I'm Toby one of the volunteers here at the East Somerset Railway, and I'm going to be guiding you around the site showing you some of the interesting bits and bobs we have here.
Action Stations / Cafe
Once you have got yourself parked up in our spacious car park, why not wander on towards the station stopping off en route to let of a little steam in our “Action Stations” play area, enjoy the swings, balance on the balance bars, run the sleepers and drive the wooden train! Whilst you are doing all this why not let your mum and dad, relax in the nearby Whistle Stop cafe – they serve a great range of stuff from Tea, coffee and hot chocolates, right up to hot meals, - my personal favourite is a plate of bacon, egg and chips washed down with a glass of milk!
Once everyone has had there fill of tea, and play head on up the steps.... to purchase your ticket to ride, I'll meet you there.
Hello again, here we are at the ticket office and shop, obviously this is where you can get your train tickets to ride, but you can also get much more. Take a minute or two to look around our great shop, selling everything from wooden train sets to somewhat unique rail chair boot scrapers, and rail book ends, not forgetting of course the games, jigsaws, sweets and treats! This is where you can also get loads more info about what is going on at the railway today, enquire on how to become a volunteer, and pick up info on our many brill events like the Wine and Dine service, and various family events that take place throughout the year. When you are ready grab your activity sheets (designed to help point out some of the more unusual bits of the railway), and head out on to the main platform, where I'll point out a couple of other bits and bobs.
Main Platform, Museum
Well here we are on the main platform, and this as you can see is where your journey begins, the question is will you take a trip in the unique BR experimental fibre glass coach (S1000), or will you go old score and opt for the “Harry Potter” style compartment coach – the choice is yours, and whilst you decide, (If the train is not ready to depart yet) why not take a look around the museum, which is currently undergoing a transformation thanks to a lottery grant, so whilst not quite as full as it will be its still worth a quick look to see what it was like in the original ticket office and waiting room, and have look at some of the equipment that was used by railwaymen over the years – can you guess what each item was for? (Some you may see still being used by our staff today).
Whilst you wander along the platform towards the museum, stop for a minute or two and check out the phone box, it's one of only 50 built, of which only 10 survive so have you noticed what's different about it? Yes – it incorporates a post box, and whilst the telephone itself is no longer in use (it still has it's original dial phone along with buttons A and B, unfortunately no longer compatible with the modern phone system), the post box is with a regular daily collection, so why not pick up a post card from the shop and post it here!
Towards the end of the platform (past the museum) is another bit of history – a Victorian gents toilet, that's been here since the station was built, again feel free to take a good look but please do not use it! (the toilets are back down the stairs near the cafe).
Well if its time for the train to depart hop aboard, enjoy the ride and scenes from the windows, see what wildlife you can spot – there are deer, rabbits and foxes out there, I may see you on board to check your ticket, we'll continue the tour when we get back.
Signal Box, Miniature Railway and Discovery Centre
Well here we are back at Cranmore, I hope you enjoyed the ride. OK are you ready to continue the tour - there is loads more to see and do. Lets start of this section with a visit to the Signal box (Built in 1906), if you are lucky you may get the chanced to talk to one of our volunteers who know a little about signalling, and if you ask nicely you may get to pull a few levers (you'll be surprised at just how heavy they are to pull - even though these ones are not currently connected), find out what the different colours on the levers mean, how signal boxes communicated with each other, and just what is the token?
Once you have had a good look pop back down the steps and up the ramp in front of you onto our newly reinstated platform 2, (Yes that's right, again thanks to our friends in the national lottery, we have been able to put back in the second platform that was originally here and removed by British Rail in the 60's), and walk along to the David Shepherd discovery building on your right. In here you will not only discover more about the history of the East Somerset Railway, but get to engage in some hands on activities such as....
OK, just time now to pop back towards the Signal Box, and have a look at one of my favourite bits – the miniature railway. This is a 7 ¼ inch gauge railway running for about ½ mile round trip, along side the main line all the way from the Signal box up to the engine shed (almost) and back again. Pick up a flag from the guys running this and “dispatch” the train you are riding on. - How many different names of the locos and carriages can you see today? I'll see you back here in about 10-15 mins for the last bit of the tour.
Engine Shed/Workshop viewing area
Well I hope you enjoyed the ride on the mini railway, how many different loco/carriage names did you get? Now its time to pop up to the engine shed and workshop where you can get up close and personal with the locos and rolling stock, and see what is being restored at the moment, Be warned though this area can be a bit noisy (depending on what they are working on), and as it is a working shed there will be oily bits about – so take the wet wipes! You can either board the main train and ride to Cranmore West, or if you prefer cross back onto the main platform and take the adjacent footpath and walk up (its about 5 mins).
Well here we are at the engine shed, from here you may get the chance to drive one of our smaller locos “Lady Nan” for just £10, also take a good look at the large steam crane in the yard, this is approaching 100 years old, and was working right up until they closed the Swindon works. Unfortunately it no longer works and is in need of a birthday, however it is a little way down the queue as there is lots more that needs doing first – just take a look in the shed to see what I mean. From the viewing platform at the back of the sheds you should be able to see what the guys in the workshop are up to – they are currently in the process of restoring a locomotive from Dartmouth back to working order there's a lot of work to do and this will take about 2 years to do. I'm always amazed at how big trains, trucks and carriages actually are when you are stood on the ground next to them – some have wheels as tall or taller than a grown man!
Well I hope you have enjoyed your quick tour of the East Somerset Railway, I will leave you to enjoy the rest of your day in peace, don't forget you can ride the trains all day with your ticket, and if you wish to get more involved feel free to speak to our friendly staff in the shop back at Cranmore about becoming a member and/or volunteer. You just need to be 14 or older to get involved and you will get to learn great skills not possible to get from school, (how many schools teach you to drive a steam engine, be a guard/ticket inspector, or overhaul and restore a steam train), you'll also make great friends and have fun – more so than playing on the old Xbox!.
Bye for now.