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West Somerset Mineral Railway Project go to homepagelink to heritage lottery fund website

Winding down - the railway in the twentieth century

From 1907 to 1914 parts of the line were re-opened for two short ventures before any chance of revival of the line was taken away with requisitioning of the tracks in 1917.  


In 1907 a group investors, with H B Smith as managing director, registered the Somerset Mineral Syndicate in an attempt to benefit from rising steel prices by re-opening the mines.   

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Transfer of the ex-Metropolitan locomotive in 1907
Transfer of the ex-Metropolitan locomotive in 1907


3 July 1907 the Syndicate arranged a special passenger trip for invited guests down the line to Roadwater.  Such was the success of the journey, that it was repeated on Thursday 4 July, but this time ran with four wagons all the way to Comberow.



The syndicate leased the Mineral Railway and bought rolling stock, including a 4-4-0 side tank locomotive from the Metropolitan Railway which was transferred to the WSMR at Kenntsford Crossing on June 30.  





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Passengers and local children at Roadwater station on 3rd July 1907
Passengers and local children at Roadwater station on 3rd July 1907

Work started at Colton Pits mine and on a new adit at Timwood to intercept Raleighs Cross mine at depth.  When the Syndicate ran into difficulties and failed to sell crumbly ore stockpiled at Colton pits mine it re-formed to produce iron ore briquettes.


The briquetting plant was sited in a small field at Washford, and they were then taken to Watchet for shipment.  In March 1910 the directors of the Somerset Mineral Syndicate and the Watchet Briquetting Syndicate wound up both companies, and in July the effects of the Watchet Briquetting Syndicate were sold.   


Angus train control trials

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Arthur Angus and the Russians c.1913
Arthur Angus and the Russians c.1913

Arthur Angus, a solicitor from New South Wales, conducted research into all aspects of railway signalling safety, which was a forerunner of automatic train control. 


He was a prolific inventor, and between 1911 and 1914 he experimented on various parts of the Mineral Line.  


A public demonstration of his system was given on Friday, 5 July 1912 where a large crowd had assembled at Kentsford. 


After leaving England he continued his work in Russia and Sweden, before returning to England. 


The final chapter

Until 1916, the West Somerset Mineral Railway, although no longer in use, was physically complete.  Once the Ministry of Munitions had commandeered the materials for this disused railway for the war effort in 1917 the re-instatement of the line was financially out of the question.  The rails and sleepers the were lifted, the winding drums blown up, and compensation paid to the Ebbw Vale Company


The West Somerset Mineral Railway (Abandonment) Act received the Royal Assent on 2 August 1923 and the land and buildings of the WSMR were sold in January 1924, by auction at Watchet in 35 lots.  



Go to Angus trials
A view from Cleeve hill at the Angus automatic train control trials