Dave Horton, Head of Mechanical Engineering, writes:
Another Spring Steam Gala visitor confirmed in our 'GWR Routes and Branches' theme...GWR 4-6-0 no 6990 Witherslack Hall, courtesy of the Great Central Railway. No 6990 hasn't visited us for a fair while. Nice - and rare - to have two Modified Halls running together.
Dave Horton, Head of Mechanical Engineering, writes about SDJR 2-8-0 no 53809's impending move away from Somerset:
53809's hire contract on the West Somerset Railway expired at the end of December and it has now been confirmed by the owners, the 13809 Preservation Society, that she will be departing for a new long-term home at the North Norfolk Railway.
It has very much been a pleasure and a unique opportunity to have the two surviving S&D sisters nos 53808 and 53809 working together on the WSR for the past 22 months, and we hope there will be future opportunities to reunite the pair of them during the remaining years of their respective boiler tickets. In the meantime we wish 53809 and her owners the very best of luck in her new surroundings.
West Somerset goes back to the 1940s in March and September
Andy Norman of the West Somerset Railway writes:
I'm pleased to say that on the WSR will be running two additional events in 2018. As many will know USA S160 no 6046 is visiting in 2018 and as we already have a number of genuine war department wagons including flat wagons for vehicles we thought it would be a great idea run a genuine military train. So it's great to report that in fact we are going to do it not once but twice in 2018.
As a part of our usual Spring Steam Gala on 22-25 March 2018 we will be running a military train between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard, along with a military vehicle display at Minehead Station. There will be lots of opportunities for photography when on the move and when stabled at a platform.
Then 15-16 September the WSR will be running a '1940s Weekend' centred around Minehead and Watchet. This will include again the train plus a 1940s dance on the Saturday evening under the canopy at Minehead, a replica Spitfire and RAF display at Minehead, military/civilian vehicles at Minehead and Watchet plus hopefully lots of 1940s civilian, home front displays and re-enactments. We are even looking to secure a 1940s hairdresser to be available in a coach at Minehead before the evening dance so people can have their hair done.
We are arranging a number of accurate WW2 vehicles for the flat wagons and correctly uniformed 'guards' to ride in the brake vans and look after the train, so this coupled with accurate wagons and the S160 all running on a line that saw a lot of military traffic results in what we think will be the most accurate train that can be run.
If anybody would like to come along and help, bring vehicles (military or civilian) or just wants to come and look please get in touch with me and I will pass details on. There is also a Facebook page 'WSR Forties Weekend 2018' which you can join to keep you updated and of course the WSR will be issuing tickets for both the Spring Steam Gala and the 1940s Weekend as normal.
12 January 2018 Details from local correspondent
Seaward Way Level Crossing upgrade to cost £850k
The BBC website reports:
A £850,000 plan to upgrade the level crossing over West Somerset Railway at Minehead has been signed off by Somerset County Council. Work to replace the gates and changes to signalling systems will take place later in the year.
For more details about this story please visit this BBC news item.
11 January 2018 Details from local correspondents and gleaned from BBC website
A 'Military Freight Train' for the 2018 Spring Steam Gala
Dave Horton, Head of Mechanical Engineering, writes:
With the Spring Steam Gala not so far away now, we are pleased to announce that for the first time in several years we will running, as an additional attraction, a 'Military Freight Train', featuring several of our historic WD wagons, hauled by visiting ex-USATC class S160 2-8-0 no 6046, and best of all, transporting some genuine WW2-era military vehicles and equipment.
But help is urgently needed because the two WD 5-plank open wagons nos WD46253 and WD46242 need a repaint and Mike Wightman is looking for volunteers to help him. The wagons are currently at Washford thanks to the kind cooperation of the S&D Railway Trust in providing undercover space for this project. So if you'd like to be involved over the next few weeks and months please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in contact with Mike.
Finally, we also expect to be returning the WD 'Generator Van' no WD47983 to the rake. This wagon has an interesting history having been directly involved in the preparations and aftermath of D-Day. So lots to look forward to. Make sure you put the dates 22-25 March in your diary for the 2018 Spring Steam Gala.
The Gala Planning Team are pleased to announce that the first loco to be confirmed for the Spring Steam Gala is 1930 Kerr Stuart built ex-GWR pannier tank no 7714. As pannier tanks were often seen on the Minehead branch in BR days the BR black loco will be an excellent representative of a type of loco that fits our theme of 'Great Western Routes & Branches' well. Other visiting locos are still to be confirmed and full details will be given as soon as discussions have progressed.
An afternoon at Minehead on the West Somerset Railway
Dave Horton, Head of Mechanical Engineering, writes:
Just before Christmas a friend of the railway, Tom Parry, visited Minehead Loco Shed to record a short video for his studies. Tom is studying for a Masters in Wildlife Film Making at Bristol University. It is not that he wanted to observe the 'wildlife' at Minehead loco per se, just that he was required to produce a short film of something 'scientific', so he came along and filmed a few of our staff and volunteers investigating a leak on SDJR 2-8-0 no 53809. The result was rather a neat little portrait of a typical few hours in the life of the Locomotive Department and Tom was very pleased to have been given the opportunity to work alongside us (he is himself a railway enthusiast).
Fed up of expensive gym memberships? Come and join the Infrastructure team on a Sunday! A decent workout, plenty of fresh air and good company. Our gangs are open to anyone willing to volunteer - from the enthusiast, to those looking for practical work experience, or others looking to save on their monthly gym membership. There is plenty of outdoor work, with opportunities to learn new skills and maintain a little bit of history at the same time.
Another chance to see the Railway as seen by Portillo
With purple, green and yellow ribbons flying, and sporting ankle bells, Michael Portillo is led a merry dance in Stogumber - all in the name of fertility. He visits a celebrated Edwardian garden at Hestercombe to discover the fruits of an unusual partnership and learns how to deadhead the roses. And...there is a trip aboard the longest heritage line in England. This episode is from Series Nine of the BBC's 'Great British Railway Journeys' and can be viewed on BBC2 at 18.30 on 11 January 2018. Our thanks to the folks at Stogumber Station for the reminder.
Hein Burger's 90th Birthday Celebrations at Minehead
Everyone who has worked on the Railway in the last five decades will know Hein Burger and enjoyed his affable company. During that time Hein has managed a whole range of administrative and managerial tasks along with driving DMUs and guarding trains, and lots of other duties in between. Hein's 90th birthday celebrations at the Turntable Cafe in Minehead on Thursday 4 January 2018 - his birthday was actually two days earlier but due to family commitments, his WSR friends and colleagues had to delay their celebrations. The General Manager, Paul Conibeare, presented Hein with a card and gifts on behalf of Railway and Hein's many friends. He also thanked Hein for his 38 years of exemplary, voluntary service to the Railway.
Gauge Museum Model Railway chalks up all time record
When the doors closed at the Steam Trust's Gauge Museum on 31 December 2017, an all time record of 13,026 people had visited the model railway. The young and enthusiastic team had met their target and to do it had opened every operating day during December, which saw 1,751 visitors. Visitor feedback has been positive both for the layout and its operation, with varied rolling stock reflecting the theme of the railway's special events.
The (model) railway is closed for engineering work (improving line and level on part of the track, and making access to the southern end of the layout easier) but will be back in service in March 2018.
With Lesley Farthing stepping down for personal reason we are seeking a Stations Co-ordinator. Reporting direct to the General Manager, this is a key volunteer post responsible for effective communications between our Station Masters and the General Manager.
Working with the HR Department you will contribute to the resolution of staff relations issues. You will represent Stations as necessary at Head of Department meetings and act as the channel to update station staff on operational, health and safety, training and topical matters.
If you are interested in this post please contact Paul Conibeare, General Manager, by not later than 10 January 2018.
Ken Barker, Leader of the Volunteer PW Gang, reports:
The Volunteer PW Gang spent Thursday 28 December 2017 assembling the buffer stops including a new headstock at the end of the track behind Norton Platform before making a start to jacking and packing. At the other end of the track a hand lever and rodding was fitted to the bay platform lead. At the moment there is still some more slewing, jacking and packing to be done before the the line is passed for running on.
30 December 2017 Details kindly provided by the Volunteer PW Gang
Sorting the drainage and slurried beds at Watchet
The drainage at Watchet has been blocked for decades and local developments in the last fifty years compounded the issue: a substantial slurried bed between the Goods Shed and Station Building.
The drainage outfall by the Goods Shed was working however, so new drainage pipes were installed as well as existing clay track drain jetted. Four panels of track had geotextile filter matting and new ballast installed and the whole curve was tamped with the cant reduced from 130mm to around 80mm.
24 December 2017 Details gleaned from WSR Infrastructure's Facebook page
Quantock Belle breakfast and luncheon during Winter Steam Festival
For the very first time, the Quantock Belle is to operate a gala-style 'walk on' breakfast and luncheon service during both days of the forthcoming Winter Steam Festival on 29, 30 December 2017.
31 seats will be available on each service on a 'first come, first served' basis.
We will offer Full English Breakfast on the 9.35am departure from Bishops Lydeard and the 11.30am from Minehead each day.
A choice of hot luncheon will be available on the 1.30pm from Bishops Lydeard and the 3.30pm from Minehead.
We are delighted to now be involved in this 'feel good' event and hope we will prove successful enough for the QB to become a regular component of Winter Steam Festival. Rest assured, neither turkey nor mince pies will appear on the menu! We will though upgrade our breakfast offer by using sausages hand made by Thorne's Butchers of Wiveliscombe, the QB's regular meat supplier for many years.
The WSR's Head of Mechanical Engineering, Dave Horton, writes:
Ex-S&D class 7F no 53809 has sadly failed with a valve problem and will not be able to participate in the Winter Steam Festival (WSF). The repairs required are more than can be achieved in the time available before the WSF considering limited staff and material availability in the run up to Christmas and the New Year. But luckily the DMU will be on hand to substitute so the advertised WSF timetable remains unaffected. The DMU will take over the 0930 and 1330 Minehead departures, and the 1130 and 1530 Bishops Lydeard departures. We apologise for any disappointment caused by the non-availability of 53809.
Provisional diesel locomotive allocations for 2018
These are the provisional allocations for the 2018 Saturday diesel turns (the brown timetable):
5 May: 33048
12 May and 19 May: 47840
26 May: D1010
16 June: D7018
23 June: D7017
7 July: 47840
14 July: D1010
21 July: 33048
28 July: 47840
4 August: 33057
11 August: 33048
18 August: D7017
25 August: D7018
15 September: D7017/D7018
22 September: D1010
As always, subject to availability.
23 December 2017 Details from local correspondent
News about Photographers Lineside Passes for 2018
One item in the recently issued 'News from the Boardroom' bulletin provides an update on Lineside Passes for Photographers:
We are really pleased to agree to the reinstatement of new lineside photographers passes in 2018. The issue of passes was paused during 2017 whilst we assessed the safety implications. These have now been clarified and the full process will be published by the commercial office. The principal change is that in future, applicants will be required to pass the standard Personal Track Safety course held in house on the railway. Further details will be issued soon.
The WSR Plc have issued 'News from the Boardroom' - a regular update on Plc Board meetings. Topics covered in the December 2017 issue include Board Changes; Chairman and Vice Chairman; New Directors; Lineside Passes; Operational Matters; Budgets and Finance; Washford Lease; and Station House. Read in full
WSR Plc purchase former Station Master's house at Bishops Lydeard
The West Somerset Railway Plc has announced that it has purchased the freehold of the previous Station Master's house adjacent to the station at Bishops Lydeard and now known as Station House. The property itself is a fine period property built of local stone and integrates well into the surrounding station buildings.
The opportunity to purchase the property became available earlier in the current year and given its location the railway felt that such an opportunity should not be passed over. The purchase has been fully funded by a long term loan from its bankers and will, for the immediate future, continue to be let on a short tenancy basis. The purchase includes certain fixtures and fittings and the novation of the current tenancy agreement with tenants already in occupation.
The property is surrounded by land and buildings already owned by the Railway and it will be integrated into the existing site in the coming months. The future plans for further integration and development for the long term are currently being reviewed.
Paul Conibeare , WSR General Manager, says:
I am delighted at long last to be able to realise one of our long term aspiration to put back into railway ownership what was originally the Station Master's house at Bishops Lydeard. Nothing will change in the short term, when we look at future investment into Bishops Lydeard, as one of the major terminus of the railway; this will be an important part of the jigsaw.
This is a large purchase for the West Somerset Railway and will form a major part of its investment plan for the future. The support from members of the public by way of donations and the purchasing of shares, enables the West Somerset Railway to strive towards its ultimate goal of restoring, and maintaining the heritage line. Find out how you can help by visiting the West Somerset Railways website www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk.
West Somerset Railway - appointment of Chairman and Vice Chairman
The West Somerset Railway is pleased to announce that Ian Coleby has been elected as the Chairman of the company and Frank Courtney as Vice Chairman.
Both Ian and Frank are long standing volunteers. Ian began his WSR career in 1983 and has been at various times a signalman, curator of the Gauge Museum and trustee of the WSRA. He remains the archivist and director of the WSSRT and recently became editor of the WSR Journal.
Frank has been a train guard since 1987, and was the Chairman of the West Somerset Railway Association during 2016. For several years he managed the annual Thomas the Tank Engine event and this year co-ordinated the successful Flying Scotsman visit. His professional career has been in education finance management, and he has managed UK education authorities and undertaken extensive work overseas.
I am excited, enthused and full of trepidation in equal measures to be appointed as chairman. The railway has been a significant part of my entire adult life and I am honoured to take up the position. The railway is operating in a very competitive environment and we need to modernise the way we do our business and work much closer with our partners in the WSR family to achieve this. I value very much the work put in by our paid staff and the huge army of volunteers who turn out in all weathers and at often unsocial hours to keep the railway running. I look forward to working more closely with them in the future.
Ian can be contacted on email@example.com and Frank can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
The latest Newsletter from the Steam Trust is now available
The Winter 2017 edition - Issue no 9 - of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's Newsletter has been published. It is available in PDF format on the Newsletters page of the Trust's website. Issue no 9 extends to nine pages packed with news of recent developments and it is well worth a read.
WSR Plc announce resignation of Ben Grellier as Director
The WSR Plc have announced:
It is with great sadness that the WSR PLC Board have to announce today the resignation of Ben Grellier as a Director of the Company. Ben joined the Board in early 2017 and held the Volunteer Development portfolio, whilst continuing to offer his services to the Operating Department, during trips 'home' to visit his family. He will be sorely missed from the Board, although the Directors are pleased that he will continue as an active volunteer on the frontline. Additionally, Ben will assist the Board in the completion of several projects to enhance our ability to recruit and look after our volunteers, for which we are ever so grateful. Ben has additionally written his own statement.
Steve Gooding, Team Leader of the Volunteer Cutting Back Gang, writes:
On Sunday 10 December 2017 the Volunteer Cutting Back Gang were due to continue with clearance work in the Combe Florey cutting but due to high winds and heavy rain I cancelled the session after discussion with the rest of the team. On arrival back at Bishops Lydeard Station I phoned the Signalman to let him know of my decision as we were shown as working in the Ops Notice. The Signalman requested if I would wait until the 10.10am Santa Express had departed for its journey to Williton just in case there were any problems along the track.
At about 10.30am the Signalman phoned to inform me that a large tree was blocking the line near Nornvis Bridge and asked if I could I deal with it. We reloaded our kit and headed for Crowcombe Heathfield Station to report to the Signalman and discuss the plans for dealing with it. Parking up by the barn above Nornvis, Martyn Trott, Keith Sandford and I made the short walk across the field to Nornvis Bridge to find the train part way into Crowcombe Cutting. The train crew had made a good start on removing the smaller branches but my chainsaw was required to finish the job to allow the train to pass.
Once this was completed I contacted the Signalman to find out what they would be doing with the late running services. In the event the 10.10am departure from Bishops Lydeard was terminated at Crowcombe Heathfield. The three of us remained on site to clear the brash from the cess and to cut the tree into suitable sized logs for stacking in the cess. By 1pm I was able to report the Signalman that the line was completely clear and safe to use.
All three of us returned to the mess room at Bishops Lydeard Station to enjoy our well earned sandwiches. Paul Conibeare who was driving the Quantock Belle Dining Train looked into to say thank you for our help. So not only did we rescue Santa but also the General Manager.
15 December 2017 Details kindly provided by local correspondent
'The Taunton to Barnstaple Line' by Freddie Huxtable - Volume 2
Many customers have been asking when Volume 2 of Freddie Huxtable's book on the Taunton to Barnstaple Line is due out. The good news is that the long wait is over and we are expecting stocks of Freddie's book to be with us in the week before Christmas. Even better news is that Freddie has agreed to join us in the shop on Saturday 30 December during the WSR's Winter Steam Festival to sign copies of his book. Freddie will be with us from 10am to 3pm so there will be plenty of time to take a trip on the WSR before or after purchasing your copy!
Volume 2 deals with the route, stations and signalling and is lavishly illustrated with photographs from the 1950s and 1960s.
And a reminder that Freddie will be signing his book at the Buffer Stop Shop in Minehead Station on Friday 29 December 2017 from 10am to 3pm.
'GW Routes and Branches' theme for 2018 Spring Steam Gala
Early details about the 2018 Spring Steam Gala are now available on the official WSR website. The theme is 'Great Western Routes and Branches'. Between 1923 and 1948 the Great Western Railway had main line routes radiating out from Paddington in London to Birkenhead on Merseyside, Aberystwyth and Fishguard on the west coast of Wales, and through the south west of England to Penzance. From those main lines there was a variety of secondary and branch lines, ranging widely and wildly in their atmospheres. The West Somerset Railway intend to field a selection of appropriate steam locomotives - the list will grow as hire arrangements are confirmed. The event will be held on 22 to 25 March 2018.
Sorting a slurried bed and a dipped joint at Churchlands
Amongst other tasks in the last week, the West Somerset Railway Plc's Permanent Way Gang carried out more tamping, ballasting and a tidy-up at the Watchet relay worksite. The team also managed to carry out a ballast renewal on a joint at Churchlands where a slurried ('wet') bed was creating a dipped joint.
Conker Brown running-in boards for Dunster Station
Dunster Station has new running-in boards. The colour is conker brown.
Due to be delivered in the next week are seven new BR style totem signs for the lamp standards to help ensure visitors know where they are.
10 December 2017 Details kindly provided by the Dunster Station Master
A busy weekend ahead on the West Somerset Railway
The forthcoming weekend will be a busy one with a varied programme of festive season trains in operation. The station cafes and shops at Bishops Lydeard and Minehead will be open as will the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard Station. Many of the Santa trains are fully booked but there are a small number of seats still available on one or two trains. Check first by ringing 01643 704996. Full details of the services can be found at www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk
Saturday 9 December will see Santa Express and Sherry and Mince Pie trains between Bishops Lydeard and Williton. Also, on this day only, the Minehead Station Christmas Market diesel railcar special will leave Bishops Lydeard at 12.45pm calling at all stations (except Doniford Halt) along the way; tickets for this particular train costing only £5 for adults and £2.50 for young persons aged 5 to 17. The return train leaves at 4.30pm. The evening sees the Quantock Belle on a fully-booked Murder Mystery duty.
On Sunday 10 December, more Santa Express and Sherry and Mince Pie trains from Bishops Lydeard, plus Santa Special trains also from Bishops Lydeard. Finally, nestled in between the 'Santas' is a fully-booked Quantock Belle Christmas Luncheon special.
WSR's Infrastructure Engineering Department on Facebook
Andrew Young, the WSR's Infrastructure Manager, has reminded us about the Department's Facebook page:
Our page provides news on all our infrastructure work, promoting the work of our department staff. It will also be used to advertise positions and hopefully attract new volunteers keen on working outdoors. Comments are welcome and we will try to answer questions.
In a statement issued on 7 December 2017, the WSR Plc announced:
It is with regret that the WSR Plc Board have accepted the resignation of Alan Nicholson as Chairman and Board Member. Alan has contributed hugely to the success of the railway and in his resignation letter he indicated that, after considerable thought, he felt he was not able to continue the level of commitment that he considered the role required. We have also regretfully accepted the resignation of Paul Hancock as Director and Board Member.
The Board are very conscious of the need to review the way in which we operate so that the various roles do not become too onerous for the individuals concerned, who are, of course, all unpaid volunteers. The railway is at a critical point in its continued successful development and the Board must be in a position to lead and co-ordinate that development. The Board have already given some time to planning how it will work in the future, and this will be concluded at its next meeting on 18th December.
In the meantime, the Board's work will continue, including setting the budget for 2018. There are various new developments being planned and further announcements will be made in due course. We would particularly like to place on record our appreciation of the work of Alan and Paul, and look forward to seeing them around the railway in the future.
The gradients of the lines on the WSR's Norton Triangles
The page showing the WSR's gradients has long promised the addition of the profiles for the lines on the Norton Triangles. Time has prevented a full ground survey and as a stop-gap measure we have used high quality Lidar data from data.gov.uk to, at least, give an indication of the general rise and fall on these lines. The resulting profiles can be seen here
7 December 2017 Details from wsr.org.uk
The 2017 Carol Trains - more seats and tickets now available
Due to popular demand, the Railway have added a few more seats to the 2017 Carol Trains on Monday 11 December and Tuesday 12 December. The Carol Train meanders through the Somerset countryside, steaming through the cold December evening from either Bishops Lydeard or Minehead. The service stops at each station on its way to Williton. Passengers can alight at each station and accompany the brass band singing popular Christmas carols. This enjoyable event really ignites the festive cheer and is one not to be missed. We have limited number of seats available so please do book as soon as possible. Full details and booking
Bishops Lydeard Station Shop opening dates for December
In the run up to Christmas, the Station Shop and Whistle Stop Cafe at Bishops Lydeard will be open on 9, 10, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24 December 2017. And then after Christmas, on 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 December 2017 and 1 January 2018. The Shop will then close for a winter break until Saturday 20 January 2018. Then open from 10am to 3pm on Saturdays only until the 2018 season starts in February. Contact the Shop on 01823 432125 or by email email@example.com
The latest WSR Journal - no 159 - has been sent to members of the West Somerset Railway Association. The new editor is Ian Coleby. The high quality 80 page publication is packed with colour photographs and a lively selection of articles plus the usual news from the Railway's departments. The Association's website has a membership page with all the details and a link to online membership applications and renewals.
Large selection of WSR clothing at the Buffet Stop Shop
Large selection of WSR clothing available at the Buffet Stop Shop at Minehead Station. Sweatshirts, Hoodies, Polo T-shirts, Rugby Tops, Caps, Hats, Scarves, Umbrellas and much more. Ideal Christmas gifts. More
The Turntable Cafe at Minehead Station will be open between 10am and 4.30pm for the Christmas Market on Saturday 9 December 2017.
On a sadder note, we understand the funeral of former Minehead Station Master Alan Scott will be held at Efford Crematorium* in Plymouth on Tues 12 December 2017 at 2pm (*109 Efford Rd, Plymouth PL3 6NG)
The 'Steam Trust' consults on its updated Business Plan
The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's draft plan for 2018-2020 is now being published for consultation. Anyone with an interest in the West Somerset Railway is invited to comment. Please see the Trust website to view the draft plan and details of how to comment.
WSR features in SDJR 7F article in latest Steam Railway magazine
December's edition of Steam Railway magazine (SR474) includes a large article all about 7Fs. It includes a description of a trip out on the line with Stuart Nelhams and George Thomas earlier this year and describes how the 7F operates and is ideal for the WSR. It also includes quotes from many different members of the loco department.
1 December 2017 Details kindly provided by local correspondent