John Speller's Web Pages West Somerset Mineral Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - Other Railways
West Somerset Mineral Railway
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One associates ghost towns with the Wild West, but there are a surprising number of them in Britain. One such was Brendon Hill, which in the nineteenth century was a burgeoning iron ore mining center, connected by the West Somerset Mineral Railway with the port of Watchet in Somerset. Besides its railway station and mines, it boasted shops, inns and places of worship. One of the latter, the "Beulah Chapel," has happily been preserved, and the Raleghs Cross Inn, is still happily flourishing. The 11-mile railway, incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1855. It was to extend from Watchet via Washford Roadwater, Combe Row [or Comberow], Brendon Hill, Luxborough Road and Gupworthy to Heath Poult. It opened to Roadwater in 1857, but did not reach Gupworthy until 1864, and never did reach its intended terminus of Heath Poult. The 4 ft. 8 in. gauge line paralleled the Bristol & Exeter Railway's 7 ft. 0 in. gauge Watchet Branch between Watchet and Watchet, and the two railways had rival east piers at Watchet Harbour. Between Combe Row and Brendon Hill there was a mile-long one-in-four incline worked by stationary steam power through cables attached to the trains. Passenger service between Watchet and Combe Row commenced in 1865 and it was possible to continue beyond Combe Row on the incline in an open truck "at one's own risk." The mines were all closed by 1883, after which there were only two mixed trains daily until all traffic ceased in 1898. An attempt was made to reopen the mines and railway in 1907, but this was short-lived and traffic ceased again in 1910. The rails were commandeered for the War Effort in 1917, though the railway was not officially abandoned until 1923.
Watchet Station, West Somerset Mineral Railway, 1908
Combe Row [or Comberow] Station, West Somerset Mineral Railway, 1908
Brendon Hill Station, West Somerset Mineral Railway, 1908
Photograph taken by James Date in around 1870 showing 0-6-0ST "Pontypool" at Cambe Row at the foot of the incline
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