The Somerset and Dorset Railway at Midsomer Norton is celebrating a successful Christmas season with many records broken.
During six running days, over 3,000 passengers were carried, including over 900 children. On two days, the railway’s resident Sentinel locomotive Joyce hauled the trains, with the visiting locomotive Austin One in charge on the other four days.
For the first time in the railway’s preservation history, all carriages were steam heated thanks to the work carried out on the Trust’s BSK carriage in November. In order to prepare the locomotives and provide steam heat to the carriages, crews arrived four hours before the first scheduled train of each day.
As well as the regular local visitors, there were a large number of first-time visitors to the railway who had travelled long distances, including from Birmingham and Bournemouth.
Onboard the trains, passengers enjoyed a warm return trip in decorated compartments and carriages, before heading to Santa’s Grotto in a newly-renovated CCT van and a buffet carriage.
Over the six days, Father Christmas presented 963 children with a small gift, whilst the buffet coach served 2,000 mince pies, 288 bottles of mulled wine, 900 chocolate lollipops, 900 juice drinks, and 900 packs of gingerbread men.
Although the team of dedicated volunteers worked hard to prepare the station, locomotives, carriages, buffet coach, and Santa’s Grotto, national supply chain issues initially caused a few problems in sourcing items to stock the buffet coach. Also, as the Omicron variant situation developed, slight changes had to be made each day in the way that the event was conducted and in working practices.
On the middle weekend, the railway faced a fresh challenge when a clash of local events put pressure on car parking. They overcame this with a free vintage bus service from another car park, which worked very well and was a pleasant addition to the experience.
On the final day, a Class 03 diesel suffered a mechanical failure but was soon replaced by the Class 08 diesel ensuring that the trains continued to run to the scheduled timetable.
A railway spokesperson commented that “Our focus remained on ensuring that everyone who visited had a good festive experience. The response from the visiting passengers was overwhelmingly positive with comments in person, on social media, and on the events feedback page, praising the experience and all the welcoming volunteer staff. Following a short break over Christmas, the team will be coming together to review all feedback and we hope to build upon this in 2022 to further refine the unique offering that is provided at Midsomer Norton.
“Our final event of the Christmas season was to be a Steam and Mince Pie Special on New Years Day 2022. However due to the uncertainty with the Covid situation, combined with the need to do our best to protect our passengers and volunteers the reluctant decision has been made to cancel this event. The Mince Pies and Mulled Wine which had been reserved for this event have been equally distributed between the Wells Food Bank and Paulton Memorial Hospital, which can be seen from the railway.”
“We wish all our customers and volunteers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and we look forward to seeing you at Midsomer Norton in 2022.”