Bridgwater Railway History - First Excursion Train Ride - 1841

On Tuesday 1 June the first train from Bristol arrived at Bridgwater with high expectations of pleasure from the trip were fulfilled. By nine o’clock the proprietors were assembled ready to board the train for the trip to Bridgwater.

There were vast crowds of people on the road, the bridge and Pyle Hill waiting for the train to arrive.

The Fire-Ball engine from the Great Western Station with eight carriages four of each class were speedily attached to it and in a few minutes crowded with 200 of the proprietors and dignitaries present.

Mr Brunel accompanied by Mr. Gravatt took under his immediate superintendence the direction of the engine and the directors, the Secretary and the other officers of the company, politely interested themselves in accommodating their numerous charge.


Precisely at 10.14 the train started and as it glided slowly at first across the Exeter Bridge and under the London road, it was hailed with loud and repeated cheers by the assembled crowds which were responded to by the party in their carriages.

It is supposed by many who have never travelled by a railway that the high speed precludes any good vow of the scenery through which your journey lies. But the journey from Bristol to Bridgwater is of striking, beautiful and picturesque scenery of landscape and a most delightful ride.

Eventually we arrived at the Puriton cutting across which is thrown a very handsome skew bridge. From hence to Bridgwater and as we came rapidly on, the throng of people on each side of the road became every instant more dense. It seemed as the whole town had turned out to welcome us and the buzzing, the waving of hats and handkerchiefs and the joyous countenances of all assembled added to the pleasing excitement of the scene.

  Upwards of 4,000 persons were assembled at Bridgwater to greet the arrival of the train from Bristol, who hailed with lively cheers the appearance of the train.

Arriving at the station at Bridgwater we were welcomed by the splendid band of the West Somerset Yeomanry, arrayed in full uniform.

The station is a handsome structure and the offices are so arranged as to afford the best accommodation for the public.

The distance by the rail from Bristol to Bridgwater is 32½ miles from Station to Station and we performed it in one hour and three quarters.

The average speed was about 18 miles an hour, although occasionally we attained a much higher speed. 


The Breakfast

The directors of the company and all officials then made their way to the partially built Hotel next to the station for a luxurious prepared banquet.
The shell of the large building intended to form the new hotel was covered over as a tent and within were five long tables with a head table at the top.

The room was profusely and tastefully decorated with flowers and evergreens in various forms and devices, at the head of the centre table was a transparency of the Queen and at the other end a large V.R with the Royal Arms.   

It was announced that the train would leave for Bristol at two o’clock the company lost no time in taking their seats. With speeches to come.

At 20 minutes after two the train again started amidst the music of the bands and the cheers of the assembled crowds. As it continued its rapid course every bridge and convenient spot on the whole line was crowded with spectators, who hailed it as it shot past them with deafening cheers. 

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