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Steam engines return to long lost station

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: December 12, 2013

  • Above, a classic scene on the Somerset & Dorset line - engines 40563 and 31906 haul the Bath to Bournemouth train on the climb from Radstock to Midsomer Norton. Right, Santa at the Station last year surprising children riding on a train and, below, the visiting steam engine Henbury

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The Somerset & Dorset Railway at Midsomer Norton will be running steam locomotive-hauled trains this Saturday and Sunday, and on Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22.

The events mark a gap of more than seven years since steam last ran there.

This weekend is also "Santa at the Station" event which will spells festive fun for the whole family.

The railway trust's home is at the restored station on the old Somerset & Dorset line. This holiday route to the seaside at Bournemouth was a firm favourite with travellers in its heyday, due to the fine Mendip Hills scenery.

The railway trust has painstakingly restored the station over the last 15 years and is recreating the glory days of this once busy, proud and iconic line.

The visiting steam engine Henbury, an 0-6-0 saddle tank, is quite an eye catcher, in green with yellow coach lining.

Henbury will be offering rides from 11am to 3.30pm on each of the four days. Given the steep gradient of the line at Midsomer Norton, it should make quite a sight. Henbury is also appropriate to the area – built in 1937 by the Atlas Works in Bristol for the Port authorities, it also spent some years at the now defunct railway project at Radstock.

The locomotive has been restored and now works in the summer months on the Bristol Harbour Railway.

Organisers say: "The railway at Midsomer Norton has a number of attractions, including: a buffet coach offering hot drinks and snacks, museum in converted stable block, showing a history of the line and many other artefacts, Second World War exhibit of the infamous 'Stop Line Green' based around a restored pillbox, rebuilt signal box demonstrating how the railway is 'controlled' and a shop offering new and second hand items of railway interest.

"There is also an adjacent nature reserve through which you can walk into the picturesque Somer Valley.

"The centre is free to visit, there are modest charges for rides and site tours. Donations are always gratefully received.

"In a year where Dr Beeching has been remembered for closing of thousands of miles of British railway lines, it's nice to see the once much-loved station reopened this Christmas.

"The station at Midsomer Norton was well known as a particularly pleasant example of a country stop – set in the picturesque Mendip hills and with steep gradients that made the steam engines work that bit harder.

"It was fondly described in the writings of Poet Laureate John Betjeman and its closure lamented in song by Flanders and Swan. As part of the Somerset and Dorset railway its closure with the line in 1966 seemed to be the end of something quintessentially English."

For further information visit www.sdjr.co.uk.

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