Out & About

Coach tour to Minehead Lifeboat Station and West Somerset Railway - 19th May 2016

David Verghese has kindly provided the following report of the coach tour to Minehead on 19th May 2016.

It was a nice late Spring day when members of the Society, friends and guests caught the coach from our usual starting point in Keynsham, for our annual May outing -- this time to the north Somerset resort of Minehead.

Our first port of call was the Minehead Lifeboat Station which, we learnt from one of the lifeboat crewmembers, was built back in 1901. It has two lifeboats – the larger one is B824 which is a B-class Atlantic 85 rigid inflatable lifeboat with radar and VHF direction finding equipment, capable of a speed of 35 knots; the smaller one being a D-class Inshore boat capable of 25 knots.

We heard that both lifeboats had been last called out by the Coastguard on the evening of March 20 when a yacht had run aground on rocks off Watchet harbour. After good co-ordination work by the coastguard and, with the active participation of both crews, the yacht was safely back in her berth at Watchet by 3am next morning.

After retiring to various local hostelries for lunch, the group headed for the rail terminus of the West Somerset Railway. A hastily arranged trip around the engine renovation sheds proved to be of much interest and intrigue to members as engineering centre staff graciously explained the work being undertaken on virtually stripping the famous locomotive King Edward 1 (6024) back to its barebones state and finally, it is hoped, full restoration via this major overhaul. We sensed the enormity of the project but admired the absolute positive manner in which the carefully planned work was being meticulously undertaken. Other engines and rolling stock were undergoing routine service and maintenance by a mix of full-time staff and volunteers.

A number of locomotives and diesel trains were coming in and out of the station, which brought a euphoric state of nostalgia for many of the older members of the Society. It was clear that ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’ held a special memory for them, before finally the group boarded their reserved carriage section of a steam-hauled train for the journey to Bishop’s Lydeard. The West Somerset is the longest Heritage Railway in England and the journey allowed much debating time for discussion of the particular features of ‘Kings’, ‘Castles’, ‘Halls’ and ‘Manors’. The rolling hills, occasional castle, and wooded valleys of the line provided a picturesque background to the cream tea that we enjoyed – much to the delight of 4-year old Lotte Marston, the youngest member of the party.

The journey back took in the interesting views from our Centurion coach vantage point towards the Royal Portbury Dock and Avonmouth Dock (both part of The Bristol Port Company) before the approach to, and passage under, that most iconic of Brunel’s legacy to the nation – the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was a good day for all and our thanks go to Society vice-Chairman Geoff Williams for doing the arrangements to make it a success.

A selection of photographs accompanies this report.

David Verghese.



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