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WSR News from December 2004
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• Winter Warmer...
Many visitors and passengers used the Winter Steam Festival on 29 December to see for themselves just why the WSR is "Independent Railway of the Year 2004". And they were not disappointed with the four steam locomotives - nos 5542, 6412, 80136 and 9351 - in action. Most trains were comfortably full, especially the ever-popular Auto Coach. Perhaps the Railway needs the Locomotive 5542 Limited group to complete the restoration of their Auto Coach no 169 sooner than later. Such was demand that one of the Buffet Cars ran out of sandwiches and pasties (always a sign of a busy day). Pictures...

29 December 2004 
Details from local correspondents

• Back in Blue...
2005 promises to be the "Year of the Locomotives" on the West Somerset Railway. Apart from the Spring Steam Gala - expected to field twelve locos from the Great Western stable, nos 1450, 3440, 4612, 4936, 5051, 6412, 5542, 5553 7822, 6024, 9351, and 9466 - and Southern Railway 4-6-0 no 850 due to arrive in the Spring for running-in, the return to steam of GWR 2-8-0 no 3850 later in the year is eagerly awaited. Also, due to return at some point in the year is Large Prairie no 4160. Perhaps the most popular locomotive due to be outshopped in 2005 is the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway Class 7F 2-8-0 no 88 which will appear, controversially, for the first time ever in the famous SDJR Prussian blue with yellow lining and black frames (The 7Fs were always black in SDJR, LMS and BR days). There is even more - sister loco SDJR no 89 is also to be returned to service, elsewhere, in Prussian blue and hopes are high for a historic reunion in 2006 for the only remaining locos of the enigmatic Somerset and Dorset Railway.

26 December 2004 
Details from local correspondent

• Minehead Key Sites...
Minehead plan
A turntable for the Railway is mentioned and costed in the report "Minehead Key Sites" by and available from West Somerset District Council. The report outlines the District Council's plans to development the land adjacent to the Railway from Seaward Way to the Railway Station itself. Included are plans showing the proposed new Council offices along with an Employment Site and a Retail Site. Despite the mention of the turntable, the plans do not include a proposed siting. The report has no further hint about where this might be installed. A glaring omission is the almost entire lack of car parking for visitors, not just outside the station, but from the "market" car park too. And with the existing Vulcan Way car and coach parking area earmarked for the Retail Site, just where will the hundreds of Railway, Council, Library and shopping visitors park their vehicles? One or two questions for the councillors, perhaps?.

24 December 2004 
Details from West Somerset District Council

• Developers express interest in East Wharf...
"Substantial interest" is being shown by potential developers in the East Wharf, Watchet, according to West Somerset District Council which now expects that, from more than 100 expressions of interest, between 10 and 20 developers will submit firm proposals. The next stage of the process will be to evaluate the submissions with a view to drafting a shortlist of four to six candidates. The East Wharf, of course, has a strong historical tie to the West Somerset Railway, and was built and developed by the original Railway Company in the 1860s. Sidings linked the main line with the quayside for over a hundred years until closure in 1964. Let's hope the rather nice view of the harbour from the train is retained...

24 December 2004 
Details from West Somerset District Council website

• Latest WSR Journal is published...
No 108
Somewhat later than normal, perhaps waiting for a certain ceremony, the WSR Journal has landed on the doormats of several thousand WSRA members. Number 108 carries news of the "Independent Railway of the Year 2004", as to be expected, as well as a look back over a fantastic year and a look forward to several events in 2005, notably the mouth-watering line-up of twelve GWR locos at the Spring Steam Gala. Despite continuing scant regard or coverage of WSR activities on the internet, the Journal remains a very well produced publication full of good pictures, news and articles and is available free every three months or so to members of the West Somerset Railway Association.

23 December 2004 

• Silk Mill Pillbox Preservation...
Silk Mill pillbox
A historic structure that has stood by the lineside at Silk Mill Level Crossing for over sixty years is to be preserved. It is a "sentry post" or "pillbox" that once guarded the extensive sidings laid down during the Second World War to serve the nearby supply depots at Norton and Fairwater. Full details are on the BBC Somerset website. The West Somerset Railway has several examples along the line, most notably those on Ker Moor, which enjoy Listed status. The Railway also has a keen interest in the building of the new bridge at Silk Mill as the project includes improvements to the main line connection to and from the Minehead Branch.

22 December 2004 
Details from BBC Somerset website

• Brunel 200 looms...

2006 see the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the world's greatest engineers, Isambard Kindom Brunel. It is good to learn of plans for celebrations on the Culture South West web site. The West Somerset Railway, in part a Brunel-designed line and with many Brunellian artefacts, is planning a number of celebratory events. Watch this space...

19 December 2004 
Details from local correspondents and WSR plc

• Development developments...
Following the recent meeting of the local council at which the planned developments alongside the station at Minehead were discussed, the Railway Company has written to all councillors referring to drawings showing the latest plans. The Managing Director expressed concerns about reduced car parking spaces overall, no provision for cars of the disabled nor for coaches. Spaces for around 200 are planned to cater for tourists, visitors to the proposed council office and library and council staff, yet the Railway can generate a need for nearer 300 on a busy summer weekday. The proposals will put a severe strain on the Railway's plans to continue to expand and improve the facilities at Minehead. A meeting between the council and Railway is planned for early 2005.

18 December 2004 
Details from MD's desk

• Buttons galore...
The Buffer Stop Shop at Minehead has a most interesting new line in replica GWR buttons - ideal for use on uniforms. They come in a boxed set of 6 small and 6 large for £19.95, or carded sets of 4 large (£1.25) or 4 small (99p) - note prices do not include p&p. Contact Mike Chilcott on 01643 700387 - the shop is open 18, 19, 21, 22, 23 and 24 December and from 27 December to 2 January. Otherwise open days are Friday, Saturday and Sunday while there are no trains running - note that messages can be left on voice mail when the shop is closed.

17 December 2004 
Details from local correspondent

• Show us yours...
The 3 January 2005 meeting of the Taunton Group of the WSRA features a Photographic Competition. Pictures must have been taken in 2004. Members are invited to bring (or send) send prints, slides and/or digital images to Peter Darke. Maximum of ten entries per person/class, and a small charge is made for each entry. Prizes will be awarded for best entries. Peter's contact details can be found on the Area Groups page of the WSRA website. The meeting starts at 7.45pm in the GWRSA "snug" bar near Taunton Station.

14 December 2004 
Details from WSRA

• The Railway that likes to say "Yes"...
Driver Wakeman
The man from "Yes", Rick Wakeman, visited the Railway for a special Steam Engineman course and enjoyed being at the controls of Riddles-designed BR 2-6-4T no 80136 in the company of Driver Conibeare and Fireman Dorrington (see picture, left, by Jon Tooke). Later, Rick switched on the Minehead Christmas Lights and appeared at the Regal Theatre in the seaside town. The Railway are very pleased to join in the community spirit - the Railway that likes to say "Yes"...

11 December 2004 
Details from local correspondent

• Heavy Freight nears completion...
Work in hand
Great news from the Dinmore Manor Locomotive Ltd people who say the Final Push in the long restoration of ex-GWR 2-8-0 no 3850 is well and truly on with a real possibility of a steaming in the Spring of 2005. A return to the West Somerset Railway is expected in April 2005. More help is needed, however, and well-wishers are invited to visit the Dinmore Manor Locomotive Ltd website for more details of how to help...

11 December 2004 
Details from Dinmore Manor Locomotive Ltd

• Threat to success...
The West Somerset Railway has just been voted the "Railway of the Year" in the National Railway Heritage Awards, but its future success is overshadowed by West Somerset District Councilís plans to build on land next to the railway station at Minehead. "The railway is being squeezed, with every inch of spare land to be developed, right up to the lineside fence," said Chris Austin, Chairman of the West Somerset Railway. "Minehead station will be stripped of much of its car parking, and despite months of discussion, the Council has failed to come up with a plan to provide better and safer access to the station." More...

8 December 2004 
Details from WSR plc

• Crane installed at Williton Works
Crane © JA
On 7 December, the five ton overhead crane was installed in the "Swindon Shed" at Williton. Wiring will be installed soon and, when the concrete has cured, and all other safety checks are completed, the crane will be tested. The crane will greatly enhance the restoration work being undertaken on a wide range of projects including the West Country loco, "Braunton".

7 December 2004 
Details from local correspondent

• Busy evenings at Minehead...
Steam at night
Two hectic evenings at Minehead saw the West Somerset Railway at its very best as a procession of trains arrived at the seaside terminus carrying hundreds of passengers bound for the annual Dunster by Candlelight event on 3-4 December 2004. On the Friday evening, a fully-loaded 12 coach through train from Weston-super-Mare and Bristol arrived behind Class 67 no 67002 and was berthed in the main platform, with the following trains - 4.45pm, 5.30pm and 5.45pm from Bishops Lydeard - having to use the bay road. With the stored First Great Western HST parked in the bay loop, each steam loco was shunt release by the station pilot. With space at a premium, the stock from the 4.45pm was taken to Blue Anchor by Crompton D6566 until required for the return trip. And then of course, the trains had to take the passengers home. And all of this in darkness. Despite no through train on the Saturday, things remained very busy indeed. Pictures...

6 December 2004 
• Good news for Silk Mill Project...
Silk Mill © Rosie Darch
After a week or so of doubts over the central government contribution to the multi-organisation funding of works at Silk Mill, near Taunton, it is good to hear of the confirmation that funds are now available. For full details of the news, please see press releases by Department of Transport and Somerset County Council. The Project will, amongst other things, create a much-improved connection between the main line and the Minehead Branch.

2 December 2004 
Details from local correspondents and WSR plc

• Minehead Chimney Project..
Chimney © Alan Grieve
A measured survey was carried out on the remaining chimney atop the Station Building at Minehead on 1 December. The survey is a requirement of the planning permission granted to the Friends of Minehead Station who are replacing four similar long-since structures, as part of the refurbishment of the terminus buildings. This chimney will now be dismantled and used as a pattern by the stonemasons.

2 December 2004 
Details from local correspondent

• Boilers in the news.
No 88 © Alan Grieve
On 1 December, the boiler of Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway 2-8-0 no 88 was returned from Crewe to Minehead and reunited with the rest of the locomotive which is beginning to look much more like her old self. The hope is to complete the overhaul, begun in 1996, may be completed during 2005. Going out was the boiler of GWR 4-6-0 no 7828 "Odney Manor" for overhaul. Busy times indeed at Minehead.

2 December 2004 
Details from local correspondent


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