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WSR News from March 2007
• Big increase in Gala visitors...
© Tim Cowen
 
More than 10000 people visited the Railway during the recent six day Spring Steam Gala. A total of 10,529 passengers were counted - that's a 16% increase over the figures for the corresponding event last year, itself a record breaker. The Taunton-Bishops Lydeard-Taunton train supplied by Virgin Trains that ran on the two weekends carried just under 2000 passengers. And a special excursion from Sheffield brought in around 500 passengers. A noticeable increase in visitors were evident all along the route of the Railway. Gala pictures...

29 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc and local correspondents
• No 6705 back in Britain...
© WSSRT
 
The Collett BCK no 6705 was successfully off-loaded from MV Fairlift at Newport docks under the watchful eye of Heritage Carriages Project Advisor Andy Forster on Monday 26 March. Project Director Robin White explains, "This was a day late as the ship developed engine problems on the approach to the Bristol Channel. Andy Forster and I have now had the opportunity to look over no 6705. Andy's view is that it is 'a good 'un', an assessment with which I concur. In comparison with the ex-departmental vehicles which I have been looking at recently to form the other vehicles in the set, it is a joy to see. A considerable amount of refurbishment is required, but it is refurbishment not recreation. We have been offered free covered storage at Swindon for the vehicle, whence it will move shortly. We will arrange an opportunity to view the coach as soon as is practicable for Heritage Carriage Project supporters." More pictures on the website of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

27 March 2007 
Details from West Somerset Steam Railway Trust
• A very successful Gala...
© Alan Turner
 
The six-day Spring Steam Gala event was another highly successful launch to the main season for the award-winning West Somerset Railway with passengers flocking to travel behind the array of steam locomotives working an intensive train service between Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, and Minehead and to take in the delights of the Somerset countryside in early Spring. "We had a very pleasing first weekend", said WSR General Manager Paul Conibeare, "with over 3000 people travelling over the two days March 17th and 18th - Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd also saw good levels of business. However the sunshine on Saturday 24th brought out both the enthusiasts and the general public and we had one of our busiest days ever. We were also pleased to welcome 395 visitors who travelled on an excursion train from Sheffield and had an enjoyable afternoon either on the West Somerset or in Minehead. It will take us a couple of days to finally ratify the passenger figures for the Gala as a whole but we are delighted with the results." Apart from the line-up of historic engines, which included seven "guests" specially hired-in for the Gala, there were plenty of other factors which brought the visitors to the Railway and the surrounding area. Amongst these a Virgin Trains “Voyager” ran a shuttle service between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard on the Saturdays and Sundays whilst on the same days a free vintage bus service linked Dunster Station with the village and its Castle. Mr Conibeare paid tribute to the WSR workforce. “Our volunteers and staff work put in a lot of hard work in the three months leading up to the Gala and during the actual operating days the first workers are on duty at 4 am and the last make their way home around 10 pm. It is rewarding to see their efforts producing such satisfactory results for the Railway". Gala pictures...

26 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
• Excellent first weekend...
No 7802 and the Virgin Voyager © Rog Stobbs
 
No 850 © Dennis Harker
 
The first weekend of the West Somerset Railway Spring Steam Gala was very successful with 3295 passengers riding on the trains over the 20 miles of line between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead. A dozen steam locomotives were in action, ranging from the small tank engine Kilmersdon shunting at Washford station to mighty express locomotives including SR 4-6-2 no 34007 Wadebridge and GWR Castle class no 5051 Earl Bathurst. Many visitors came to the Gala by the free buses operating to Bishops Lydeard from Taunton Railway Station and the Park and Ride car park at Silk Mills and others travelled on a shuttle rail service using a Virgin Voyager train. The WSR also ran a free vintage bus service between Dunster Station and Dunster village. West Somerset Railway General Manager Paul Conibeare was very pleased with results to date. "Our 2006 Spring Gala marked the passing of the much-loved Somerset and Dorset line and set records that we thought we might struggle to match", he said. "So to find ourselves with what is shaping up to be an even more successful event is very pleasing an a great reward for all the volunteers and staff who put so much effort into making the Galas attractive for both enthusiasts and the general public." The Gala resumes on Thursday 22 March and runs until Sunday 25 March. Thursday and Friday will be quieter days without the Virgin Train or the Dunster Bus links operating and "only" nine trains each way rather than the fourteen which run on Saturdays and Sundays. More...

20 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
• Visit results in an award...
Martyn Snell and Samantha Minter with the new award...
 
The WSR stand at the Trade Fair...
 
The West Somerset Railway attended the British Travel Trade Fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on 13-14 March. As always it was a very productive exercise with new contacts in the travel industry being made and useful face to face conversations with management and representatives of existing customers of the line but the WSR team didn’t expect to come home with an award. Commercial Manager Martyn Snell and Tours Officer Samantha Minter were turning their thoughts towards the journey home on the afternoon of the second day when they were asked by the Fair organisers to stay on for the awards ceremony at the end. When they did leave the NEC they were in possession of an award for the Best Overall Participation which is given on the basis of the quality of the stand, the staff’s approach and also the amount of work that is carried out before the show to make contacts and seek new business. "Given the size and resources of some of the participating companies and organisations", said WSR General Manager Paul Conibeare, "it reflects very well on the WSR and the Commercial Department that they should be so highly thought of by a gathering of hard headed tourism trade professionals. Apart from the certificate we are confident that this will lead on to more business coming to Somerset in the future."

19 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
• The Rat to run in place of DMU...
© Jon Tooke
 
The Class 25 diesel electric no D7523 is lined up for regular duties for a week or so. The loco belongs to a class known to enthusiasts by the nickname "Rat". Owing to the ongoing overhaul of the Company Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU), the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group have been called in to provide locomotive haulage of the diesel diagram in the Green Timetable up to Easter and we understand D7523 has been rostered. This may be of interest to modern traction enthusiasts keen to get some "Rat" mileage in...

30 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc and local correspondents
• WSR on Wogan...
© BBC
 
An enterprising supporter of the West Somerset Railway managed to persuade Terry Wogan to mention the Spring Spring Gala on his national radio show on the morning of 23 March. Perhaps the mention of the Railway's "Chuffer Lunchboxes" for the younger visitors did the trick for Terry. Nevertheless it was a very opportune enterprise and must have alerted a good number of folks to the special weekend. To see what is was all about, see the Gala Picture Pages but so far we have not been sent a picture of the celebrated lunchboxes...

26 March 2007 
Details from local correspondents
• Long service award for Don Spencer...
No 6412
 
It was on 28 March 1976 that the West Somerset Railway re-opened when the first train steamed out of Minehead en route to Blue Anchor. This was just five years and two months after the branch line to Minehead was closed as part of the "Beeching Cuts". Thirty years on, and two servants of the Railway, one human and one mechanical, who were on duty on that first day will be back at Minehead Station. Don Spencer was on duty in Blue Anchor signal box on the opening day and will be receiving a long-service award before the 10.15 train departs for Bishops Lydeard, running for 20 miles rather than the 4 that the first train covered. Don brought a wealth of experience to the safe operation of the train services and trained many volunteer signalmen who have served the WSR well down the years. On 28 March 2007, the train will be headed by Great Western 0-6-0PT no 6412, the first working Great Western steam locomotive purchased by the West Somerset Railway Association. No 6412 is a "Pannier Tank" of a type that worked lightly loaded branch line and suburban trains until the 1960s. It was a mainstay of the WSR into the late 1980s but, as numbers of passengers on the West Somerset have grown, peak-season trains are now too heavy for it to haul. However it does its share of work in the early and late seasons, is often hired out to other steam lines for the summer and has been a popular engine for the Railway’s footplate experience courses, the chance for enthusiasts to learn something of the driving and firing skills involved in handling steam engines. Another regular duty for the engine is the "Quantock Belle" dining train.

22 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
• Fifth Edition of the Stations and Buildings Book...
Stations and Buildings Book
 
After a break of around thirteen years a favourite WSR publication has been updated and re-published. The "Stations and Buildings of the West Somerset Railway" book is back on the shelves. The previous edition was published in 1994 and has been out of print for some years. The new edition, the fifth, is a soft-covered A4 sized, 32 page affair with many colour and black and white photographs, maps and line drawings, wrapped in an informative text updated from Ted Cubitt's previous editions by Allan Stanistreet. As before, each of the ten WSR stations is featured in detail. The "Stations and Buildings of the West Somerset Railway" book is published by the WSR Association and retails at a modest £4.95 and can be obtained from WSR stations.

22 March 2007 
Details from WSRA
• And a film and slide show...
Summer Saturdays in the West
 
To complement the WSR Gala the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust is hosting a film and slide evening. Featuring slides shown and described by Peter Gray, the well knoown West Country photographer and moving pictures from the Ivo Peters collection, shown and described by the notable Somerset & Dorset Railway expert, Mike Arlett. The event - part of the Spring Spring Gala - will be held on Saturday 17 March and Saturday 24 March at 7.30pm at the Hobby Horse Inn just 150 yards from Minehead Station. Tickets for the "Summer Saturdays in the West" event are £5 at the door or £4 in advance from Blue Anchor Railway Museum. All in aid of the repatriation of GWR coach no 6705 from the USA. Author Ian Coleby will also be signing copies of his new book "The Minehead Branch".

15 March 2007 
Details from WSSRT
• Opportunities to travel via Virgin Shuttle...
Virgin Shuttle
 
Travel by train all the way from West Somerset to Taunton and beyond. On the weekends of 17-18 and 24-25 March, Virgin trains will be running a shuttle service between Bishops Lydeard and Taunton effectively bridging the gap between the WSR and the national rail network! Opportunities for days out in Taunton and beyond begin with a steam train from Minehead at 9.15am calling at Watchet at 9.46am then changing at Bishops Lydeard for the 11.05am to Taunton. From Taunton on the Saturdays, catch the 11.38am to Weston super Mare, or the 11.51am to Exeter or the 11.50am to Bristol, giving about three hours at each destination before making the return trip. On the Sundays, the trains from Taunton leave at 11.57am for Weston, 11.58am for Exeter or 1210pm for Bristol. For full details of WSR and the Shuttle services ring the WSR on 01643 704996. For further information on National Rail fares and other destinations, ring National Rail Enquiries on 08457 484950, or go to www.nationalrail.co.uk

15 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
• Dennis steps down ...
Dennis Taylor opening the renovated Ladies Cloakroom at Minehead. © Alan Grieve
 
Dennis Taylor is stepping down from the Board of the West Somerset Railway Plc from the end of March. The present Chairman, Chris Austin said "Dennis Taylor (78) is retiring from the Board on 31 March after four years as Vice Chairman and 17 years as Chairman of the Plc. Dennis took over the chairmanship at a time when the railway was losing money and was even threatened with partial closure, and through good management, turned it round. In 1989, this coincided with the visit of Evening Star, which boosted passenger numbers and allowed the cycle of growth and investment to start. He secured funding for the purchase of a 99 year lease for the line, for engine shed extension, the Tarmac shed at Williton, and is a founder member of the Friends of Minehead station. His wise counsel will be missed on the Board, but I am pleased that Mark [Smith] is able to take over his role as Vice Chairman, with his knowledge of the railway and the wider experience he brings from HRA.". Mark Smith, the Company's managing director until March 2006, and now non-executive director of the Company, will become Vice Chairman of the Board from April 2007.

14 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
• Steaming in for the Gala ...
No 850 © Malcolm Anderson
 
All but one of the fourteen steam locomotives booked to appear at the Spring Steam Gala have arrived on the Minehead Branch. On 13 March, SR 4-6-0 no 850 Lord Nelson completed its journey from the north with a romp along the main line from Didcot to Taunton before heading up the branch. Meantime, resident locomotive SDJR 2-8-0 no 88 returned, by road, from a weekend on the Severn Valley Railway. Two of the guest locomotives which arrived a few days ago have been engaged in photographic charter work bringing in valuable revenue. Once ex-GWR 2-8-0T no 4247 has made the trip up from Cornwall the cast list is complete and all is set for the Spring Spring Gala on 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25 March.

14 March 2007 
Details from local correspondent
• Life stirs in the Western ...
No D1010 © Jon Tooke
 
Something has stirred deep in the body of a former express diesel-hydraulic locomotive. After many long months of hard work on the mighty Class 52 no D1010 Western Campaigner, the team from the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group, small in numbers but big on enthusiasm, are finally getting the loco back to working order. D1010 was partially dragged outside by the Sentinel shunter so that the water tanks and cooling system could be filled up with fresh water and after a couple of minor leaks were rectified, and to pump some fuel into the tanks. Late in the afternoon of 11 March, a light wisp of smoke was seen rising from the top of the loco as the preheaters worked away heating the water. All being well the "Western" will be moved to the yard in the next few days and both engines started.

12 March 2007 
Details from local correspondent
• New buffet car arrives at Minehead...
No 10205 © Justin Kerr-Peterson
 
A WSR liveried coach did indeed travel on the main line when Class 31 no 31452 hauled Buffet Car no 10205 from the Midlands to Bishops Lydeard. Porterbrook Leasing has donated the MkIII Buffet Car. The coach has recently been put through the new paint facility at Oxley is now sports a Great Western Chocolate and Cream livery complete with WSR logo as adopted for the present West Somerset Railway coaching stock. Initially No 10205 will be stabled in the bay platform at Minehead for use during the Spring Spring Gala and then be moved to its new home in the loop headshunt right next to the sea. A very pleased Paul Conibeare, the WSR's General Manager, is pictured left with the new coach.

9 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
• Heavy goods to replace heavy freight...
No 4247 © Alan Grieve
 
A classic Great Western Railway heavy goods locomotive is now booked for the Spring Steam Gala. This concludes the search for a replacement for BR 2-10-0 no 92203 which is required for duties at its home base. Now, GWR 2-8-0T no 4247 has been secured for the forthcoming Spring Spring Gala. No 4247 is no stranger to the West Somerset Railway having appeared here in 2001 and 2006. Thanks are due to the folks at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway.

8 March 2007 
Details from SEPT
• Travel the missing link...
Shuttle Offer
 
The West Somerset Railway, Virgin Trains and the Somerset County Gazette have teamed up to provide residents of Taunton Deane to travel the section of track between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard that is not usually available for public travel. On 17, 18, 24, 25 March for each Adult paying the fare of £5, another Adult can travel free. By letting the train take the strain over these weekends residents of Taunton can visit the West Somerset Railway at Bishops Lydeard and view the railways Spring Steam Gala or if they wish explore the beauty of the surrounding countryside. A fantastic model railway will also be in operation. Bishops Lydeard residents can also benefit from the link, they can travel to Taunton for weekend shopping or explore the Taunton Heritage Trail. Taunton Town Centre Manager Lucy Ball welcomed the initiative for the two weekends commenting there was something for all the family to enjoy in Taunton for visitors using the Voyager. Purchase your tickets from Taunton Station or "On the Train" at Bishops Lydeard. Remember "Let the Train take the Strain" on this section of line not used by regular services. (This website believes the offer requires the voucher, only available in the Gazette, to be presented when claiming the free travel.)

8 March 2007 
Details from WSRA
• Shuttle Tickets available online...
TicketWeb
 
Tickets for special Taunton-Bishops Lydeard Shuttle trains will be available online with TicketWeb from midnight. This means you can now buy all your tickets for the day online and avoid trying to find a parking space. This year due to heavy rainfall many of the fields used for parking are very wet and parking will be difficult over the Spring Spring Gala. As an alternative you can use the Taunton Park and ride and catch a free heritage bus service to the Spring Spring Gala - the bus runs every thirty minutes. Tickets for the Shuttle - and One Day Rover Tickets for the Spring Steam Gala - can be purchased online via the TicketWeb website.

5 March 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
• Heritage Carriages Project update...
No 9038
 
Much going on behind the scenes as the Heritage Carriage Project gets underway. A countrywide tour has taken the Project Manager from Cornwall to North Wales and West Yorkshire (and many places in between) looking at possible ex-GWR vehicles to complete the Toplight train and the Collett train. The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust now have a clear idea of which additional vehicles may need to be acquired. Progress continues to be made on the search for a site for the Museum/Carriage Shed. The Trust's 1897 Sleeping Car will be in the Gauge Museum at Bishop's Lydeard in time for the Spring Spring Gala. Also, on the evenings of 17 and 24 March, the Trust has arranged a slide/film show in aid of the Heritage Carriage Project, following the Gala theme of "Summer Satudays in the West". The event is being held at the Hobby Horse Hotel, Minehead and starts at 7.30pm. Full details at the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust website

4 March 2007 
Details from WSSRT
• A Head of Steam...
A Head of Steam
 
A new cartoon book will be launched at the Spring Steam Gala. "A Head of Steam" is a humorous look at today's heritage railways. It is written and illustrated by Alan Ward, the well-known steam railway and wildlife artist, and will be available at the spring art exhibition in the Exhibition Coach, Platform 2, Bishops Lydeard Station over the weekends of the Spring Spring Gala where the artist will be signing copies. The foreword for the book has been written by the well known railway author, Mike Arlett. The 100 page "A 'Head of Steam" is published by Alandi Publications at £7.99 which includes a donation of 50p from every book sold to the Macmillan Cancer Trust Fund.

2 March 2007 
Details from Alan Ward Collection
• Dunster vintage bus for Gala...
Bus © Alan Grieve
 
A vintage bus will ply between Dunster Station, Dunster Village and Dunster Castle on 17, 18, 24, 25 March 2007. During the weekends of the Spring Steam Gala, the bus departs Dunster Station for Dunster at 10.40am, 11.30am, 12.15pm, 1.00pm, 1.55pm, 2.30pm, 3.45pm. From Dunster to Dunster Station, the bus leaves the Square at 11.05am, 11.55am, 12.40pm, 1.35pm, 2.10pm, 3.05pm, 4.00pm. The journey between Dunster Station and Dunster takes around ten minutes. Full details from the Railway on 01643 704996.

25 February 2007 
Details from WSR Plc
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