The Branch Lines of Somerset offers a wide-ranging view of 160 years of rail travel.
The branch lines of the county have shown a diverse range of railway activity: horse-drawn passenger coaches, the second steam railcar built in England and operated as early as 1848, an internal-combustion-engine railcar, and a similarly powered shunting engine in the 1920s, long before they were common on the main lines. The permanent way, too, has shown an interesting variation from the standard: fl at-bottomed rail was used before it appeared on British main lines, concrete sleepers appeared on an independent line as early as 1919, while in the 1930s steel sleepers were used experimentally. Station buildings varied from small wooden huts, about the size of a sentry box, to substantial brick or stone buildings. Traffic, too, varied: some branches were principally for passenger use, while others carried considerable traffic, including seasonal produce, such as strawberries and rabbits.
The lively and informative text outlines the county's main railway routes and describes in detail the branch lines serving each. Although most of the branch lines were closed in the Beeching era, their character can still be savoured on the preserved East Somerset Railway at Cranmore and the West Somerset Railway between Bishop's Lydeard and Minehead. Highly illustrated with over 200 fascinating photographs and ephemera, this volume will appeal not only to railway enthusiasts, but also to local historians.