The West Somerset Railway prides itself in being the longest standard gauge heritage railway in the United Kingdom, and scenically is amongst the most attractive. Regular service operate over the 33 km. from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard. The single track line was opened from a junction with the Great Western (then Bristol & Exeter) line at Norton Fitzwarren west of Taunton as far as the north Somerset coast at Watchet in 1862 and extended to Minehead in 1874. It was built to the Great Western’s broad (2.134m.) gauge but was converted to standard (1.435m.) gauge in 1882. Services were usually operated between Taunton and Minehad. The capacity of sidings and loops was increased during the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate demand from holiday makers travelling to the resort of Minehead.
The line was closed by British Rail in 1971, but there were immediately demands that it should be adapted as a heritage railway, and the first trains ran on re-opened sections in 1976. The railway property is now owned by Somerset County Council and leased to the West Somerset Railway plc which manages the train service. Several other organisations have museums or facilities along the route. The West Somerset Steam Railway has a small museum at Blue Anchor, and the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust houses a collection of railway artefacts at Washford. The former goods shed at Watchet is occupied by a museum of boats. The West Somerset Railway Association, which owns two locomotives and has shares in others, has its depot at Williton, alongside the workshops of the Diesel and Electric Group. There is also a railway museum in the former goods shed at Bishops Lydeard. The operating base of the railway is at Minehead where a working turntable for steam locomotives was installed at the station in 2008. The connection with the National Rail lines at Norton Fitzwarren has been restored, and from times to time trains run through to Minehead from other parts of England.