WSR Rail Renewal

The West Somerset Railway track uses 53,000 sleepers and well over 40 miles of rail. The rail has a life of between 50 and 100 years. Much of our track is at the very end of its life and we urgently need to renew it.

Bullhead rail has now been almost completely replaced by flat-bottom rail on British railways, although it survives on the national rail system in some sidings or branch lines.

As a Heritage Railway, the West Somerset Railway would like to keep Bullhead rail demonstrated in the station surrounds and other areas where it can be observed and understood. The unseen parts of the railway will use the more cost-effective flat-bottomed rail, similar to that used on the mainline.

Bullhead Rail

 Bullhead rail was the standard for the British railway system from the mid-19th until the mid-20th century. One of the first British Standards, BS 9, was for bullhead rail – it was originally published in 1905 and revised in 1924.

Bullhead rail is similar to double-headed rail except that the profile of the head of the rail is not the same as that of the foot. Bullhead rail evolved from double-headed rail but, because it did not have a symmetrical profile, it was never possible to flip it over and use the foot as the head. Therefore, because the rail no longer had the originally-perceived benefit of reusability, it was a very expensive method of laying track. Heavy cast iron chairs are needed to support the rail, which is secured in the chairs by wedges or “keys” which require regular attention.

Here are some examples of the materials that could be purchased with your donation:

£3,000 buys a full 60ft panel of bullhead track including all fittings (50 years life)

£1,800 buys a full 60ft panel of flat bottom track including all fittings (100 years life)

£840 buys a length of bullhead rail

£560 buys a length of flat bottom rail

£52 buys a durable wooden sleeper with serviceable chairs and keys

£28 buys a concrete sl5eeper with new fittings

In 2019/2020, donations to the Rail Renewal fund contributed over £155,000  towards renewal of the West Somerset Railway track.

The Project Purpose

is to provide support for ongoing maintenance and renewal of the West Somerset Railway track and provide for the safe running of trains.

Please help

Give a one-off donation towards our Rail Renewal fund or set up a regular payment.