Over the years I have visited and travelled on the West Somerset Railway many times. When we stayed at Butlins we would often walk down to Minehead Station and look at the stream trains. Looking back I realised the last time I had actually travelled on the railway itself was back in 2013. So last week we went to Bishops Lydeard and caught the train to Minehead.
This is a regular series of blogs about photographs of the same place taken years apart. I quite like those Then and Now comparison photographs that you see in books or on the Twitter or Facebook. The first of the posts in this series was of a council building in Manchester.
I always thought I should give then and now photographs a go. However what I have started to notice is that I have been doing Then and Now photographs unintentionally over the years and have been taking photographs of the same thing or place from the same view or perspective years apart.
I took this photograph at Minehead Station on the West Somerset Railway on the 4th September 2004 using a Sony Cybershot digital camera.
It is one of my all time favourite photographs of a steam engine. I even printed it out once at A2 size.
Visiting the West Somerset Railway nearly twenty years later in September 2023 I decided I would try and take the same shot again. However looking through my photographs on Twitter (no GPS EXIF data on these older photographs) I found I had taken a very similar photograph on May 27th 2013 using a Canon EOS 400D.
Here is the photograph from September 2023 that I took with an iPhone 13.
Not too surprising that I have these similar photographs as this part of the station you will often see a steam engine.
I spent five days at Butlins in Minehead in 2016 I was curious then about the history of some of the rides and attractions. One of them was the electric railway in the kiddies fairground. Over the years my children had ridden on the ride, when they were younger even I was “forced” to ride it. It looked like it had been there a while and was consistently revamped as and when required. It had been a Noddy toytown train at one point and then part of Bob the Builder land. In 2016 it was just part of the fairground.
I knew that at one point there had been two full size steam engines at the resort, as Billy Butlin purchased redundant steam engines as a on static display at the camps to provide a novel and relatively cheap attraction.
Butlins in Minehead had the LMS Duchess of Hamilton arrived in 1964 and left in 1975. It is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York where the streamlining has been added back.
There was a smaller engines at the camp as well, an 1880 Brighton Terrier called Knowle 32678.
As well as the big steam engines, Butlins also had a Peter Pan Railway ride Peter Pan Railways were once a common sight at seaside resorts, travelling fairs, holiday camps and amusement parks around the UK. It was this ride that I was curious about. I was quite surprised to find that the electric train ride was over sixty years old.
They first appeared in the 1950s and were built by the Warwickshire company of Supercar Company Ltd and utilised regular railway technology with 2ft gauge track, 12lb rails and normal flanged wheels. The center rail was energised at 110 volts DC. The trains had a fixed back axle (chain driven) and a short-wheelbase bogie in front and could negotiate some pretty sharp and exciting curves. In later years some of the trains were fitted with new fibreglass bodywork of various different styles.
Though using a much smaller track (and some minor cosmetic changes) they are still running at Minhead Butlins in 2016 and is still there today.
It’s nice to see that though some things change, some things stay the same.