A full history of the East Somerset Railway can be found in our Guide Book written by Tony Jepson, which is available to purchase for £4.95 from our Cranmore Station Shop, or if you are unable to visit us please give us a call on 01749 880417 (Tuesday-Friday 10.30am-3.30pm, press option 3), or Email us and we can take your order.
An overview of our history is given below:
The East Somerset Railway was inaugurated in 1855 and opened as a broad-gauge line from Witham on the Westbury to Weymouth line to Shepton Mallet in 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 The railway continued under GWR and then BR, essentially unchanged, until 1963 when passenger services were withdrawn. Freight traffic was also reduced and the line cut back. Bitumen trains continued to Cranmore until 1985 and stone trains still use the branch as far as Merehead Quarry to this day.
In 1967, the artist David Shepherd bought two steam engines, BR standard class 9F No.92203 "Black Prince" and standard class 4MT No.75029 "The Green Knight". He was looking for somewhere to base them and after looking at many sites in the south of England he arrived at Cranmore on a rainy day in 1971. Whilst Cranmore was a site of dereliction, he could see the potential, so he bought the site and the East Somerset Railway 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 platform built at Mendip Vale.