As soon as British Railways had closed the Minehead Branch to passengers, a train was run to recover all moveable items from the route, including items like platform seats, and also the three camping coaches that had occupied the siding at Blue Anchor and had been used by holidaymakers for years.
The coaches were purchased by individuals and were stored around Taunton, including a lengthy stay at Blinkhorn Sidings, near Silk Mill Crossing, to await the time when they could be returned to the West Somerset Railway. Blinkhorn sidings served the Army's Royal Ordnance Depot at Norton Fitzwarren, now completely transformed following closure and redevelopment. The coaches, however, survive.
In February 1976 the three coaches were drawn out from their lengthy layover at Blinkhorn Sidings and propelled the short distance to the boundary between the WSR and BR at milepost 165¾, from where they were collected by Bagnall 0-6-0ST Victor, driven by Harry Lee to be taken down the branch to their new home at Minehead.
In this clip we join the action at Williton, where the Somerset and Dorset Railway Museum Trust's stock was stored temporarily following its move down from Radstock, via the main line, earlier in the month. There's a glimpse of the unrestored Fowler 8F 2-8-0 locomotive 53808, after which the camping coach train arrives. We also catch a glimpse of Bill Thrush, an early day's volunteer who did a lot to tidy the site at Williton.
We next see the train at Blue Anchor, where it was the first WSR train to pass under working signals, following a lot of hard work to make everything work properly, it having been left unmaintained for five years in the salty sea air.
Finally the train is seen at Minehead. The lack of a run-round loop (BR had removed the pointwork at the seaside end, to allow the re-railing of Duchess of Hamilton for her journey from display at Butlin's into preservation the previous November) there was much interesting shunting involving wire ropes to release Victor.
Eventually, the camping coaches were moved over onto what was then the isolated loop for the Bay platform, where they remained for several years as accommodation. Much later, rails were put down on the site of the former siding at Blue Anchor, and the three coaches were moved there.
Filmed by Bill Gates, digitised and donated by Peter Cattemole and edited by Nick Jones who also wrote the notes.
Video produced by wsrpix