An unofficial website featuring the West Somerset Railway
Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published
The West Somerset Railway Association have published the agreed Minutes of the Board Meeting of 14 October 2019 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 11 November 2019. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.
Online tickets now available for 2020 Spring Steam Gala
Following the announcement of BR 9F 2-10-0 no 92134 as the first guest locomotive for the return of the WSR's 2020 Spring Steam Gala, discounted tickets for the event are now on sale from www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk (click the button below) or via 01643 704996. Why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present -- or drop a few hints about your plans for next year?
A fine effort by the volunteer Carriage Cleaning Gang
Volunteer Aaron Manley writes:
The Carriage Cleaning Gang at Minehead today. A great time and fun had by all. Cleaning will be every Saturday and Wednesday though November. Contact Simon Ball if you're able to help out - contact details on the internal document recently made available to all staff.
9 November 2019 Details kindly provided by local correspondent
First guest loco announced for the 2020 Spring Steam Gala
The WSR Gala Planning Team is delighted to be able to announce the first guest loco for the big 2020 Spring Steam Gala, the popular event returning after a year’s absence in 2019. The four-day gala will be held between Thursday 23 April and Sunday 26 April 2020.
The loco is newly restored BR Std 9F 2-10-0 no 92134, the only surviving single chimney member of the once 250 strong class. Agreement has been reached with the loco owners and North Yorkshire Moors Railway, where the loco is based, for the 9F to make this first visit away from its base to the WSR.
The Gala Planning Team are now working on other guest locos and the overall gala plan and more information will be published as these become finalised. Tickets are now available.
Opening times for Bishops Lydeard Station Shop and Cafe
Kate Beard has kindly provided details of the following opening times over the remainder of 2019 for the Bishops Lydeard Station Shop and Cafe:
Saturday 9th November – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Saturday 16th November - 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Saturday 23rd November - 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Saturday 30th November – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Sunday 1st December - 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Friday 6th December – 3.00 to 5.30 pm (Shop and Hot Drinks) 1
Saturday 7th December – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only) 1
Sunday 8th December - 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only) 1
Monday 9th December – 5.30 pm to 7.00 pm (Shop and Hot Drinks) 2
Tuesday 10th December - 5.30 pm to 7.00 pm (Shop and Hot Drinks) 2
Saturday 14th December – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Sunday 15th - December – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Saturday 21st - December – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Sunday 22nd - December – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Monday 23rd – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Shop only)
Tuesday 24th – 9.30 am to 11.00 am (Shop only)
Friday 27th December – 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (Shop and Café)
Saturday 28th December – 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (Shop and Café)
Sunday 29th December – 9.30 am to 5.00 pm (Shop and Café) 3
Monday 30th December – 9.30 am to 5.00 pm (Shop and Café) 3
Tuesday 31st December – 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (Shop and Café)
Wednesday 1st January 2020 – 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (Shop and Café)
Notes: 1 Dunster by Candlelight 2 Carol Train 3 Winter Steam Festival
Also, please note that, unlike previous years, the Station Shop and Café will not be open while 'Santa's Winter Wonderland' and 'Whistletoe and Wine' trains are operating due to restricted access to the station platforms.
The West Somerset Railway Association have announced the latest figures reveal that the WSR Rail Renewal Fund 2019 has tipped over £100,000. Included in that figure is a donation of £20,000 from The Fairfield Trust. This very generous donation takes the total charitable funds held for this project to just over £103,000. There are still more gift aid pledges to recover and when those funds are received the West Somerset Railway Association expect to be approaching half of the required amount for this winter's agreed works.
The West Somerset Railway completed its rather controversial 'Prairie-to-Mogul' conversion in 2004 when the one time 'Large Prairie' tank loco GWR 2-6-2T no 5193 was rebuilt at Minehead to a GWR-style 'Mogul' 2-6-0 tender loco which was given the number 9351. The then WSR's Chief Mechanical Engineer, Andy Forster, masterminded the whole project. Since then the Mogul has proved extremely suitable for the Branch and has just reached the 100,000 miles in its 'new' format fully justifying the project's champions.
Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published
The West Somerset Railway Association have published the agreed Minutes of the Board Meeting of 9 September 2019 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 14 October 2019. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.
Chris Austin, Chairman of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, reminds us:
The Taunton - Bishops Lydeard shuttles will run for an extra day on Saturday 26 October 2019 - this will be the last day the shuttles operate this year.
Departure times from Taunton are 9.39am. 10.28am, 12.10pm, 3.37pm and 4.36pm*.
Departure times from Bishops Lydeard at 10.03am*, 11.45am, 12.53pm*, 4.09pm and 5.23pm (Please note later departure of the last train.)
The West Somerset Railway will be running a 'blue timetable' so all the shuttles (except those shown starred) connect with the steam trains. With five steam services each way, a diesel driver's experience course and the shuttles, there will be plenty of action on the railway this Saturday.
Gauge Junction Model Railway plans for Half Term week
Announced on the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's Facebook page:
Plans for Half Term week are now made and we are planning to be open Saturday 26th, followed by the 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, finishing on Saturday 2nd, we will not be open Friday November 1st as there are is no public service on the WSR. . Sunday 3rd until after Christmas we will be closed for the first part of our winter engineering programme. Please do come and visit us for the last full period of operating before we close for the season. During Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we will be displaying a Somerset and Dorset theme to bring back some memories. The shuttle will be running from Taunton on the 26th which makes it easier to visit us on Platform 1 at Bishops Lydeard. Last weekend we enjoyed the company of 147 visitors over the two days and presented a theme of 'life on the Big Four prior to BR days' which proved popular and we had a great time while our enthusiastic operators even managed to recruit a new Tracker volunteer, all thoroughly enjoyable. Looking forward to meeting you at Half Term.
Learning Assistants needed to help the Steam Trust to develop its education and learning programme through the Trust's National Lottery Heritage Fund Project. The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust was successful in 2018 in obtaining a £40,000 grant from the Heritage Fund with two main objectives: firstly, to reinterpret and redesign the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard and secondly, to develop an education and learning programme linked to the school curriculum key stages and STEM subjects for primary schools, family activities and community groups. The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust pick up the story:
Led by Helen Anson, the Trust Learning Officer, significant progress has been made with a Learning Offer having been circulated to primary schools in the local area, materials and learning content developed and a programme of events identified (some of which are in partnership with the Hinckley Community Engagement Fund work) which are being held in the Museum and at other points on the railway.
We have already recruited three experienced and valuable Learning Assistants as part of the team working with Helen in the last six months. However, as the scope and scale of the work continues to grow, we are looking to add to the team in order to prepare ourselves for the 2020 programme.
If you think you have what it takes to work with children of primary school age, support families and community groups and have an interest in history, heritage and the local economic picture in West Somerset, then we would love to hear from you. This is a voluntary role where the commitment includes time for preparation as well as working on the day of any given event according to your availability and preference.
This is a fabulous opportunity for people from a range of backgrounds who possess good communication, oral and interpersonal skills together with empathy with children! There is a formal role profile and if you would like to know more,then please:
Activities to promote the Rail Renewal 2019 Appeal continued throughout the Autumn Steam Gala. WSRA staff handed out leaflets and collected funds on the trains. Members of the permanent way team set up a stand on Bishops Lydeard station demonstrating the rail choices and collecting funds. Leaflets were distributed at stations up and down the line.
WSRA supports Stogumber Station's cattle dock restoration
On Friday 4 October the WSRA was thrilled to hand over a cheque for £1150 towards the cost of the second phase of restoring the cattle dock at Stogumber Station. This is an important heritage item for restoration and preservation and the WSRA is pleased to support the work. The second phase of the restoration involved the reconstruction of pens based on GWR standard cattle pens. The station team hope to complete the pens under phase III and also carry out brick paving repairs. The WSRA also contributed to the first phase of the restoration to reinstate the steps to the cattle dock.
The WSRA invites bids for funding for heritage projects from all stations and other special interest groups on the west somerset railway.
The West Somerset Railway Association and West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's 'Rail Renewal' appeal is now over the £75,000 mark and so 30% of the hoped-for total of £250,000 by 31 December for the next round of infrastructure works, so it could easily achieve a figure close to that target with gift aid by then, but the WSR Plc will be meeting any difference having signed off the £250K spend needed for rails, sleepers and track fittings, plus remedial repairs to bridges, monitoring embankments, formation repairs, drainage and some fencing. The WSR 'family' is actively looking to continue the fund raising, but the Plc has committed monies too, so any greater amounts raised means doing more than the minimum for compliance and so go above and beyond that. WSR Plc Chairman Jon Jones-Pratt is determined that the WSR is in control of ensuring that it does what's needed to operate in the correct manner for 2020.
Jonathan's plan is to make sure the WSR gets back to the higher 20 ton 'Red' axle weight as soon as possible, and the recent independent infrastructure review has been positive in this regard in the sense that it means the WSR is getting very well qualified on the subject and also gaining better understanding and knowledge of the line's infrastructure and needs. The independent infrastructure review was designed to be a 'traffic light system' to highlight high, medium term and longer term priorities for works and has shown that the planned programme is achievable. An estimated figure of £400K is likely to be an annual investment requirement into the infrastructure that will be needed going forward for some time to come however. Jonathan says:
We have had good, independent infrastructure reviews, so I hope to be able to agree fairly soon that we will be back to 'Red' route activity for 2020, along with having all of our temporary speed restrictions’s removed. There is a lot of work taking place in the background and the positive news is that we have a signed off works plan in readiness for November 2019. All of this effort will pay off in dividends as the WSR embraces its journey of recovery and striving for excellence.
I was also very proud to be asked to attend a future joint seminar with the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) at which I will have a 30 minute spot at the next Heritage Railway Association meeting, detailing the working relationship between the two of us and how a professional approach was delivered through all our challenges - 12 months on, we now have a very different Railway!
The figures for the Taunton-Bishops Lydeard shuttles provided by GWR on the Saturday of the WSR's Autumn Steam Gala - 5 October 2019 - pleasingly broke previous records. It was the busiest day of the seven shuttle train days run so far, with 266 passengers (around 475 passenger journeys) for the day. Previously the busiest day had been the inaugural service on 27 July where most visitors were trying it out for the first time. The busiest train on 5 October carried 111 passengers in from Taunton, most of whom walked forward to join the steam train.
The Gala was busy all day Saturday, no dount helped by the shuttles, and it was also helpful that BBC Somerset carried a positive radio interview piece with West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Chairman Chris Austin (who is leading on the shuttle project for the WSR) on both the shuttles and Gala on their Saturday morning prime slot at 8.15am.
The shuttle TTIs were so busy that Chris had to travel with them on three trips to count the passengers and hand out the visitor survey forms as TTIs were fully occupied in selling tickets. There was some good positive feedback from the shuttle passengers. An extra day of shuttles has just been agreed with GWR and Network Rail for Saturday 26 October (half term weekend) and the timetable used on the first seven days will apply. See www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk for details shortly.
The WSR's Autumn Steam Gala did very well and the final numbers over the four days totalled 3,658 passengers - slightly down on last year. Revenues were similarly down as a result, although with reduced cost of hiring in the locos, it was still a profitable event overall.
Interestingly, Saturday was the only day with higher passenger numbers than last year (15% up) which implies a big positive impact of the GWR shuttles to and from Taunton.
WSR Chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt said:
What we all enjoyed thoroughly was seeing all the tank engines back with nos 4612, 7752, 7714 and former WSR favourite 6412 all booked to be in action, plus residents Foxcote Manor and Odney Manor, Mogul no 9351, 7F no 53808, Barclay no 1219 and Hymek no D7018. The whole team pulled together extremely well and the WSR operated a successful, well-timed and West Country railway themed gala complete with parcels traffic, and a link to the visit to Crowcombe Station by The Beatles during filming of 'A Hard Day's Night'.
The gala was great as it demonstrated what a West Country branch line was like. With Great Western locos galore, it also took us back to the roots of the WSR in the 1970s and reminded us of what we have achieved in 43 years. This year has always been about that and marking the 40th anniversary of trains to and from Bishops Lydeard, and we are all very positive about 2020. The plan for 2020 will be see some of our younger, dynamic team members getting more involved to deliver an exciting event programme.
The WSR Plc seeks a Managing Director/General Manager
The West Somerset Railway Plc are looking for a Managing Director/General Manager who will be responsible for the day to day operations of the Railway; and leading the organisational and cultural change needed to deliver a safe and sustainable railway for the long term. Click or tap the button below for more details including how to obtain a detailed role profile and application form. Closing date for applications is 29 November 2019.
The Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust have announced the donation of a diesel shunter for use at their Washford base:
Recently arrived at Washford is this diesel shunter, Andrew Barclay no 349, built in 1941. It was generously donated to us by Damien Stabler of Suffolk and had been based on the Colne Valley Railway. The shunter is in working order which will make it much easier to move stock around the Washford site; in doing so, creating additional visitor interest.
No 349 was one of a batch of five and was delivered to the Royal Ordnance Factory at Puriton near Bridgwater in 1941. It was used during the war for moving raw materials and finished exposives for use in munitions. After the war, it went to (at least) Abelson & Co. (Engineers) of Sheldon, Birmingham (a manufacturer of cranes, dumpers, etc) and the Haunchwood Brick & Tile Co. in Warwickshire prior to preservation in the 1980s. There are only two of this type of locomotive known to have survived and this one is the most complete. Mr Stabler had ownership of the loco for 13 years but was struggling to find the time to spend on it - so we were more than happy to offer it a new home
The recreation of conveying parcels on a country railway proved a popular addition to the sights and sounds of the Autumn Gala. The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust explain their part in this recreation:
In the Gauge Museum we put together and labelled some parcels and loaded them on the train to recreate the railway scene of the 1950s and 60s during the Gala. The picture shows Leading Porter Blazdell take a break from his duties as museum steward to load luggage in advance, newspapers and a parcel onto the 14.45 train from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead on 5 October 2019.
The West Somerset Railway Association, in partnership with WSR Plc and the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, have updated the running total which today stands at just over £75,000 - that's 30% of the target of a quarter of a million pounds. A truly excellent effort. Around a tenth of this amount has been raised via the online donation page. Donations may also be made in other ways. For more information, please click or tap the buttons below.
Introducing our Christmas promotional video for 2019. All events listed in the video are bookable now through our website. Including the brand new Santa's Winter Wonderland Event which allows passengers to experience the railway at night, with festive lighting and Christmas cheer. For more details visit our website today - click or tap the button below.
This weekend come along to the Gauge Museum on Platform One at Bishops Lydeard and try out our brand-new Gala Goods Trail. The museum is in the old goods shed and we tell its story with a secret code to crack as you go around. Successful code breakers win a certificate.
On the Saturday we are doing a bake sale to raise money for the WSSRT Learning programme. This will be an ideal opportunity to find out how the WSSRT Learning programme is developing and to also experience some fantastic cakes
An early train on 5 October offers full day out in Taunton
There will be an early passenger train departure from Minehead Station on the Saturday of the West Somerset Railway's Autumn Gala.
On Saturday 5 October 2019, the 8.15am from Minehead will reach Bishops Lydeard at 9.36am, giving passengers ample time to join the Great Western Railway diesel train which will leave Bishops Lydeard at 10.03am, arriving at Taunton Station at 10.22am. Passengers can return by the 3.37pm from Taunton with a connecting train from Bishops Lydeard that arrives back at Minehead at 5.38pm.
Please note discounts and passes do not apply during WSR's special events. However, standard returns and singles are available. Saturday 5 October is a 'special event' day on the WSR. A standard adult return between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard costs £22. The fare on the GWR-operated Taunton - Bishops Lydeard shuttle is £6 per adult.
The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust (Steam Trust) is looking for a Curator to look after its Museum at Blue Anchor. The person would be responsible for the overseeing, direction, co operation and management of the Museum at Blue Anchor. The Museum is usually open on Sundays, Bank Holidays and Galas between April and October.
The person appointed would be responsible for the rostering and management of the small team of volunteers plus the overall responsibility for the Museum and its artefacts. Work is about to start on reviewing the future vision for the Museum as part of a wider piece of work which includes obtaining formal accreditation. The position is not onerous but would require the person to be available some weekends.
A role profile and a copy of the Steam Trust Business Plan is available to potential applicants. Anyone interested should contact David Baker on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07776388744
Meanwhile the Trust have published the Minutes of the Board Meeting held on 3 September 2019. Click or tap the button below.
News of a 'Steam and Scream Spooktacular' at Watchet - a community event at Watchet Station and Watchet Esplanade - wickedly wonderful Halloween fun during half term week at the West Somerset Railway!
The event runs from Tuesday 29 October to Thursday 31 October 2019 from 6pm to 10pm with the Steam and Scream Ghost Train Experience taking place between 7.15pm and 9.15pm.
During the evenings of 29, 30, 31 October between 7.15pm and 9.15pm there will be a walk-through ghost train experience at Watchet Station. Dare to enter a specially created series of ghostly carriages to be greeted by hilarious haunters, giggling ghosts and ghouls galore!
Watchet Coastal Communities Team will be hosting lots more to combine with the West Somerset Railway's Steam & Scream experience on all three evenings. Click the button below for more details.