The Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust’s museum and rolling stock will be moved from its Washford Station headquarters to the Watercress Line heritage railway in Hampshire by February next year if negotiations are successful, it was revealed this week.

Last February, the trust was given a year’s notice to quit by its landlords, West Somerset Railway, which wanted to take over the station which now houses the trust’s museum.

The trust moved to Washford in the 1970s to take over the then-derelict station, which has been developed into an award-winning tourist attraction.

But this week WSR announced it had opened discussions with the trust concerning a ten-year lease which would allow the S&DRT to continue to restore and maintain its rolling-stock at Washford although the station would revert to WSR management.

A joint statement from the Mid Hants Railway Ltd, Mid Hants Railway Preservation Society and the S&DRT said they were in detailed discussions about the relocation of rolling stock and artefacts to the Watercress Line.

It added: “The three organisations are discussing arrangements for each element of the move, with an objective, if agreed by all parties, to complete the transportation of rolling stock and artefacts by the end of February 2021.”

Ian Young, of the S&DRT, said: “The trust is very excited about the future possibilities of bringing its collection of artefacts to a wider audience that this move brings. This display will also sit well with the presence of our locomotive 53808 which is now on the Watercress Line.”

A further statement on behalf of the WSR and the S&DRT issued this week confirmed that discussions had begun concerning a possible new ten-year lease for the trust to occupy part of the Washford site.

It said: “This follows from the Washford yard not now being required by the WSR in its entirety in the foreseeable future although the plc will still, by agreement with the trust, wish to use the yard from time to time during the period of the new lease.

“Any future arrangement will exclude the station which will revert to PLC management. This will allow the trust to continue with their restoration and maintenance work on their rolling stock at Washford while at the same time making arrangements for relocation of artefacts to other sites.

“The trust had already completed a strategic review of how it is fulfilling its charitable objectives. It has concluded that moving its museum items and some of its rolling stock to other locations will enhance their access by the public and broaden the appeal of the trust”

But a disappointed heritage railway enthusiast said on social media: “This is really sad news for many WSR supporters who were delighted in having the S&DRT based on the line at Washford.”