pratt said: ‘We are obviously very pleased that after a difficult time steam trains can once again return directly to Minehead. This is a very important step for the railway and for the local tourist industry.
“We are extremely grateful to all of our staff and volunteers who have worked so hard over the months to make this possible. Our locomotives and passenger carriages have been fully checked and look pristine and as good as they’ve ever looked.
“A lot of work has been done by our teams in all the stations, which have been revamped, the gardeners have been busy, and the whole line looks great.”
And one station that is reopening after being closed for quite a while is Washford, which has resumed operations after a revamp. In Minehead, volunteers even designed and built two new locomotives – made of wood as planters to add color to the dockside displays.
Engineering trains have used the Seaward Way level crossing for several weeks, but the first passenger service will be Saturdays at 10.15am from Bishops Lydeard, which is expected to arrive at 11.35am.
This will be followed at lunchtime by a “Fish and Chips Special” on which passengers with relevant tickets can enjoy their meal on the way to Minehead, and cream tea on the return journey.
Services continue on Sunday and the following weekend (March 26 and 27), when Mother’s Day will be marked by the operation of the line’s first-class Quantock Belle dining coaches offering a three-course lunch.
But the big moment comes on the weekend of April 2-3, when the crossing — repaired after extensive damage from Storm Eunice — will officially reopen with a civic ceremony featuring community leaders and a serenade by Watch and Town Band.