History

Cranmore station around 1910 with an up passenger train bound for Witham approaching.
Cranmore station around 1910 with an up passenger train bound for Witham approaching.
Credit: Unknown

The East Somerset Railway was inaugarated in 1855 and opened as a broad-gauge line from Witham on the Westbury to Weymouth line to Shepton Malletin 1858, extending to Wells in 1862. Unfortunately, the line was not commercially successful and it was sold to the Great Western Railway in 1874. The railway continued on GWR and then BR hands, essentially unchanged, until 1963 when passenger services were withdrawn. Freight traffic was also reduced and the line cutback. Bitumen trains continued to Cranmore until 1985 and stone trains still use the branch as far as Merehead Quarry.

In 1967, the artist David Shepherd bought two steam engines, BR standard class 9F No.92203 and standard class 4MT No.75029, and was looking for somewhere to base them. After starting out at Longmoor in Hampshire, he looked at 31 sites in the south of England until arriving at Cranmore on a rainy day in 1971. Whilst a site of dereliction, he could see the potential and so he and some friends purchased the site, and the Cranmore Railway Company was born.

The site was cleared, a new engine shed and sidings built, and then at the end of 1973, the East Somerset Railway was opened. As Cranmore station was still used for Bitumen traffic, initially operations were from a small platform next to the engine shed (now Cranmore West), but with the end of the freight traffic, the ESR returned to Cranmore station in 1985. The line was also extended westwards towards Shepton Mallet and a new station build at Mendip Vale.

Details of the attractions and facilities available at the ESR can be found by clicking on the Locations menu, Quick answers to common questions can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions section.