The region’s former and much-loved railway – the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway – was a subject for reminiscing and celebration this month on the BBC. The line closed 50 years ago, but its influence still lives on.
Former MP and journalist Michael Portillo chronicled the long-closed railway on BBC 1’s Living in ’66: All Change For The West. Portillo helped take viewers back to 1966 when the line was closed after more than a century of use. Footage for the programme was shot earlier this year at Midsomer Norton's heritage railway station in Silver Street. Filming also took place at the Radstock Museum in Somerset and at various locations across the two counties.
“TV rail enthusiast Michael Portillo visited Midsomer Norton in February,” said Alan Price, a volunteer at the station, in discussing the show with local media. “He and his team spent several hours at the station photographing the 08 Diesel shunter and its train moving around the station area - some of it from a camera drone.”
Once connecting the cities of Bath and Bournemouth, the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway cut a line through the heart of England’s southwestern countryside. Created in 1862, the line also branched off at Evercreech Junction to Burnham-on-Sea and Bridgwater.
Following the conclusion of World War II, the railway was extremely popular. Just like our visitors who are enjoying a great cottage holiday in Dorset, Wiltshire and points in between, the railway brought thousands of travellers to their holiday destinations. The railway line included The Pines Express, which connected Manchester to Bournemouth. The line was famous for its viaducts and earthworks and was a favourite with those who loved the steam trains.
For the 50th anniversary of the railway closure, there has been a hearty group of volunteers at the Midsomer Norton station. They have dedicated themselves to restoring the site to the glory days of the past.
The BBC programme starring Portillo is available to watch here.