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You are in: Somerset > Places > Places features > Turntable turnaround for West Somerset Railway

Locomotive on turntable

The station opened in 1856

Turntable turnaround for West Somerset Railway

A new £6m development of Minehead is hoped to bring the romance- and tourists- back to West Somerset Railway.

West Somerset Railway has long been an integral part of Minehead. The iconic trains have long seen couples gaze adoringly into each others' eyes while families with young children run around marvelling at the locomotives.

These romantic images seem to be part of a by-gone era but now thanks to a £6m redevelopment of the area, many more people will soon be able to enjoy them.

When the work is completed, the area will see a re-vamped station complete with a new locomotive turntable and visitor centre, an office block, 110 car park and an open area which will be used for farmers' markets.

Architects drawing of the new development

The development will see farmers markets

Justin Kerr-Peterson from West Somerset Railway said: "It's going to be unique and exciting for the county and hopefully it'll attract lots and lots of people."

He said as it's not a commuter station, people are there because they want to be so the station has a relaxed demeanour.

The development is part of an on-going reinvention of the area which is aimed at boosting the local economy by providing jobs. In July 2007 the line from Bristol Temple Meads to Minehead, which was closed in 1971, was re-opened making the area a lot more accessible.

Pivotal turntable

Central to the re-development is the re-introduction a piece of 19th Century technology which was made famous by The Beatles as they used Minehead station during the filming of A Hard Day's Night.

"We needed a place with a turntable to turn the train around so that we could travel back [to London] for the afternoon. Minehead had one in those days, so it just made sense," said director Richard Lester.

Old turntable

The old turntable was removed in 1968

Turntables works by carefully balancing the locomotive, which can weigh 165 tonnes, on a central pivot which is then manually rotated round. The benefit of this is that the station will be able accept incoming steam charter trains from the national network, to turn and service them and send them back again.

"The new turntable will make Minehead more desirable. It's very exciting- there's not many left in the the country. It will be the focal point of the town," said Justin.

The design of the station means that people will be able to stand on a viewing platform to see how one man can single-handedly turn around a locomotive.

"Everyone will be able to see it as it'll be slap bang in the middle," said Justin.

Building work at Minehead train station

The traditional railway line is 23 miles

Turntable turnaround

But the use of a turntable is not completely new to Minehead. In 1968 a previous turntable was taken out of the station as steam trains stopped going to and from the station in 1971 however it was back due to popular demand in 1976.

Parts of the old turntable have now been dug up as part of the development along with other relics.

Glass bottles from Arnold and Hancock's brewery have been discovered along with unknown artifacts.

Alvin Horsfall from Somerset County Council said: "This turntable will help the West Somerset Railway encourage even more visitors to what is already recognised as a fantastic tourist attraction."

West Somerset Railway general manager, Paul Conibeare, said: "This is a turning point for Minehead and the West Somerset railway and will attract excursion trains from all over the UK.

"It is also a tribute to the dreams of the pioneers who, 30 years ago, brought back the turntable from north Wales. We are pleased to be working with our partners to turn their dreams into reality."

last updated: 05/05/2008 at 18:14
created: 04/02/2008

You are in: Somerset > Places > Places features > Turntable turnaround for West Somerset Railway

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