2014 Somerset Coast Express


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Far left; 47853 waits to leave Hooton early in the morning John Fry officiates. Left;  47813 waits to leave Minehead on the return working.

Centre; View from the cab as the Somerset Coast Express passes a steam working at Blue Anchor. (All LJ Wheeler)

Right; Class 47 Diesel, 47853 hauling the Somerset Coast Express to Minehead. Seen here at Bishops Lydeard having just come off the mainline. (John King): Far right; at Creech St Michael, near Taunton.

Thank you, the customers, for making this another hugely successful April Railtour for us. 

As you can see by the pictures, this is the first time we have worked with DRS (Direct Rail Services) for haulage, and we were very pleased with the turnout and performance of their locomotives.

The day started out grey and dank (soft as the Irish would say) but this did not put off the first of our happy travellers who climbed aboard at Hooton, settling down into the warm and inviting coaches. Exactly on time, we left for our usual pick up stations and this punctual running was maintained all day long.  It is always a pleasure to travel along the marvellous Marches Line south of Shrewsbury, especially as the weather had by this time become much brighter. All too soon we were pulling in to Bristol for a crew change and to drop off those passengers who had opted for a long day in the city. Our new driver was well known to us as he had been a member of the Chester Model Railway Club for many years.

We crossed the part of Somerset that had been flooded and whose waters had only recently receded and arrived at Taunton, where we picked up the crew from the West Somerset Railway, before branching off on to the WSR itself. At Bishops Lydeard we passed the first of their immaculately kept steam locomotives and some people got off to follow us in a steam hauled train. Of course the WSR is a ‘light railway’ so speeds are more leisurely, but it didn’t matter as the spring scenery was superb as we crossed the Quantock Hills. Our first glimpse of the sea (really the Bristol Channel) approaching the ancient port of Watchet, revealed some menacing waves building up, which foretold the uninviting weather of later on. Soon we were pulling in to Minehead and people drifted off to the town for the shops, cafes and pubs, and for a glimpse of the harbour and the sea beyond.

The weather had turned unpleasantly wet, but it didn’t matter as people made their way back and climbed aboard our train which had kindly been left clean and tidy by the volunteer staff of the WSR’s Minehead station. Off we went again and by now lots of people were tucking in to the contents of their picnic hampers, some elaborate spreads to be seen. At our Bristol pick up we received the news that the weather had been fine there all day! The aforementioned driver travelled with us ‘on the cushions’ back to Chester. A quick snooze, not least by the organisers, brought us to our drop off stations and a punctual arrival back at Hooton. A good time had been had by all. 

We are going to do it all again in 2015, our next tour heading to Oxford and as I write bookings have just opened. Please join us, and persuade as many other people to join us, to enable us to keep organising these very special days.

Laurence Wheeler


Pictures from the North Wales coast railway website

Short video links here

At Temple Meads

longer link here on West Somerset

climbing out of Watchet

at Lawrence Hill