Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Excursion trains and motorcyclists bring visitor boost to Minehead

TWO of the busiest days of the year so far were experienced on Saturday and Sunday by the West Somerset Railway as it welcomed 1,000 visitors on excursions to Minehead.
With the sun shining and its own steam trains also running with excellent loadings, the railway’s staff and volunteers had a busy build-up period and weekend which also provided an economic boost for other local businesses.
Saturday was enlivened by the arrival of two excursion trains from the national main line network.
Two Class 67 diesels worked a special from Altrincham on behalf of the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users Group, which was making its second trip to West Somerset.
The second train was a First Great Western local excursion from Westbury, Bath, Bristol, and Weston-Super-Mare, which was a charity fund-raiser for the Railway Children charity which helps orphaned and homeless children who live at railway stations in the developing world.
First reports suggested the special train, where First Great Western staff worked for free, had raised more than £8,000.
On Sunday, there was a return by the members of the Westland Vintage Motorcyclists, whose 2008 visit was in total contrast to last year - exchanging the hottest Sunday of the year for the wettest.
The bikers began their day with a snack breakfast at Bishops Lydeard station at 8 am before riding to Minehead, some by WSR trains and others on their own machines. The railway also ran a special train from Minehead to Blue Anchor and back for the club members, who, after spending time in Minehead, continued their ‘Spirit of the 60s’ day out with a run over Exmoor before heading back to South Somerset and Dorset.
WSR general manager Paul Conibeare said: “We had to do quite a lot of stock movements and shunting before the weekend.
“This was to clear enough space in the sidings at Minehead to allow us to welcome the trains and then keep their stock stabled while the passengers were enjoying themselves in the town and our own steam services were coming and going, bringing in more visitors.
“However, when we saw the platform full of happy faces it felt a very worthwhile exercise and a nice foretaste of the busy summer to come.”
The next special event on the Minehead Station platform will be on Saturday, May 24, when the railway will host a jazz evening featuring the Tone Valley Jazz Band. Later in the summer, the first of the year’s two steam-hauled excursions to Minehead will arrive.
  • Our photographs show (TOP) two excursion trains and platform full of people at Minehead on Saturday. Photo by Martin Southwood; (BELOW) the First Great Western charity train passing through Crowcombe Heathfield. Photo by Cameron Walker.

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