STAFF and volunteers at the West Somerset Railway (WSR) are preparing for their biggest special event for nearly three years.

A total of seven steam locomotives will be in operation at WSR's Spring Steam Gala, which will be held over four days from Thursday, May 5. 

The gala will also see an intensive service of 10 passenger trains run every day alongside two demonstration goods trains. 

Some of the trains will run the length of the railway from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard and then Norton Fitzwarren, while some others will provide a service from Williton. 

The railway’s Quantock Belle dining carriages will serve breakfasts and lunches, and buffet cars will be open. 

Vintage buses will be in use in Minehad to give tours of the resort town, and visitors to the station will be able to see work and operations in progress in the engine shed. 

During the gala, WSR’s fleet of five steam locomotives – including the newly-arrived Pannier Tank No 9466, which is still going strong after 70 years – will be joined by two visiting engines. 

Somerset County Gazette: Pannier tank No. 9466, which recently arrived on the railway, will be one of the attractions at the Spring Steam Gala. Photo: WSRPannier tank No. 9466, which recently arrived on the railway, will be one of the attractions at the Spring Steam Gala. Photo: WSR

They are a bright blue tank engine from the former Caledonian Railway in Scotland (making its first-ever trip to the West Country) and a British Rail standard locomotive returning to the WSR from the Severn Valley Railway after 30 years.

Some passenger trains will be double-headed with two locomotives working together throughout the Spring Steam Gala, and goods trains will “recall the past when heavy loads on steep gradients meant 'banking' engines had to provide extra power at the rear”.

A spokesperson for the WSR said: “Reduced fares are being offered for passengers to travel on up to all four days of the gala, while children can catch the trains on Sunday, May 8 with a grown-up for a bargain £1.

“The WSR had to cancel all galas during the first two years of the Covid pandemic, although special Winterlight and Santa trains last December proved a huge hit.

“The line will be joining celebrations of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June, followed a week later by a 1960s Diesel Gala on June 9 to 11, which will showcase an array of diesel locos.”

West Somerset Railway's Steam Spring Gala will start on Thursday, May 5 and finish on Sunday, May 8. 

For more information and to see the timetable, visit