On Monday 4 March 2019 a 3 carriage train was operated on the Somerset & Dorset Railway at Midsomer Norton for the first time in 53 years! This train was operated as part of the preparations for the Diesel Locomotive Gala event that is planned for this coming weekend.
The operation of a 3 carriage train has been made possible thanks to the hard working team lead by local born Richard Witcombe who have restored a 1955 British Railways carriage from very poor internal condition to join the other two carriages currently in use. The team have had to completely re-panel the interior and even reinstate the area where a toilet a toilet was once located.
The working volunteers who traveled on this test train, including Richard, were thrilled and were heard to remark that this felt and looked like a proper train. It certainly looks impressive in its maroon livery.
The locomotive was driven by Roger Worner. He was accompanied on the footplate by Graham Findley and Phil Jones while the Guard was Barrie Papworth.
In the final months of the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway route between Bath and Bournemouth many of the trains were operated with only three carriages. British Rail had decided to close the line and it was perhaps the unattractive timings of the services that saw off passenger demand and so these short trains were adequate.
The last scheduled service over the line from Bath departed there at 6:10pm and was booked to call at Midsomer Norton 6:47pm on its way south to Templecombe. While in the opposite direction the last northbound train from Bournemouth was timetabled to call at Midsomer Norton at 9:27pm. It ran late, possibly because of the hold up en-route at Evercreech Junction where a ceremonial coffin adorned with a cross of yellow flowers attached to which was a note that read ‘The Somerset & Dorset Railway died today, 5 March 1966’
At least a part of the old S&D so beloved by many including the late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman has come back to life in Midsomer Norton. There is now the opportunity to enjoy the delights of a ‘proper train' so why not pay a visit to the station this weekend.