An unofficial website featuring the West Somerset Railway

Latest news

100 not out

WSR

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's report member number 100. Chris Austin, Trust Chairman welcomed the milestone saying,

The title is nothing to do with Ben Stokes, but the Steam Trust has just recruited its 100th member, following a run of new applications in recent weeks! There have been five applications in the last week alone. Whilst Covid 19 has stopped the trains running and brought a halt to many of our activities, it has not dimmed the enthusiasm of people who want to be actively involved on our wonderful railway. It is great to welcome our 100th member, a big increase on even five years ago when membership stood at 60. Even in tough times, the appeal of the railway still draws in new friends.

As numbers have grown, so has the capability of the Trust, which now looks after the two museums at Blue Anchor and Bishops Lydeard, the model railway, outreach to schools and a popular educational programme, as well as carriage restoration and support for associated railway projects such as historic track renewal.

7 August 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Latest video on WSRTV is an update on recent progress

WSR

On the latest video on WSRTV - the Railway's YouTube Channel - WSR Plc Director Martin Brown gives an update on recent happenings along the line and explains some of the reasoning behind re-opening strategies. Martin talks about lockdown, work on the Railway, museums and weeding.

View the video on WSRTV

6 August 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The Steam Trust Business Plan 2020-2022

WSR

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's Business Plan for 2020-2022 is now available.

The Board of Trustees is pleased to be able to publish its Business Plan for the remainder of 2020 up to 2022. There has inevitably been a delay in completing this work due to the impact of Covid 19 and the consequent need to review and reset our business objectives. The Plan reflects the wide range of activities in which the Trust is currently engaged with the expectation that these will continue through to 2022.

Read the Steam Trust Business Plan

5 August 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

The World Cup of Stations on Twitter

WSR

A bit of fun over on the West Somerset Railway's Twitter feed @WSomRailway.

The fixture list for the West Somerset Railway #WorldCupofStations over the coming days. Polls will be daily and begin sometime between 10am-12noon depending on availability. We want to see support from locals and visitors! We love all our stations but which one do you love the most?!

Official WSR Twitter page

5 August 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

News from the WSR Plc Boardroom

WSR

A new appointment to the West Somerset Railway Plc Board:

Following a recent round of interviews, the Plc is delighted to announce the appointment of Andy Castledine to the Board. Andy comes with a background of a varied career on the national rail network predominantly in operational roles for various Train Operating Companies and more recently, working as an independent rail operations consultant.

Andy Castledine - full announcement

Sadly a few days ago, the West Somerset Railway Plc announced the resignation of Bob Meanley from the Board:

It is with great regret that the Plc Board has received and accepted the resignation of Bob Meanley as Director Mechanical Engineering. Bob, who is a nationally recognised and respected figure in the heritage railway movement, joined the Board at the time when the fortunes of the WSR were at their lowest ebb and has played a key role in working to initially stabilise and then work towards the railway's recovery.

Bob Meanley - full announcement

4 August 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Minehead Station now open at the weekends

WSR

Minehead Station will now open at weekends for visitors - the cafe, the shop, the Friends of Minehead Station's 'Readers Halt' bookstall and the platforms.

  • Have a cuppa and something to eat at the Turntable Cafe
  • Have a look around the gift shop in the main station building
  • Browse the pre-read books and magazines at the Friends of Minehead Station 'Readers Halt' bookstall
  • And stroll along the wide platform for a closer look at the coaching stock
  • Or look over the tracks towards the steam locomotives in the yard
  • Or just sit a-while...

Also please note the shop at Bishops Lydeard Station is now open on Saturdays.

3 August 2020
Details kindly provided by Friends of Minehead Station

Success for the Living Railway Museum events

WSR

The second of the Railway's 'Living Railway Museum' weekends proved to be very successful on both days with 880 visitors attending overall and useful net income of over £6,770 from all sources, including ticket sales, café, shop and Friends of Minehead Station kiosk sales and donations.

Taken with the previous weekend’s figures of 740 visitors and income of £5,390, that makes a total raised of £12,160 raised and 1,620 visitors over the two weekends, so a real triumph for the WSR and a boost to both morale of staff and volunteers and the local community too.

And big thanks to volunteer Seb Welsh for organising the events.

3 August 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures up to 3 August for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£61,025.00
Cheque Donations £17,974.00
Share Purchases£42,060.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£163,009.00

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £34,698,00.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's appeal (updated monthly or when any significant donations are made) totals £18,298.70.

The separate WSRA appeal to refurbish the line's Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) stands at £2,150 of the £5,000 target.

The WSRA’s loco renewal fund stands at £3,651.00 and, for completeness for all current appeals, this is now included in the total figures too.

Together that makes £221,806.96 from all sources.

Links to the main online donation pages can be found under the 'Appeals' tab at the top of all pages on this website or go click or tap the button below.

Fundraising Group webpage

3 August 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

More on changing the WSR organisational shape

WSR

The Bailey Report suggests that the first stage is for the WSR Plc to articulate clearly what its priorities and objectives are. As the holder of the lease for the line, the railway safety case, the licence exemptions from Office for Rail and Road, and as it is named in the Light Railway Order under which the railway is permitted to operate, and is the system operator, it is inevitable that the Plc must lead on this, through an inclusive process.

Supporters are given to understand that consultation will not only take place with Plc shareholders but also with the Association and the Steam Trust via the restored forum of the Partnership Development Group, to represent the views of volunteers and members of the support charities, along with various local authorities. The resulting outputs will then be put to staff, regulators and legal representatives to establish their viability as a way to move forward with the proposed structural changes.

There is no doubt the Plc shareholders will need to vote for the eventual option as nothing will happen without their support. Hence the need to the Plc to drive on with honing the options, through consultation, towards that future vote.

3 Aug 2020
Details from discussions with colleagues about the Bailey Report

Hand weeding the track between Watersmeet to Eastcombe

WSR

A team led by Claire Sheppy consisting of six people in the morning and five people in the afternoon, spent much of the day weeding north of Watersmeet Bridge on Saturday 1 August 2020. Approximately half a mile of track was weeded fairly thoroughly from Watersmeet Bridge and up through Eastcombe cutting to not far short of the Back Stream culvert. Luke Knight of BBC Somerset volunteered for duty in the morning and not surprisingly asked many questions about the work, recording as he went along.

Three of the team - Claire Sheppy, and Ian and Angela Coleby - will be on BBC Somerset on the Breakfast programme on Monday 3 August being interviewed about the importance of the hand weeding project. Approx broadcast times are 6.45am and 8.15am.

BBC Somerset

1 August 2020
Details kindly provided by Claire Sheppy

An update from Bishops Lydeard Station Shop

WSR

Now that the Bishops Lydeard Station Shop is back in business on Saturdays, readers may like to be reminded of a couple of recent additions to our bookshelves. We have in stock copies of the final part of Freddie Huxtable's epic three-part history of the Taunton to Barnstaple Line; Volume 10 of Lightmoor's 'BR The First 25 Years' which covers Mid Wales and the Cambrian Coast and of Platform 5's new edition of 'Preserved Locomotives of British Railways, which covers as usual steam, diesel and electric locos as well as multiple units.

We are also pleased to receive customers' enquiries about special orders for books and models, so please e-mail us at kate.beard@wsrail.net with your requirements.

1 August 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Salvage Hunters at the Gauge Museum

WSR

Tuesday 28 July 2020 found the Salvage Hunters team at Bishops Lydeard in the Gauge Museum. Chris Austin, Chairman of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, was on hand to welcome them and to show them around the museum. Salvage Hunters is a television series that shows Drew Pritchard and Tee (John Tee) his long-time friend searching for old and forgotten pieces of history.

29 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

A successful first weekend for the Living Railway Museum Days

WSR

The first of the two West Somerset Railway's 'Living Railway Museum Days' weekends proved to be very successful on both days with 740 visitors attending overall and producing useful net income of over £5,000 from all sources, including ticket sales, café and shop takings, and sales by Friends of Minehead Station's kiosk.

The second weekend of the Living Railway Museum Days event will be at Minehead Station on 1 and 2 August 2020.

Event information and tickets

28 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures up to 27 July for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£60,885.00
Cheque Donations £17,303.26
Share Purchases£39,460.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£159,598.26

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £33,727,00.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's appeal (updated monthly or when any significant donations are made) totals £18,298.70.

A separate WSRA appeal to refurbish the line's Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) has raised a very creditable £1,615 of the £5,000 target in the first month.

Together that makes £216,606.96 from all sources.

Links to the online donation pages can be found under the 'Appeals' tab at the top of all pages on this website.

28 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Changing the WSR organisational shape

WSR

The Minutes of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust’s Board Meeting of 16 July 2020 carry the following report on 'Bailey Recommendations':

It was noted that the PLC were progressing preparations for consultation. The Trust supported the principle of a systematic working through of option development to be followed by engagement and consultation on the issues...the PDG would provide one of the key vehicles for the consultation process and that it was anticipated that this would begin in September/early October.

Reminding ourselves that the minutes reflect the discussions at that time, one interpretation is that the Plc have not announced any of the work mentioned above and the Steam Trust's comments suggest the Plc alone are drawing up a set of options. But that is based on secondary, and not current, information. The Plc, as a corporate body, will be greatly affected by change and of course it needs to look at options from its own perspective. But that does not mean it, alone, should present the only list of options for consultation. Apparently, the Partnership Development Group (PDG) will be one of the consultation vehicles, but curiously not the only one. There is no clue yet about who will deal with the consultation feedback or how that feedback will be used to firm up any options. At the time of writing the picture looks like the Plc driving everything - as before. That is what some supporters wish to get away from. Nevertheless it is hoped the Plc will soon present to all WSR supporters a wide ranging set of options. To fill the communication void, for the time being, there is an unofficial blog which aims to bring various mentions of this extremely important transformational work together in one place. See link below.

The Changing Shape Unofficial Blog

28 July 2020
Details provided by wsr.org.uk and updated slightly following suggestions from a close friend

An update on the outstanding trackworks

WSR

One of the factors holding back any chance of re-opening the Railway during the main 2020 season, even on a limited basis, are the unfinished winter track works at three particular locations. Unfinished due to the enforced and swift implementation of Covid-19 lockdown in March and the introduction of furlough for the WSR Plc's paid staff including the supervisors and track workers.In the latest edition of the WSR newsletter, 'The Platform', the Plc explains 'Some staff in critical areas, including permanent way, managed to get jobs elsewhere....this has left a gap on the permanent way side in particular, which will take time to fill.'

However, a much needed update on the outstanding work was not included in the newsletter so it might be helpful to outline some of that work here. Some idea of the scope of outstanding track works has become available from local sources. Thanks to local sources we can provide the following details.

  • Of the three main winter trackwork locations, one requires a rail breather joint modification and another needs surplus ballast removing from the four-foot.
  • A great deal of redundant materials requires moving from all three locations.
  • Machinery and mechanised tools seem to be unavailable due to lapse of certification or awaiting repair, and a lack of qualified personnel.
  • The small amount of work that has been possible is being done by hand, by volunteers.
  • Coordination and direction seems to be lacking as the Infrastructure Manager post has been vacant for some months now, along with the vacancies mentioned in the 'Platform' quote above.

Work is being done to rectify these urgent issues. After all, a fit track is a positive sign that will encourage more support for the recovery. The Plc were asked to comment on this news item and kindly provided these words:

The track renewals sites have been reviewed by a specialist and essentially all three sites are complete with minor snagging work required such as ballast profiling, clipping up and welding, plus a good site tidy. The work is not complex and with a full time, fully resourced PW team plus the volunteer gang would take approximately a week to complete. Two at most, once the staff situation is rectified. In terms of the rest of the line (that is Williton to Norton) we need to undertake an inspection. Information already to hand, suggests some minor works be undertaken such as fishplate oiling and spot resleepering.

Given the Plc's comment and the fuller information from local sources (not revealed here), it all suggests the trackworks will not be completed for several months, possibly well into 2021. The Plc have hinted at trains running over the Christmas period (presumably only on the Williton - Norton section) especially given the recent news that the Seaward Way Level Crossing gates and systems are now not reliable and not likely to be upgraded until winter 2020/2021. We hope to bring more details of that work in due course.

27 July 2020
Details kindly provided by local sources (with a comment from WSR Plc)

Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association have published the agreed Minutes of the Board Meeting of 23 June 2020 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 21 July 2020. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.

Minutes Synopsis

26 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Steam Trust AGM to be held on 19 September 2020

WSR

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust have announced:

The Board of Trustees has now set a date for the 2020 AGM which will be Saturday 19th September at 2pm. This will be by Zoom videoconference. The Board acknowledges that not all Members may be able to attend due to absence of or difficulties with, technology but have decided to hold the meeting in order to be able to progress some important decisions in relation to the ongoing management of the Trust. The meeting will therefore be limited to the conduct of formal AGM business only. The Board intends to hold a general meeting at a later date when the rules permit and when venues are available for physical use. Details of the AGM with voting arrangements will be sent out to members in the next few weeks.

The Trust have also released the minutes of the recent Board Meeting - see link below.

Minutes

26 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Text STEAMTRAINS to donate a fiver

WSR

Here is a simple and quick way to donate £5 to help the Railway through the current emergency.

Just text STEAMTRAINS to 70085 and the job is done. The small print reads 'Texts cost £5 plus one standard rate message and you'll be opting in to hear more about our work and fundraising via telephone and SMS. If you would like to give £5 but do not want to receive marketing communications, text STEAMTRAININFO to 70085'.

26 July 2020
Details kindly provided by the Fundraising Group

SDJR 7F no 53808 to move to Mid Hants Railway

WSR

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust and the West Somerset Railway Plc have reached agreement regarding the immediate future of the very popular goods locomotive SDJR 7F 2-8-0 no 53808.

The agreement will see the locomotive operating agreement with the WSR Plc being suspended for the remaining period of 53808's boiler certificate, due to end in the autumn of 2022, and allow the locomotive to be hired externally during this period to earn additional hire fees towards its next major overhaul. The Plc has indicated to the SDRT that it wishes to discuss the return of the locomotive to the WSR and to discuss funding options which would enable the overhaul, due in 2023, to be carried out as planned. The SDRT has agreed that a timely discussion would be appropriate.

The SDRT are delighted to announce that the Trust has reached agreement with the Mid-Hants Railway 'Watercress Line' to relocate no 53808 to Hampshire for the duration of its current boiler ticket.

No 53808 will depart from Minehead by road haulage as soon as winter maintenance has been completed during August and within the contractual agreement with the WSR.

Full announcement

25 July 2020
Details kindly provided by Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust

Live webcam streaming this weekend

WSR

RailCam Live will be streaming the Minehead Station and Seaward Way Crossing webcams via YouTube across the first (and possibly the second) Living Museum Weekend so that people who can't come down to Minehead can view the shunting demos from their own home. Click or tap the button below to load the Minehead Station Live Stream link - the Seaward Way Crossing Live Stream will be added once running.

Event information and tickets Minehead Station Live Stream Railcam News Page

23 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc and Railcam UK

Dates of Special Events in 2021

WSR

Don Bishop, Chairman of the Railway's Gala Planning Team, writes:

Whilst it has been decided that the West Somerset Railway will remain closed for the 2020 summer season due to the Covid-19 situation there is still much work going on behind the scenes to plan ahead for when we are able to return to normal service, hopefully in 2021.

To that end the railway’s Gala Planning team are pleased to be able to announce our Gala dates for the 2021 season. These will include the usual Spring Steam Gala which will be held in April and it is planned to have the theme we were unable to proceed with this year. This will hopefully be able to attract the BR Standard locos we had booked, but at this time that is of course subject to confirmation. This Gala will be held between Thursday 22nd and Sunday 25th April 2021. Next will be our 2021 Diesel Gala & Beer festival 'Vintage Diesels to the Seaside III' to be held between Thursday 10th and Sunday 13th June, a week later than normal due to 'calendar shift' and the schools half term falling on the traditional first weekend of June, when it is more beneficial to operate a steam hauled service. The beer festival will be held at Minehead for the first time in a number of years, as was planned in 2020. Next up will be the Autumn Steam Gala between Thursday 30th September and Sunday 3rd October 2021, this will have the 'Great Western Region' theme that we had planned for 2020. We will hold our regular 'Winter Steam Festival' on Wednesday 29th & Thursday 30th December 2021 to complete our gala line up for the year. Additionally to these, there will also be other events during the year but these fall outside the remit of the Gala Planning Team.

  • Spring Steam Gala – 'Western Standards' - Thursday 22nd and Sunday 25th April 2021
  • Diesel Gala - 'Vintage Diesels to the Seaside III' - Thursday 10th and Sunday 13th June 2021
  • Autumn Steam Gala – 'Great Western Region' - Thursday 30th September and Sunday 3rd October 2021
  • Winter Steam Festival – 'A branch line in winter' - Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th December 2021

Tickets etc. will go on sale later when our offices are back to normal working.

22 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Bishops Lydeard Station Shop open on Saturdays

WSR

Some fantastic news from the Station Shop, Bishops Lydeard:

We will be opening the Station Shop on Saturday 25th July 10-3pm and then every Saturday until further notice.

As a special treat for all our customers, we will be offering 15% off all our Full Price Model Railway and Books. Exclusions will apply on certain items.

Covid 19 guidelines set out by the government will need to be followed. Entrance to the shop will be through the Ticket Office entrance.

If you have any questions,queries or orders, please get in touch with me by e-mail on kate.beard@wsrail.net as unfortunately we have issues with our telephone system at the moment.

We are really looking forward to seeing our customers again!

21 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Why the WSR is not running trains this summer

WSR

When other heritage railways have managed to run some services this summer, the West Somerset Railway has been unable to follow suit. The Railway's July Newsletter has more details:

From the end of March, almost all the paid staff were put onto the Government’s furlough arrangement and in late July, many still are, although some have been back for odd days as we start to work on some parts of the railway. Some staff in critical areas, including permanent way, managed to get jobs elsewhere. We are very sorry they left us, but they had opportunities for career development and these do not come along very often. So we very much wish them well. However, this has left a gap on the permanent way side in particular, which will take time to fill. The railway still needs to have as much available cash as possible to take as many staff as possible through the coming winter period, and pay other regular bills.

Re-opening the railway safely will take tremendous effort by all the staff and volunteers. This is not something we can ask people to do if we are not sure it is commercially viable. The Board took the view that it would be irresponsible to put the finances of the company at further risk in something of a commercial gamble. As, hopefully, the virus retreats, and as we are able to learn from other heritage railways, this will change. We have to convince the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) that we can open safely, but we are very confident this can be done. The present intention is to run some trains over the Christmas period, so that we are fully able to reopen next Spring.

Click or tap the buttons below to download a PDF copy of 'The Platform' July 2020 Newsletter or go to the official WSR website.

Download 'The Platform' July 2020 Official webpage

21 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The second edition of The Platform now available

WSR

Lots of really useful topical information about the West Somerset Railway can be found in the July 2020 edition of the new electronic newsletter.

Click or tap the buttons below to download a PDF copy of 'The Platform' or go to the official WSR website.

Download 'The Platform' July 2020 Official webpage

20 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures up to 21 July for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£60,565.00
Cheque Donations £17,303.26
Share Purchases£38,640.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£158,278.26

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £33,260,00.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's appeal (updated monthly or when any significant donations are made) totals £17,566.31 thanks to a very helpful, generous and significant £15,000 donation from the Peall Railway Trust.

A new separate WSRA appeal to refurbish the line's Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) has raised a very creditable £1,615 of the £5,000 target in just three weeks.

Together that makes £210,719.57 from all sources.

Links to the online donation pages can be found under the 'Appeals' tab at the top of all pages on this website.

20 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Donation from the Peall Railway Trust

WSR

Good news from the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust:

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust is delighted to have received a £15,000 donation from the Peall Railway Trust.

Trust chairman Chris Austin said 'We are hugely grateful for this generous donation which will be of such help as our museum donation boxes have so far remained empty this year.'

Simon Peall the Trustee Manager said 'I hope that our gift will offer some relief during this challenging time.'

WSSRT Trustees have agreed to contribute half this sum to the WSR Infrastructure appeal for heritage track components for this winter's work programme. The balance of £7,500 will be used to form part of the Trust's contribution to the Gauge Museum project (part funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund) with the remainder going to purchase covers to protect heritage carriages.

20 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Tickets for Living Railway Museum Days available

WSR

The West Somerset Railway have announced details of the Living Railway Museum Days weekends at Minehead Station on 25-26 July 2020 and 1-2 August 2020:

We are very excited to announce that the tickets for our Minehead Station Living Railway Museum Days are live on our website and ready for you to book tickets, thank you all for your patience.

Due to Covid 19 we have put some restrictions in place, including limited numbers allowed on the station at one time. Therefore please ensure you read through the further information section carefully before booking your tickets.

We cannot wait to welcome you to the station.

Full information

17 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Take part in our survey

WSR

The West Somerset Railway are gathering some thoughts from folks considering a visit to the Railway in these times of restrictions:

We would be grateful if you could complete this short survey which will take roughly three minutes.

Once we have an appropriate amount of responses, we will collate the information - this will help us with our forward planning.

At present we are unsure of when our services will be restarting, but we are interested in finding out our supporters views.

Please follow the link below to take part.

Take the survey

15 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures up to 14 July for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£60,100.00
Cheque Donations £16,813.26
Share Purchases£35,930.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£154,793.26

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £33,068,00.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's appeal totals £2,566.31 (the Trust's figures are provided monthly).

A new separate WSRA appeal to refurbish the line's Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) has raised a very creditable £1,395 of the £5,000 target in just a week, and this figure has been added to this week's overall total too!

Together that makes £191,822.57 from all sources.

Links to the online donation pages can be found under the 'Appeals' tab at the top of all pages on this website.

15 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Classic and Vintage Vehicle Road Run now cancelled

WSR

Geoff Garfield, Chairman of the Steam & Vintage Rally, has some disappointing news about the planned road run:

We were planning a small run of vintage vehicles from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead in 1st August. Since then, we have been overwhelmed by large numbers of owners who would like to join us for the day. It was great to see such enthusiasm, but sadly, the facilities we have are not big enough for large numbers, and we are worried about lots of people coming when we all have to keep social distance. We have looked for advice from the police, and decided to CANCEL the event.

Please accept our apologies for this change, and the disappointment it causes, but it is done with everyone’s safety in mind

14 July 2020
Details kindly provided by the Steam & Vintage Rally team

Minehead Station Shop to re-open for one day on 18 July

WSR

From the Facebook page of Friends of Minehead Station:

It is planned for the Buffer Stop Shop at Minehead to re-open on Saturday 18 July 2020 for one day at present. It should be open from 10am to 3pm. To comply with Covid 19 restrictions, access will be restricted to two people (or two couples) at a time. Access will be from the Platform 1 door and exit will be on to the car park side of the station building.

13 July 2020
Details gleaned from Facebook page of Friends of Minehead Station

Classic and Vintage Vehicle Road Run on 1 August 2020

WSR

The Steam & Vintage Rally folks have updated the recent announcement:

The West Somerset Railway and the S&D Commercial vehicle group have been discussing a possible Classic and Vintage Vehicle Road Run on Saturday 1 August 2020 from Bishops Lydeard Railway Station car park. However, plans are still being developed and we need to keep the numbers of vehicles down to a manageable number and make the event a success, without annoying other people. PLEASE, do not just turn up, but contact us first, through the facebook page [link below]. We really do have to keep numbers down, so we may have to disappoint you, sorry.

Steam & Vintage Rally Facebook page

12 July 2020
Details updated 13 July at the request of the Steam & Vintage Rally folk

Changing organisational shape - recent progress

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc, the West Somerset Railway Association and the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust were recently asked about implementing the Bailey recommedations with responses to appear on this webpage. Here are the questions:

  • What plans your Board have at this stage to progress, to a jointly-agreed outcome, John Bailey's recommendations for organisational change along with any milestone dates for planned stages?
  • May I seek your agreement that PDG should meet very soon specially to discuss organisational change, taking up John Bailey's offer to attend, to ensure the process keeps moving.

Here is the response kindly provided by Mike Sherwood of the WSRA:

I can do little more at the moment than re-iterate the published WSRA position. That will not be without its challenges as we have a huge membership to convince at our AGM. To your two specific questions:

WSRA would welcome taking some initial steps as a family group. (Not just the three boards but including other family members.) This would be in line with the suggestion WSRA has published and might allow the three boards to speak with one voice ahead of all of the AGMs. It also echoes something John Bailey suggested. However WSRA cannot force that decision on others.

Your other point is more directed to PDG. I can pass your thoughts along to the chair of PDG? Again I can only speak for WSRA and we would be happy to see a PDG meeting convened before September if members of PDG felt it appropriate.

Chris Austin of the WSSRT kindly provided this response:

All three of us (Trust, Association and PLC) accept the need for change and are grateful for the proposals contained in John Bailey's report around the principle of having a lead charity with a subsidiary operating company. As far as the Trust is concerned, we do not aspire to become part of a large charity planning the strategic direction of the railway, but to remain as a small charity focused clearly on delivering our objects around the museums, the education and schools programme and carriage restoration. We are pleased with the endorsement of our approach by John Bailey in paragraph 4.2 of his report which says that the Trust 'seems to have a well-defined sense of its public benefit role as enshrined in its Articles. Its focus on its core educational purpose is clear and its attitude to the PLC is collaborative without being subservient.'

As I said in my response [to you] in April, the success of whatever organisation is chosen will ultimately depend on the people running it and the way they behave. I am pleased that PDG has got off to a good start under Steve Williams' chairmanship, as there is no doubt that this direct connection between the key players will help significantly in aligning everyone and avoiding misunderstandings in the future.

A good start has already been made in addressing John Bailey's recommendation that an urgent assessment should be made of the benefits of the change he proposes. There are, though, some serious issues to address here, some of which I outlined in my earlier response back in April. One is what happens to existing PLC shareholders (and there are many of us who have invested a lot of our money in the railway over time,) as they should not be disenfranchised by the change. There is also the question of meeting the terms of the PLC's obligations under the Light Railway Order and as lessees of the line, and ensuring that our regulator (ORR) is happy not just with a new organisation but its governance and the capabilities of the people running it. I understand your desire to see rapid progress, and having decided on a change, it should be progressed purposefully, but these issues have to be sorted out first, or we risk an enforcement notice and no trains.

I am also mindful of his powerfully expressed view by John Bailey that the railway risks becoming a cycleway if the PLC were to fold - 'Back them or buy a bike!' (para 4.10). So managing the transition is crucial and the Trust is happy to play its part in this, but, as John Bailey says, the process has to be led by the PLC.

The WSR Plc has yet to respond. This news item will be updated once received.

Footnote: Being prepared by the owner of this website is a blog called 'Changing shape' which aims to bring together statements and responses (such as the above) concerning the Bailey recommendations on organisational change. This will free up space on wsr.org.uk and make all the detailed stuff available in one place. More details later.

11 July 2020
Details and responses kindly provided by some of the Railway family

The WSR family responds to recent petition

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc, the West Somerset Railway Association and the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust have issued a joint response to the recent petition organised by a group of WSR volunteers and staff. The statement says:

The WSR 'family' has acknowledged receipt of the previously anonymous WSR petition this week to the now named sender.

As has already been detailed in previous press statements, we are pleased to confirm that most of the stated objectives of the petition were already underway.

Essentially, we are trying to turn around a loss-making heritage railway into a viable business during the worst pandemic in most people’s memory - a task that would be daunting for even the most experienced business leaders.

That the WSR plc still exists is considered by many to be a major accomplishment, given the parlous state of the finances in 2018/19 - a fact acknowledged in the recent Bailey Report.

The new plc Board, convened just over a year and a half ago, together with its supporting charities the WSRA and WSSRT, have worked hard together to move things forward on the railway and will continue to do so.

We want to have an open dialogue with all our shareholders, employees, supporters, members, volunteers and stakeholders, and we look forward to engaging in constructive discussions to ensure that the WSR has a long and prosperous future.

The above statement is signed by the chairmen of the three WSR organisations mentioned above. Click the button below to read the petition, the covering letter or the open letter.

Petition Covering letter Open letter

The joint response also appears on the WSRA website along with an invitation to comment by email - please click the button below for more details..

WSRA webpage

9 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Glimmer of hope for a mini 1940s weekend

WSR

Announced on the Facebook page of the WSR Forties Weekend:

WSR are looking to offer a small scale 40s event at Minehead on 12 and 13 September 2020.

There would be military and civilian vehicles displayed on the platform and displays in compartment carriages of aspects of civilian and military life which the public can view passing one-way along the corridor of the train. There will also be promenaders and trains shunting trucks from the military train.

There seems to be considerable interest shown already. Click the button below for more details...

WSR 1940s Weekend Facebook page

7 July 2020
Details gleaned from the WSR Forties Weekend Facebook page

Weeding the track at Greenway Wood

WSR

WSR volunteer Shirl Turner reports on a day of pulling weeds:

A group of five of us met today at Bishops Lydeard to start clearing weeds from outside the station boundary. It now looks much more cared for. The 'four foot' and the cess were cleared of weeds from the end of the pointwork outside Lydeard up around the corner to the milepost so a good deal done in a few hours. We are now looking for pairs of hands to take this forward onto the rest of the line, so if you have a few hours to spare and would like to help with this then please contact Martin Brown at martin.brown@wsrail.net. Temporary IDs will be available for those who don't volunteer but would like to assist us. If you've been sat at home thinking 'I wish I could do something to help' then now is your moment! May I remind everyone that it is still an offence to trespass on the railway, and you should only be there under supervision and with a proper ID and briefing.

There is another weeding party on Saturday 11 July carrying on the work started last weekend. We are looking for pairs of hands if you would like to help get our railway looking its best. It is a good way to meet up with colleagues and friends whilst doing something really worthwhile. We usually start at 10am and have breaks and lunch. You don't need to do any more than you want to - it is supposed to be enjoyable and we stop when people have had enough. Please contact Martin Brown at martin.brown@wsrail.net.

6 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures up to 5 July for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£59,100.00
Cheque Donations £16,663.26
Share Purchases£34,930.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£150,733.26

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £32,669,00.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's appeal totals £2,566.31 (the Trust's figures are provided monthly).

A new separate WSRA appeal to refurbish the line's Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) has raised a very creditable £1,395 of the £5,000 target in just a week, and this figure has been added to this week's overall total too!

Together that makes £189,273.57 from all sources.

Links to the online donation pages can be found under the 'Appeals' tab at the top of all pages on this website.

6 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Gauge Junction features in latest WSRTV video

WSR

In the latest WSRTV video, Matt Jackson talks about work to the Gauge Junction model railway in the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard Station on the West Somerset Railway.

Gauge Junction video WSRTV Channel

4 July 2020
Details kindly provided by WSRTV

Brunel K Beagle T-Shirts now available online

WSR
© Kerry Noble (picture used with permission)

We have been busy adding extra products to our online shop!

We now have a section for children's Brunel T-Shirts which will be great for your little ones this summer!

Click or tap the button below to browse the WSR's online clothing range...

Online Shop

4 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Partnership Development Group minutes of the recent meeting

WSR

The Partnership Development Group have released the minutes of the meeting held on 26 June 2020.

Please click the button below to read the document.

Minutes

4 July 2020
Details kindly provided by the Partnership Development Group

An update from the WSR Fundraising Group

WSR

The West Somerset Railway (WSR) has been badly affected by the Covid 19 lockdown measures. The WSR has not been able to trade and earn the income needed to survive Just at the point where the railway was ready to reopen in 2020 it found itself unable to operate any services and without any of the revenue required to meet day to day expenditure. At the moment the WSR plc is not running train services. The Railway is a complex business involving many sectors transport, retail, hospitality, museums all with differing Covid guidance

The WSR needs almost £60,000 per month to meet its minimal base costs; items such as insurance, utility bills, interest and some staffing. Virtually all staff are currently on furlough but, with the forthcoming reductions in Government support, the WSR will in the coming months have to pick up its full wages bill again. It is key for its future that the Railway retains its workers with specialist skills. However, the threat to the railway is bigger than that. The enormous loss of income for WSR plc as it remains non operational during the peak running season means that crucial and critical annual investment in the Railway will be impossible without your help.

Please use the button below to read the full Update...

In addition to the July 2020 Update, the Railway's Fundraising Group have created a webpage covering the fundraising activities and current appeals. Please use the buttons below to access the full Update and the webpage.

Full Update Fundraising Webpage

3 July 2020
Details kindly provided by the WSR Fundraising Group

Railway to feature on ITV West evening programme

WSR

ITV West is running a feature on the evening regional news programme on Friday 3 July 2020 about how the local tourism community in Somerset is trying to bounce back from CV19 and is using Dunster as an ideal example of the fightback. As the nearby West Somerset Railway is the biggest tourism business in the West Somerset area and carries around 180,000 passengers a year on its steam trains, the heritage line is crucial to the economy but it is still sadly closed by the lockdown. WSR Plc Vice Chairman Mark Smith will feature in the story and explains what is going on.

2 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Views sought on Bailey Report WSR restructuring proposals

WSR

Councillor Mike Rigby, who represents Somerset West and Taunton Council at the Railway's Partnership Development Group, is seeking views on the possible restructuring of the West Somerset Railway organisations as proposed in a report by John Bailey of the Heritage Railway Association. At the present time the 'Bailey Report' is only available online on a webpage containing the West Somerset Railway Plc's response to sections 4 and 5 of the report relevant to possible restructuring. Responding to a Somerset County Gazette news item about the possible new charity plan, Mike Rigby comments on his Facebook page:

Interesting news about the West Somerset Railway. I’d be keen to hear your views, especially if you are in some way associated with the railway.

The Bailey Report Somerset County Gazette news item

Mike says people can get in touch by email at mike@mikerigby.org

2 July 2020
Details kindly provided by local correspondents

Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association have published the agreed Minutes of the Board Meeting of 19 May 2020 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 23 June 2020. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.

Minutes Synopsis

2 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Restoration of the Taunton Inspectors Saloon

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association are crowdfunding to raise funds for the refurbishment of the historically important Inspectors Saloon and help bring this unique carriage back into action on the Minehead Branch. The Association say:

The refurbished Inspectors Saloon will be available to the general public on our heritage railway and when not in use, on display at one of our ten stations. The refurbishment work will be undertaken by volunteers, helping to develop skills, combat rural loneliness and isolation, and help us promote heritage education. In addition to being available to the general public it will also be used for special occasions and for school educational visits.

Go to the Crowdfunder page

2 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

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