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• TV documentary featuring WSR wins RTS award...
Simon Calder © Grace Productions

A TV documentary about the railways of Somerset, featuring the West Somerset Railway, has won a highly regarded award. "Beeching's Tracks" with Simon Calder, made by Grace Productions, was voted top in the West of England documentary category at a ceremony at the Royal Television Society at Bristol on 30 January 2009. The highly regarded RTS awards recognise and reward independent companies based in the region. The film was one of a national series of prime time documentaries for BBC1 West and was later picked for a network repeat on BBC4.

28 January 2009 
Details from local correspondents

• The WSR Association Chairman...
Robin White © Fotophile69

A brief note concerning the Chairman of the WSR Association. The WSRA Vice Chairman, David Holmes writes "Many of you may already be aware that Robin White has resigned as Chairman of the WSRA Committee due to pressures in his business and personal life. Robin's tenure of the post has been relatively brief but occurring as it did during a difficult period for the WSR was not short of challenges. Robin will be missed about the railway. As Vice Chairman I will now undertake the responsibilities of Chairman until the Committee has had the opportunity, to consider and appoint a new Chairman. Please be assured Association staff and members will be kept informed and told of any changes as soon as possible. During the short period of transition the day to day business of the WSRA will continue as normal. If you have any particular questions or comments then please do not hesitate to get in touch, David Holmes, WSRA Vice Chairman, 28 January 2009"

28 January 2009 
Details from WSRA

• Commendation for the Diesel and Electric group...
Bob Tiller © Ian Robins

The efforts of the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group in keeping the trains running on the West Somerset Railway have been officially recognised. Members of the WSR Plc Board visited the Williton base of the DEPG on Saturday 24 January to open the new Mess Room. WSR Plc Chairman Mark Smith presented a Commendation Certificate to DEPG Chairman Bob Tiller (left) in recognition of the Group's contribution to keeping the service running during the technical problems in 2008. For more about the DEPG, please visit the Group's website

25 January 2009 
Details from local correspondent

• Update from the Heritage Carriages Project...
No 3639 © Claire Sheppy

Two working parties are scheduled for next month at the Heritage Carriages Project at Williton. These take place on 14 February and 21 February and the Project Team will be glad to see old and new hands at their Williton base, with work concentrated on the restoration of ex-Great Western Railway Toplight no 3639. Interested folks might like a reminder of the Project Update meeting at Ruishton Inn on 31 January, with Project Director Robin White and other Team Members, providing a progress report and fielding questions. Update: the meeting at Ruishton on 31 January has been cancelled. Meantime, the Williton Team are searching for an AO drawing table to provide a better drawing environment as the painstaking work of preparing drawings of the carriages continues. Finally, don't forget the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Film evening on Saturday 28 March 2009 at Crowcombe Village Hall in aid of the Heritage Carriages Project. Lots more information on these stories at the WSSRT website

Amended 27 January 2009 
Details from WSSRT

• A third season for the Hestercombes...
Hestercombe Gardens

The West Somerset Railway is to run the Hestercombe Express this year. Running every Wednesday from 27 May to 30 September inclusive passengers will be able to join the 10.15am departure from Minehead or join that train at any station en route to Bishops Lydeard on each of these dates. Once at Bishops Lydeard a road coach will meet the travellers and whisk them off to Hestercombe Gardens giving them at least three hours to enjoy the gardens, the views and the excellent restaurant. The connecting coach will collect them in time for the 4.05 departure from Bishops Lydeard for the rail trip back to their starting station. A wonderful day out and all on public transport. The combined fare has been kept at the 2008 prices. More details...

Amended 27 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• New colourful WSR pictorial book...
Book by Tony Whitby

A colourful pictorial journey over the lines of the very photogenic West Somerset Railway by a talented railway photographer. The book is a hardback with 80 pages and includes approximately 85 colour illustrations. Photographer Tony Whitby has recorded the line for many years and has acquired a varied archive of photographs portraying the line. The book is published by Ian Allan at the beginning of May at a cover price of £14.99. For advance orders please ring the Buffer Stop Shop on 01643 700387 or email the shop at You can also download the order form.

22 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• Minehead Station Shop closure...
The Shop at Minehead

The Buffer Stop Shop at Minehead will be closed for refurbishment for three days starting from Friday 30 January. During this time the shop will have new shelves, counter and carpetting and will be certainly be much much smarter for the 2009 season. The shop will re-open for business on Friday 6 February. In the meantime, online sales and postal orders will still be accepted. To visit the Online Shop please click here...

22 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• No 2874 for sale...
No 2874 © Phil Neale

It is understood that GWR 2-8-0 no 2874 is for sale. The heavy goods locomotive was acquired last year by WSR Plc. It was formerly kept at the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway in South Wales. A report in a recent Heritage Railway magazine suggests the locomotive is for sale. The WSR Plc have not denied this and it is assumed a bid or two would be welcomed. It is possible the recent acquisition by the WSR Association of Manor Class 4-6-0 no 7821 Ditcheat Manor would render the goods engine somewhat redundant.

22 January 2009 
Details from local correspondent

• Volunteers needed for a 1940s Event...
1940s event

The West Somerset Railway Association will be promoting a nostalgic evening of 1940s style fun at Minehead Station on Saturday 6 June 2009. This event will feature a special 1940s themed Quantock Belle dining train with extra non-dining seats. Musical entertainment will include AJ's Big Band with a special vocalist act The Stage Door Johnnies, and other special live music. The event committee need to recruit some volunteer support for activities to help make the event a success. If you are willing to help, please contact Susan Kaufman, or 01823 431311. The committee would welcome new members or volunteers willing to help with set-up/tear-down; 40s theme decorations; programme/publicity; Minehead Station access.

21 January 2009 
Details from WSRA

• Vacancy for a Technical Administrator...
West Somerset Restoration

The West Somerset Railway Association is accepting applications for this challenging post until 6 February 2009. If you would like to be a part of the Williton Restoration Team and have the skills to update job control systems to include monitoring hours of engineering staff in relation to job cards and timesheets; monitor budgets; manage industrial sites; generate computer based reports; implement and monitor health & safety requirements; act as a customer liaison; work with volunteers, then, this post could be for you! The location is Williton Restoration Works. This is a temporary part time (30 hours per week) post and will be reviewed as a permanent post in line with commercial development of the business. The salary is £14,560 per annum pro rata for 30 hours. For further information, contact Gareth Winter, Engineering Manager on 01984 633547. The closing date for applications is 6 February 2009 - to apply, send a CV to the Williton Restoration Works, Roughmoor Industrial Estate, Williton, Somerset TA4 4RF.

21 January 2009 
Details from WSRA

• Buy Discounted Gala Rover Tickets online...
King Edward I

Discounted Rover Tickets for the Spring Steam Gala will be available for purchase online from 21 January 2009. The discount price applies to Rover Tickets purchased in advanc. To book online, please visit the TicketWeb website. Rover Tickets allow you the complete freedom of the line and purchasing them is the best way of enjoying the Gala. One, Two, Four and Six Day Rover Tickets will be available. Choose from the following - One Day Rovers; Two Day Rovers (21-22 March, 26-27 March, 28-29 March), Four Day Rovers (covers 26 to 29 March); Four Day Rovers (both weekends); and Six Day Rovers. To book online, please visit the TicketWeb website. For those not wanting to book online, please use the Booking Form. Visit the Spring Steam Gala page...

20 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• Extra Steam Engineman courses announced...
Steam Engineman

Due to the high demand two extra Stage One Steam Engineman Courses have been added into the 2009 programme. These extra two-day courses will be on 1-2 March and 11-12 November. Also announced are the Stage Four Plus evening course dates which will be held on 20 June, 25 July, 15 August and 5 September. To book onto these courses please call 01643 700398 or download the Booking Form.

19 January 2009 
Details from local correspondent

• The Gauge Museum Model Railway...
Model Railway

In 2008 the Model Railway at the Gauge Museum, situated in the former Goods Shed at Bishops Lydeard Station, was opened 100 days of the year with a grand total of 9525 visitors. The Model Railway Team would like to thank all the visitors who visited in 2008 and hope to see them all back and hopefully more in 2009. The Model Railway is currently closed for winter maintenance - the new branch line is now completed and the new fiddle yard now has track ready to be laid enabling more trains to run each day. The future development depends very much on funding, which it is hoped will increase soon, as at present the Model Railway depends on donations from the public. The Model Railway will hopefully be open again in time for the Spring Steam Gala.

19 January 2009 
Details from local correspondent

• Flockton Flyer DVD to be released on 16 March...
Flockton Flyer DVD

The long wait for the release of the DVD version of the Flockton Flyer series is nearly over. Filmed on the West Somerset Railway, and starring David Neal, Sheila Fearn, Peter Duncan, Gwyneth Strong, Jessica Lanyon, with guest stars Patrick Mower, Gerald Harper, Harry Fowler, the story revolves around the Carter family who take over the running of a preservation railway. Based at Flockton Station the main engine The Flockton Flyer becomes a main character in all the family's adventures. All 12 episodes from these 2 series released on DVD for the first time. The DVD will be available on 16 March 2009. Currently both and have the DVD listed. The 2 DVD edition (Region 2) is accompanied by an informative 24 page booklet containing several pictures and comprehensive viewing notes, written by Children's TV historian Alistair McGown and Nick Jones, who was Operating Superintendent at the time of the filming in 1976 and 1977.

17 January 2009 
Details from local correspondent

• Tornado visit postponed...
No 60163 © Byeitical (via Creative Commons licence)

No 60163 will not attend the Spring Gala as expected. The WSR Plc have announced "We have received the unfortunate news that the superb new build A1 Pacific Tornado will not now be with us for the Spring Steam Gala owing to commitments elsewhere. However we are confident that 60163 will be paying us a visit later in the year, possibly in June. A replacement is being sought in line with the big engine theme. Elsewhere 46100 is due to be steam tested over the weekend of February 13th and 14th." More news when we get it...

14 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• Busy time ahead for Promotions Team...

The West Somerset Railway will be out and about this summer at the various Shows. With a challenging season ahead, the Commercial Department will be looking for volunteers to help promote the Railway at the North Somerset Show at Wraxall on 4 May; at the Devon County Show, Westpoint, Exeter on 21 to 23 May; at the Bath & West Show, Shepton Mallet on 27 to 30 May; at the Taunton Flower Show, Vivary Park on 7 and 8 August; at the Dunster Show, Dunster Lawns on 21 August; and at the Group Leisure & Travel Show, NEC Birmingham on 23 and 24 September. As can be seen, May is a particularly busy month. Please make contact with Martyn Snell on 01643 700383 or if you able to offer a day. He will make contact with you personally a little closer to the actual event.

11 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• Blue Anchor Level Crossing...
Blue Anchor

The West Somerset Railway has obtained consent from Somerset County Council for the temporary closure of the public highway across the level crossing at Blue Anchor between Monday 2 February 2009 and Friday 13 February 2009 inclusive. There will be no vehicular access over the Blue Anchor level crossing over this period, because of the need to renew the roadway, both railway tracks and the supporting foundations. This is a substantial engineering project and it is understood that it will cause inconvenience to both residents and businesses, although it is hopefully appreciated that the work has been programmed to be undertaken outside normal holiday periods. The main alternative vehicular route will be via Carhampton and Old Cleeve and more than forty diversion signs will be situated in the local area to give guidance on these alternative routes. Pedestrian access will be maintained by means of a timber board walk adjoining the existing level crossing, but at certain times when for example heavy machinery is being moved around the site, there may be some unavoidable short delays in being able to cross the railway from one side to the other. In advance, the West Somerset Railway wants to thank all residents and businesses in the area for their understanding and co-operation whilst this essential engineering work is being undertaken. If anyone reading this has any questions that they wish to raise with the West Somerset Railway, then please contact Paul Conibeare on 01643 700388.

11 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• Heritage Carriages Project Working Party...
No 3639 © Claire Sheppy

If you are a woodworker who likes a challenge then how about helping restore elderly wooden-framed carriages at Williton. Railway enthusiasm is not essential just the love of working in wood. The first Heritage Carriage Project Working Party of 2009 is scheduled for Saturday 17 January. The day will commence at 10.30am, carrying on until 4.30pm. A reminder too that Project Member David Stockwell is intending to lead a party of interested persons on a visit on Sunday 18 January to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway Toplight Group, who are well-advanced on a similar restoration project. If you are interested in going on that particular trip please get in touch with the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's Heritage Carriages Project by email...

9 January 2009 
Details from WSRA

• Taunton Group Photo Competition Results...
No 5552 © Thomas Adams

The Taunton Group of the West Somerset Railway Association held their Annual Photographic Competition at the GWRSA in Taunton on Monday 5 January. During a lively evening, the prints were judged by the members, whilst Mr Don Bishop ARPS a professional photographer from Huntspill judged the 35mm slides. Just as in 2008, Tom Adams won First and Second Prizes in the Heritage Railway section of the prints, with a shot of Tangmere at Teignmouth and No 5552 near Bodmin. In the 35mm slides section, Alan Randle won First Prize in the Heritage Railway section, with a view of SDJR 2-8-0 no 88 at Blue Anchor. More...

9 January 2009 
Details from WSRA

• Buffet Car no 10205 moves on...
No 10205 © Justin Kerr-Peterson

Buffet Car no 10205 is heading back to the national rail network. After two seasons holidaying at Minehead as the Brunel Buffet this Mark 3 restaurant car donated to the West Somerset Railway Association by Porterbrook in 2007 has been sold to DB Regio UK Ltd for future main line use. West Somerset Railway General Manager Paul Conibeare said: "The use of the Mark 3 coach as the buffet at Minehead in 2008 made a significant contribution to the customer experience at our seaside terminus. We look forward to the new kiosk overlooking the turntable bettering that in 2009. We are pleased that Restaurant no 10205 will be rejoining the national network. The capital generated by its sale will assist with some significant West Somerset Railway projects." No10205 is expected to leave the WSR by road shortly to be placed into secure storage.

9 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc and WSRA

• Farewell to No 6412...
No 6412 © Geoff Evens

The one-time flagship steam locomotive of the West Somerset Railway has left the line. GWR 0-6-0PT no 6412 arrived on the railway in 1976 and a few days later shared the honours on Opening Day of 28 March hauling crowded trains between Minehead and Blue Anchor. Owned by the West Somerset Railway Association for over thirty years, the locomotive proved extremely useful hauling the lighter-loaded trains over the twenty mile Minehead Branch. No 6412 even became a TV star as The Flockton Flyer in the Southern TV series of the same name. In more recent years, the success of the WSR has led to much longer, heavier trains, beyond the limited power of the Pannier, and with an expensive overhaul just underway, it was agreed, with much sadness amomgst the WSRA membership, to sell the locomotive to the South Devon Railway. No 6412, partly dismantled, made the journey by road from Williton to Buckfastleigh on 8 January. By strange coincidence, a DVD version of the Flockton Flyer TV series is about to be released (see news item below). So we say farewell to the little 0-6-0 and we look forward, one day, to a return visit as a guest engine...

8 January 2009 
Details from local correspondents

• Second best year for West Somerset Railway...

Despite difficult trading conditions during 2008 the West Somerset Railway carried the second-highest total of passengers in its 32 year history. The Railway, which runs for 20 miles between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead, sold 203.966 tickets, narrowly beating its 2005 total of 203,297. WSR General Manager Paul Conibeare takes up the story. "Although our final passenger figure for last year represents a drop of some 10,000 from the all-time record set in 2007, and that is naturally a disappointment, we have had to deal with some particular problems in 2008. Firstly the building work on and around Minehead Station connected with the turntable installation and station area enhancement work in the first half of the year made it look to the casual eye that the northern end of our line was closed. Secondly we had a well-publicised track problem in June and July that meant the substitution of diesel locomotives for steam on some services which is less attractive to the general public. To that can be added the fact that we were unable to operate the highly popular "Day Out With Thomas" weekend and a decline in the number of mainline excursion trains coming to Minehead. These pushed the passenger graph down in the first half of the year but since the building work was completed and the problems overcome we have traded strongly in the second half. Most recently we have had a very good December period including a highly successful Winter Steam Festival which for the first time took place over two days."

8 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• Tornado to visit West Somerset...
Spring Steam Gala

The organising group for the Spring Gala has announced today that, subject to availability, the following locomotives will be working during the event. LNER A1 no 60163 Tornado (this loco will appear at the first weekend 21 and 22 March 2009 only); LNER A4 no 60019 Bittern; LMS no 46100 Royal Scot; GWR 4-6-0 no 6024 King Edward I; SR 4-6-2 no 34046 Braunton; SDJR 7F 2-8-0 no 88; GWR 0-6-2T no 6695; GWR 2-8-0 no 3850; GWR 2-6-2T no 5553; WSR 2-6-0 no 9351. Negotiations are on-going with the owners of a further two or three visiting engines representing the "Big Four". The organising group hopes that this mouth watering line up of engines will get the West Somerset Railway's 2009 season off to a flyer. The leaflet should be available within the next two to three weeks but those who wish to book in advance can do so by downloading the Booking Form or contacting 01643 704996 between 9am and 5pm seven days a week.

8 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• No 4160 takes a trip to London...
No 4160 © Andy Forster

No 4160 takes a trip to London. At dawn on 7 January 2009, the 4160 Ltd owned steam locomotive BR(W) Large Prairie 2-6-2T no 4160 left Minehead for the trip by road to Ilford, London for tyre turning to correct worn wheel profiles. The popular locomotive is due to return to West Somerset within the week.

7 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• Spring Steam Gala Rover Tickets now available...
Spring Steam Gala 2009

Discounted Advance Spring Steam Gala Rover Tickets now available. The planning for the West Somerset Railway's opening showpiece of the 2009 season, the Spring Steam Gala is moving forward a pace and, while the visiting line up of locomotives is still to be finalised, it is possible to book your advanced tickets now at the listed prices shown on the Booking Form. The advance prices for Six, Four and Two Day Rover Tickets have been set at 2008 prices.

6 January 2009 
Details from WSR Plc

• Two Steam Trust Events...
Film Night

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust have released posters to help publicise two events. The first event is a Heritage Carriages Project Update Meeting at the Ruishton Inn on Saturday 31 January 2009 starting at 6.30pm. Full details are shown on the Update Poster [pdf]. The second event is a rather interesting "Film Evening" at Crowcombe Village Hall on Saturday 28 March 2009. Starting at 7.30pm, this event is on the second Saturday evening of the Spring Steam Gala - full details are shown on the Film Evening Poster [pdf]. Help with printing and displaying the posters would be very welcome...

5 January 2009 
Details from WSSRT

• The Barnstaple Line Brush Bash...
Cutting back at the Boundary Ditch © Malcolm Anderson

Working during the coldest weekend of the winter and with the agreement and approval of Network Rail, volunteers from the WSRA Cutting Back and Permanent Way gangs have removed years of undergrowth from the ditch between the original Barnstaple line formation and the Up Exeter to Bristol Main Line. The short section of branch trackbed is due to be transferred to the Association in the spring for incorporation in the triangle works currently ongoing. The heavily overgrown ditch will mark the new boundary between the WSRA land and Network Rail and needed to be cleared before the transfer could be completed. Network Rails approval of the work, which is being carried out to strictly agreed methods, is a reflection on the professionalism of WSRA volunteers. Subject to final grading the entire triangle is now very nearly ready for progressive ballasting during the spring of 2009.

4 January 2009 
Details from WSRA

• The Flockton Flyer DVD to be released soon...
Harry Lee, Arthur Young and Keith Hawkins with No 6412 © Nick Jones

Everything is now on track for a DVD release of both series of a TV series of the late 1970s. The "Flockton Flyer" DVD is expected at the end of February or early March 2009. Simply Home Entertainment will release the DVD edition which have been cleared by the BBFC as certificate PG. The DVD will come with an attractive sleeve and an accompanying booklet with extensive production notes, written by Alistair McGown and the WSR's own Nick Jones. In the autumn of 1976, and again a year later, a Southern Television unit visited the WSR to film the exterior shots for two series, each of 6 x 30 minute programmes of "The Flockton Flyer", a children's adventure/drama. The WSRA-owned loco ex-GWR 0-6-0PT no 6412 was the star of the show. The revenue from the filming made a big difference to survival hopes for the WSR during the difficult times of the autumn of 1976. No 6412 ran through the 1977 summer season in "Flockton Flyer" livery, with a naming ceremony at Minehead on 3 April that year. We hope to bring you more details soon...

2 January 2009 
Details from local correspondent

• A remarkable find...
Seal © Ian Coleby

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust has recently acquired this original West Somerset Railway envelope. Trust Archivist, Ian Coleby, explains "Date stamped May 10 1860, it was posted in Taunton and sent to Mr Edward Risdon at Washford. The sender has handily described the contents of the envelope on the outside: Included is receipt for cash paid to West Somerset Railway Company £10 for 20 shares at 10/- per share. So no secrets from the postman then. What makes this rather ordinary envelope special, however, is the reverse where it has been embossed with a WSR seal. This is very rare and has not been seen before....we assume that the envelopes were normally thrown away and therefore they don't usually survive. Note that the seal bears the company's London address of 6 Victoria Street rather than the local, Taunton Hammett Street address. We hope to be able to display this envelope in the Gauge Museum next season."

1 January 2009 
Details from WSSRT

• A new station for Norton...
Norton © David Holmes

The West Somerset Railway Association has announced plans to build a four-coach platform at its Norton Fitzwarren triangle site. It will be completed in time for the 2009 Steam Fayre due to be held on 1 and 2 August. The station, which will be an un-staffed halt, will lie alongside the existing West Somerset Railway. Its main function will be to bring visitors to the Norton site, although it is likely to have a role to play in future Gala events, and at busy times may be used for overspill car parking with a shuttle to Bishops Lydeard. It will be built on the trackbed of the original down line constructed in 1936 but lifted in the 1970s. For the full story, please visit the WSRA website...

1 January 2009 
Details from WSRA

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