SOME GENERAL INFORMATION AND BACKGROUND
The first 10 years

More photos can be found HERE

In the early 1990's, with the increasing popularity of railway preservation it became known to local railway staff and enthusiasts that the future of the turntable at Yeovil Junction was being discussed with a view to disposal to a preserved railway. The 70ft turntable, built by Cowans and Sheldon of Glasgow in 1947, had been left in situ after the end of steam on the Waterloo - Exeter route, possibly as a result of the difficulty of removal. It had seen very occasional use for turning engineering machines etc but it had come to prominence during the late 1980's when the Salisbury Area Manager for British Rail, Gerald Daniels, had organised various special events including steam specials from Salisbury to Yeovil Junction.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. 34092 City of Wells with full Golden Arrow regalia. (Photo courtesy David Coombs)


One unique train ran on 23rd July 1988 when unmodified West Country Bulleid Pacific No. 34092 "City of Wells" hauled the "Blackmore Vale Express" between Romsey and Yeovil Junction. Between Templecombe and Yeovil this train ran on the down relief line and was paced by a Class 33 and Inspection Saloon running on the up/down reversible line. This and other steam specials used the old Platform 3 at Yeovil Junction (not in regular use) and the locomotives used the still serviceable turntable before returning to Salisbury. Mr Daniels and his staff have been rightly praised many times for their enterprising spirit and hard work in arranging the events and promoting the railway in general.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. 4498 'Sir Nigel Gresley' on an early visit to the Yeovil Junction turntable.


1993/1994
The removal of the turntable would have meant that steam would have been discouraged from this part of the West Country and a group of concerned individuals called a meeting which was held on 17 January 1994 at the RAFA Club in Sherborne, Dorset to discuss the way ahead. Enthusiastic support led to the forming of the South West Main Line Steam Group with the aims of preserving the turntable and providing the infrastructure to encourage main line steam (water facilities, undercover accomodation). The Group was successful in achieving Charitable status and turned itself into a Company limited by guarantee. Along with it's main line steam aims, the Company is required to further public education in 19th and 20th century railways particularly in the London and South Western Railway Company.

After a short term lease was agreed to allow work on site to begin a 99 year lease was signed covering the old Clifton Maybank branch and the turntable.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. One of the first tasks was to water 60009 Union of South Africa on the main line during its journey through Yeovil Junction to Exeter. A noisy departure followed!


The first job undertaken was the renovation of the locomotive inspection pit. The turntable followed (first working party 21 June 1994) and when the vacuum mechanism was renovated the manual pushing round of engines could cease. Fortunately this was achieved relatively easily as the turntable was in a satisfactory condition. The only problem now is that air braking of locomotives is increasingly common and so, on occasions it's back to the brute force method!

The provision of permanent watering facilities has taken rather longer to complete. After some searching, a disused water tank and staging was located at the Morlands factory site just outside Glastonbury, Somerset. After preparatory work this was lifted to the ground on 13 July 1994 and dismantled with the parts being delivered to Yeovil. The panels had to be individually renovated and repaired as necessary with the fixings also receiving attention. Re-assembly started during Spring 1996. At the time of writing (11/2000) walkways around the tank and handrails are complete with only lower walkways near the control valves remain to be completed. An easier access ladder was installed in 2007, completing the work (until repainting is required)!

On 6 September 1994, 35028 Clan Line became the first engine to use the turntable under the new Steam Company. Watering was carried out using a loaned tanker and hired-in pump.

Much interest, both locally and wider afield was generated by the first Yeovil Railway Festival held on 8 & 9 October 1994 which was opened by Jim Morgan, Director of Railtrack South West. Class M7 loco 30053 (as 30129) ran shuttles to Yeovil Pen Mill and trips to Maiden Newton while 70000 Britannia and examples of classes 47 (Lady Godiva-Waterman Railways), 33 and 37 were on display. 828 hauled a steam excursion through Yeovil on the Saturday and returned from Bristol for display on the Sunday. What a hectic weekend!

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
Class M7 30053 (as 30129) rests
between duties at Yeovil Junction
during the first Railway Festival.
CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
70000 Britannia and 828 displayed
either side of the former
main down platform.
1995
The Committee considered that the site would benefit from its own steam locomotive and after some searching agreement was reached with 6000 Locomotive Association to move their Peckett 0-4-0 engine "Pectin" and a GWR Toad brakevan to the site. "Pectin" had just been fully overhauled and was looking for a kind home following the departure of the Association from their long-term residence at Bulmers Cider in Hereford. The move was financed by the Yeovil Locomotive Register in January 1995 with South Somerset District Council also helping to set up brake van rides with a generous grant.

The Clifton Maybank branch had long been neglected, having been closed as a running line in June 1937. Volunteers undertook a significant amount of trackwork so that the branch did not connect directly into Railtrack lines. Ironically this restored the layout of many years ago! Additionally rotten sleepers were replaced by ones dumped during the singling of the main line in the 1960's on land now leased by the Steam Company. The official re-opening of the Clifton Maybank branch took place on 5 November 1995 when "Pectin" and the brakevan proceeded very gingerly down to the bufferstops!

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. Peckett 0-4-0 'Pectin' makes a first careful trip down the Clifton Maybank branch after the track had been renovated by hard-working volunteers.


On 16 & 17 December 1995 the first Santa Specials were run - these have become a regular and popular feature ever since although Santa's Grotto has improved over the years!

1996
The 72C Traction Group was formed to care for diesel locomotives on site. Class 20 20188 (D8188) arrived on 6 December 1996.

1997
A further milestone was reached on 25 January 1997 when Hertfordshire Railtours ran an excursion from Paddington to the site hauled by Merchant Navy 35028 "Clan Line". Participants were treated to Clog Dancers, escorted walks to the Jack The Treacle Eater folly. A second Treacle Eater excursion has since run so we must have done something right!

On 4 and 5 October 1997 the second Yeovil Railway Festival was run once again opened by Jim Morgan now Director of G B Railways. USA tank 30075 was in the upside sidings whilst S15 828 and M7 tank 30053 took turns at operating a shuttle service to Castle Cary. D8188 was named "River Yeo" by Murray Brown, editor Rail Express. Two failed Class 73 locomotives, 73104 and 73128, were unofficially on display with an engineers train! On the second day Hertfordshire Railtours ran an HST excursion from Paddington.

1998
The first rail excursion to run from Yeovil for many years happened on 21 March 1998 when an HST organised by Pathfinder Railtours (The Heart of Wales Excursioner), in conjunction with the Steam Company ran to mid-Wales.

D8188 and Class M7 30053 were exhibited at the Bournemouth Rail Fair after collection by 47016 "Atlas". The Class 20 arrived back on 19 May behind 33025. The sales team were also busy at the Fair, promoting the Steam Company.

We were then offered two redundant goods wagons by Port of Bristol Authority, free of charge, provided transport was paid. These arrived on 3 June 1998 and a further 4 have since arrived. They were taken into the ownership of the Authority during the 1950's and 1960's and can be identified as belonging to Southern, Great Western and London and North Eastern Railways.

More excursions followed to Appelby (The Pennine Excursioner on 3 June 1998)

1999
and to Spalding (The Spalding and Lincoln Excursioner on 1 May 1999). The former used heritage diesel Class 45 Ixion from Crewe-Appelby-Crewe. On 2 May 1999 two very different trains were run from Yeovil Junction to Weymouth Town and Quay top and tailed behind 37250 and 73106 and 73138. The Class 37 was detached/attached at Weymouth Town. The Wey-Farer trains were the first to the Quay for some 4 years and caused great interest with visitors to Weymouth as we proceeded at walking pace or slower. Several vehicles had to be removed from the road to allow our passage, having ignored the Railtrack notices and yellow lines!

The next major event was the opening of the Engine Shed on 2 October 1999. The day had started with the servicing of 73096 on the Mid-Hants Green train. This was passing through Yeovil bound for Exeter. A little time later 35028 Clan Line and Treacle Eater 2 ended their journey from London in Platform 3. At 2pm the official proceedings began with Chairman of South Somerset District Council, Cllr Nick Speakman speaking with the Mayor of Yeovil Cllr John Cruddas in attendance. Two young ladies who had demanded Junior Membership be established, Alexandra McConnell and Tracy Ludgate unveiled a brass plaque to commemorate the event whilst resident Peckett 0-4-0 Pectin broke the tape to declare the Shed open. It was announced that National Railway Museum would lend 4 wagons to Steam Company for 10 years in exchange for their restoration.
CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
Pectin runs through the Engine Shed
to mark the opening
(Photo courtesy David Coombs)
CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION
D8188 River Yeo and 35028 Clan Line
wait alongside
(Photo courtesy David Coombs)



CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION
The three locos on display
(Photo courtesy David Coombs)


The first main line steam engine into the Shed was GWR King Class, King Edward I. This was due to stay for 2 weeks but ended by staying for almost 3 months! The engine was to run light from Weymouth on 13 November 1999 after working an excursion from Dorridge. Most unfortunately the engine became a complete failure because of valve problems and had to be towed behind a Class 66 from Weymouth arriving at Yeovil at 12.45 am! Major repairs were required and it was not until 2 March 2000 that the engine was towed behind another Class 66 to West Somerset Railway for proving tests. The Shed had proved its worth by providing secure accommodation!

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. 6024 King Edward I undergoes a steam test after repairs.


The reason for the King's visit was to operate the first steam excursion from Yeovil, The Capital King, to London Victoria on 29 November 1999. Fortunately, Pathfinder Railtours were able to hire Flying Scotsman for the trip and on the night before, two of the most prestigious main line engines were on site together.

2000
This was repeated early in January when Flying Scotsman took over from a diesel at Yeovil for a trip via Exeter.

The Company had by this time turned attention to wagons and had acquired a rather motley collection of Box vans, conflats, Port of Bristol wagons and the National Railway Museum items.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE A FULL SCREEN VERSION. An ICI Nitric Acid tanker built in 1935 arrives on a low loader with a London & South Western Open Carriage Truck built in 1895.


Some of these could be moved by road (using a specially constructed sledge) under a low bridge. The remainder could only be moved by rail. D6525 from Mid-Hants Railway arrived on 6 May 2000 to transfer the remaining 7 wagons from upside to downside. This included 2 very old NRM wagons of 1917 and 1935 vintage!
CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
Class 33 D6525 with the pretty unique
goods train of Company
and National Railway Museum wagons
moving across Railtrack metals.
CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
Peckett 0-4-0 'Pectin' shunting
the newly arrived wagons


Any way the move was completed without problem and the Class 33 returned to Mid-Hants with Class 20 "River Yeo" for main line certification. This left "Pectin" as the only engine on site although it is expected that D8188 will return in due course.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
General site view taken from
Water Tower and showing
Engine Shed with one road installed.
D6525 and D8188 can also be seen.
CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
Class 33 D6525 reverses out of
Yeovil Railway Centre
with Class 20 D8188 before
making for the Mid-Hants Railway)


A further main line excursion ran on 15 July 2000 behind 60532 "Blue Peter" as The Shakespeare Flyer" and we were priviliged to have the engine in the Shed for a fortnight before.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. Blue Peter outside the Engine Shed.


An unexpected visit by 4472 Flying Scotsman took place on Saturday 4 November 2000 when, at 4 days notice, we were asked to organise an event to keep some 250 passengers amused for 2 hours. The train was originally booked to pass Yeovil Junction non-stop on its way to Exeter and Taunton but due to the heavy rains, the track at Cowley Bridge (just north of Exeter) had been washed away. Some hectic arrangements were made to steam 'Pectin' and open the site. Flying Scotsman has air braking and out turntable only has vacuum so muscle power was used the turn the engine, much to the amusement of the watching passengers (and the piper who played the bagpipes!).

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. 4472 Flying Scotsman at rest after servicing.


One of the Steam Company members, Mick Archer, purchased a collection of industrial steam, diesel and (one) electric locomotives known as the Shropshire Locomotice Collection. Through a Company, Somerset & Dorset Locomotive Co. Ltd. some of the smaller engines were moved to the up-side sidings (formerly a coal yard) with the first arriving on 2 December 2000. Other engines have moved direct to Derby & Birmingham for restoration whilst work has also been carried out on the better engines at Yeovil. Although this Company is not connected with the Steam Company, the arrival of engines has created interest both from our own members but also the general public.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. Somerset and Dorset Locomotive Company Limited.


2001
The highlight of 2001 must surely be the running of a regular steam hauled service, twice daily, from Eastleigh to Yeovil Junction, during the week 19-23 March by Steam Dreams. The main purpose was to train additional and replacement steam crews for English Welsh & Scottish Railways (EWS). Many of the drivers and firemen who had crewed steam engines in British Railways days were approaching retirement age and with a continuing and expanding demand for steam on the main line training for volunteer staff was arranged. This exercise has since been repeated in other parts of the country. Engine booked was Merchant Navy 35005 Canadian Pacific but in the event this only ran for Monday & Tuesday (was it the extreme cold and snow?) before failing.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
35005 Canadian Pacific over the
pit during night time servicing.
The engine is alongside the
Transfer Shed once used to tranship
goods to/from Broad to Standard gauge
The Shed is not in our possession.
CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE
FULL SCREEN VERSION.
Class 37 37674, unusually, on the
Yeovil Junction turntable.


The morning run on the Wednesday was behind Class 37 diesel 37674 although this was replaced at Salisbury on the return journey by West Country 34016 Bodmin which had hastily been put back together overnight, steamed and moved from Mid-Hants Railway. Great interest in the trains was evident, both before and during the week with T.V. Radio and newspaper reporters in evidence. Volunteers at Yeovil Railway Centre reacted magnificently to the challenges this week presented, whilst the morning trains were packed to capacity and the only seats left were in the evenings - even Thursday and Friday evening trains were fully loaded.

On the Saturday we watered Merchant Navy 35028 Clan Line on its final excursion from London - Exeter - London before a full overhaul.

For 2001, regular Train Days were held on 1st and 3rd Sundays from May to September with Pectin giving Brake Van rides, shunting and turntable demonstrations. A total of 1,139 paying visitors came with a successful financial outcome for this first attempt at regular opening. A couple of themed days were included with Blackmore Vale N Gauge modellers and Paul Atterbury of BBC's Antiques Roadshow giving some expert opinion on items brought in by members of the public. Westland & Yeovil District Model Engineering Society ran a welcome miniature railway in the car park on the Train Days. The usual Santa Specials were the most successful ever run with sell-outs on both Sundays in December with a total of some 800 tickets sold.

On 12 May 2001 a diesel hauled sell out trip (Class 47 to Westbury and Class 67 therafter) ran to York. This again was organised by Pathfinder Tours.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE FULL SCREEN VERSION. 67005 Queens Messenger seen after return from York.


On 21 July volunteers Dave and Hilary (Hils) became Mr & Mrs Grabham at Stoke-sub-Hamdon Methodist Church and celebrated with their reception at the Railway Centre. Wedding shoes were exchanged for boots and Dave and Hils drove Pectin for the first brake van ride down the Branch! Finally at the end of the year the headshunt alongside the Engine Shed was converted to a run round loop with the installation of a point in the Clifton Maybank Branch.

The Engine Shed received mains electricity in a project costing some 9000 + VAT.

2002
The picture gallery for 2002 can be found here

The EWS/Steam Dreams steam training runs from Eastleigh to Yeovil Jct were repeated from 15-19 April, again with 35005 Canadian Pacific. Once again these proved extremely popular. The first three days passed uneventfully, but on Thursday the first down train failed at Gillingham with a fractured lubrication pipe. A call to Dave Grabham resulted in a quick dash with welding gear to effect a repair. Afterwards, the engine and support coach were detached and run to Yeovil Jct for coaling and turning in 34 minutes! A quick dash back to Gillingham (with some passengers in the support coach!) then saw the train run to Salisbury where it terminated to get it back on time for the second run. Unfortunately Friday's runs were cancelled when a minor misjudgement led to a SPAD alarm being set off at Eastleigh. A disappointing end to an otherwise great week.


CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MORE PHOTOS AND USE YOUR BROWSER'S BACK BUTTON TO RETURN. 35005 about to depart from Platform 3.
On Bank Holiday Monday 6 May the Company was represented at the opening of the Yeovil Country Park (On the route of the Yeovil-Taunton railway).

Our friends at Pathfinder Railtours organised another excursion from Yeovil Jct on Bank Holiday Saturday 1 June 2002, this time to North Wales and Holyhead. A 13 coach train hauled by 47635 to/from Crewe and 46035 into Wales. Once again, volunteers cleaned the stock the following day, ready for use on an excursion for Mendip Rail on the Monday. A few days later, Hertfordshire Railtours brought 59206 'Pride of Ferrybridge' into a wet Platform 3, to be replaced by 58033 during a brief visit.

The Transfer Shed, adjoining the main site, had always appeared to offer a great deal for the Company in the way of covered accomodation although it had been occupied by an Engineering Company for many years. Border Engineering vacated the building, and after negotiations with Spacia (Railtrack's estate agency), SWMLSCo took a rolling short-term lease from 1 July. Lots of repairs and cleaning were required to enable it to be used by the public. A reduced rent of 250pm was agreed for the first 4 years, thereafter increasing to 500pm. This decision required an act of faith to take on a building erected in 1864 to transfer goods from broad gauge to standard, and the commitment to making the rental payments. Many hundreds of hours were put in to make the building acceptable for the Santa Specials in December.


CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MORE PHOTOS AND USE YOUR BROWSER'S BACK BUTTON TO RETURN. History and renovation of the Transfer Shed.


Round about this time four engines were purchased from Somerset & Dorset Locomotive Company, consisting of a Ruston (Ruston Group), 2 Fowlers, one for spares (Ron Weston) and a third Fowler (SWMLSCo). After dismantling, the frames and motors etc were transported onto site. The locos had spent several years in the open as part of the Shropshire Collection and their appearance had suffered as a result. Work also continued on various wagons.

For the first time, Santa was accomodated in the warm Transfer Shed which was appreciated by the 1000 or so visitors (and by Santa and his helpers!).



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