East Somerset Railway

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East Somerset Railway
2011 at Cranmore station - gents toilet.JPG
Cranmore railway station is the line's headquarters
Locale Somerset
Commercial operations
Original gauge 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) Brunel gauge
Preserved operations
Length 2 12 mi (4.0 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Opened 9 November 1858
1 March 1862 Extension opened
1874 Converted to
4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Closed to passengers 1963
Closed 1985
Preservation history
1972 Restoration (of the ESR) begins
1974 ESR Granted Light Railway Order
1975 ESR re-opened
1981 ESR extended to Merryfield halt
1985 ESR extended into Mendip Vale
Headquarters Cranmore
East Somerset Railway
Cheddar Valley line
to Yatton
Wells (Tucker Street)
Somerset & Dorset Joint Ry
to Glastonbury
Wells (Priory Road)
Wells East Somerset
Shepton Mallet (High Street)
Somerset & Dorset Joint Ry
Mendip Vale
Maesdown Bridge
Old Tramway Bridge
Merryfield Lane Halt
Cranmore West
Engine sheds and sidings
Merehead Quarry
Heart of Wessex Line
to Weymouth
Strap Lane Halt
FromeNational Rail
Heart of Wessex Line
to Bristol
East Somerset Railway is located in Somerset
East Somerset Railway
East Somerset Railway shown within Somerset
(grid reference ST665435)

The East Somerset Railway is a 2 12-mile (4 km) heritage railway in Somerset, running between Cranmore and Mendip Vale. Prior to the Beeching Axe, the railway was once part of the former Cheddar Valley line that ran from Witham to Yatton, meeting the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway at Wells.


The East Somerset Railway Company was incorporated under the East Somerset Railway Act on 5 June 1856[1][2] and was built as a 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge line. The line was originally between Witham railway station and Shepton Mallet and this line opened on 9 November 1858. It was planned by Mr. Brunel and built by engineer Mr. Ward and contractor Mr. Brotherwood. The station buildings at Shepton and Witham Friary, as well as the bridges along the route, were constructed of Inferior Oolite from nearby Doulting Stone Quarry.[3] Shepton was now 129 miles (208 km) from London by rail, a journey of just over four hours.[4]

Four years later the line was extended to Wells; this part of the line was opened on 1 March 1862. The East Somerset Railway was bought by the Great Western Railway on 2 December 1874, shortly after it was converted to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge.

In 1878, the GWR joined the East Somerset line with the Cheddar Valley line to Wells, which had been built by the Bristol and Exeter Railway, by obtaining running rights over a section of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway and running its trains through the S&DJR Wells station at Priory Road, though GWR trains did not stop at Priory Road until 1934. At this stage, the main traffic became the through trains from Yatton to Witham and the East Somerset Railway station in Wells closed, with Wells (Tucker Street) becoming the station for the city on the line. The Yatton to Witham service remained in use with the GWR and later BR until passenger service finally ceased in 1963 as a result of the Beeching Axe, however trains carrying bitumen continued until 1985.


In 1971/72, the artist David Shepherd came across, viewed and later purchased Cranmore station and a section of the track to house and run his two locomotives; the BR 2-10-0 Class 9F No. 92203 "Black Prince" and BR Standard 4 4-6-0 No. 75029 'The Green Knight'.[5] In 1973, the line opened offering Brake Van rides before extending first to Merryfield in 1980 and then to Mendip Vale and into Cranmore station itself in 1985.

Today the railway plays host to a variety of preserved diesel and steam locomotives.

The East Somerset Railway only operates the line between Cranmore, Cranmore West, Merryfield Lane Halt and Mendip Vale. Between the last two sections, the train runs through the Doulting Railway Cutting Site of Special Scientific Interest.[6] The section between Cranmore and the mainline is used for heavy quarry traffic to the nearby Merehead Quarry.

In 1991, a new station building was constructed at Cranmore which now includes a cafe, booking office, gift shop and toilets. The platform then extends to the old station which is now a museum. On the platform is an old K4 red telephone box which incorporates a stamp machine and post box. It was made around 1927 and is one of only 50 made to that design.[7] Opposite the platform is a signal box dating from 1904 and is the standard GWR pattern of the period. Close to Cranmore station are the engine sheds and workshop (known together as Cranmore Shed) which were built in 1973, (during the preserved line's restoration at the time).

Cranmore Traincare and Maintenance and Services (CTMS) was set up in 1995 at the Cranmore base of the ESR. They carry out professional repairs to carriages and bodywork overhauls on Diesel Locomotives. CTMS is based opposite the ESR loco workshop in a separate preservation era shed.

An order by the Secretary of State for Transport in 2005 allowed a further 600 metres of track to be used.[8]

On 25 March 2007, the East Somerset Railway announced that it had received a £7,500 grant from Shepton 21 Group, a local organisation, set up to regenerate the area around Shepton Mallet. The money was to be spent on conducting a feasibility study into extending the line towards Shepton Mallet, with a possible new terminus at Cannards Grave, on the outskirts of Shepton Mallet.[9]

In recent years the ESR has gained a reputation for restorations and overhauls at its Cranmore headquarters.[citation needed] In 2014, LMS Ivatt Class 2 No. 46447 was restored to working order from scrapyard condition, being followed by LMS Ivatt Class 2 2-6-2T No. 41313 in 2017 for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. It is currently overhauling GWR 5205 Class No. 5239 Goliath for the Dartmouth Steam Railway.

The route of the ESR[edit]


The railway hosts several events throughout the year

  • "Dining Trains"
  • "Family Days"
  • Santa Special trains
  • "The way we were" days
  • "Steam Gala"
  • "Spooky Specials"
  • "Paw Patrol" and "Tractor Ted" days


Operational steam locomotives[edit]

Number & Name Description History and Current Status Livery Photograph
No. 1719 Lady Nan Andrew Barclay Sons & Co.
No. 1719 "Lady Nan" was built in 1920. It was delivered to J. and R. Howie Ltd., Hurlford Fireclay Works, near Kilmarnock on 23 December 1920 and was known as 'Hurlford Fireclay Works No. 2'. The locomotive worked there until it was sold in April 1959 to Glenfield & Kennedy ltd. of Kilmarnock. There it was repaired using parts from a 1903 Barclay locomotive and named 'Glenfield No. 2'.

By early 1966 rail traffic at Glenfield had diminished and the locomotive was offered for sale, but was not sold until March 1972 when a local scrap merchant effected the purchase. Later that month, the locomotive was resold to Mr. R.P.Weisham just before scrapping was to commence. The locomotive was moved for storage purposes to the National Coal Board at Backworth, Northumberland on 14 April 1972. On 6 May 1973, the loco was moved to Radstock for a further period of storage, until 5 November 1975 when the loco was moved to Cranmore.

'Glenfield No.2' entered Cranmore Works during 1978 and was the subject of a complete general overhaul. Being completed and fitted with vacuum brake gear, 'Glenfield' emerged in 1985 in blue livery and was renamed 'Lady Nan'.

For several years, 'Lady Nan' was loaned to the National Railway Museum, but it returned to Cranmore during 2000. It returned to service following overhaul in 2017.

Caledonian Railway Blue Ln96.jpg
No. 5637 GWR 5600 Class
No. 5637 was built in 1925. It entered traffic at Cardiff Cathays shed in late September 1925, but was transferred six weeks later to Barry shed and was used on local services in the Newport and Cardiff districts.

No. 5637 spent all its life in South Wales, and was withdrawn from traffic in June 1964 and was sold the Woodham Brothers arriving at Barry scrapyard in September 1964.

In August 1974, No. 5637 became the 61st locomotive to escape from Barry, when it was sold to the Birmingham Railway Museum at Tyseley. In 1981 it was resold, without any restoration having been carried out, to Thamesdown Borough Council for leasing to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway. Some time after, it was purchased by a group of volunteers at the Swindon & Cricklade Railway.

In 1998, after almost 18 years of restoration, No. 5637 was steamed for the first time since 1964. The locomotive was subsequently transferred by road to the East Somerset Railway for running in, and stayed there ever since. It has become the primary engine at the ESR, running most of the services. Boiler ticket expires in 2020.

BR Lined Green with the Late Crest 5637 east somerset railway 050507 d.adkins.jpg
No. 46447 LMS Ivatt Class 2
No. 46447 was built in 1950. It was first allocated the Crewe North, not far from its birthplace of Crewe Works, though moved to Workington within months to replace many elderly LNWR locomotives in the local area. It was moved to various sheds in North Wales and Derbyshire, right up until 1966, subsequently sold for scrap to Dai Woodham. It was rescued in 1972 as the 20th locomotive to leave Barry Scrapyard and moved to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre. No. 46447 later moved to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway in 2008. In 2012, an agreement was made between the ESR and the IoW which saw No. 46447 move to Cranmore in exchange for LB&SCR E1 No. 32110 Burgundy. It arrived at Cranmore in November 2012 and it was launched back into service following restoration in October 2014. It will now run on the ESR for 10 years. BR Lined Black with the Late Crest 46447 in front of Cranmore MPD

Steam locomotives under overhaul[edit]

Number & Name Description History and Current Status Livery Photograph
No. 31 RSH
No. 31 was built in 1950. It worked for the National Coal Board at Whittle Colliery throughout its working life before being withdrawn. It was originally sold to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway before being sold to the Avon Valley Railway. It is now at Cranmore and has been stripped down for overhaul. It requires a new firebox. n/a
No. 5239 Goliath GWR 5205 Class
No. 5239 was built in 1923 at Swindon Works, being designed for pulling heavy coal trains in the Welsh Valleys. It was based at Neath throughout its working life before being withdrawn from service in 1963 and sold to Woodham Brothers scrapyard. It was rescued in 1973 and moved to the Dartmouth Steam Railway in 1976 where it was restored to working order in 1978, gaining the name Goliath. Having previously steamed in 2015, the locomotive has moved to Cranmore for overhaul which started in late 2017 and has a timescale of roughly 2 years. GWR Lined Green with 'Great Western' Lettering 5239 Paignton.jpg

Former resident locomotives include 9f 92203 "Black Prince", Standard 4mt 4-6-0 75029 "The Green Knight", GWR Castle 5029 "Nunney Castle" GWR 14xx 1450, LMS 3F 47493 and GNR J52 68846.


Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap · Google Maps
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX
Point Coordinates
(links to map & photo sources)
Cranmore railway station 51°11′06″N 2°28′41″W / 51.185°N 2.478°W / 51.185; -2.478 (Cranmore railway station) Eastern start of railway line
Cranmore West railway station 51°11′02″N 2°28′59″W / 51.184°N 2.483°W / 51.184; -2.483 (Cranmore West railway station)
Merryfield Lane railway station 51°10′52″N 2°29′53″W / 51.181°N 2.498°W / 51.181; -2.498 (Merryfield Lane railway station)
Mendip Vale railway station 51°10′48″N 2°31′12″W / 51.180°N 2.520°W / 51.180; -2.520 (Mendip Vale railway station) Western terminus
Western end of line 51°10′48″N 2°31′08″W / 51.180°N 2.519°W / 51.180; -2.519 (Western end of line)


  1. ^ "Railway Magazine", July 1958
  2. ^ "East Somerset Railway Company". The National Archives. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "Opening of the East Somerset Railway". Wells Journal. 13 November 1858. Retrieved 26 August 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ Kelly's Directory of Somersetshire: With the City of Bristol. Kelly's Directory. 1883. p. 302. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "History". East Somerset Railway. East Somerset Railway. Retrieved 8 July 2008. 
  6. ^ "Doulting Railway Cutting" (PDF). SSSI citation sheet. English Nature. Retrieved 8 July 2008. 
  7. ^ "Cranmore Station". East Somerset Railway. Retrieved 8 July 2008. 
  8. ^ "The East Somerset Railway Order". Department of Transport. Archived from the original on 3 March 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  9. ^ "Press Release". East Somerset Railway. Retrieved 8 July 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Phillips, Derek (2001). Steaming through the Cheddar Valley. Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 0-86093-551-5. 

External links[edit]