Western Daily Press
Monday 2nd November 1959

The Last Train to Frome ran on Sad Saturday

With a huff and a puff and a nostalgic whistle, The Last Train on the old North Somerset branch line chugged out of Temple Meads Station on Saturday. Groups of train-lovers leaned out of every carriage window, some waving, some looking sad, some apprehensive, and some just excited.

The ancient engine – British Railways 5532 – wobbled slightly as it neared the platform end, chuffed billows of steam, recovered breath and settled down for the journey to Frome. ‘Keep right on to the end of the line’ it seemed to say. ‘Keep right on, Keep right on’ – as it had done for many a year.

It was Sad Saturday for the 110 train enthusiasts aboard, for it saw the end of another branch line – Bristol – Radstock – Frome. To many enthusiasts the end of a branch line is a tragedy. Too many are folding, they say. They look upon the Diabolical Diesel with animosity. This was a route that began in 1873 and for Driver F. Herring, who has driven on it for more than 40 years, it was an even more sad occasion.


Polishing a gleam into the green engine, Driver Herring of Avenue Road, Frome, declared: “It’s a shame. I wish it didn’t have to happen, but there it is. Modern times. After 40 years on the line you’re bound to feel sad, aren’t you?”

Mr Herring who is going on to the Cheddar Valley line, picked up a polishing rag, climbed into the cab with his fireman, Mr E Edwards of Butts Hill, Frome, and let off steam.

Two minutes to go ... one ... zero ... and engine 5532 pulled out of the station dead on time. Driver Herring put on a brave face, smiled and gave a wave. The old train called at Brislington, Whitchurch, Pensford, Clutton, Hallatrow, Farrington Gurney, Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Mells Road and Frome.


Why do train-lovers turn up on such occasions? What prompts their boyish interest in locomotives?

Mr H. B. Warburton, vice-Chairman of Bristol and district branch Railway Correspondence and Travel Society told me: “All our members go on branch line engines within reasonable distance of Bristol. They go on the last train mainly for sentimental reasons, and of course we all like travelling on trains.” “The train will stop at all stations down the line,” he said, dragging me into the refreshment room to escape the noisy steaming of engine 5532. “ The train will be about half an hour late. We get off at stations to take last photographs”. He added sadly “ If any line closes we all feel a nostalgia. Let’s say we like to be in at the kill”.

While the faithful few attended the last rites, British Railways Western Region, issued the following business-like statement:
The withdrawal of the passenger train service between Bristol (Temple Meads) and Frome, via Radstock West, on and from Monday November 2nd has been announced by British Railways Western Region. Stations at Brislington, Pensford, Clutton, Hallatrow, Midsomer Norton and Welton, and Radstock West, together with Whitchurch, Farrington Gurney and Mells Road Halts will be closed to passengers. Road services covering the area are operated by the Bristol Omnibus Co. Ltd and the Bath Tramways Co. Ltd. Freight trains will continue to use the line and facilities for the despatch and collection of parcels traffic will be available at Bristol (Temple Meads), St. Anne’s Park, Keynsham and Somerdale, Radstock North, Midsomer Norton South, Binegar and Frome stations

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