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Somerset Map

The Gartell Light Railway is a privately owned two foot gauge railway which operates an interesting forked layout, incorporating a section of the much lamented Somerset & Dorset Railway

Owners John Gartell and his wife first opened it to the public in 1991 and, with their family and friends, continue to do so on selected days through the year. Check the official site for details of open days, ticket prices, admission times, etc.

More than just a garden railway, it is also a working museum of traditional railway practice, home to an array of semaphore and colour-light signals controlled from two signal boxes. These both house nineteenth century lever frames, and other heritage equipment.

On open days, trains leave the main station at Common Lane every 20 minutes. Highlight of the trip comes when two trains leave Pinesway Junction simultaneously, one heading up the recent extension to Tower View, whilst the other heads down hill, and passes under the extension on its way back to Common Lane.

The only problem, from a photographer's point of view, is that the layout of the site makes it impossible to get a shot from the public areas of one train passing over the other.

Motive power is usually provided by the railway's two steam engines and a diesel:

The GLR's first steam locomotive, No 6 Mr G was built by the North Dorset Locomotive Works at Motcombe, near Shaftesbury to an 0-4-2T design based on the former Groudle Glen Railway loco Polar Bear which can now be found at the Amberley Museum & Heritage Centre. It entered service in June 1998.

The other, No 9 Jean, entered service in 2009 and is an unusual tender tank hybrid based on the design of No 6. As well as providing additional water capacity, the tanks above the driving wheels help to provide much needed additional adhesion on the 1 in 32 gradient coming out of Common Lane.

The diesel, No 1 Amanda, originated from the Southend Pier tramway. It was rebuilt in the GLR workshops with a new body that resembles a Crompton class 33. Possibly one of the 'Slim Jim' narrow bodied Class 33/2s from the Hastings line.

There are two other smaller diesels: No 5 Alison, the standby locomotive and station 'pilot' loco at Common Lane, and No 2 Andrew, which was hidden away at the back of the shed at the time of my visit.