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 This was the WSR News - April to June 2003

For more news from January to March 2003 click here   To go back to the main News page click here

 No 5542 repaired...
GWR 2-6-2T no 5542, which failed in service earlier this month, has been repaired and is ready for action.

After about forty miles of running-in during the evening of 29 June, along the Blue Anchor to Williton section, no 5542 will now be fit to rejoin the loco fleet from the morning of 1 July. Testing was completed at 11.30pm and the loco was then stabled at Washford for final attention.

[hearty congratulations to the 5542 team for such a speedy repair]

30 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent

No 5542
No 5542... 
© Stephen Edge 
 "Thomas" returns to West Somerset...
Eagerly awaited by countless youngsters, the bright blue tank engine known as "Thomas" has returned to West Somerset in readiness for the two-day weekend of fun on 5-6 July - the "Days Out with Thomas" event.

Most of the trains from Bishope Lydeard to the event at Minehead are now fully booked.

More information...

25 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent

Thomas enjoying the evening sun... 
© Alan Grieve 
 Stomping fundraiser for Minehead canopy...
On Saturday 21 June the Friends of Minehead Station held a very successful Barbeque with a Concert by the Teign Valley Stompers on the platform at Minehead Station. The ever popular trad jazz band almost raised the very roof they were helping to raise funds to repair! Blessed with a fine warm evening the event attracted a capacity audience and both the food and the drink ran out before all demand was satisfied.

23 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent

Teign Valley Stompers
The Teign Valley Stompers 
© Lumber Jack 
 An E-Way to help no 5542...
One of our regular correspondents, Jon Tooke, who is also a Guard, Lamp Repair Man, Safety Instructor and Character, is helping to raise funds for GWR "Small Prairie" no 5542, by selling a large number of Railway items on the E-Bay auction web site. The net profits, that is after fees and commissions, will go directly to the Treasurer of 5542 Ltd.

Have a look at this E-Bay page for an example...

15 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent

Example item for auction on E-Bay
Bid for this now... 
© Jon Tooke 
 A reliable relay at Williton...
The S&T department has been sorting out the electrical store at Williton and found something which to many people would be classified as "modern" signalling equipment. We have in our store a large number of relays as spares. Most are BR specification 50 volt plug-in type, but we also have a number of 12 volt shelf relays. These relays have test dates that show they were tested at Reading S&T works during the 1950's. We did, however, find one that still had the original manufacturer's test date. The relay, like some of the others we have, was made by Westinghouse Brake and Signal Co. Ltd.

What shows that this piece of "modern" signalling equipment is many years older than the locomotives which run on the WSR is the test date of 12th December 1938! There is no other test label on the relay so it may be safe to assume that it operated without a fault during it's time on the big railway and was never a need to retest it. We have no idea where this relay was acquired from although it is most likely from somewhere on the Western Region.

The tester's initials appear to be either GLT or GH. If anyone knows of a tester who may have been working at Westinghouse during that time, we would be interested hear about it.

15 June 2003 
Details from WSR's S&T Department

Label on Westinghouse relay
Reliable relay 
© Kevin Weston 
 ...but loss of D7076 is a disappointment
We understand the preserved diesel-hydraulic Hymek D7076 - scheduled to visit the WSR and appear at the "Swindon Heritage" Diesel Gala on 8-9 August 2003 - will not now make the trip south. The reasons for the cancellation are not entirely clear. Until we get the official story, it would be wrong to speculate, except that it is almost certain the much expected visit of this popular machine is off.

7 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent.

D7076 - visit cancelled 
© C.Martin
 British Railways Pictorial
 Record number of passengers off a through train...
Green Express Railtours paid their first visit to Minehead on Saturday 17 May when Fragonset’s no 47709 arrived at the head of thirteen maroon West Coast Railway coaches bringing 668 passengers into the town - the heaviest passenger loading on an excursion onto the WSR to date. Quite a remarkable sight. In addition, nos 5224 and 7820 were heading the service trains, no 5542 on "Footplate Experience” in the Norton Fitzwarren-Bishops Lydeard section and no 4160 on a 50th wedding anniversary charter. Another rather busy day.

7 June 2003 
Details from WSR's OnLine

Green Express
Green Express Railtour at Williton 
© Mike Randall 
 A busy day at Blue Anchor...
On 7-8 June, the S&T Department were able to carry the first phase of a renewals programme on the point rodding at Blue Anchor. This is a two part programme to re-align the rodding and replace worn and damaged equipment. Our work for the first phase involved replacing all the old nuts and bolts on the point and facing point lock rodding. It is believed that some of the bolts may not have been moved since the crossing loop was lengthened in the 1930's by the GWR. There is certainly no record that any work was carried out on the point rodding at the same time as the level crossing gates were renewed in 1955.

For the full story and more pictures, CLICK HERE

10 June 2003 
Details from WSR's S&T Department

Signal and Telegraph at work
Busy weekend 
© Kevin Weston 
 Super Power for the Chippie...
Passengers aboard the "Fish and Chip" special on Saturday night were treated to superpower in the shape of a Western Region express diesel-hydraulic locomotive, no D1010 "Western Campaigner". By a strange coincidence, around forty or so members of the Somerset CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) were amongst the "diners", and enjoyed non-stop "Western" haulage in each directions...

10 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent.

D1010 on the Chippie at Minehead
Superpower for the Chippie 
© Alan Grieve 
 The tough get going...
The Railway management have asked us to pass on a message of thanks to the many supporters of the Railway who rallied to the cause during the crisis and "...thank all the people on duty for sticking at their posts, working additional hours, and keeping our customers and passengers on our side...and as so often happens on the WSR, a bit of adversity brings out the best in people, a case of 'the tough get going'".

10 June 2003 
Details from WSR Plc

No 5542
No 5542 - a not well loco 
© Steve Huddy 
 More on no 5542...
The hospitalisation of GWR 2-6-2T no 5542 following the failure in service on Sunday would appear to be short-lived as the owners seem to have found replacement parts which will be fitted in two weeks or so. A spokesman explained what they found upon inspection at Williton, "...upon dismantling the left hand piston head was found to be cracked in four places and fell in two parts when removed, thankfully the bore received only very minor damage. The right hand piston was then examined and found to be well on its way to the same fate...".

Furrowed brows at the temporary loss of a front line locomotive have been soothed today by the scheduled arrival of BR 4MT 2-6-4T no 80136 from Crewe. The Standard was delivered by road to Bishops Lydeard - and faces smokebox towards Paddington.

10 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent and 5542 Ltd

Broken piston from no 5542
The not-well piston from no 5542 
© Steve Huddy 
 No 5542 suffers a failure in service...
GWR 2-6-2T no 5542 suffered piston damage whilst heading today's 10.25am from Bishops Lydeard. Initially the problem was detected by the loco crew near Stogumber and after inspection, the loco and train continued at reduced speed to Williton, where after further inspection by engineers, no 5542 was failed and withdrawn from service. The owners, 5542 Ltd, have provided this reassuring message "...every effort will be made to rectify the fault in the shortest practical time..."

An interesting shuffle of loco duties and trains led to the "Western" no 1010 running light engine to Williton to take the stricken 10.25am on to Minehead. Later, "Crompton" no 6566 appeared at Williton piloting no 4160 at the head of the "Quantock Belle". No 6566 was removed and no 4160 - on it's last day in service before overhaul - continued to Minehead. The DMU was also brought into service.

A correspondent who was on the 10.25am explained that many passengers were genuinely concerned for no 5542. He went on to congratulate the many WSR hands who helped smooth a potentially difficult day, especially those who arranged an impromptu tour of the Williton Sheds for passengers on the 10.25am.

8 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent.

No 5542
The not-well no 5542 at Williton Yard 
© Jon Tooke 

No 4160
No 4160 at Blue Anchor 
© Ian Robins 
 No 4160 bows out this weekend...
Ex-BR(W) "Large Prairie" 2-6-2T no 4160 bows out of service on 8 June after ten years of sterling service on the West Somerset Railway with a total of over 50000 miles on the clock (reliable sources correct this to 86,000 - a WSR record). The withdrawal is for the statutory ten year overhaul and the loco is expected to be back in service before too long.

As if to make a point, no 4160 was failed on the penultimate day of working with a collapsed fire. Nothing serious and the fire was quickly rebuilt. As a precaution, the load was lessened by the removal of two coaches. The train, the 4.05pm to Minehead, left Bishops Lydeard somewhat late and for the severe climb to Crowcombe Heathfield was assisted by GWR 2-6-2T no 5542.

7 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent.

No 4160
No 4160 at Crowcombe Heathfield 
during a "photoshoot" event in 2002 
© Stephen Edge 
 Maybach music makes many merry...
The Diesel & Electric Preservation Group's monster diesel-hydraulic no 1010 "Western Campaigner" was in action on 7 June as part of the scheduled DIESEL RUNNING DAYS with a perfect performance and acclaimed great success. The loco recently enjoyed a day of testing on the Norton section - arranged in advance of the "Cross Country Weekend" and for the first time since preservation the "Western" was allowed to legally exceed the 25 mph speed limit. As expected the shaking down it received at the higher speed limit on the Norton section identified several potential reliability problems which had previously remained undiscovered and which were addressed before she returned to traffic.

7 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent and WSR's OnLine

D1010 in Minehead Sidings on 7 June 
© Jon Tooke leads, Railway Magazine follows...
The July 2003 issue of "Railway Magazine" has an interesting Caption Corner featuring a rather familiar picture of a soldier and machine gun at Crowcombe Heathfield watching a Class 47 approach on a through train. Take a look then at the May 2002 Caption Corner on this web site and you may notice a similarity...

It's good to know this web site is at least one year ahead of one of the more established monthly railway "glossies". It is a shame that the magazine has failed to acknowledge either the photographer, our own Tim King, or this web site, or indeed the West Somerset Railway. Of course, it is just possible that someone else took the same picture...

Update: it seems the photographer was contacted by RM and permission obtained for the picture to be used. This is good to hear.

7 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent

we did it first
Familiar picture 
© Tim King 
 No 3850 emerges...
Well at least the frames - which emerged from Minehead Shed wrapped up against the elements. Beneath the sheeting, all has been painted and the frames now await the boiler. Local observers noted wooden pallets stacked on the footplate - kindling for the boiler when it does arrive to be re-united with the rest of the locomotive.

6 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent

Freshly painted no 3850 
© Alan Grieve 
 No 88 goes blue...
The first coat of blue paint, the famous Prussian Blue colour, selected by the present owners, has been applied to parts of the tender.... very blue.

Prussian Blue was of course the livery applied to locos and coaches of the much-loved Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, although no 88, being a goods loco, was rendered in black, retaining this colour through ownership by LMS, BR and latterly the current owners the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust.

6 June 2003 
Details from Curtis E Nuse

Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust 
On Tuesday 3 June the 2.10pm train from Bishops Lydeard was passing alongside the beach at Blue Anchor whilst a particularly nasty assault was in progress. Police are hoping that a passenger on the train may have unwittingly witnessed or taken pictures or video which may help them identify the assailant. They have appealed for passengers on the train to contact the police in Taunton. All WSR staff who were on duty have already been identified from the rosters and signing on books, and will be contacted by the police direct.

Update: a local man has been arrested [Source: Somerset County Gazette and local correspondent]

6 June 2003 
Details from Curtis E Nuse

Blue Anchor Beach
Dinmore Manor at Blue Anchor Beach 
© Stephen Edge 
 Film set...
Dashwood Nare Productions Ltd, were due to be filming the Railway on Friday 6 June. They are an independent TV production company . Filming will include travelling by train, an interview with the Crowcombe Heathfield Stationmasters, Blue Anchor signalbox - and a helicopter will track the train from the air. Channel and broadcasting dates will be published as soon as we know them.

6 June 2003 
Details from Curtis E Nuse

Blue Anchor Signal Box
Blue Anchor Signal Box 
© Stephen Edge 
 Washford Cutting...
The Railway needs advice from a civil engineer who specialises in soil mechanics to advise whether the up side of the cutting is in need of protective work to ensure its ongoing stability. Mark Smith, the Railway's Managing Director, would be delighted to hear from anyone with the right civil engineering background who might be willing to enjoy half a day alongside the line and give us some informal advice. Contact Mark Smith at the Minehead office on 01643 704996.

6 June 2003 
Details from Curtis E Nuse

Washford Cutting
Washford Cutting 
© Lumber Jack 
 Steam visitors update...
The return visit of two locomotives is eagerly awaited especialy with the imminent withdrawal of BR(W) 2-6-2T no 4160 for the standard heavy overhaul after ten years of sterling service on the WSR. A GWR locomotive, no 4936 "Kinlet Hall" which visited in 2001, in due to arrive in mid-July, and the BR Standard Class 4MT 2-6-4T no 80136 - a very popular loco - should return in June for a third successive year of service in Somerset. These will join visiting GWR 2-8-0T no 5224 already on the Railway, and resident engines, nos 5542 and 7820. A powerful collection for the heavy trains of the summer timetable.

1 June 2003 
Details from local correspondents

The Visiting Locos
Summer Visitors 
 Wonderful Wagons
Much work has been going on at Bishops Lydeard on some of the various wagons resident on the Railway. A few of the largely unnoticed vehicles are of considerable historical importance whilst others make up the occasional demonstration goods trains or merely help to give the Railway that the old-world atmosphere.

A small group of serious wagon restorers have so far tackled the GW Starfish ballast wagon and the SR open wagons. The GWR "Toad" brake van is also lined up for attention.

Help has also come from the youth arm of the WSRA, the Trackers and the Lydeard-based Special Projects Team.

1 June 2003 
Details from local correspondent.

Wonderful wagons
Wonderful Wagons 
© Jon Tooke 
 New Station Master for Lydeard
The Chairman of the Association reports "We are pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Ian Aldridge as Station Master at Bishops Lydeard. Ian will take up his appointment on the 12 May. For many years Ian has been involved with the railway and is well versed in the railways activities. He has also been involved with the restoration of no 5542. I am sure you will all wish Ian good luck in this position and support him in looking after the operations at Bishops Lydeard."

1 June 2003 
Details from WSR's OnLine

No 7820
A classic Lydeard view 
© Malc Stacey 
 New online WSR photo library
One of the Railway's volunteers, Steve Huddy, has created a new online photo library at where Steve has begun to upload many of his excellent and topical images of the Railway. Steve also runs the monster Trains, Ferries and Buses web site, along with the monthly West Somerset Express Newsletter. In his spare time (!), Steve is a qualified Travelling Ticket Inspector and is currently undergoing Guard training.

31 May 2003 
Details from West Somerset Railway Newsgroup on TOPICA

An example of the work of Steve Huddy
No 7820 at Minehead 
© Steve Huddy 
 A new Virtual West Somerset Railway
Drive a WSR train from the keyboard of your PC? You could soon with the Mark Sexton's virtual recreation of the Railway which he hopes to release via an Australian company, AURAN. You can see some screenshots of the early work at Mark hopes to make a 'driveable' version of the route available through the Auran website once it is complete, releasing Minehead to Blue Anchor initially.

31 May 2003 
Details from local correspondent

West Somerset for Trainz 
© Trainz 
 Annual report reveals a very good year in 2002
In an upbeat Chairman's Report, Chris Austin, delights in revealing a very successful year for the Company in 2002, and applauds the hard work by the back room people along with the front line faces.

In financial terms, the passenger income exceeded £1 milion for the first time, and the retail operations covered 7.5% of the overhead costs of the Company.

A record number of passengers were carried - 172457 in total. That is 2% up on the previous record of 2001, and three times the number carries twenty years ago and "a striking measure of how far the Railway has come in that time".

Chris Austin explains that the success has enabled the Company to provide for the repair of No 53808, along with the renewal of the platform canopy at Minehead - the latter works extended by the "conflicting requirements of environmental and safety regulations".

There is a call for shareholders to take up further shares to help with the development of the Railway. The Company continues to seek grants from National and European funding. One of the interesting projects mentioned is the need to improve locomotive servicing facilities at Bishops Lydeard.

The Report concludes by noting the illness of the Chairman, Dennis Taylor, and the appointment of Chris Austin as Acting Chairman. [Since the Report was written in March, Dennis Taylor has resigned the Chairmanship, remaining as Director, and Chris Austin has been appointed Chairman.]

24 May 2003 
Details from WSR Plc

2002 report cover
WSR Plc 2002 Annual Report 
 Strawberry Special is nearly full
The Crowcombe Heathfield Station Staff have announced that all but a couple of seats are sold on their chartered steam excursion, the "Strawberry Special". On 13 June, over 200 passengers, including the new Chairman of the Railway Company, Chris Austin and his wife Georgina, will enjoy a silver service evening meal - and strawberries of course - aboard the Special as it runs from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead and return.

Over £300 worth of prizes have been donated to the on-board draw, including a Family Return Ticket from the WSR Plc and two First Class Return tickets from Taunton to Paddington from First Great Western.

Forward thinking lot at Crowcombe Heathfield - they have already booked a charter train on 18 June 2004 and another in 2005. Meantime, the Lad Porter was seen today polishing the newly arrived, specially commissioned "Strawberry Special" train headboard that will adorn the rostered locomotive, GWR 2-6-2T no 5542.

24 May 2003 
Details from local corrspondent

Crowcombe Heathfield
Crowcombe Heathfield 
© Stephen Edge 
 Carriage Boards return...
Carriage boards were so common in the days of steam that many of probably did not give them a second glance, save to check the trains identity.

The team at the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard made a very graphic contribution to the recent Cross Country Weekend by making and providing a set of Carriage Boards for two rakes of coaches to add that "authentic" look - one for "The Cornishman" and one for "The Devonian".

The Cornishman

The Devonian
The Cornishman and The Devonian Carriage Boards 
© Steve Huddy 

19 May 2003 
Details from The Gauge Museum

 Henry's Train is full already
Most seats on most trains from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead during the "Days Out with Thomas weekend on 5-6 July 2003 need to be booked in advance. The event is simply so popular that the Railway prefers to offer seat eservations to avoid a bad start to a good day out.

It seems that "Henry" is quite a crowd -puller as his train, the 10.25 from Bishops Lydeard, is FULL already - on both days!

There are plenty of seats still available on the other trains from Bishops Lydeard - contact the Railway on 01643 704996 for details.

17 May 2003 
Details from WSR Plc

Thomas waits to entertain 
© Alan Grieve 
 Come and join us trim the trackside...
Here is a great chance to enjoy the glorious Somerset countryside whilst helping to keep part of the forty-six miles of lineside in good order...

Cutting back is a necessary part of good lineside management and works wonders for wildlife into the bargain. The Railway is very proud of the conservation work it undertakes, and was rewarded recently with the announcement of three County Wildlife Sites within the Railway fencing.

Cutting Back usually takes place on the second full weekend of each month, and the dates for the next few months are 17-18 May, 14-15 June, 12-13 July, 9-10 August, 13-14 September and 11-12 October.

Please contact David Holmes for more details.

15 May 2003 
Details from WSRA

Restormel passes trhough trim trackside
Restormel passes through trim trackside 
© Stephen Edge 
 West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Heritage Grants
At its AGM last week, the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust launched a new initiative - the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Heritage Grant. The Trust will give grants to assist projects along the branch that are designed to enhance the period atmosphere of the line. The idea is to be able to provide that little bit of extra money to enable things to be done properly and in a GWR manner rather than in a less than satisfactory or modern way. For example, a grant may be able to provide money to enable a team to restore a platform trolley, to install a GWR style station seat (rather than a modern one) perhaps to enable modern lighting to be replaced with replica gas lamps, or to enable a team to restore a GWR wagon. The possibilities are endless, but it is emphasised that the project must be about providing a GWR Minehead branch ambience.

The grants will be administered by the Trust committee, who will meet periodically to consider the applications and to decide who will get what money.

The aim of the grants is not totally altruistic. Whilst enhancing the period atmosphere of the line is most important, it is hoped that the grants will raise the profile of the Trust along the branch and encourage extra members. In fact, the additional members are essential if this project is to get going. The committee have allocated a small sum initially to get things moving, but it is hoped that eventually the project will almost become self funding. Further details and application forms are available from the Trust's archivist grant co-ordinator, Ian Coleby.

13 May 2003 
Details from WSSRT

 Nameplate meets namesake...
The original nameplate from the Great Western Railway "Castle" class loco "Dunster Castle" made a brief visit to West Somerset recently, visiting Dunster Station, where it is pictured with the original Bristol & Exeter Railway station "running-in" board, being held by a local - and strong - volunteer.

Later, the nameplate was at the centuries-old Dunster Castle itself, where Katie James from the Railway and Nick Coates of Dunster Castle, are pictured with the Castle in the background.

It was good to see at least the nameplate in superb condition - sadly never again to adorn the long-lost locomotive that once sped the fastest trains on the old Great Western Railway.

13 May 2003 
Details from WSRA, Somerset County Gazette and local correspondent

The nameboard at Dunster Station
 Dunster Castle at Dunster Station 

Katie JAmes and Nick Coates with the nameboard at Dunster Castle
 Dunster Castle at Dunster Castle 
© Steve Guscott 
 Cross Country Weekend: Jon Tooke reports...
GWR 4-6-0 no 5051 "Earl Bathurst" worked all day on the Saturday, and in the morning the "Quantock Belle" dining/kitchen coach was attached for the VIP luncheon on the return from Minehead after the Voyager naming ceremony.

EWS diesel no 67010 "Unicorn", ex-BR Peak no 46035 "Ixion", no 5051's support coach, RES no 47732 "Restormel", a Travelling Post Office van and a NKX van ran in convoy from Bristol to Bishops Lydeard and arrived early Saturday morning. The "67" was berthed on display in platform three, whilst nos 46035 and 47732 worked service trains throughout the day. The TPO and NKX van were stabled in the sidings at Cotford all weekend.

After the naming ceremony and the VIP lunch, Virgin Supremo Chris Green travelled aboard the 2.45pm ex BL and conversed with the staff during the journey. He alighted at Dunster to retire to the Luttrell Arms Hotel in Dunster.

After his first official duty as WSR chairman, Chris Austin, with Robin Bush, was presented with a replica "Somerset Voyager" name plate by Chris Green

All visiting and resident locos performed faultlessly on the Saturday, and all services which at times were very busy, ran to time.

Lots of pictures - CLICK HERE.

13 May 2003 Details and words from Jon Tooke

Bristol info screens: 9.15am departure to Minehead
 Destination: Minehead 
© Stephen Edge 

Virgin Voyager at Minehead
 Voyager at Minehead 
© Stephen Edge 
 A new Chair for the Railway Plc...
Following a spell away from the action due to an illness, the Chairman of the Railway Company, Dennis Taylor, is making more appearances around the Railway as his convalescence continues positively. However, Dennis has indicated that he will take a less active role in future and at their meeting on Saturday 26 April the Board unanimously accepted his proposal that Chris Austin be appointed Chairman. Happily Dennis has agreed to continue as vice-chairman. More...

6 May 2003 Details from WSR Plc

 Chris Austin and Dennis Taylor 
© SRA and Alan Grieve 
 Ever thought about helping us out?
The Railway survives on the goodwill of hundreds of volunteers who give up their time to help out in all manner of tasks, some operational, some not. The Railway is urgently in need of some new blood for the following events or tasks:
•  The 17th Steam Fayre and Vintage Vehicle Rally 2,3 August
•  The Association Stand at the Taunton Flower Show on 6,7 August
•  aboard the "Quantock Belle" dining train
•  in our busy Booking Offices
In the first instance, please contact the Association Office on 01823 433856 or call at Bishops Lydeard Station.

3 May 2003 Details from WSR's OnLine

 Helping out at Bishops Lydeard 
 Footplate Ride is Draw Prize
The West Somerset Railway Association are intending to run GWR no 5542 to Crowcombe from Bishops Lydeard after a presentation by the owning group Locomotive 5542 Limited on the evening of Monday 2 June.

The Shop and the Gauge Museum should be open before our talk, which is due to start at 7.45pm, so it may be worth arriving a little early. The Buffet Car on the train should also be available.

Draw tickets will be sold on the night for two footplate rides - one to Crowcombe, and the other on the way back, on the loco, subject of course, always to the driver's agreement...[we are assured this agreement will be forthcoming!]

With "Cinders" as the main subject matter, it will be a very special evening. WSRA Members and non-members are welcome to come along - who knows you might end up on the footplate...

Further details can be obtained from Peter Darke by Email or by telephone (01984-656222).

19 May 2003 
Details from WSRA

No 5542
No 5542 in full cry 
© Stephen Edge 
 Timetable Alterations...
Please note there are some changes to the timetable for
27, 28 and 29 May 2003 from that previously published.

There are more trains on these days which will give the Railway the chance to analyse this new arrangement with a view to planning the 2004 timetable - yes work on 2004 really does start now. The new times have been dubbed "Gold Plus" but this may not be the final official title.

Click here for the Timetable Changes...

2 May 2003 Details from WSR Plc

 Seaside Signalling Situation Vacant...
Here is a fine chance to work on the West Somerset Railway and be paid for it, as explained in the WSR's OnLine newsletter...

"A part-time signal and telegraph technician is needed to support Kevin Weston and the volunteer S&T teams. Experience working on the S&T installations of types in use on the WSR either as a volunteer or professionally will be helpful."

The Department urgently needs someone for maintenance work. This will be a part time paid position, employment details from Mark Smith, Managing Director, West Somerset Railway, Railway Station, Minehead TA24 5BG (telephone 01643 704996) or technical details about the job by email from Kevin Weston MIRSE, Signal Maintenance Engineer, West Somerset Railway.

9 May 2003 Details and words from WSR Plc

 Signal, Seaside and Steam 
© Jon Tooke 
 No 5542 to go walkabout...
One of the active members of the WSR steam fleet, ex-GWR "4575" Class 2-6-2T no 5542, has been booked to star at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway’s Steam Gala on 6-7 September 2003. The engine is expected to be joined by another "small prairie" tank, no 5552, together with GWR 57xx 0-6-0PT no 4612 and the Beattie well tank no 30587.

7 May 2003 Details and words from WSRA

 No 5542 
© Stephen Edge 
 Screensavers CDROMs go on sale...
A volunteer Travelling Ticket Inspector, Rodney Greenway, has produced a small number of copies of a rather nice screensaver of scenes from the West Somerset Railway. The pictures are mostly taken by Rodney himself. The screensaver will install and run quite happily on most Windows operating systems.

The "West Somerset Railway Screensaver" is one sale at the Station Toy & Model Shop on Platform Two at Bishops Lydeard Station for just £4.99.

3 May 2003 Details from local correspondent

 Screensavers in production 
© Rodney Greenway 
 "Braunton" - progress report
Good progress on the restoration of "West Country" class no 34036 is reported from Williton Works. The final sections of plate work for the firebox repairs are being welded into place at the beginning of this month. This just leaves the staying of the throat area and finishing off plug holes and boiler mounting seatings to be completed by Roger Pridham of Tavistock, before the boiler is moved back to Williton.

The boiler will not be placed immediately on the locomotive frames, but set on the boiler trolley for work to progress on cab fittings and associated pipework. This will also give easy access for making up and fitting the cladding in due course.

3 May 2003 Details from WSR's OnLine

 No 5764 is cast as "Duck"...
Severn Valley-based ex-GWR 57xx "Pannier" 0-6-0PT no 5764 – which was a guest at the Spring Steam Gala – has been hired by the Railway again to star as "Duck" at the Railway’s "Days Out With Thomas" event on 5 & 6 July.

Until recently, reports suggested the WSRA's own "Pannier" loco no 6412 - currently on loan to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway for the summer - would return briefly for the "Thomas" weekend for the "Duck" role.

1 May 2003 Details from WSRA

No 5764
 No 5764 at Crowcombe 
© Stephen Edge 
 Three through trains in a week...
The Railway will enjoy the visits of no less than three trains from the main rail network in a week. The eagerly-awaited visit of a Virgin Trains Class 220 Voyager no 220008 on Saturday 10 May will enter virgin territory indeed with the first ever excusrion down the old Minehead branch by one of these ultra-modern trains. On arrival at Minehead, the Voyager will be ceremonially named "Somerset Voyager". The following day, the same train does a repeat performance. Both Voyager trips run from Bristol Temple Meads and will raise money for the very worthy RNLI. One week later, a Class 47 hauled excursion, "The West Country Seaside Express" will head for Minehead from Leeds, Huddersfield and Stockport.

29 April 2003 Details from WSRA

Virgin Trains
 Virgin Trains 
 Dunster Sea Lane Crossing - works completed
The original control equipment for Sea Lane crossing was installed during February/March 1975 and commissioned just before the first train ran on the WSR. Over the years, the equipment been subject to time, weather and various forms of animal life (although located in a "sealed" cupboard, some rodents can get into the smallest hole). The salt air atmosphere had also corroded some of the relay contacts, in the last few years two relays had failed completely. Due to the age of the equipment, replacements were difficult to obtain and the decision was taken to provide completely new equipment in a new location case. The road lights and rail signals were retained although new cable was installed. The new equipment was designed to comply with the current level crossing requirements using BR standard relays and components. More...

29 April 2003 Details from local correspondent

Sea Lane
 Dunster Sea Lane 
© Alan Grieve 
 County Wildlife Sites on WSR
Following a meeting last year between Dr Peter Beedon (County Wildlife Officer) and the Managing Director of the WSR, agreement was reached for the County Wildife Service to survey certain lengths of the Railway with a view to being designated as County Wildlife Sites.

The sites were originally suggested by David Bailey, WSR Volunteer and instigator of the popular and established Wildlife Trains.

The survey work was completed over the winter and the designations confirmed in March.

The Sites are 1) between Watchet and Doniford - important for coastal flora including pyramidal and bee orchids 2) between Washford Station and Old Cleeve Bridge from the WSR northern boundary fence to and including the northern verge of the A39, also mainly for the specialised flora including masses of early purple orchid and a rare pea and 3) a stretch of railway lineside and beach at Blue Anchor.

29 April 2003 Details from local correspondent

Washford Cutting
 Washford Cutting 
© Lumber Jack 
 Cross Country Update
Repairs have been carried out to no 5051 at Tavistock Junction, following its failure on the main line charter on Saturday 3 May, and the engine is scheduled to move from Plymouth direct to Bishops Lydeard on the evening of Friday 9 May, together with its support coach (which will be worked from Barton Hill to Plymouth in a van train).

The diesel convoy (comprising Peak no 46035, an EWS 47 and 67) will arrive at Bishops Lydeard from Bristol Barton Hill early on Saturday morning 10 May, and return back to Bristol - together with no 5051 and support coach - on Sunday evening 11 May.

The Class 220 Voyager that will be named "Somerset Voyager" at Minehead Station at 11:00 on Saturday 10 May will now be unit no 220 001, not 220 008 as originally planned. The unit will arrive in Bristol from Central Rivers Depot early on Saturday morning 10 May.

Both the "Peak" no 46035 "Ixion" and the visiting Class 47 diesel will be working trains on the Railway, whilst the guest Class 67 will be on static display at Bishops Lydeard.

On the Satuday, an additional service will run. The 6.06pm all stations from Minehead to Bishosp Lydeard will be headed by no D1010 "Western Campaigner".

7 May 2003 Details from WSR Plc

© Stephen Edge 
 "Earl Bathurst" will make it after all...
The failure of GWR "Castle" 4-6-0 no 5051 "Earl Bathurst" at Plymouth last weekend during the double-headed steam excusrion from Bristol, "The Mayflower", created some concerns amongst the Railway's supporters, as the loco is due to appear at thos weekend's Cross Country Weekend as the guest steam engine. It will be recalled that LMS "Jubilee" 4-6-0 no 5690 "Leander" was originally pencilled in for that role, but it was recently withdrawn for repair. A repeat dispappointment possibly loomed...

But, the problem has been completed and the "Earl" will make the journey from Devon to Somerset on Friday, arriving on the Railway late in the day, when a great sigh of relief will be heard around Bishops Lydeard and Minehead.

7 May 2003 Details from WSR Plc

Earl Bathurst
 No 5051 
© David Randles 
 Peak and Castle to attend Cross Country Weekend
Reliable sources report confidently the visit of ex-BR 'Peak' class diesel-electric no D172 "Ixion" to the West Somerset for the Cross County Weekend of 10-11 May 2003, along with ex-GWR 'Castle' 4-6-0 no 5051 "Earl Bathurst".

It seems the BR Rail Blue liveried diesel will leave Crewe overnight on Friday 9 May to arrive next day in Somerset, possibly calling at Bristol to collect a Class 47 - another example of latter-day diesel-hauled Cross Country services.

The method by which no 5051 gets to the WSR has yet to be worked out with the appropriate authorities.

Both no 5051 and D172 are making return visits to the Minehead line and will make a interesting contrast with the modern 'Voyager' unit.

28 April 2003 Details from local correspondents

Earl Bathurst
 No 5051 arriving at Minehead
© David Randles 

Sister Peak
 D172's sister D120 at Williton
© Mark Pike 
 TV Presenter to name the Voyager
The Somerset County Gazette reports "One of the new breed of Virgin cross country trains will have its first run on the heritage West Somerset Railway line during a special celebration weekend."

"Voyager number 220008 will be named Somerset Voyager at Minehead Station by Somerset historian and Channel 4 Time Team regular Robin Bush on May 10 before leaving for Bishops Lydeard."

"Passengers will be able to test out the train's qualities on the journey or on a shuttle service between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard the following day."

25 April 2003 Details from Somerset County Gazette

 Virgin Voyager
© Stephen Edge 
 WSRA Special Train
The Taunton Group of the West Somerset Railway Association have arranged a Special Train. Running during the evening of 5 May, the DMU is due to leave Bishops Lydeard at 6.40pm (members are asked to assemble at 6.30pm), and then to call at Williton, Washford and Minehead for visits to the workshops at each site. The bar - and buffet for light refreshment - will be open, with alcohol served from Minehead on the return journey due to arrive at Bishops Lydeard at 10.30pm.

The WSRA are asking for donations of at least £3 from WSRA members - surely a bargain, as is the minimum donation of £5 from non-WSRA members who are also very welcome...for a return trip to Minehead of an evening...

Further details from Peter Darke at or by phone at 01984 656222.

20 April 2003 Details from WSRA

 Charity Train to raise money for RNLI
Virgin Trains Press Office have issued the following Press Release:

"Virgin Trains is to run two charity trains from Bristol to the West Somerset Railway at Minehead to raise money for the RNLI. A £4m Voyager train will visit Minehead on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 May, giving passengers the unique opportunity to travel direct by train from Bristol to Minehead. At Minehead the Voyager will connect with the West Somerset Railway’s Cross Country steam and diesel gala. On the Saturday the train will be named Somerset Voyager. Tickets for the trains are £20 and all proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the RNLI. Tickets are available from the West Somerset Railway. The railway can be contacted by writing to West Somerset Railway, Minehead, Somerset TA24 5BG or telephoning 01643 704996. Payment can be made to West Somerset railway by credit card, debit card or cheque."

"On each day the Voyager will leave Bristol Temple Meads at approximately 0800 and depart from Minehead at approximately 1630. Once timings have been confirmed they will be available from the West Somerset Railway or on the internet at"

And of course we will bring more details here...

10 April 2003 Details from Virgin Trains Press Office

 Cross Country Weekend - a few more details...
On 10, 11 May 2003, the West Somerset Railway will host a novel event celebrating the "Cross Country " trains - through services that traversed the tracks of many Railway Companies and led to very interesting workings indeed. The tradition continues today with the train operator Virgin Cross Country to the fore with workings such as Dundee to Plymouth. And so it is fitting that Virgin Trains have chosen the WSR event to bring along one of their new Virgin Voyager trains to be formally named "Somerset Voyager" at Minehead. Many other attractions, including visits by other current main line trains and locos, are planned. News of one of these specials, the Voyager-formed Bristol to Minehead on the Saturday, is eagerly awaited especially as limited number of tickets are available on each day. The Bristol-Minehead working is a charity fund raising train for the RNLI and on the Saturday it will do a trip over the whole of the line on which visitors to the event can travel. On Sunday it will shuttle between Minehead and Williton.

The WSR Plc have also announced that English, Wales and Scottish Railways (EWS) are providing a Class 47 which will appear pulling a preserved Peak locomotive - two types of diesel that are typical of recent motive power of Cross Country trains.

We will post further details here just as soon as confirmation is received.

5 April 2003 Details from local correspondent

Voyager © Stephen Edge
 Virgin Voyager
© Stephen Edge 
 Interesting ensemble...
The movement of the visiting locos to the West Somerset for the Cross Country weekend seems likely to create a bit of a spectacle...

The proposal is to add GWR Castle no 5051 "Earl Bathurst" to the convoy of diesels from Bristol, Barton Hill to Bishops Lydeard.

The motley collection will be led by ex BR class 46 no 46035 hauling a class 47 example, followed by an English, Welsh, Scottish class 67 diesel-electric and "Earl Bathurst". There will also be four mail vans bringing up the rear, departing Barton Hill after an early breakfast on Saturday 10 May. The same group will retrace the route on the Sunday evening. The reason for the four mail vans might provide an interesting debate for the techies...

1 May 2003 Details from U N Attributable

Earl Bathurst
 No 5051 
© David Randles 
 Primroses grow at Milepost 173½...
Primroses grow 173½ miles from Paddington....but willow, ash, sycamore and blackthorn have been eradicated by the Cutting Back gang who visited this weekend to dramatically improve visibility for road and railway drivers alike at Leigh Woods Level Crossing. The entire stretch from Roebuck to Leigh Loop has now been cleared and is already deep in this spring's crop of Primroses.

20 April 2003 Details from Tree Fella

 Trim Trackside at Leigh
© Stephen Edge 
 The First Wildlife Train of 2003
Following on last year's successful introduction of Wildlife Trains on the WSR, Sunday 13 April 2003 saw the first of this year's. Chartered by Somerset Wildlife Trust the train was a 'sell out' and passengers enjoyed a day of immense variety ably brought to their notice by David Bailey's knowledgable and witty commentary.

On arrival at Minehead two groups of passengers took advantage of the opportunity to look round Minehead Station's own Wildlife Garden under the leadership of the local WSRA/SWT members who have established this important local amenity on land which would otherwise be a time consuming responsibility for the WSR.

It was pleasing to see the County's Wildlife Officer among the passengers as he was largely instrumental in the designatiuon of three stretches of the WSR as County Wildlife sites last month. This designation not only underpins the sensitivity with which the WSR manages it linesides but opens the doors to possible grant aid in future. It also enables the WSR to hold it's head high and defend itself openly when the occasional ill informed criticism of tree felling etc. hits the local press.

What is often not appreciated is that special trains such as this open the eyes of people who live within easy reach but beyond the direct influence of the railway, and who would otherwise never have visited the railway, to the delights the WSR has to offer.This is especially important in cases such as the County Wildlife Trust which has many members who are influential in county affairs. This can benefit the WSR in all sorts of ways beyond their having realised the potential for days out with their family.It is difficult for those of us who are so involved in the WSR to understand that there are folk right on our doorstep who still do not realise just how big, and long, and professional and enjoyable and important to the local community and economy the WSR is!!!

Altogether a very successful start to a new Wildlife Season and commendations are due to all involved in organising and running the event.

20 April 2003 Details from Anon

 Primroses bloom by the lineside
© Stephen Edge 
 Teddy saves the day
The recently restored Class 14 diesel-hydraulic no D9526 enjoyed a special run on Saturday 12 April - the "Teddy Bear Re-launch" - and later proved to be a Really Useful Engine when it assisted the Crompton-headed 4 o'clock ex Minehead into Williton Station after the Class 33 had failed just outside the station limits.

At the platform, the reason for the failure of the Crompton was found to be a minor problem and the locomotive was successfully re-started. By this time, the "Teddy Bear" had been coupled up and to avoid further delay, the two locos hauled the train onward to Bishops Lydeard. Apologies for the earlier editorial-inserted statement that the Crompton was hauled "dead" to Lydeard. Nevertheless, love 'em or hate 'em, Teddy Bears really do come in handy...

20 April 2003 Details from local correspondents

Teddy to the Rescue
 Teddy saves the day
© Rodney Greenway 
 Spring Steam Gala Success Story
The three day Spring Steam Gala was a huge success with 5600 passengers being carried compared with 4800 in 2002. All the visiting engines performed well, the only problem being with no 4141 before its last scheduled trip on the Sunday, and the full line-up was nos 4141, 4160, 5224, 5542, 5764, 5786, 6412, 7820, 30053 and 41312. EWS no 67006 became the second of the Class 67 to work onto the WSR when it brought in the Hertfordshire Rail tours excursion on Saturday afternoon with 497 passengers aboard. The 67 was low on fuel on arrival and 67006 is definitely the first of the type to be refuelled at Minehead - first on a heritage line?

5 April 2003 Details from WSR Plc

No 30053 © Stephen Edge
 Southern Guest
© Stephen Edge 
 Spring Steam Gala success
On the whole, the extended Gala Weekend was a great success. Timekeeping was excellent with the "little" engines coping well with the ambitious timetable. Trains of between four and eight coaches were mostly full but not overcrowded which must have been welcome for the average visitor. The diesel-headed through train from Finsbury Park was the exception to the steam-hauled "branch line" variety as Class 67 no 67006 powered thirteen coaches to Minehead and back. An amusing rumour that it had insufficient fuel for the return trip to London has yet to be proven. One or two worrying but minor mechanical failures failed to spoil the fun and with standby locos at both Minehead and Lydeard, services ran like clockwork.

Lots of pictures of the event can be found via the Newspix page.

4 April 2003 Details from local correspondent

No 5764 at Dunster © Stephen Edge
 No 5764 at Dunster Sea Lane
© Stephen Edge 
 Hymeks to get minor repaints?
Reports suggest the ex-BR diesel-hydraulic "Hymek" no D7017 owned by the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group and based at Williton is to receive full yellow ends to match those carried by sister no D7076 which is due to visit later this year

Also suggested is the cosmetic painting on one side only of the other Williton resident "Hymek" no D7018 which is undergoing a lengthy and extensive overhaul. Thus the rare sight of three similarly liveried "Hymeks" may be possible during the summer.

10 April 2003 Details from local correspondent

No D7017
 D7017 at Bishops Lydeard
 An early Easter Bonnet story...
The bonnet section of Class 14 D9526 was re-fitted on 5 April 2003. This is the last major item to be installed prior to the return to service on Saturday 12 April.

Most of the team involved are pictured (see right), apart the photographer. All of the test running has been conducted with the bonnet off in order to monitor the engine etc. The exhaust system and other piping normally supported by the bonnet was held by a temporary structure made of dexion.

It is planned to complete painting of the loco during the forthcoming week.

5 April 2003 Details from local correspondent

No D9526 © Ian Robins
 The Bonnet is fixed before Easter
© Ian Robins 
 New Staff Mug
The new 2003 WSR mug (pictured on the right) is for West Somerset Railway staff only.

It is of aluminium construction and is designed to keep the drinks hot, similar to the thermos principle. It comes with a cap to keep the contents even warmer. They are only available to Staff from WSR buffets.

1 April 2003 Details from local correspondent

Mug © Jon Tooke
 New Staff Mug © Jon Tooke 
 Pannier just kept going...
The West Somerset Railway Association's ex GWR Pannier 0-6-0PT no 6412 was seen on the evening of 30 March, passing through Taunton still in steam, just a matter of hours after arriving at Bishops Lydeard with the 4.50pm ex Minehead.

The loco was of course en route to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway at Toddington whwre it will be on loan for the early season before returning to play as "Duck" at the summer "Thomas" event on the West Somerset.

Oh, by the way, the Pannier was not steaming through Taunton on the rails but was taking it easy on a road low-loader...

1 April 2003 Details from local correspondent

6412 © Steve Huddy
 Pannier before its longer trip 
© Steve Huddy 

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