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West Somerset Railway

At 20 miles, the West Somerset Railway (WSR) is the longest privately owned passenger rail line in the UK. It operates using heritage steam and diesel locomotives, but provides a means of transport to the local community as well as being a leisure attraction for visitors.

During the summer the railway employs 28 people, in addition to many volunteers. It carries 180,000 passengers each year, and has so far (end of 2003) transported over 3 million people.

Bishops Lydeard station on the West Somerset Railway, Somerset, England. The train is an ex-Great Western 2-8-0T Tank (serial 5224).

Another view of Bishops Lydeard station. The train is an ex-British Rail 4MT 2-6-4T Tank, built in 1958 (serial 80136).

The railway runs along the edge of the Quantock Hills between Bishops Lydeard near Taunton and Minehead on the coast, via Crowcombe Heathfield, Stogumber, Williton, Watchet, Washford, Blue Anchor and Dunster. The Exmoor National Park is also close.

Crocombe Heathfield station featured in the films The Land Girls and A Hard Day's Night.

The line was closed by British Railways under the Beeching cuts in January 1971, and reopened as a private heritage line at Easter 1976. Although it originally connected with the national rail network at Taunton, it is now necessary to catch a bus between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard, though the line from Taunton is used on Gala Weekends and by charter trains.

Pre-British Rail, it was part of the Great Western Railway. The earliest portion of the line was opened in March 1862 by the "West Somerset Railway Company", formed on August 17 1857. The line was built to broad gauge and designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was converted to standard gauge in one day in October 1882.

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