The last run of one of the West’s great holiday express trains will be recreated tomorrow, with artist and steam enthusiast David Shepherd and two veteran railmen along for the ride.
West Somerset Railway is using this year’s Autumn Gala to mark the 50 years since the Manchester-Bournemouth Pines Express last steamed holidaymakers from Bath Green Park to Bournemouth West on the much-loved Somerset and Dorset line.
The volunteer-run railway will pay homage to that last autumn run with a train hauled by guest loco Black Prince, which is owned by Mr Shepherd and is the sister engine to Evening Star, which pulled the original Pines Express on that final journey, on September 8, 1962.
Tomorrow’s recreation runs on the 11.55am Minehead to Bishops Lydeard service, and on the 14.05pm from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead. Both runs will be non-stop.
The festivities began yesterdaywith the specially hired-in Stanier Black 5 hauling the first train from Bishops Lydeard, followed by Black Prince. Departures from Minehead had a Great Western flavour, headed by locomotives 4936 “Kinlet Hall”, which was another guest, and 6960 “Raveningham Hall”.
The gala continues through the weekend until the last trains leave Bishops Lydeard and Minehead at 5.45pm on Sunday.
Ten steam engines will be at work including “Ivatt 4MT” 43106, which is not only making its debut on the West Somerset Railway, but will be the first machine of its type ever to work over the railway line to Minehead.
Around the train services there will be model railways in action, museums and depots open to the public, book launches and signings and for those who want to try their hand briefly at the controls of a steam engine “Driver for a Fiver” at Minehead station on all four days of the Gala between 11.15am and 4pm.
For details, visit the website at www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk or call 01643 704996.