Re-instated passenger services

The L & B Passenger group were now able to run a passenger service up and down the line at weekends with live steam services using a rake of four of the bogie passenger coaches as a train. These services carried on running all summer of 1950 and into late autumn. The money raised allowed the group to move another four carriages down to Pilton Yard to restore back into full service ready for the next year. The group helped out the owner at weekends with a gang of volunteers carrying out general repairs on the line and making preparations to open up the station building at Chelfham as a refreshment stop.

The next season of passenger running would now have the ability to run two trains with four coaches to cope with high demand and pass each other at Chelfham where the up train would stop to drop any passenger off and pick up returning passengers. 

During the winter of 1950, there was a mjor snow storm and the whole country was under snow with rural communities cut off from main towns. People were contacting the railway to see if they could help out with getting vital supplied through along  the line. A snow plough was fashioned on the font of an opn wagon and the L & B Group set to the task of clearing a way through the line to help run a service up the line dropping off upplies and moving people around. The snow lasted for several weeks and the L & B Group were praised in the local papers several times with stories on their efforts. This helped raise awareness of the railway.

1951 Summer Season

The start of the summer season saw a very busy bank holiday Easter weekend with services running over the four days and having packed trains taking people up to Lynton. Extra supplies had to b run up the line for that station refreshments at Chelfham and Lynton, so a box van was added to some services. By the end of the weekend, that railway had run double the number of scheduled services to keep up with the number of passengers, This gave them a massive boost for the rest of the season and they set about restiring another four carriages at Pilton so that they could have three trains oerational for the August bank holiday.

The owner paid a visit to the L & B Group with some paperwork to sign them up as an official company renaming them as The Lynton & Brnstaple Railaway Ltd once again. this gave them full control of the line at the weekends in an official capcity. The provision was also made for winter services to resume so that people could rely on a scheduled timetable for the railway year round. The owner also donated the small 0-4-0 diesel to the group for use at Pilton yard for shunting duties.

By August, the L & B had now got three rakes of carriages in service and ran a very busy three day weeknd capitalising on as many fare paying customers as they could carrry. As a special, the owner donated the use of his directors coach for the weekend so that the railway could charge first class fares for the directors saloon and someone would serve drinks to the passengers in the observation car. The close of the summer season saw the introduciotn of a winter timetabel that was publihed with a minimal service over the weekends. These services ran local people up th eline and proved reasonably popular with people, having a rasonable attendance. The L & B was now back in business as a passenger carrying railway and getting a wealth of visitors a well as locals using the line on a regular basis. 

Over the winter of 1951, the group set about refurbishing LYN, LEW and TAW with work on their boilers and giving them a clean new livery ready for the next season. The engines were in need of vital repair work and a touch up. During the inspection, Lyn was in need of a major overhaul and had work carried out on her pistons and valve gear with some improvements added in. The group set about refurbishing two of the spare parcel vans so that they could be used in service as required. 

Porlock Quarry Acqusition

The owner had talks with Porlock Quarry as he knew the family owned business and they were feeling the pinch as their business had not really recovered since the war. After the talks, the owner came away with the survey results that had been carried out on their land when they were looking for fresh supplies of hard limestone to quarry. The results showed masive deposits of limestone, but it was to soft for what the quarry was looking for. This was good news for the owner that was looking at expanding his business into the whole of the building supplies industry. If the resuts were right, the softer limestone was ideal for cement production and give him the facility to open his own cement factory to expand his business empire. 

Rather than buy the family owned business outright, he gave them the option of a management buy out so that he would keeo the original quarry open and employ its staff, this would allow him to open up the second waurry for cememnt production quality limestone. The buy out went ahead and he set about working out the plans for where he waould produce his cement. The quarry had the same problem that the sand pits had before the extension of the railway into the pit. Local roads unsuitable for heavy lorries and a rural setting. He would extend the railway from West Lyn viaduct across to Porlock Querry and run the lines into the pit. This would mean installing a line just over 8 mile long to connect the two pits together. The removal of top soil from the new quarry would be used for any earth works for the railway in opening up the pit.

The problem then came to where to place the new cement factory. Creating a site at Barnstalpe was the first choice, but this would put a strain on the line with doubling the capacity and loads. The other choice was Minehead that was experiencing a boom in new building work adn was also close to a main line railway for moving cement across the county through Taunton. Extending the railway line through to Minehead would be a major task and investment, but the rewards would be far greater.

The Minehead Railway

With the success of the passenger services running at weekends, the owner approached the L & B group with the idea of opening up the line through to Minehead with its larger population base and massive flow of holdiay maker traffic. They had the experince to recruit large teams of volunters that could help keep the costs down on the new line and allow the owner to then get some of his investment back by getting the passenger services to pay him back some of his capital. This led to the formation of The Minehead Raiway and plans went ahead to lay in the new line.

The quarry at Porlock would ship loads of limestone to the south of Minehead and the railway would open up a new station to the East of Minehead with a junction at Alcombe controlling the trains between the cement factory and station traffic. The L & B group would then have a major attraction to run people through to and capitalise on the large amount of holiday makers.

The owner then found that BR had hit him hard with fare increases for using their wagons for the sand deposits to get to markets around the region. This was not good news and would add significant costs to his operation at West Lyn. This was the last straw with year on year increases on the tonnage charged by the main line railway. He would now move his sand business over to Minehead and combine it in with his cement factory. This would leave the Barnstaple drop stage redundant and the line free to use all week by the L & B group in the future.

With this news on BR increases, the line to Minehead was finalised with the L & B Group involved in the track construction to get the line connected through to Minehead cement factory site as a priority. As the line progresed from West Lyn into the entrance of Porlock Quarry, the second quarry site could be opened up for top soil removal and used for earthworks along the line for embankment work. The line could now be continued through Porlock and on to Minehead. The L & B group planned to open up a station at Porlock and build a large end terminus at Minehead. Porlock Quarry would then supply all the paving slabs for the new sation platforms.

North Pilton works

Thye owner set about sourcing a new fleet of wagons and new locomotives for opening up the Porlock Quarry and was shocked at the prices suppliers were trying to chage for building new stock. With the amount of wagons and engines he required, this would cost a fortune and set back his plans to get operational as quick as possible. His engineer then suggested that building their own stock was not too complicated and they could save a fortune in the process. This led the owner to llok at what was required to set up the work shops and build their own rolling stock. The yards at Pilton had a limited workshop and was busy as a service area for the steam engines. It did not have enough space to build a la rge fleet of new wagons.

A new plot of land was purchased nort of the yard and opened up as North Pilton Works with a small marshal yard and a large metal fabrication workshop. A team of metal workers were employed and large welding and cutting equipment fitted into the plant. A talented designer was employed to come up with the plans for the new wagons and to build the new locomotoves. The new designs were for a 10 tonne ballast style hopper for the limestone wagons with simple air brakes fitted throughout the rake. The new diesel locomotives would use a large diesel engine generator set.

Caterpillar Tractor Co. Ltd. had just opened up in England and were eager to help out the railway by supplying its industrial engines to adopt into the new locmotives. This gave the designer all the technical detail he needed to work with Caterpillar technical department and integrate it into the trains control systems quickly. A prototype locomotive was designed and built up with the new engine to test out the design. After some major modifications, the engine was ready for production and a batch of five locomotives would then be produced to run the Porlock quarry services. North Pilton Works was then extended with a paintshop facility so that the new rakes of engines and wagons could be properly prepared for service and painted with industrial paint.

The L & B Group had a major problem trying to source new carriage for the Minehead passenger services. Commercial companies were trying to charge ten times what the group could afford to pay for new rolling stock and the second hand market was no good with items being well past their sell by date or complete relics that needed a total rebuild. They then looked at building their own carriages at Pilton Yard but did not have the space or equipment. The solution was to add a carriage workshop at the North Pilton Works and share the metal fabrication shop to produce the chassis for the new rake of carriages. This would allow the team to build up a rake of coaches cheaply and fit them out in their own time with furnishings. They would also adapt the carriages with the air braking systems fitted to the wagons for braking in the carriages.

The Minehead Line Contstruction

The line was now progressing from Porlock Quarry entrance across to Minehead through Porlock villaige. At the station site wa an ideal location to put in a large passing loop so that quarry traffic would pass the passenger services while the train stopped in the platform. The station would have a small station house and a large platform on one side and the passing loop on the other. From Porlock there wa quite a lot of embankment work that was needed to be bullt up to keep the line on the level. This was no problem now that the first locomotive and batch of new hoppers were available to use and wagon loads of up to 10 tonnes of top soil and rubble could be loaded up and dumped into the trackbed to build up embankments.

The length of the line from Porlock Quarry to Minehead was going to be just over 10 miles. This would take just over a year to install the track bed across into the cement factory site so that materials could be moved down the line. The next stage would be to lay in the large junction at Alcombe and take the line into the Minehad station site to construct the main station. Work would then progress on th estation building and platforms while work started on the station area at Porlock.

North Pilton Works carried on with th #e construction of the new batches of hopper wagins and diesel engines for the new quarry and cement factory complex, and completed the work on the new bogie coach chassis so that the L & B group could get to work on constructing the coach bodies and fitting them out with seating. The new carriages would use new materials which included steel box section for welded body frames, plywood for walls and new double glazed toughened glazing panels for windows. The lighter bodies on the coaches would mean that the trains could now easily handle a six coach train up the line.

The main problem that the passenger services faces was the axhausting work the engines did climbing all the hills up the line from Barnstaple to Barbrook and the engines needing to take on fuel and water. To solve this problem and allow the trains to run non stop through to Minehead, the group built a large bogie tender and modified the back of the cab on Lew to have a door way. This would allow the tender to carry a full load of water and coal to keep the engine running at full potential through to Minehead station and reduce journey times. 

The new tender engine combination was tested out with several journeys loaded up with passengers for a free ride and found to be very successful with a no stop run through ro Porlock where the train ran ran and did the return trip. Minehead station would now be designed and laid out with four long platforms and a turntable at the end with two lines off for refueling the engines with fresh coal and water. The station was planned to open in 1958 with services at stopping at Porlock and Woody Bay onto the main barnstaple line. 

With the large amount of interest being shown in the new railway line, the L & B Group then took the wise decision to build a second rake of six carriages ready for the opening and modified YEO to have a modified cab and a bogie tender to run passenger services.