Latest news

A new Chairman for the West Somerset Railway Association

Following the AGM on 22 October 2016, the newly elected Trustees met briefly and unanimously elected Paul Whitehouse as Chairman. Paul Whitehouse said:

I am determined that we shall carry forward the spirit of co-operation which has marked our dealings with the WSR Plc since March this year. There is much to do. We need to reverse the decline in membership and turn the Association into an effective and efficient fundraising organisation. This will not be easy but I have eight committed colleagues and I am confident that we shall move forward together.

For more details, see the Synopsis of WSRA Board Meeting on 22 October 2016 and 2016 AGM papers including the Minutes.

24 October 2016
Details gleaned from the website of West Somerset Railway Association

Announcement from WSR Plc and Somerset County Council

Somerset County Council and the West Somerset Railway Plc announce the execution of an agreement to secure the railway's freehold on which the heritage and tourist railway operates, were it ever to be offered for sale by the SCC in the future. The freehold had initially been offered for sale by SCC in 2013, but a subsequent decision was taken in 2014 to remove it from sale.

The new agreement ensures that if ever Somerset County Council were to wish to change its current position and consider sale of the freehold, requiring a new decision following due process, an offer for sale must first be notified to the WSR Plc, the current leaseholder, and the Partnership Development Group representing all the members of the railway family and local authorities, which was established during 2014.

The agreement means that the freehold must be offered to the 'railway family' and its members. Although individual parties could consider a bid, PDG would be asked to recommend a bidder, joint bidders or suitable vehicle to hold the freehold in the best interests of the railway. SCC would only proceed to consider a recommended bid.

Read the announcement in full.

22 October 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

An amended timetable for Saturday 22 October 2016

Due to an incoming railtour from London, the West Somerset Railway Plc have issued an amended timetable for Saturday 22 October 2016. All WSR trains will run but a few have slightly amended times. The railtour is expected to be hauled by LMS 8P 4-6-2 no 6201 Princess Elizabeth from London Paddington to Bishops Lydeard where a WSR steam locomotive (expected to be GWR 4-6-0 no 6960 Raveningham Hall) takes over for the run to Minehead and back - we expect departure from Bishops Lydeard at 1.20pm with arrival at Minehead at 2.37pm. The railtour leaves Minehead at 5.15pm. No 6201 will take over the special on its return to Bishops Lydeard at 6.22pm for the run to London Paddington.

20 October 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc and from

An update from the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Claire Sheppy has published an update on the Trust's website:

With the Gauge Museum and sleeping car open on all four days of the autumn Gala, and with 6705 available to visit on the Saturday and Sunday at Williton, we were pleased to receive a steady flow of visitors to both venues.

Read the full update on the Trust's website, where Claire has also provided the 2017 dates of the Trust Board meetings and the Trust's Annual General Meeting.

19 October 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Synopsis of the recent meeting of the Association Board

A synopsis of the main points of discussion and agreement at the meeting of the Board of the West Somerset Railway Association on 12 October 2016 reveals that on the day of the Association's Annual General Meeting on 22 October 2016, the WSR Plc General Manager, Paul Conibeare, has kindly agreed to show visitors round the Bishops Lydeard locomotive compound at 11am and 12noon whilst Association General Manager, Jacquie Green, will show people round the Station Farm site as required and also that Dee Childs will show people round the kitchen of the Quantock Belle dining train, and from 11am to 1.15pm tea, coffee and biscuits will be available for members at no charge. Read the full synopsis.

17 October 2016
Details gleaned from the website of West Somerset Railway Association

Christmas Market at Minehead Station on 24 November 2016

Following the success of the first Christmas Market to held at Minehead Station in 2014 this year's Market will take place on Thursday 24 November between 11am and 5pm. Once again admission to the Station will be free but after that there will plenty of temptations for a spot of 'retail therapy'. These include craft stalls, local produce, artwork, luxury chocolates and bottled beers. The Buffer Stop Shop will be open with its range of souvenir and railway items for sale and the Turntable Cafe will also be welcoming customers with its usual fayre and the seasonal addition of mulled wine and mince pies. Younger visitors will be able to meet Santa and leave their Christmas lists in the special mail box. There will be music courtesy of the Minehead Male Voice Choir and the Pipes and Drums Band.

16 October 2016
Details gleaned from website of West Somerset Railway Plc

The Steam Tea Wildlife Special on 27 October

From the Facebook page of Somerset Wildlife Trust:

If you are nutty about nature...then don't miss the chance to hop on board with the West Somerset Railway for a Wildlife Special trip to celebrate the launch of our brand new, and too cute for words, Knit For Nature pattern - Boris The Barn Owl. The adventure leaves from Bishops Lydeard, and travels to Minehead and back again. You'll be travelling in style and have the chance to enjoy a tasty cream tea, and be the very first to get your knitting needles around the new knitting pattern - all while supporting Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Booking is essential. For more information and to book contact 01643 704996.

Tickets cost £19.50, which will include a lovely cream tea with Miles Tea on the return journey.

15 October 2016
Details gleaned from Somerset Wildlife Trust's Facebook page

Dinmore Manor to return to West Somerset in 2017, perhaps

The Facebook page of Dinmore Manor Locomotive Limited reports:

Announced this afternoon at the DMLL AGM. Agreement in principle reached with the West Somerset Railway for the hire of 7820 for a four month period starting in June 2017. Subject to contract and usual caveats regarding availability.

15 October 2016
Details gleaned from DMLL's Facebook page

Two further visits to West Somerset for 'Lizzie'

Two forthcoming excursions from London to West Somerset are scheduled to be hauled by LMS 4-6-2 no 6201 Princess Elizabeth, affectionately known as Lizzie. This mighty locomotive was a popular visitor to the West Somerset Railway in August.

The Railway Touring Company's West Somerset Steam Express runs on Saturday 22 October 2016 and we understand a few seats are still available. The train will be steam hauled throughout with the section from London Paddington to Bishops Lydeard and return hauled by Princess Elizabeth, with the section from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead and return hauled by one of West Somerset Railway's own steam locomotives. Details here.

And then on 17 December 2016, Steam Dreams are running the Cathedrals Express - headed by Lizzie- to Dunster and Minehead. This excursion includes an optional coach transfer from the station to Dunster village and the Parish Church where a Christmas Carol Service has been arranged. At this stage it is not clear if Lizzie will work this special right through to Minehead. Details here.

The usual caveats about availability seem to apply. Please see the respective webpages, using the links above, for the full definitive information.

12 October 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondent and gleaned from the websites of the respective railtour operators

New era for the Quantock Belle Dining Train

A new agreement has been reached, so that the West Somerset Railway Quantock Belle dining train will be operated by the West Somerset Railway Plc from 2 January 2017, the organisation that runs all other trains on the railway. Until now the Quantock Belle has been operated by Promotions, the trading company of the West Somerset Railway Association, the main supporters group for the railway. This new agreement between the two organisations means that the dining train will be fully integrated with all the other services and special events on England's longest standard gauge heritage railway.

Although the train will continue to be owned by the Association (who have been responsible for the purchase and refurbishment of the train) the new arrangement means that a wide variety of new and exciting opportunities will come available to passengers and diners. The existing successful volunteer train crew will continue to play a central role under the new arrangements, led by Train Manager Barrie Childs. Barrie, who has many years experience commented:

We have already made a lot of progress in 2016 improving the services we offer on the dining train. I am excited by the opportunity to make further improvements in 2017, using the marketing skills of the Plc and combining purchasing with the Plc's existing catering activities, while retaining the dedicated volunteers on the train. I am confident that this agreement provides the best basis for securing the long term future of dining trains on the West Somerset Railway.

Colin Howard, WSR Plc Head of Commercial Services, said:

We are very pleased to be working with the Association and the current Dining Train Manager, Barrie Childs, to promote and develop dining train services in 2017. We have already started discussions with Barrie about the changes we can make together to build on what has already been achieved by the current team.

John Irven, Chairman of the WSR Plc added:

I am very pleased that we have been able to work constructively with Frank Courtney and the new Association trustee team in a spirit of co-operation to find a solution that is mutually beneficial to both organisations and the wider railway. We believe that this demonstrates a good example of how we are committed to continue working together to identify solutions to the other issues that will be contained within the WSRA Development Plan, which has recently been published.

Frank Courtney, Chairman of the WSRA said:

Transferring operation of the dining set to the Plc, while retaining ownership, is consistent with the future role of the Association which we proposed at the consultation day on 24 July. We are delighted that we have been able to reach this agreement, which we needed to agree in time for marketing for 2017 to start. This agreement demonstrates how the Plc and Association can work collaboratively, each focusing on what they do best. We are pleased also that it conforms to the spirit of the Coombes Report on the future of the Association, whilst safeguarding the Association's assets and future involvement.

The agreement is for three years, running to 1 January 2020. It will be reviewed every six months by the Association and the Plc. The current Dining Train Manager will in future report on operational matters to the Plc Head of Retail and Catering; he will, however, retain a reporting line to the Association in its role as owner of the dining set. The Plc will be providing to the Association a statement of intended objectives for operating the dining train before the Association's AGM on 22 October 2016. For 2017, the Association and Plc will share net revenue (that is, ticket, food and beverage sales less direct costs of haulage, purchases and kitchen staff) equally. Commercial terms for 2018 and 2019 will be agreed in the light of experience in 2017.

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

Latest from the West Somerset Railway Association

The latest edition of the WSR Journal is now with members of the West Somerset Railway Association. The editorial covers four topics - a brief discussion about not resting on out laurels, an update on progress with the Association's Development Plan, comment about the recent 'Midland' visitors, and a few words about the imminent retirement of th WSR Plc's long-serving Chief Mechanical Engineer, Andy Forster.

A reminder to Association members of the forthcoming Annual General Meeting on Saturday 22 October 2016 at Bishops Lydeard Village Hall. The relevant papers are now with members who are encouraged to vote on a number of important issues, either in person at the General Meeting or by completing and returning the Proxy Form.

11 October 2016
Details kindly provided by the West Somerset Railway Association External link

Model Railway Sale at Watchet Station on 8 October

Watchet Railway Station is having a Model Railway Sale to raise funds for repairs and maintenance at the Station, as part of the Autumn Steam Gala.

On Saturday 8 October 2016 in the Pagoda Waiting Room between 10am and 3pm, there will be a small selection of secondhand OO and N gauge engines, coaches, wagons, track, cars, buildings, books, magazines etc. Cash only for sales please and it is free admission. Pop in and see us when you're at the David on 01935 421107 or Steve 01984 633425

5 October 2016
Details kindly provided by the Friends of Watchet Station

News from the Bishops Lydeard Station Shop

The Station Shop at Bishops Lydeard is geared up for a fantastic four day Autumn Steam Gala.

There will be 10% off all model railway items and a further 10% off all already discounted locos, train packs and train sets; there will also be a 10% discount of all diecast models and model kits. We also stock a wide range of transport books, with an emphasis on railways. We shall have many ½ price promotions on our book sales tables, as well as good quality second-hand books and magazines to ensure there is something to suit most tastes. We look forward to seeing you!

4 October 2016
Details kindly provided by the West Somerset Railway Association External link

More information about the Autumn Steam Gala

Visitors to the Autumn Steam Gala on the Saturday and Sunday might wish to note that engines will not be turned on the Norton Triangle due to the Taunton to Bishops Lydeard shuttle service using the section between Bishops Lydeard and Norton Fitwarren for much of each day. This means that engines will run tender first or bunker first for part of their duties on the Saturday and Sunday. Please note for operational reasons, one or two instances of tender first also occur on Thursday and Friday. The Taunton shuttle will be operated by the main line operator GWR; the WSR hopes it will greatly assist visitors making their way to Somerset by train and also help ease parking issues at Bishops Lydeard. It is also an example of the WSR and GWR working together for longer term aspirations.

Folks planning to use the Buses of Somerset service between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard should note the roadworks at the A358 and Station Road junction on the Bishops Lydeard by-pass will not affect those buses booked to call at the WSR station; however, buses will follow diversions which add about five minutes to the journey.

Other news: in addition to the Real Ale Festivals between 7-9 October at the Kildare Lodge in Minehead and the Wyvern Club in Taunton, the Luttrell Arms in Dunster is hosting a Cider Festival on the 7-8 October.

4 October 2016
Details kindly provided by local correspondents

Changes to locomotive provision for the Autumn Steam Gala

The WSR Plc have made an important announcement:

In late September we were advised by the Bodmin and Wenford Railway that work on GWR 0-6-0PT no 4612 had been more extensive than first planned and that this work would not now be finished in time for the locomotive to be collected on Monday 3 October. They have been kind enough to make GWR 0-6-0PT no 6435 available as a direct replacement. All services previously advertised as being worked by 4612 will now be worked by 6435.

Later the same day Swanage Railway advised us that due to the availability of sufficient locomotives to work home services LSWR M7 0-4-4T no 30053 could not be made available for collection as planned. This is unfortunate as we have enjoyed having this locomotive in the past and were looking forward to a repeat visit. Understandably Swanage were not able to offer a replacement, but after 24 hours of searching our good friends on the Severn Valley Railway were in a position to make available GWR 0-4-2T no 1450. All auto train services previously advertised as being worked by GWR 2-6-2T no 5542 will now be worked by no 1450 and all services previously advertised as being worked by no 30053 will now be worked by no 5542.

Our thanks to all the railways involved for their help in maintaining what still promises to be an excellent gala.

1 October 2016
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc External link