Home Newsletter Locations Diary
Topic Alpha County Sections By

Travellers Resource
Railway Section Alpha List

West Somerset Railway

Bishops Lydeard - Minehead, Somerset

Featured Location Guide



The saddletank, "Kilmersdon" shunting at Washford, on the West Somerset Railway
By Mrs Raven

West Somerset Railway is currently the longest heritage railway in the UK, running over 20 miles of standard gauge line. A further 3 miles of line is used to join to the rail network.  Located in Somerset, running along the edge of the Quantock Hills between Bishops Lydeard and Watchet. The line then turns inland to Washford, and returns to the coast for the run to Minehead.

Construction started on this line in 1859, it was taken over by the Bristol and Exeter Railway, which in turn was taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1874. The original line was built to broad gauge standard, and was converted to standard gauge in one day in October 1882, some achievement. The line was mentioned in the 'Reshaping of British Railways' report or the 'Beeching Axe' review, in 1963 as a line recommended for closure. The line deteriorated and eventually closed in January 1971.

The West Somerset Railway Company was set up and planned to reopen the line as a private railway providing commuter and other services pulled by diesel locomotives from Taunton to Minehead, the plan was to also run steam tourist trains from Williten to Minehead. There were objections to this, mostly from British Rail bus drivers who were at this time running a replacement service.  Eventually it reopened Easter 1976 as a steam railway. Initial services were between Minehead and Blue Anchor, but were extended to Bishops Lydeard in 1979. It was necessary to catch a bus between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard.

Passing Water Farm, West Somerset Railway

Locos 9351 and 5051 on West Somerset Railway

 By Martin Southwood

The main line rail connection still exists with the national rail network via Norton Fitzwarren to Taunton. In 2006 the signalling was upgraded to allow through workings from Taunton to Minehead and vice-versa. As of late 2006 several charter trains have now used this facility and a regular service from Bristol is being considered.  A “Butlins Express” service was introduced for the summer of 2007 on a few days each week. This ran non-stop from Bristol Temple Meads to Taunton over the West Somerset Railway to Minehead. This has not occurred in 2008. The line is owned by Somerset County Council and leased to the West Somerset Railway, protecting the councils interest in the valuable Minehead station site.

The West Somerset Railway Association have purchased 33 acres of land at Norton Fitzwarren. The land has full access to the existing West Somerset Railway line running between Bishops Lydeard and the connection to the national network at Norton Fitzwarren Junction.  Subject to planning authority approval, it is hoped that the 33-acre site will, eventually, not only provide vitally needed new railway servicing facilities, but would also lead to new engineering jobs for the area. The land provides sufficient space to install a turning triangle – to enable locomotives and rolling stock to be turned where necessary and, eventually, it is hoped would include locomotive, carriage and wagon restoration sheds, plus a possible new station serving the WSR.

Like a number of other heritage railways they have found benefits in running a PLC and non profit companies in parallel. The component parts are:

  • WSR plc 
  • The West Somerset Railway Association provides an army of volunteers who carry out a wide range of tasks to support the Railway, from booking clerks to gardeners to engine drivers.
  • The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust is concerned with the historical aspects of the line and runs a museum at Blue Anchor.

Railway stations are:-

British Rail link section

  • Taunton (National Rail station)
  • Norton Fitzwarren (no passenger facilities currently)

West Somerset Railway

  • Bishops Lydeard (normal southern terminus)
  • Crowcombe Heathfield
  • Stogumber
  • Williton
  • Doniford Halt
  • Watchet
  • Washford
  • Blue Anchor
  • Dunster
  • Minehead (northern terminus)

They have installed a turntable, able to turn trains, at Minehead.

Click on either picture to see a larger version

By Mike Crowe
 By Martin Bodman

The five year plan, published in 2008, projected growth in many areas but Bishops Lydeard being the principle southern terminus. They have looked at ways to link up perhaps by providing transport links but ruled out running commuter trains or freight. They are looking at encouraging more incoming charters and perhaps speeding up some sections of their line above the normal 25mph heritage line limits. They are also looking at adding more value plus services like driver experience, wildlife and catering specials. The plan details a long list of changes and additions most connected with gaining extra capacity in one form or another, including more sidings. They have 4 company locomotives used for regular work, and hire in additional ones, in part to get variety. Historic vehicles housing and restoration is also being brought to their site. They plan increases in signalling and parking.

They run a number of events each year, and having a large number of stations they can offer a wide variety of opportunities. On one steam gala they had 12 steam engines running.

Information is available from their main website but a second website provides far more detail. For example there is a section that shows all bridges individually, and this could cut down the need for some recce trips.  Similarly there is a clever tool to show the line gradient at every point. From this site you also get to the information on line passes for photographers, detailed below.

This has been and looks like it will continue to be one of the most interesting heritage railways.

The location includes countryside, towns, villages and coastal stretches. Much of it photogenic, and with good access via roads, bridges and paths to much of it for photographers. The timetables allow you to work out where trains will pass, and special events add a lot of variation making line side permits particularly valuable with many productive trips being possible. As there are quite a lot of stations on this line, you use lineside permits in combination with rover tickets to move around the line, and get a lot of variation in a day. It also means that if you go with your family or others they can ride the railway and meet up with you from time to time throughout the day.

Line side permits or passes for photographers click for WSR page on this  or here for WSR.org.uk link  Costs information PDF      Application form PDF

Lineside Passes are normally issued by post from the office at Minehead on receipt of a completed application form, two passport-style photos and remittance.  The price depends on the time of year, decreasing as less of the year is left. At a maximum its £23 for non members and £18.30 for members, but in most cases you will be at least part way through the year. You need to allow a few weeks for this to come through. 

WSR.org.uk also provide A Selection of Photographic Locations page, which highlights those places which are accessible to the public as well as many more that you can gain access to if you have a lineside pass. When you put your cursor over a particular location a photo appears in an image box showing you what you can get at that particular location.

To get a flavour of the line take the virtual tour. You can get to an interactive map, showing every detail up close and an overall illustrative one. There is also an extensive photographic gallery. There are three live webcams you can see online, two at Bishops Lydeard station and one at the Minehead station.

This must be the best collection of information available for any heritage railway.

Further information Grid 


West Somerset Railway, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset

Ceremonial County: Somerset

Grid Reference:

Bishops Lydeard (normal southern terminus) ST164290

Crowcombe Heathfield ST137343

Stogumber ST110373

Williton ST086416

Doniford Halt ST084429 (by coast

Watchet ST072433 (by coast)

Washford ST044412

Blue Anchor ST022434  (by coast)

Dunster SS9964448 (coast and castle)

Minehead (northern terminus) SS975463  (by coast)

Map Link:

Bishops Lydeard  Streetmap

Minehead  StreetMap

Aerial photo: Minehead  Google Aerial


20 miles of SG line, a further 3 miles of line connects to the main British Rail line and is used for charters.

Best Times to Visit:






2nd site

West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

West Somerset Railway Association 

Lineside passes

Other useful websites:

wiki         Tesco Days Out vouchers 

Nearby Locations: The Exmoor National Park is nearby.
There are many other tourist items in this area.
Other Relevant pages:  


Planning Grid


West Somerset Railway, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset

Grid Reference:

Bishops Lydeard (normal southern terminus) ST164290

Crowcombe Heathfield ST137343

Stogumber ST110373  

Williton ST086416

Doniford Halt ST084429 (by coast

Watchet ST072433 (by coast)

Washford ST044412

Blue Anchor ST022434  (by coast)

Dunster SS9964448 (coast and castle)

Minehead (northern terminus) SS975463  (by coast)

Getting there:

There are brown tourist signs leading in from different directions. Detailed directions available by clicking here




Bishops Lydeard Station. There is a large free car park

Williton station - car parking is limited

Crowcombe Heathfield:  A small car parking area at the station.
Stogumber:  Very small car park
Watchet:  Large pay and display car park adjacent to the station and other car parks in the town.
Washford:  Small amount of parking on the station forecourt. More parking adjacent to Cleeve Abbey on Abbey Road (signposted for Roadwater):-10 minutes walk from there to the station.
Blue Anchor:  Car Park across the road from the station and parking along the sea front.
Dunster:  Car Parking at the station.

Minehead: There is a pay and display car park adjacent to Minehead Station and other car parking in the town.



Things To Do, See and Photograph:


What to take:


Nature highlights:



West Somerset Railway Plc

The Railway Station


Somerset, TA24 5BG


Bishops Lydeard TA4 3BX
Crowcombe Heathfeld TA4 4PA
Stogumber TA4 3TR
Williton TA4 4QR
Watchet TA23 OAU
Washford TA23 OPP
Blue Anchor TA24 6LB
Dunster TA24 6TH
Minehead TA24 5BG


01643 704996    

Opening times:

For dates and times see the timetables available. Watch out for announcements when steam engines are not running, and for special events


Accepts Tesco Days Out vouchers 

There are a range of fare options including individual journeys between different stations.

In addition there are rover tickets allowing unlimited use:-

Day Rover costing Adults £15.60; Senior Citizens £14.20; children £7.80; Family £43 gives unlimited travel for the day on the West Somerset Railway

Two day Rover Tickets Cost Adults £29; Children £14.50

Week Rovers (Valid 7 consecutive days) are £63and £31.50

Children fares cover those from 5 to 15, under 5's are free.

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access:  
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities:  
Dogs Allowed: Yes charge £2, Assistances Dogs Free.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: Railways Key:
Page Ref: West_Somerset_Railway Topic: Railways Last Updated: 03/2011

This page:

Link directly to this page, with text or the button on right.

Text linking: West Somerset Railway on Photographers Resource

Linking Instructions                            http://www.photographers-resource.co.uk/