Bath & West Railway goes narrow gauge

THE 7¼in/5in-gauge Bath & West Railway is now primarily a narrow gauge-style railway.

The line is operated by the East Somerset Society of Model & Experimental Engineers (ESSMEE) at the Royal Bath & West Showground, Prestleigh near Shepton Mallet, Somerset.

Bath & West Railway’s new narrow gauge-type 2-4-2 (B&WR T3 of 2017) ‘club loco’ Mendip was in operation on October 7, during the railway’s annual open weekend. Unlike other running days operated in connection with showground events – with an admission charge and large numbers of the public carried – this event is open to all with free admission. It attracts many visiting locos, large and small, including standard gauge types. PETER NICHOLSON

Public running only occurs a few days a year, but the large number of passengers carried each day calls for modern, sophisticated 7¼in-gauge rolling stock with air brakes. The four sets of three heavy coaches need powerful motive power and are best catered for with ‘Tinkerbell’-size locos rather than scale model standard gauge types.

A new loco entered service in 2017, built especially for this purpose over a number of years by ESSMEE members in their club workshop. Based on Roger Marsh’s ‘Thomas II’ running gear design, this is Mendip, (left) a 2-4-2 tender loco. Finished in Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway blue it was formally launched into traffic by Sir John Cave, patron of the Royal Bath & West Show.

Running dates for this year have yet to be finalised, other than the confirmed annual agricultural show on May 30-June 2.

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