Latest news

West Somerset Railway Association Taunton meetings suspended

WSRA Taunton Area Group meetings are suspended, with immediate effect. The WSRA's Facebook page adds:

Unfortunately, attendance in 2016 has not been enough to facilitate an ongoing programme of speakers and events.

Click here for more about the WSRA's Area Groups.

27 September 2016
Details gleaned from WSRA's page on Facebook

Recruitment day for volunteer Guards and Signalmen

The West Somerset Railway will be holding a recruitment day for volunteer Guards and Signalmen at Bishops Lydeard Station on Sunday 27 November 2016. The Railway needs to attract volunteers for these important grades to ensure the line continues to prosper. For those who have been tempted to offer their services but are unsure as to whether these are the right roles for you, the day offers a chance to gain 'hands on' experience of what is involved without any commitment. No previous experience is necessary as full training will be given. Full details.

27 September 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent and West Somerset Railway Plc External link

The latest draft minutes from the Partnership Development Group

The Secretary of the Partnership Development Group has kindly provided the draft minutes of the meeting ot the Group held on 8 September 2016. The draft minutes are available as a downloadable PDF document.

The next meeting of the Partnership Development Group will be held on Thursday 1 December 2016 in Brunel House, Bishops Lydeard.

26 September 2016
Details kindly provided by Partnership Development Group Secretariat

Fifty years since closure of the Taunton-Barnstaple line

This Saturday, 1 October, will mark the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Taunton-Barnstaple line in 1966. However, on 6 and 7 October there will be a chance to once again travel by steam train on the Barnstaple Branch albeit over the short relaid section - about three quarters of a mile - at Norton Fitzwarren during the West Somerset Railway's forthcoming Autumn Steam Gala. And the restored GWR Small Prairie 2-6-2T no 5542, which will work the trains along the revived section, may well have worked to Barnstaple during its time allocated to Taunton shed before withdrawal by British Railways.

26 September 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

Minehead Station's Turntable Cafe to open seven days a week

Alex, Jess and the Turntable Cafe team are pleased to announce to all new and regular customers that...

...from November we will be open seven days a week, offering a full winter menu including weekday lunchtime specials at reasonable prices.Take away service is also available. Speciality coffees and teas, breakfast baps and traditional breakfast, homemade soups, freshly made sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, paninis and West Country pasties, pies, sausage rolls, cheese & onion slices, ploughmans, salads, with vegetarian options also available. The West Somerset Railway Cream Tea and fresh cakes. On Sundays we will have the Turntable Cafe roast dinner which includes a choice of meats, freshly cooked fresh vegetables, roast potatoes and homemade yorkshire puddings. For takeaway orders call 01643 700404. Many thanks for your custom and support during the 2016 season and we look foward to seeing you all throughout the winter. Alex, Jess and the team.

24 September 2016
Details gleaned from the Turntable Cafe Facebook page

Booklet describes brief history of Autotrailers nos W233W and 169

A new booklet from 5542 Ltd will be on sale at the WSR Autumn Steam Gala.

This new 12 page booklet, hot off the press, gives details of the history and work we have undertaken on 233 and also 169 along with some brief details of 5542 and our other rolling stock. Find it at the WSR Gala either on board 233 or at our Sales and Info Stand at Williton. A donation of just £2 (or more) secures. If you can't wait, or can't make it to the Gala, please message using the address on the 5542 Ltd web site for postal details.

5542 Ltd's GWR Small Prairie 2-6-2T no 5542 is already on the Railway ahead a busy time at the Autumn Steam Gala.

22 September 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent and 5542 Ltd External link

Two one-hour trips with historic SDJR first class coach no 4

Writing on Facebook, the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust announce several opportunities to travel in the superbly restored historic Somerset and Dorset Railway first class coach no 4 during the West Somerset Railway's Autumn Steam Gala.

During during the WSR Autumn Steam Gala from 6 to 9 October, our superbly restored 1886-built S&D first class carriage will once again be providing short trips within the Minehead Station area, steam-hauled by our Peckett 0-4-0ST Kilmersdon. However, on the Friday and Saturday, we will also be offering the 'sunset shuttle' travelling to Blue Anchor and back.

This special working leaves Minehead at 6.45pm arriving at Blue Anchor 7.05; then departing Blue Anchor at 7.25pm with an arrival back at Minehead at 7.45pm.

Tickets will be available from the Trust's sales stand which will be on the platform at Minehead throughout the Gala.

22 September 2016
Details gleaned from Facebook

Consolidated minutes of 2016 WSRA Board Meetings

The West Somerset Railway Association have published consolidated minutes of the Board Meetings held so far in 2016. WSRA Company Secretary, Paul Whitehouse explains:

These Minutes are now published in full, with redactions where personal information should remain private. They were delayed until the Board was assured that it had full control of the Association's finances, in order not to prejudice continuing negotiations.

The document can be accessed from the WSRA website.

22 September 2016
Details gleaned from the website of the West Somerset Railway Association External link

The West Somerset Railway's youngest ever train crew

The train crew of the Quantock Belle dining train on 18 September 2016 is reckoned to be the youngest ever on the West Somerset Railway. It seems the three very competent young men - Driver Chris Northey, Fireman Harry Howe and Guard James Mills - have a combined age of just 66 years.

19 September 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

Two tours of Somerset on May 2017 with Flying Scotsman

The well known steam locomotive LNER 4-6-2 no 60103 Flying Scotsman will head a morning tour of Somerset on Friday 26 May 2017. Leaving Minehead at 9am the train calls at Bishops Lydeard at 10.15am and then makes a circular tour of the county passing Taunton, Bristol, Bath and Westbury with a return to Bishops Lydeard at 1.30pm. Passengers for Minehead will transfer to a WSR train, at no charge, to complete their journey. See the Steam Dreams website for full details.

And later in the day, Flying Scotsman will head a eveniing tour of Somerset. Leaving Bishops Lydeard at 6pm and then makes a circular tour of the county passing Taunton, Bristol, Bath and Westbury with a return to Bishops Lydeard at 11pm. See the Steam Dreams website for full details.

Updated 18 September 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent and West Somerset Railway Plc External link

GWR poster promotes the Autumn Gala Taunton-Bishops Lydeard shuttles

GWR have issued a poster promoting their train shuttles between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard on the weekend of the WSR's Autumn Steam Gala.

Departures on Saturday 8 October 2016:
From Taunton: 09.32, 10.28, 11.25, 1230, 14.10, 14.59, 15.55, 16.55
From Bishops Lydeard: 10.00, 10.53, 11.48, 12.49, 14.28, 15.20, 16.22, 17.20

Departures on Sunday 9 October 2016:
From Taunton: 09.35, 10.29, 11.23, 12.32, 14.09, 14.59, 16.00 , 16.59
From Bishops Lydeard: 10.05, 11.00, 12.00, 12,51, 14.28, 15.20, 16.18, 17.20

In addition the inclusive GWR/WSR combined tickets from GWR stations to the West Somerset can be used for unlimited travel on the WSR on the day they are valid for (day travel only). They can be bought online via GWR.com/WSR but purchasers should make sure they put West Somerset Railway into the destination box (entering Minehead, Dunster etc, will get the Plus Bus deal for travel on Buses of Somerset service 28.)

Further information received from GWR (via WSR Plc) suggests those holding the combined GWR/WSR ticket for one of those days have a choice of the GWR shuttle train or the Buses of Somerset bus between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard. For other folk, the fare for the GWR shuttle train between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard is £6 return per adult and £3 per child (no information on single fares).

16 September 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

A drop of real ale at the Autumn Steam Gala...

For visitors to the 2016 Autumn Steam Gala who like a drop of real ale at the end of the day there are two festivals planned for the weekend 7 to 9 October. In Minehead the Kildare Lodge intends to have 20 - 25 beers on sale and also offers food and accommodation. whilst in Taunton the Wyvern Club will offer 15 ales and 3 traditional ciders. It too offers food and is the 2016 Somerset CAMRA Club of the Year.

During the day bottles of beer from Somerset breweries will be on sale and will also be available from the Turntable Cafe at Minehead Station which is now licensed.

16 September 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

An update from the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group

We apologise that D1010 is now not required for service on Saturday 17 September. The timetable being operated is orange, which is all steam. Sincere apologies for this.

Reminder our last booked running day is now Saturday 24 September when D7017 is scheduled to be working on the diesel diagram. Why not join us for one last trip of the season?

The Diesel depot at Williton will also be open for all four days of the Autumn Steam Gala from 10am - 5pm, 6 - 9 October, so a good opportunity to come and have a look around.

15 September 2016
Details kindly provided by the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group External link

Synopsis of recent WSRA Board meeting now available online

A visit to the Documents page on the Association website revealed a link to a synopsis of the recent WSRA Board meeting held on 5 September 2016. Seven items are mentioned covering a wide range of topics. Item seven refers to a particularly important development as it concerns the approval of a policy and process for inviting applications from Stations and other Groups for grants. A link to this new policy can also be found on the Documents page.

14 September 2016
Details gleaned from the website of the West Somerset Railway Association External link

WSR Plc appoints new Head of Mechanical Engineering


The West Somerset Railway Plc has recently appointed David Horton as Head of Mechanical Engineering responsible for locomotive and rolling stock management. He will be taking up his position from November 2016.

David will take responsibility for supporting the General Manager in overseeing the delivery of operational rolling stock requirements for the WSR, and will also lead the mechanical engineering policy development in line with the WSR PLC Board's Corporate Plan, together with developing the long-term vision for mechanical engineering functions across the WSR family.

David takes the helm from Andrew Forster, WSR's present Chief Mechanical Engineer who is due to retire at the end of October 2016 after many years service to the Railway. Andrew has successfully led many locomotive projects - nos 9351, 7828 and 53808, with many others to his credit.

Paul Conibeare WSR's General Manager said:

We are really delighted that David will be joining our team, bringing as he does a wealth of experience, management and leadership skills which will be invaluable to the WSR family. I look forward to working together to strengthen our capabilities in locomotives and carriages for the future development of England's longest heritage railway.

Full statement.

12 September 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc External link

WSRA candidate Trustee statements now available

Nine WSRA members have been nominated to stand as Trustee at the AGM on 22 October 2016.

In advance of receiving the AGM papers, members can access each 250 word statement and completed skills audit on the official WSRA website.

12 September 2016
Details gleaned from the website of the West Somerset Railway Association External link

No 6705 - update from the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

The Steam Trust have published a website update centring on the internal work being carried out on GWR BCK no 6705, one of the Heritage Carriages Project vehicles. The update includes a series of photographs showing Trust volunteers Ray Walter, Allan Howles, Roger Legge, Derek Blazdell and Greg McNelly working towards the completion of the internal compartments. The Trust is also actively seeking of a suitable upholstering specialist to complete the internal upholstering.

10 September 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust External link

Mineral Railway exhibition at Cleeve Abbey

An exhibition of photographs and artifacts linked to the West Somerset Mineral Railway will be held as part of a 'Local History Weekend' at Cleeve Abbey, Washford on Saturday 8 October and Sunday 9 October 2016 between 10am to 5pm. Members of the West Somerset Mineral Railway Association will be there to explain. Normal admission rates apply.

With Cleeve Abbey just a ten minute walk from Washford Station, the exhibition might well be of interest to visitors to the WSR's Autumn Steam Gala 6-9 October 2016.

8 September 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc External link

The Quantock Belle at the 2016 Autumn Steam Gala

The Quantock Belle will offer a restaurant service at the 2016 Autumn Steam Gala, available on the following trains on Saturday 8 October and Sunday 9 October:

  • 9.50am Bishops Lydeard to Minehead - breakfast menu
  • 11.55am Minehead to Bishops Lydeard - breakfast menu
  • 2.00pm Bishops Lydeard to Minehead - lunch menu
  • 3.45pm Minehead to Bishops Lydeard - lunch menu

The full menu for these workings can be downloaded here.

6 September 2016 Updated 12 September 2016
Details gleaned from the website of the West Somerset Railway Association External link

Eight steam locos listed so far for 2016 Autumn Steam Gala


The official programme for the 2016 Autumn Steam Gala - 6 to 9 October 2016 - promises nine locos in action. The 'guest' locos already listed are:

  • LSWR M7 0-4-4T no 30053
  • GWR 57xx 0-6-0PT no 4612
  • GWR 'Small Prairie' 2-6-2T no 5542

The resident locos shown to be working are GWR 4-6-0 no 4936 Kinlet Hall, GWR 4-6-0 no 7828 Odney Manor, LMS 4F 0-6-0 no 44422 and SDJR 7F 2-8-0 no 53808.

Also, Peckett 0-4-0ST Kilmersdon will be working shuttle services from Minehead using recently refurbished SDJR coach no 4.

The first two days of the Gala will see Auto coach no 233 running from Bishops Lydeard to Norton Fitzwarren and then along the former Barnstaple Branch. The Auto coach will also be in service on Saturday and Sunday elsewhere along the Minehead Branch.

Mainline operator GWR will provide the shuttle service between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard on the Saturday and Sunday of the event.

Finally, do make a note that the Quantock Belle dining cars will work some services offering Full English Breakfasts and Hot Lunches.

Update 7 Sep 2016: We note home-based GWR 4-6-0 no 6960 Raveningham Hall has been added to the list.

Official website.

6 September 2016
Details from local correspondent

Motive power line up for the Late Summer Weekend event


A fine range of heritage rail traction will be working trains during the Late Summer Weekend event on 3 & 4 September 2016.

Two classic BR-era Western Region diesel hydraulics - Class 35 Hymek no D7017 and Class 52 no D1010 Western Campaigner

And two of best steam designs from the GWR's Swindon Works - GWR 4-6-0 no 7828 Odney Manor and GWR 4-6-0 no 4936 Kinlet Hall.

Plus, one of the two survivors of the unique heavy goods engines designed by Midland Railway's Henry Fowler for the Somerset & Dorset line, SDJR 7F 2-8-0 no 53808 and an example of Fowler's once numerous maid-of-all-work goods engines LMS 0-6-0 no 44422.

Also, an example of a diesel multiple unit from the British Railways Modernisation Plan era.

All are reported in fine fettle but of course are subject to availability.

2 September 2016
Details from local correspondent

WSR features on BBC World Service Business Report

A BBC World Service report on Britain's heritage railway boom features the West Somerset Railway.

Steam engines departed from regular commercial use in Britain decades ago. But the country now has more heritage railways than anywhere in the world and the industry has a turnover of more than $130m a year. The BBC's George Thomas reports on the volunteer train enthusiasts giving many disused tracks a new lease of life.

2 September 2016
Details from local correspondent

Steel drums and steam trains at Watchet

The folks at Watchet Station say:

Watchet Railway Station has the 'Ashwater Community Steel Band' performing live from 11am this Sunday 4 September by the ticket office. Come and hear steel drum music, see steam trains and visit the Watchet Market this Sunday. Don't miss it.

31 August 2016
Details gleaned from Facebook

A great Late Summer Weekend lined up on the Railway


The West Somerset Railway has a great weekend lined up...

We have an amazing weekend lined up this weekend! Saturday marks the beginning of our Late Summer Weekend event, a more intensive timetable will be in operation showcasing some of our home fleet of steam and diesel locomotives. Saturday is also the day that Shaun the Sheep visits the Railway, making appearances on Minehead Station, at intervals throughout the day. Also on Minehead Station on Saturday only, we will have free facepainting, free crafts, an entertainer, helter skelter and bouncy castle (at additional cost) and a licensed bar is also being supplied by our friends at Quantock Brewery Limited for both days of the Late Summer Weekend. The best part? You get all of the above for normal fares

31 August 2016
Details gleaned from Facebook

WSRA looking for help from the membership


In the latest electronic newsletter from the West Somerset Railway Association the Chairman, Frank Courtney writes:

Amongst the membership of the WSRA we have a wide range of professional expertise. It is very helpful to the trustees to know what is available and which members may be willing to give occasional support and advice to the trustees, on a pro bono basis as part of their support for the continuing success of the railway.

We are however particularly keen to identify colleagues with a legal background who might be able to help us. I need to stress that this is not to replace the proper paid legal support that the Association needs, but rather to act as a professionally expert sounding board for occasional matters that come up.

Anyone interested is asked to contact the WSRA Chairman using the contact details on the electronic newsletter.

27 August 2016
Details gleaned from newsletter from the West Somerset Railway Association External link

Travel along the Barnstaple Branch during 2016 Autumn Steam Gala

The first two days - 6 & 7 October - of the West Somerset Railway's four day 2016 Autumn Steam Gala offer the rare chance of a trip along part of the Barnstaple Branch. Almost three quarters of a mile was been relaid in recent years as part of the Norton Triangles project. Gala visitors will have the opportunity to travel in Autocoach no 233 from Bishops Lydeard to Norton Fitzwarren then along the 'Barnstaple' to just short of the long-removed Allerford Bridge, and return.

Also announced is a shuttle service on the third and fourth Gala days - 8 & 9 October - between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard provided by a modern GWR diesel multiple unit.

Further information

26 August 2016
Details gleaned from Facebook

SDJR coach no 4 in use during Autumn Steam Gala

The West Somerset Railway's 2016 Autumn Steam Gala will see the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust's coach no 4 carrying fare paying passengers for the first time in over 70 years.

No 4 was built at Highbridge in 1886, taken out of use in 1929, and the body converted for use as a cricket pavilion at Templecombe. It was rescued by the Trust in 1986 and brought to Washford, where it is now resplendent in the fully lined out Prussian Blue livery of the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway. The restoration was completed in August 2016. No 4 was in use for the Spring Steam Gala only partly completed.

For further information on the Autumn Gala please visit the West Somerset Railway's website at www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk or ring 01643 704996.

23 August 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc External link

Princess Elizabeth's visit to West Somerset

The WSR Plc have asked us to post this reminder:

Please note: Princess Elizabeth will detach from its train on arrival at Norton Fitzwarren at approx 2pm on 23 August and the accompanying diesel loco will take the train to/from Minehead. Princess Elizabeth will then follow on to Bishops Lydeard for servicing and will re-join the charter at Bishops Lydeard on its return from Minehead at approximately 6.10pm.

23 August 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc External link

News from the Friends of West Somerset Railway

The Second Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the West Somerset Railway will be held on Saturday 24 September 2016 at Brunel House, Bishops Lydeard, 2pm for 2.15pm. Item 8 of the Agenda might be of particular interest:

FoWSR - THE FUTURE: It is Proposed that the FoWSR be merged with the WSRA, all paid-up FoWSR Members becoming WSRA Members with a free one-year WSR Membership and all benefits, including WSR Journal and 25% off all WSR train fares. After all costs are covered, surplus funds to be donated to the WSR plc's Water Facility Project; disposal of other assets to be agreed.

23 August 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

Princess Elizabeth to visit West Somerset on 23 August

This summer, LMS Pacific 4-6-2 no 6201 Princess Elizabeth will be making a comeback at the head of The Cathedrals Express with the first trip for 'Lizzie'on The Cathedrals Express to the West Somerset Railway on Tuesday 23 August 2016. Join the train at London Victoria, Hounslow, Virginia Water, Ascot, Reading, Newbury or Castle Cary. Full details.

Please note: Princess Elizabeth will detach from its train on arrival at Norton Fitzwarren at approx 2pm and the accompanying diesel loco will take the train to/from Minehead. Princess Elizabeth will then follow on to Bishops Lydeard for servicing and will re-join the charter at Bishops Lydeard on its return from Minehead at approximately 6.10pm.

18 August 2016
Details kindly provided by Steam Dreams External link

Diesel allocations during the Late Summer Weekend event

The Diesel & Electric Preservation Group have confirmed the allocations for the diesel locomotives during the 2016 Late Summer Weekend, subject to availability.

Class 52 no D1010 Western Campaigner Saturday 3 September 2016

  • 9.50am Bishops Lydeard to Minehead
  • 11.45am Minehead to Bishops Lydeard
  • 1.20pm Bishops Lydeard to Minehead (via Norton Fitzwarren)
  • 4.25pm Minehead to Bishops Lydeard

Class 52 no D1010 Western Campaigner Sunday 4 September 2016

  • 9.00am Bishops Lydeard to Minehead
  • 10.47am Minehead to Bishops Lydeard
  • 12.45pm Bishops Lydeard to Minehead
  • 2.45pm Minehead to Bishops Lydeard
  • 4.25pm Bishops Lydeard to Minehead

Class 35 no D7017 Saturday 3 September 2016

  • 9.45am Minehead to Bishops Lydeard
  • 11.57am Bishops Lydeard to Minehead
  • 2.30pm Minehead to Bishops Lydeard
  • 4.20pm Bishops Lydeard to Minehead

Class 35 no D7017 Sunday 4 September 2016

  • 10.45am Bishops Lydeard to Minehead
  • 12.45pm Minehead to Bishops Lydeard
  • 2.25pm Bishops Lydeard to Minehead
  • 5.30pm Minehead to Bishops Lydeard

16 August 2016
Details gleaned from Facebook

@WizzerTweet