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The West Somerset Railway Plc have released the following...

Britain’s longest heritage steam train line, the West Somerset Railway (WSR), has just launched an ambitious £550,000 supporters appeal after a bid to buy its very first named loco, former GWR Manor class locomotive no 7828 "Odney Manor" was successful.

Although "Odney Manor" had been a popular, reliable and regular performer on the WSR for seven years from 1995, there were fears it might leave Somerset after it was withdrawn from service with boiler problems and subsequently put up for sale by the owner due to the high cost of overhaul.

But the West Somerset Railway company’s board of directors was not going to take the matter lying down, and "Odney Manor" was eventually purchased for £250,000 in May this year. The loco now needs a £300,000 general overhaul to return it to steam for another ten years of front line service.

Company Chairman Chris Austin comments: "We had to act quickly to secure 'Odney Manor' because it is an ideal engine, with strong associations with our 20-mile line. It's become part of the everyday scenery and will be very much our gleaming, future flagship engine. "But at £550,000, the total purchase price and cost of the loco's overhaul will eat into our company's cash reserves, so we really do need some cash help from our many friends in order to secure the future of our very own Manor.

"The West Somerset is a success story because of the people that support the line, so we want 'Odney' to become the 'People's Engine', and we need help in the form of cash donations, (and shareholders can of course subscribe for additional shares.) 

"We've set up some attractive offers for people wishing to buy extra shares, even including a mug of 'fitter's tea' in the messroom, and full details can be obtained form our Minehead office, or via the website"

The WSR’s Manor link started ten years ago in July 1994 when no 7802 "Bradley Manor" spent the summer in Somerset. Later, no 7821 "Ditcheat Manor" visited briefly in 1998, but no 7820 "Dinmore Manor" has now run nearly 80,000 miles during nine years of operation since 1995!

WSR Managing Director Mark Smith comments: "Put simply, the Manor is an ideal class of engine for working trains over the WSR’s steeply graded line since it can deal capably with both our established and anticipated traffic needs.

"Designed by C. B. Collett for working the GWR’s secondary routes, Manors also ooze the distinctive appearance of Swindon Works’ locos with a copper-capped chimney, gleaming brasswork and a polished nameplate.

"As well as really looking the part, Manors not only handle our seven and eight coach trains with ease, but also are relatively economical in terms of coal and water consumption.

"The large cab suits our loco crews and is also ideal for trainees and those on Steam Engineman courses. The sound of a Manor’s distinctive, confident exhaust beat when the engine is working hard completes the Great Western ambience nicely.”

Negotiations to buy "Odney Manor", together with its tender no 2206, started with the owner Ken Ryder in December 2003. As other WSR steam locos nos 5193 and 88 are now reaching completion of their lengthy overhauls, the work on "Odney Manor" will commence when they leave the Minehead workshops.

• Press Release...
· 28 May 2004
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