The West Somerset Railway originally opened for full
service between Taunton and Minehead in 1874. It was always only a
single track railway, in spite of the heavy tourist traffic it
regularly handled in the summer months. Surprisingly, the volume of
passengers was not enough to save the line from closure on the
recommendation of the Beeching Report. Freight services stopped in
1964 and all trains were finally withdrawn in 1971.
As the closure was gradual, a preservation society had time to plan running the railway privately, and were able to reopen the line in stages from 1976. Now, at just over 22 miles in length, the West Somerset Railway is the UK's longest heritage railway line.