A ride on the West Somerset Railway

Recently whilst wife Sarah and I were in England we visited Minehead and took a ride on the West Somerset Railway (WSR). The WSR is a 22.75-mile heritage steam railway line in Somerset, England. It originally opened in 1862 between Taunton and Watchet. In 1874 it was extended from Watchet to Minehead.  It is the longest  standard gauge independent heritage railway in the United Kingdom. Services normally operate over just the 20.5 miles (33.0 km) between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard.

Wooden Trestles, Oldest, Highest, Biggest Still Around

I was talking to a couple about the trestles we have on our layout. They were very interested and, I think, quite surprised that an aged accountant knew so much about them. As usual I was basking in the thought that somebody actually thought I knew my onions. And then came the zingers: “Which was the oldest trestle? Which was the highest and which is the largest that still exists?” I was stumped. I took my wee notepad from my pocket, noted the questions down and promised to investigate and post what I found out here.

Now, before I proceed, let me say that if anyone “out there” has better answers than me I’d be right happy if they would contact me.


This, I am sure, is not the oldest trestle. It is however the oldest of which I have a picture:



Now I don’t know if this counts as the highest or not – it’s over the Crooked River Gorge in central Oregon sits nearly 320 feet off of the water:

Biggest Still Around

I feel more confident about this one – it’s the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge. It was built in 1932 and it is still standing. It’s 600 feet long and 200 feet high. It is the largest freestanding wooden trestle in the world.


How’d I do?

Cape to Cairo Railway

Africa is enormous. Just how enormous can be gauged from this blog. From San Francisco to Boston is about 3.100 miles. From Cairo to Cape Town is a shade under 7,000 miles. Yes, you can go by train from San Francisco to Boston. Could you have gone from Cairo to Cape Town “back then”? No. Can you now? No.

The Cape to Cairo Railway is an uncompleted project to cross Africa from south to north by rail. This plan was initiated at the end of the 19th century, during the time of Western colonial rule, largely under the vision of Cecil Rhodes (Rhodesia is named after him), in the attempt to connect adjacent African possessions of the then British Empire through a continuous line from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt. While most sections of the Cape to Cairo railway are in operation, a major part is missing between northern Sudan and Uganda.

How did I get into this? Whilst I had a ghastly flu about the only thing I did was read books including this one, “The Golden Years of Trains – 1830 to 1920”, by Peter Kalla-Bishop and John Wood. The book isn’t new – it was published in part in 1977.

The Golden Years of Trains

The Golden Years of Trains

Toward the end of the book two things caught my eye. The first was a picture of the bridge over the Victoria falls being built. Cecil Rhodes ordered that the bridge be built close enough to the Falls for their spray to wet each passing train. Here you can see the bridge under construction:

Victoria Falls Bridge in 1905

Victoria Falls Bridge in 1905

Rhodes never saw the bridge – he died in 1902.

Victoria Falls Bridge and the Victoria Bridge

Victoria Falls Bridge and the Victoria Bridge

The second thing that caught my eye was this graphic of the timetable for the journey:



I sat in my chair covered with blankets trying to imagine what it would be like to travel the route.

I’ve found two vids about the train from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. The first is short:

This is a much longer one which I really enjoyed about a train called The Pride of Africa.


Yreka (it’s in Northern California) loses its famous loco Yreka Western 2-8-2 No. 19


Here’s the story as reported in Trains magazine:

Yreka Western 2-8-2 No. 19 has a new owner after a sheriff’s sale today in northern California.

“Representatives from the Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek, Ohio, bid up the price on the embattled steam locomotive to $400,000 and bested Valley Railroad of Essex, Conn., to win the locomotive. The organizations were the only two bidders.

The sale happened because the Chelatchie Boiler Works of Woodland, Wash., placed a lien on No. 19 after they were not paid for the boiler work they completed on the engine in 2006. The lien amount was $264,000. The sheriff had a court order to seal the engine house since 2013. The original sheriff’s sale was cancelled at the last minute in October 2013 when prior operators of the Yreka Western claimed they had a superior lien on No. 19.

Age of Steam officials now have only two weeks to get No. 19 moved out of the roundhouse that is still under the local sheriff’s control. Age of Steam officials tell Trains News Wire that they will load loose parts from the engine immediately onto a truck while a trucking company is scheduled to start loading the locomotive onto a low-boy trailer in the next week. Age of Steam officials plan to truck the tender to Ohio directly. The engine will be trucked to Sacramento, Calif., then loaded on a railroad flatcar for shipment to Ohio. The engine movement will start the second week of October.

By buying No. 19, Jerry Jacobson, the owner of the Age Of Steam Roundhouse now owns two other former McCloud River Railroad steam locomotives, having bought former McCloud No. 9 last year from it’s long time owner Steve Butler. No. 19 is best known for its supporting role in the 1973 move “Emperor of the North” staring Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. The locomotive was also power for the Oregon, Pacific & Eastern Railroad.

No. 19 last operated in November 2008 on the Yreka Western Railroad in Yreka, Calif. Since that last run, the locomotive has stayed locked away in the Yreka engine house.”

This “bit” comes from the NBC site:

The residents of Siskiyou County are saying goodbye to one of their oldest and most famous, figures all 90 tons of it.

“In the 70’s and 80’s went to Cottage Grove Oregon, and starred in 2 movies, Emperor of the North and the Stand By Me movie as well,” said Matt Starman.

Despite being 90 tons of iron and steel Engine #19, also lovingly referred to as ‘Pancho’, could still reach speeds of about 55 miles per hour, even so it was originally built for cargo and not for speed.

“The rumor goes that while in Mexico it had a run in with Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries,” said Starman.

Few know Engine #19 better than Matt Starman.

“I rode the train as a kid, every summer, in 2008 I started volunteering, working on the steam locomotive,” he said.

He literally wrote the book on the train as a co-author of “Yreka Western Railroad”. This was a bittersweet moment for him and the Siskiyou County community.

Engine #19 was auctioned off by the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. Seized due to it’s previous owner’s debts.

“It’s always unfortunate when you have to seize property and auction it off, and a piece of Siskiyou county history is going with it,” said Sheriff Jon Lopey.

The new owner is a locomotive collector in Ohio and that leaves Matt Starman torn.

“It’s an odd attachment, i never tought 90 tons of steel and iron would ever make someone emotional but seeing this thing ever since I was a child and going to work with it, it holds a special place,” said Starman.

He’s hopeful old Engine #19 might hit the tracks once more.

The other part of me would be glad to see it go someplace and be operational and be taken care of as well,” he said.”

#19 in 1991

Flam Scenic Railway in Finland

Our man in Finland, club member Dan Fessler (who is there holidaying with his sister and brother) sent me some pics of his excursion on the Flam Scenic Railway. The Flåm Railway takes you through a steep and narrow valley, with views of mighty waterfalls and mountain peaks. The journey takes about 40 minutes and includes a photo stop next to Kjosfossen waterfall.

Where is it exactly?

Map with route of Falam Railway

Map with route of Flam Railway

Here’s Dan’s pics ……



The above two are of an early battery powered train.


This short vid shows you why the train is so popular:

Thanks Dan.


Walkersville Southern Railroad

Eldest daughter April is into trains. Wonder where she go that from? I received this e-mail from April recently ….. “During Parents Weekend Maddie’s (my eldest granddaughter who is attending Marymount University) freshman year we did some exploring in Maryland and found the Walkersville Southern Rail Road.  As Ava (my youngest granddaughter) had yet to be introduced to the Phillips train tradition we took a ride on the rails… And we were lucky enough to be aboard during a Jesse James Gang Reenactment weekend… So, it was a great ride. Though, as you can see from the pictures, while her girl cousins weren’t scared of the cowboy, Ava was not quite as impressed!!!”

First a bit a bit about the Railroad ….. The line between Walkersville and Frederick was built between 1869 and 1872 as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad Frederick Secondary.  In 1968 when the Pennslvvania Railroad merged the New York Central the line was part of the Penn Central Railroad. In less that three years the Penn Central filed for bankruptcy. About the same time (1972) Hurricane Agnes hit the Frederick area hard. The flood which followed the hurricane wiped out the bridge over the Monocacy River severing the line two miles south of Walkersville. The entire line was put up for sale. The State of Maryland bought the portion of the line within its borders. For 20 years the six-mile line was out of service buried under weeds, brush and asphalt.

The Walkersville Southern was founded and from 1991 through 1993 volunteers cleared the right 0f way. In 1995 reconstruction of the Monocacy River began. The job was finished in 1996 and the current service began.


Next up are the pics April took:

As April’s pics didn’t quite do justice to the railroad ……….

And just round things out I found a vid.

Lehigh Valley Coal Company 0-6-0 Saddle tank steam engine 126 ran several weekends of excursions on the Walkersville Southern Railroad in May and June 2014. The 126 is owned by the Gramling Locomotive Works, along with 3 other saddle tank steam engines, including the Flagg Coal 75, an 0-4-0 steam locomotive, by the nickname “Hank”. 126 is often referred to as “Sadie”, Sadie was built in 1931, by the Vulcan Iron Works in Wilkes Barre, PA for the Lehigh Valley Coal Company.


Setesdalsbanen – a Norwegian heritage (old tyme steam) Railway

Ever been to Norway? Nope – neither have I. Know ANYTHING about Norwegian Heritage railways? No – me neither. So, how come ………..

Well, when wife Sarah totters off to U(C)K to see the family she is very, very kind and brings back lots and lots  of English newspapers. First I read all the sports pages. Then, I read all the book reviews. Lastly I peruse the travel section to see what train trips, train tours are on offer – these days there are a lot. Me, being me, I look for the oddball. In amongst a cruise to the Norwegian fjords was a day trip to Setesdalbanen. Me being me wanted to know more.

This I got from Wiki:

The Setesdal Line (Norwegian: Setesdalsbanen) was a railway between Kristansand and Byglandsfjord in southern Norway, 48 miles long. It was built with a narrow gauge (3 ft 6 in), and opened to Haegeland  26 November 1895, and to Byglandsfjord 27 November 1896. Today, the  Line is a railway museum with steam trains serving the 8 km (5.0 mi) line between Grovane and Royknes. Four steam locomotives from 1894-1902 are preserved, along with a number of passenger and freight cars.”

I’m an On30 enthusiast so any narrow gauge is of interest. The ‘net yielded some really neat pics:

Really funky engines – luverly grub! There aren’t too many vids. This one I liked best. The music (I think is Grieg – a bit melodramatic don’t you think for a railroad vid?):

This vid I’m including because I have never heard a C&W song in Norwegian!!!!!

I have put a visit on the Bucket List – near the very bottom.