WEST Somerset Railway is celebrating a highly successful spring gala weekend – despite one of its main steam attractions being damaged by fire in a dramatic incident on the M5 on Saturday.

The brakes failed and a tyre blew out on a trailer carrying the historic steam locomotive 6100 Royal Scot, causing it to catch fire near Sedgemoor Services.

The engine, with scorch marks clearly visible on its front, finally made it to Bishops Lydeard station at 2am on Sunday. As the County Gazette went to press, Royal Scot had completed a test run and a spokesman said it was hoped it would be ready to appear in this coming weekend’s second section of the gala, from Thursday to Sunday.

Visitors hoping to see the engine are advised to call the railway, which runs between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard, or check its website for updates.

Paul Conibeare, West Somerset Railway’s general manager, said: “We would like to thank Joe Bowmer and Andrew Forster from the West Somerset Railway who attended to the problem at Sedgemoor services, supervising the transfer of the engine to an undamaged trailer and finishing their working day at nearly midnight.”

The first weekend of the gala, held over Saturday and Sunday and in glorious weather, was hailed a great success, with thousands of train enthusiasts and families flocking from far and wide to enjoy the spectacle.

The railway carried 3,000 people over the two days – 1,800 on Saturday and 1,200 on Sunday.

Railway spokesman John Simms said the highlight was the famous A4 engine Bittern – a classmate of Mallard, which occupies an honoured place in the National Railway Museum at York for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world. He said: “The shops and retail outlets at all stations did very well and thousands turned out for the two days as people made the most of the spring sunshine to see the beautiful views and breathtaking engines.”

Other gala attractions include West Country Class Pacific 34028 Eddystone, ‘Black 5’ 45231 Sherwood Forester, 4936 Kinlet Hall and Great Western tank engine 6695.