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John Speller's Web Pages - GWR Broad Gauge - B&ER

Yeovil Branch
Although authorized as early as 1845, the Bristol & Exeter Railway's branch from Durston, east of Taunton, to Yeovil was nearly a decade in the making. The six miles between Yeovil and Martock were constructed but not opened to traffic in 1847-49, but then the money ran out and the work was suspended. Work resumed on the remaining thirteen miles in 1852 and the line finally opened on 1 October 1853. At first the trains terminated in Hendford, an eastern suburb of Yeovil, but with the opening of the B&E/L&SW joint station at Yeovil Town in 1860 the line was extended into the town center. There was also a connection to the Great Western Railway at Yeovil Pen Mill, provided in 1857. The intermediate stations on the line between Durston and Yeovil were Athelney, Langport (Langport West after Langport East on the Castle Cary to Taunton line opened in 1906), Martock and Montacute. Thorney & Kingsbury Halt was added in 1927.

Partly because of the congested state of Taunton station in the early days the Yeovil trains terminated at Durston, rather than running over the main line into Taunton. This meant that passengers wishing to travel between Yeovil and Taunton had to get out and wait for another train at Durston. This horrid arrangement continued until 1895, when the GWR provided some additional bay platforms allowing the Yeovil branch train to run into Taunton.

As the price for not building an independent narrow line to Bridgwater, the L&SWR was able to force the B&ER to lay mixed gauge between Highbridge and Durston on the main line and over the Yeovil branch. This was accomplished in November 1867. The B&ER purchased six narrow gauge 0-6-0 locomotives for running trains over these lines, but traffic proved so sparse that they were converted to broad gauge. They were ultimately converted back to narrow gauge again after the abolition of the broad gauge. The broad gauge lines were taken up in 1874 (at the same time the GWR converted the Somnerset, Wilts and Weymouth line at Pen Mill to narrow gauge), after which only narrow gauge trains ran on the Yeovil branch. This was a pity in that only a few weeks before the Associated Companies had begun slipping a coach from the "Flying Dutchman" at Bridgwater and working it on to Yeovil. Thereafter the passengers in the slipped coach had to change trains.
Yeovil Branch train at Durston in 1865 behind a Pearson 4-2-4 Tank. Photograph by Edward Jeboult.
The up "Flying Dutchman" behind renewed Gooch 4-2-2 "Iron Duke" passing the junction with the Yeovil Branch at Durston, 27 May 1891. Photograph by the Rev. A. H. Malan.
Langport Station in the floods of 1894. Note the stone chalet-style station and the origuinal B&E signalbox.
Another flood at Langport after the removal of the original signalbox in 1906
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