Record breaking Christmas Events at Midsomer Norton South
The 14:45 departure from Midsomer Norton South Station on Sunday 19th December 2021 marked the last train of an extremely successful Christmas season for the Somerset and Dorset Railway at Midsomer Norton. Despite the challenges of 2021 and the ever-changing COVID situation many records were broken. Over 3000 passengers were carried along the line across 6 running days including more than 900 children. Two of the running days were hauled by our resident Sentinel locomotive No. 7109 Joyce and four by our visiting locomotive Kitson 5459 Austin One. For the first time in the railway’s preservation history all three coaches were steam heated thanks to the work carried out on the Trust’s BSK carriage in November. Crews were present 4 hours before the first scheduled train of each day to prepare the locomotives and provide steam heat to the carriages.
Regular local visitors were supplemented with a large number of first time visitors to the railway who had travelled from areas including Birmingham and Bournemouth. Passengers were treated to a warm return trip in decorated compartments and carriages before heading to Santa’s Grotto in the newly renovated CCT Van and the Buffet carriage. Over the 6 days, Father Christmas welcomed 963 children presenting each with a small gift to tide them over until their main presents arrive on Christmas day. The Buffet coach served 2000 mince pies, 288 bottles of mulled wine, 900 chocolate lollipops, 900 juice drinks and 900 packs of gingerbread men.
In the run up to the events and over the six days the team of dedicated volunteers worked hard to prepare the station, locomotives, carriages, buffet coach and Santa’s Grotto (pictured here). The national supply chain issues did not evade us either with the sourcing of items to stock the buffet coach initially proving difficult. As the Omicron variant situation progressed across December, slight changes had to be made to the way each day was conducted and working practices adapted.
A different challenge came along on the middle weekend with a clash of local events putting pressure on car parking. This was overcome with the provision of a free vintage bus service from the nearest parking - this worked very well and was seen as a nice addition to the experience.
On the final day a mechanical failure with the 03 diesel locomotive proved no issue to the operational volunteers who undertook a swift locomotive swap with the 08 diesel ensuring that the trains continued to run to the scheduled timetable.
Our focus remained on ensuring that everyone who visited us had a good festive experience. The response from the visiting passengers was overwhelmingly positive with comments in person, on social media and on the events feedback page praising the experience and all the welcoming volunteer staff.. Following a short break over Christmas the team will be coming together to review all feedback and we hope to build upon this in 2022 to further refine the unique offering that is provided at Midsomer Norton.
Our final event of the Christmas season was to be a Steam and Mince Pie Special on New Years Day 2022. However due to the uncertainty with the Covid situation, combined with the need to do our best to protect our passengers and volunteers the reluctant decision has been made to cancel this event. The Mince Pies and Mulled Wine which had been reserved for this event have been equally distributed between the Wells Food Bank and Paulton Memorial Hospital (Which can be seen from the railway).
We wish all our customers and volunteers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and we look forward to seeing you at Midsomer Norton in 2022.