An unofficial website featuring the West Somerset Railway

Latest news

Excursions on the Railway from 22 May

WSR Plc

The timetable page on the official website (see link below) has been updated. As well as the trips to Williton, it now shows the revised dates and the times of the recently announced trips to the old harbour town of Watchet.

Timetable page

9 May 2021
Details gleaned from the official website

The Association reaches out to working volunteers

WSR

7 May 2021 marks 50 years of the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA) supporting the Railway. The Trustees think that is worth celebrating and say:

So we're offering a free membership for 1 year to all working volunteers on the railway who are not yet WSRA members. Simply submit a photograph of yourself volunteering on the railway from 1st May to 30th September 2021, and claim a year's free Working Volunteer membership of the WSRA. The volunteering work you demonstrate in your photograph can be anything that supports the West Somerset Railway, so gardening, signalling, catering, admin etc are all good.

More details can be found on the Association's website.

More details Association website

7 May 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

It could be you helping out at Stogumber Station and Garden

WSR Plc

The folks at Stogumber Station could do with a little more help in the summer. Could you help? The Station Master, Bob Preston, explains:

Once we reach July with trains running seven days a week we will be struggling for volunteer numbers. Our main requirement is for two people to work in the shop throughout the summer on Fridays serving cream teas, etc, as well as carrying out general station duties. They would need a current PTS certificate. I can be contacted on 01984 656976 or 07884 143290.

Friends of Stogumber Station website Stogumber Station webpage

7 May 2021
Details kindly provided by Friends of Stogumber Station

Revised timetables from 29 May 2021

WSR Plc

The West Somerset Railway Plc say:

We are making some alterations to our timetabled services for May and June.

We have listened to feedback from our passengers and have introduced an enhanced experience for the start of our season.

We will now be going from Bishops Lydeard to Watchet, from 29th May onwards,This will give our passengers a great day out, giving you time in the seaside town to explore before you return.

Any passengers who hold tickets to Williton already, on dates which will be affected will receive an email from us with the changes and options in the next 24 hours.

Ticket functionality on our website has been temporarily disabled on dates that are affected. We envisage this issue to be resolved by lunch time tomorrow Friday 7th May.

Please bear with us whilst these changes are made and communicated to all. We thank you for your patience.

A full explanation on what is on offer will be released shortly.

Please note the train times on this unofficial website have been updated.

6 May 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Opening times for Stogumber Station and Garden

WSR Plc

The Stogumber Station and Garden will be open on the following days from 10am to 4pm (weather permitting) for the sale of hot and cold drinks, cream teas and hot snacks. Come and enjoy whilst watching trains pass through the Station.

  • Saturday 22 May
  • Sunday 23 May
  • Tuesday 25 May
  • Wednesday 26 May
  • Thursday 27 May
  • Saturday 29 May
  • Sunday 30 May
  • Monday 31 May
  • Every Saturday in June
  • Every Sunday in June
  • Every Tuesday in June
  • Every Wednesday in June

Friends of Stogumber Station website Download the poster Stogumber Station webpage

1 May 2021
Details kindly provided by Friends of Stogumber Station

Book now for a trip on the West Somerset Railway

WSR Plc

The West Somerset Railway Plc are reminding all of us that train services start again soon.

We are getting ready to welcome you back!

From 22 May 2021 we will be running excursions from Bishops Lydeard to Williton and back.

In line with Covid advice, we are selling tickets for fixed excursions in tables of 2, 4 and compartments of 6.

Use the link in the button below to select your excursion and book your tickets. Then, choose from travel only, or choose to add a catering option on selected services on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Go to the Excursions page

28 April 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

WSR Plc reject the Bailey reform recommendations

WSR Plc

The West Somerset Railway Plc have concluded the organisational structure reforms recommended by John Bailey in his 2020 report cannot go ahead for a number of reasons. The Plc say:

  • The entire railway community is currently heavily committed to re-starting our operations in May. This involves extensive work by many individuals across the railway: this is not going to be a normal start-up operation and requires considerable extra work beyond that normally undertaken for the seasonal re-openings of the past. It is the view of the Board that attempting to take forward work now to establish a brand-new organisation is not something that would be sensible at this time, especially in light of the challenges facing both the WSR plc and the wider WSR railway family over the next 12 months.
  • Although much sound progress has been made with our earlier financial recovery plans from 2017-2019, the railway has not yet fully recovered from the financial operational challenges of these years before the Covid pandemic. This is going to require significant further re-targeting of our activities. Attempting to re-position the WSR plc now as a subsidiary organisation of a brand-new charity, complete with all the attendant financial risk around assets, accountability and financial responsibilities, is NOT something that the WSR plc Board feels it can support.
  • The plc Board is also not convinced that the proposals being put forward to implement the suggested Bailey reforms will necessarily deliver the anticipated full range of benefits required to justify the scale and scope of organisational change at this time. It feels that the current restructuring proposals are just one of a series of possible options to be considered, and which need to be much more carefully explored.
  • In the outline questionnaire that was circulated to all 8,311 WSR plc shareholders seeking their views on the Bailey reforms. Only 391 shareholders responded representing just 8,311 (4.7%). It is evident from such a level of response, therefore, that there is scant shareholder support for these suggestions. The board felt that it was important to have the views of shareholders on this matter, and in the interests of the PLC and its shareholders, it considered that the response rate was too low to justify taking further action on the proposals at the present time.
  • The indicative costs of implementation of the current Bailey reform proposals are felt to be considerable and likely to run to at least six figures. In the current financial climate, the Board does not feel that this would be a sensible use of the plc’s limited resources. If loan-funding for this cost were to be sought externally, the Board feels that there would need to be a far more persuasive case.
  • One of the key requirements facing us will be the need to convince the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) as regulator, and other key stakeholders, that these proposals will not only fully deliver significant additional benefits over a long period of time, but also that they will not impede the corporate responsibilities of the PLC for the safe and effective operation of the WSR and the stewardship of its assets. The Board considers that such a case has not been made convincingly.
  • The Board readily recognises that one motivation for the Bailey proposals was the belief that this would offer us a better opportunity for external fund-raising. The Board have considered and researched the experiences of other heritage railways, and other similar organisations, and has concluded that the present structures in place do not preclude effective fund-raising. There will need to be renewed fund raising efforts in the next few months, of course, and the Board looks forward to working with all of its partners to achieve significant results.

Click or tap the button below for the full statement.

The full statement by WSR Plc

26 April 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The Crowcombe Heathfield webcam is back

WSR Plc

Good news for casual viewers and avid webcam watchers alike. The webcam at Crowcombe Heathfield Station is back streaming to the world after a lengthy spell offline. The webcam can be viewed on this website or at the Railcam.uk website.

More good news. The south facing webcam at Williton Station is also back online on the Railcam.uk website.

Webcam on this website Railcam.uk website

25 April 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc and Railcam.uk

New appointments to the WSR Plc Board

WSR Plc

The Board of the West Somerset Railway Plc has announced two new appointments, with immediate effect.

Bob Meanley is rejoining the Board as Director (Mechanical Engineering) and John Gibbins is becoming Civil Engineering Adviser to the Board, with a view to joining as Director in the near future.

Full details

23 April 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

'From Merehead to Minehead' - a new booklet is published

WSR

The Diesel & Electric Preservation Group (DEPG) are pleased to announce the publication of the second Booklet in the series dedicated to the Group's diesel Locomotives

Following the success of the first book featuring Class 35 ‘Hymek’ no D7018, the second book, entitled 'From Merehead to Minehead' features Class 52 no D1010 Western Campaigner.

The first half of the book features its service with British Railways and purchase by Foster Yeoman, followed by the second half detailing its history with the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group. The publication consists of 72 pages with 64 colour and 8 black and white photos.

Available from depg.org or cheque for £18.50 (to include p&p) payable to DEPG from the Old Goods Shed, Williton Station, Somerset. TA4 4RQ

Click the button below for the DEPG Online Shop webpage for the booklet.

DEPG Online Shop

16 April 2021
Details kindly provided by Diesel & Electric Preservation Group

Site Manager required for Seaward Way Crossing works

WSR

The West Somerset Railway is seeking a suitably qualified individual to act as Site Manager during the remainder of the works to renew Seaward Way Crossing in Minehead. The Railway say:

This is a temporary part time paid position operated on a call down basis. It is envisaged that there will be some part time days required in the first few weeks and then an intensive period of probable full-time attendance during the main contract with Messrs Amey.

For further information, please email Kerry Noble kerry.noble@wsrail.net The closing date is 23 April 2021.

Official WSR webpage

13 April 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Watchet Station Shop reopens on 13 April

WSR

Watchet Station Shop will be open from 13 April 2021 from 10am to 4pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays (closed Monday and Friday) for Hot Drinks, Cakes, Snacks, Gifts, Toys and Secondhand Books.

10 April 2021
Details kindly provided by Friends of Watchet Station

Remembering the Duke of Edinburgh's visits by train

WSR

The passing of the Duke of Edinburgh of 9 April 2021 has prompted a look back at the two visits made by the Duke to Minehead, by train, in 1952 and in 2002.

The Duke of Edinburgh arrived by train at Minehead on 29 October 1952. After meeting local worthies, he travelled by car to Lynmouth where, on the night of 15-16 August 1952, many homes had been destroyed by flooding following very heavy rainfall up on the hills of Exmoor. Tragically 34 souls were lost that night. The visit of the Duke was much appreciated by the survivors.

Recently, a set of seven black and white images taken that day at Minehead were sent here by our good friend Eric Rowlands. The pictures were taken by Minehead photographer R. Kingsley Tayler; the original prints were scanned by Eric. Click or tap the button below to load the '1952' pictures.

Fifty years later, on 1 November 2002, the Duke made a repeat visit to Lynmouth, again by train and by car, and again via Minehead Station. Here is the news item from 2002 in full:

The Duke of Edinburgh travelled down to Somerset overnight aboard the Royal Train, which left London Euston the night before at 11.17pm, making for a 4.45am arrival at Bishops Lydeard. After a 'recess stop', the Royal Train, headed by Class 47 no 47798, departed Bishops Lydeard at 8.10am bound for Minehead.

At each of the ten stations a small crowd of onlookers gathered and the Duke responded with an appearance and a wave at the window.

Arrival at Minehead was right on schedule at 9.20am and the Duke met Railway officials and volunteers. The line-up included civil dignatories; Roger Lizars and Mark Smith representing the Railway Board; a trio of Friends of Minehead Station, Alan Grieve, Frances Bristow and Gordon Harris; Hein Burger, the Railway's Commercial Manager; Trackers Gary Filer, Jonathan Mitchell and Shane Tarr, and Ian Salt, Apprentice Fitter. After being introduced to Robin George, representing the Dinmore Manor Fund, the Duke accepted the chance of a short footplate ride aboard no 7820, before bidding farewell to the Railway, setting off across Exmoor by road for an engagement at Lynmouth.

The Royal Train departed Minehead at 10.05am and returned to the national rail network right time about an hour or so later.

As stated in the Railway's November OnLine, '...another aspect to consider is our progress after the last 15 years and that as 2002 comes to its end we are viewed by the rest of the Railway industry as part of the national network and able to handle all traffic offered to us in a thoroughly professional manner. Thanks to everyone along the line who did so much to make the visit a success and to present the Railway at its best.'

Click or tap the button below to load the '2002' pictures.

1952 pictures 2002 pictures

10 April 2021
Details kindly provided by friends of this website

Railway Shops, Turntable Cafe, Readers Halt to reopen

WSR

The Railway have some good news to share:

With the easing of restrictions from Monday 12 April we are delighted to let you know that the West Somerset Railway shops at both Minehead and Bishops Lydeard will reopen next week, along with the Turntable Cafe and Readers Halt Bookstall at Minehead Station.

Minehead Shop along with the Turntable Cafe and Readers Halt Bookstall will be open all next week from Monday - Sunday between 10am and 3pm.

Bishops Lydeard Shop will re-open for business on Wednesday 14 April at 10am. Their regular opening times will be Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm until our excursion services start later in May.

We will be continuing with social distancing in line with Government advice. For Bishops Lydeard shop a one way traffic system will be in place which has been used previously, therefore please enter through the booking office lobby and exit through the doors on to the platform. We are sorry that we are still unable to offer any cafe facilities at Bishops Lydeard at the moment.

Hand sanitisation facilities will be available at both locations and we ask all visitors to please wear a face covering whilst in the shops or cafe.

We look forward to seeing our regular customers as well as new friends upon our reopening.

9 April 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

David Butcher

WSR

Sad news. David Butcher, the Railway's General Manager during the re-openings, this morning passed away peacefully at home. In the early days, away from masterminding and managing the re-opening of the line, David could often be seen at the controls of a DMU or on the footplate driving one of the Bagnall tanks or GWR Pannier no 6412. An inspirational man who encouraged people with positive support and a friendly word or two. Thanks David for all that you have done for our Railway. And thanks to his wife Linda for allowing this small notice of David's passing.

7 April 2021
Details kindly provided by local correspondents

A welcome refresh for the Association website

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association has released its refreshed website at wsra.org.uk A nice clean look with improved navigation for users. Also, for the first time, a password-protected 'members area' which has long been on the membership's wish list. Well done, Association. And thanks.

The WSRA website

7 April 2021
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

News of the WSR 'Industrial' steamers

WSR

Ryan Pope, owner of the two industrial tank locomotives at Williton, has kindly provided an update:

Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T no 1857 has steamed for the first time in 40 years, we think, after a major boiler overhaul completed at Williton. The work included replacing three-quarters of the sides and back plate, and a new throat plate. Also, copper welding to the inner firebox, new front tube plate, 600+ new stays all made at Williton and a new set of tubes. Testing of the boiler over the next few weeks will allow the boiler to de-stress and settle, then the race is on to get it back in the frames and finish the loco.

Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST no 1219 will be departing the WSR in the next few weeks to take up home at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway.

6 April 2021
Details kindly provided by Ryan Pope

Culture Recovery Fund award for the Heritage Trust

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust has announced that it applied for an award under the Culture Recovery Fund - 2nd Round and has been successful in its application. The award is presented by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in conjunction with the National Lottery Community Fund. Formal notification plus details on how the Trust is to obtain the funds will follow.

5 April 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust

Busy times ahead for the diesel fleet

WSR

All subject to expected relaxation of Covid lockdown restrictions, of course, the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group (DEPG) are looking forward to a busy time in support of the Railway's gradual reopening from 22 May 2021. Initially this means providing a diesel locomotive on standby duties during the steam-hauled services to Williton, then Watchet and Blue Anchor. When the Railway's 'Blue' timetable takes over, diesel fans can look forward to enjoying diesel haulage once again on the Minehead Branch. The DEPG say:

Our big part comes into focus on Saturday 3 July, where the Blue timetable includes a 60-mile diesel-hauled service that starts and ends in Minehead with an additional shuttle between Bishops Lydeard and Williton. This opportunity for diesel haulage has come about due to the non-availability of the DMU this season. In total, the current published timetable shows 27 days where the Blue timetable is in operation. This significant amount of running gives us the opportunity to use Class 35 'Hymek' no D7018 and Class 14 'Teddy Bear' no D9526 on some days, while our stalwart Class 33s nos D6566 (33 048) and D6575 (33 057) will cover the majority of the workings.

These Blue timetable workings will provide an hour stopover at Williton between 1320 and 1430, so we hope to be able to find enough volunteers to be able to open our depot on each running day and put on a bit of a 'show and tell'.

The origination point of Minehead for the Blue timetable is not ideal for most diesel fans, but it is an opportunity that has been presented to us and we now need to do our very best to make sure that every ticket is sold and that these services are a commercial success. Please try to support these diesel-hauled services! We will announce our plans for haulage as soon as we can, but this depends on volunteers completing refresher training so that we can provide sufficient crews to cover this workload. It also depends on locomotives being available for service.

Timetables and online booking

5 April 2021
Details kindly provided by Diesel & Electric Preservation Group

Seaward Way Crossing webcam is now offline

WSR

The WSR Plc have switched the webcam covering Seaward Way Level Crossing offline...

...until the crossing upgrade works are complete.

That seems like good news as the start of the works must be imminent. Although nothing is promised, hopefully WSR Plc will provide regular updates and pictures to help keep supporters informed throughout the upgrade. Pictures of the works will appear on the Topical Pictures page of this website from time to time.

5 April 2021
Details gleaned from request from West Somerset Railway Plc

Some of S&DRT artefacts to move to the Avon Valley Railway

WSR

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust (S&DRT) and the Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust have reached an agreement which will see some of the S&DRT's artefacts transferred from Washford to Bitton as explained to the recent joint press release.

We are delighted to announce that we have come, in principle, to an agreement to re-locate a portion of the rolling stock and museum artefacts currently based at the S&DRT site at Washford in Somerset to the Avon Valley Railway at Bitton, South Gloucestershire.

The agreement has been under discussion for several months and follows the S&DRT’s similar arrangement for rolling stock and museum items relating more to the Southern element of the collection to be placed at the Mid-Hants Railway Watercress Line. The essence of the agreement is to establish a display of Midland/LMS vehicles and artefacts at Bitton which will form the basis of a new museum at the station. Several S&DRT vehicles will be adapted to house a range of S&D items with additional historical items belonging to the AVR which together will tell the story of the Midland lines terminating at the famous station at Green Park, Bath.

Read the full joint statement

1 April 2021
Details kindly provided by the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust

New Trustee for West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust (WSRHT) have announced:

The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust is delighted to welcome Mike Lee as our latest new Trustee to join the Board.

Mike will specifically focus on safety at the WSRHT, ensuring we continue to operate to the highest standards.

The WSRHT board warmly welcomes Mike aboard and looks forward to benefiting from his significant breadth of skills in helping the Trust to evolve further in the future.

31 March 2021
Details kindly provided by the West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust

It was forty five years ago today...

WSR

The Railway recalls an important day:

On Sunday 28 March 1976, the West Somerset Railway ran its first ever passenger train from Minehead to Blue Anchor. Over 2000 passengers travelled that day.

Before departure of the first train headed by Bagnall 0-6-0ST no 2996 Victor, an opening ceremony was carried out by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.

With the ceremony completed,Guard Don Spencer gave the first ever 'Right Away' to Driver Harry Lee and Fireman Cedric Dunmall.

Once the train reached Blue Anchor, Signalman Jim Elson and a proud General Manager David Butcher kept a close eye on proceedings.

Click or tap the button below to load a page of images from 28 March 1976.

Pictures from 28 March 1976

28 March 2021
Details kindly provided by Railway friends

The return of passenger trains on the Minehead Branch

WSR

The Railway says:

We are very much looking forward to welcoming our passengers back from 22 May 2021 onwards.

Initially, we will be providing fixed excursions between Bishops Lydeard and Williton. Then we will be introducing excursions to Watchet and Blue Anchor on Saturdays throughout June.

Please take a look at our timetable (link below) and click on your intended date of travel to see which services are available.

Tickets are limited, and must be booked in advance of travel, therefore we are encouraging passengers to book early, to avoid disappointment.

Further information relating to the use of certain passes and tickets carried over from last year, will be released shortly.

Train Times and More Information

25 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The latest Journal - no 172 - has been published

WSR

Members of the West Somerset Railway Association are now receiving a copy of the latest 'Journal'.

Along with the usual sections, Journal no 172 carries features about:

  • The Preserve and Protect Fund
  • An Update from the WSR Plc Chairman
  • Weeding the WSR
  • From Pwllheli to Minehead
  • The Last Weekend
  • GWR 2-6-2T no 5199
  • Class 35 Liveries
  • A New Roof for Leigh
  • The Story of Williton Footbridge

To join the Association or for full details of Membership, please click the button below...

Membership

23 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association have published the agreed Minutes of the Board Meeting of 9 February 2021 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 9 March 2021. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.

Minutes Synopsis

22 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

WSR to feature in two episodes of 'Salvage Hunters'

WSR

In 2020, the Railway had a visit from Drew Pritchard with the 'Salvage Hunters' team. And at 9pm on Wednesday 24 March 2021 QuestTV will air the first of two episodes this year to feature the WSR, with the second due out in the summer. It is understood the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard Station will feature on the first episode.

22 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Board changes at West Somerset Railway Plc

WSR

The recent electronic newsletter 'The Platform' carries news of a few changes for the Board of the WSR Plc.

The Board recently lost the valuable experience of its Vice Chairman, Mark Smith, who has retired.

The Board has now been joined by Joy Boswell as Finance Director.

In order to provide additional continuity experience, the board has also been re-joined by Frank Courtney.

Martin Brown and Mike Thompson have decided to stand down.

Jonathan Jones Pratt, Chairman, said:

The last two years have been very challenging for the Board and for the Railway as whole. It is clear that thanks to the work and effort of a very large number of committed individuals at all levels on the railway, and with the help of our wonderful wider group of supporters, we are now moving forward and look forward to much brighter times ahead. I am grateful for the support of the Board over this period, which has been very taxing. We are always sorry to lose board colleagues, but we now need to enhance our expertise with some new blood and look forward to the restart of trains later this year - which is what we all wish to see. We have received an outstanding number of applicants who have expressed interests in the Director roles and interviews have begun. We believe that some excellent appointments will now flow from the process of which in turn further strengthen your Railway structure for the future as we continue to protect and rebuild the asset.

Full details in 'The Platform'.

The Platform Newsletter

20 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Pictures from 1989 and 1992 come to light

WSR

Thanks to the work of 'We Are Railfans', two collections of transport-themed photographs and slides have been acquired and scanned. A good few of these - from 1989 and 1992 - depict the West Somerset Railway and now appear, with others, on the appropriate picture pages on this website.

It is believed the images were probably the work of two photographers. At the time of publication, the identity of the photographers remains unknown.

Big thanks to WSR volunteer Joe Rogers for bringing these images to light by obtaining and scanning the collection, and for persuading his chums at We Are Railfans to allow publication on wsr.org.uk

We Are Railfans Pictures from 1989 Pictures from 1992

20 March 2021
Details kindly provided by We Are Railfans

Foxcote Manor to be WSR-based for the next five years

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc and the Foxcote Manor Society are pleased to announce that former BR(W) Manor Class 4-6-0 no. 7822 Foxcote Manor has been assigned to the West Somerset Railway for the remainder of the life of its boiler ticket.

This gives the West Somerset Railway a coup with two Manors for the next five years until the 7822's current ticket expires on 22 March 2026. Foxcote Manor has been a regular and popular performer at the WSR since late 2017, clocking up over 150 days of action in 2018 alone.

The engine is currently undergoing an extensive programme of winter maintenance at Minehead. This has included the manufacture of a new spark arrestor, chimney cowl, cab floor, ashpan spray, and feedpipe cladding covers. Various fittings and mechanical jobs have also been attended to.

Foxcote Manor will join the WSR's own resident Manor - no 7828 Odney Manor - and WSR Mogul no 9351, along with Large Prairie 5101 Class no 5199 which is on hire for the 2021 season.

Foxcote Manor Society

19 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc and Foxcote Manor Society

Culvert inspection and cleaning at Minehead Station

WSR

The WSR's Infrastructure Engineering Team write:

This week we had Glanville Environmental on site at Minehead Station to clean and inspect a culvert that runs under the track and platform, and a pipe alongside the track. Several tonnes of silt and rubbish were cleaned out enabling the team to check the inside of the structure and pipeline. All appeared in good condition, and we will receive the pictures for the surveillance in the coming days. Thank you to Morrison's for letting the team take up a corner of their car park.

This work was funded by the West Somerset Railway Association.

18 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc and West Somerset Railway Association

'Excursion trains' feature in the Railway's re-opening plans

WSR

The West Somerset Railway is planning to re-start train services on Saturday 22 May subject to no further Government Covid-19 restrictions being enforced and the recovery roadmap staying on track. Details of a series of 'excursion trains' are now available, with advance booking essential.

Initially, these 'excursion trains' will operate out and back from Bishops Lydeard to Williton. Social distancing regulations will still be in force then and passengers will, therefore, need to travel in pre-allocated seats and remain on board for the entire return journey. As a result, it will not yet be possible to offer train services to (or from) any intermediate stations on the line, or through to Minehead.

Extensive key infrastructure works between Williton and Minehead, including the rebuilt Seaward Way Level Crossing at the seaside town, have yet to be completed but are on track for a July opening when all Covid-19 restrictions have hopefully been lifted.

The West Somerset Railway trains will be fully internally cleaned between services.

Seats will need to be pre-booked either on the official WSR website (see link below) or by telephone on 01643 704996.

Excursion Train Times and Online Booking

17 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Len Renwick

WSR

Folks along the Railway, and well beyond, will be saddened by news of the passing of a great WSR friend, Driver Len Renwick, who slipped away peacefully at home on Tuesday 9 March 2021. My thanks to Robin White for sharing the sad news. Len's experience on the footplate stretched right back to the last days of steam on the Bournemouth line. On the WSR Len was often seen at the controls of a diesel locomotive or the DMU or as Conductor Driver on a wide range of incoming diesel-hauled main line excursions or empty stock workings, the latter arriving or departing in the small hours. And of course a huge number of Conductor Driver duties for the High Output Ballast Cleaner operations at Norton Triangle were covered by Len. A chat with Len was sure to raise a smile and a laugh in quick time. Len will be much missed.

15 March 2021

Provisional plans for partial reopening in May

WSR

In the latest 'The Platform' newsletter issued on 11 March, the WSR Plc Chairman, Jon Jones-Pratt, explains provisional plans to re-open part of the line for passenger services. From 22 May 2021 the Railway are hoping to offer a train trip from Bishops Lydeard Station to Williton and back only.

This newsletter [The Platform] has been delayed so that we can absorb the impact of the latest government 'roadmap' for getting things going again, and announce a provisional date for reopening. We still have much more planning to do, but we expect to start passenger operation on Saturday 22nd May. Initially this will be Bishops Lydeard to Williton with some trains to Watchet. We hope then to run further with extension to Minehead later in the summer.

As we all know, the plans are subject to change depending on how the government's 'roadmap' itself progresses. There's more detail in 'The Platform' about the WSR's plans to get trains running again.

View 'The Platform' March 2021 on the official WSR website Download 'The Platform' March 2021

14 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Culture Heritage Recovery Fund Award - latest updates

WSR

The Culture Heritage Recovery Fund (CHRF) is part of the £1.57 billion rescue package announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to safeguard cultural and heritage organisations across the UK from the economic impact of COVID-19.

The WSR has been awarded £865,000 to help secure the railway’s longer-term viability as a popular tourist attraction, educational offering, and preserver of heritage locomotives. The money must be invested by the end of March 2021 to receive the full benefit of the award.

The WSR's CHRF programme implementation board has been brought together to manage the oversight of spending these funds and are providing helpful regular updates to volunteers and staff about how and where the money is being spent in order to achieve the stated aims of the fund. The board have kindly given their permission for the updates to appear on wsr.org.uk and enable a wider readership.

CHRF Update 4 List of CHRF updates

A link to the list of CHRF updates also appears under 'News' on the top menu bar of each web page.

14 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The March 2021 edition of The Platform now available

WSR

Lots of really useful topical information about the West Somerset Railway can be found in the March 2021 edition of the new electronic newsletter. Topics include:

  • When will trains be running again?
  • Board changes
  • Santa Trains in 2020
  • The Diesel & Electric Preservation Group
  • News from the West Somerset Railway Association
  • Business development
  • Work behind the scenes

Click or tap the button below to view The Platform newsletter...

View 'The Platform' March 2021 on the official WSR website Download 'The Platform' March 2021

11 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the 2021 Steam & Vintage Rally

WSR

The Rally Team have kindly provided an update on this year's event due to be held on 7 and 8 August.

Now the government has published a road map out of lockdown, the Rally team have agreed to go ahead with planning the 2021 Rally.

We plan to hold the Rally at Norton Fitzwarren on 7 and 8 August 2021.

This will only be possible if the lockdown restrictions are lifted according to the published plan, and no new problems occur. We will keep reviewing the position but are very hopeful that we will be able to welcome everybody to this year's rally, although we cannot be certain about this at present. Clearly, we will follow all safety guidance in force at the time and may have to change or remove some features because of the need for social distance.

At present, we are contacting our exhibitors to confirm our plans, and invite them to book in their vintage vehicles and attractions. If you are an exhibitor and would like to come, please contact us on info@steamrally.org.uk or ring 01823 433856

We will keep everyone updated as things develop on our website www.steamrally.org.uk and Facebook page @steamrallywsra

We look forward to seeing you at Norton Fitzwarren in August, and hope to see all our many wonderful volunteers once again: please contact us using the details above.

The Steam & Vintage Rally website The Steam & Vintage Rally Facebook page

10 March 2021
Details kindly provided by the Steam & Vintage Rally Team

Progress with the tender for Odney Manor

WSR

A volunteer-led project quietly working on the major rebuilding of a Churchward-designed tender for the popular GWR 4-6-0 no 7828 Odney Manor reached a significant stage on 6 March 2021.

The existing tender coupled to the Manor is approaching the need for overhaul so a new tender is being prepared. So far work has been taking place over several years on the frames. Now the first part of the tank has been fitted to the frames.

The tender is a Churchward 3500 gallon example, number 2061T, which came to the WSR from Barry scrapyard via the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway. So far most of the small components have been manufactured, replaced or refurbished and put into store. The frames have been shot blasted and painted, the front quarter of the frames replaced and the front dragbox replaced with all new riveted platework.

The well tank of the tender is integral with the frame cross members which slightly complicates the assembly to ensure that it all fits correctly. Welded up in Minehead Shed, the tank well was lifted out of the shed using the Atlas crane wagon, turned the right way up and fitted to the frames.

Next step is to work from footplate level to build the rest of the tank.

8 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Draft minutes of recent Partnership Development Group meeting

WSR

The draft minutes of the Partnership Development Group meeting held via Zoom on 24 February 2021 are now available. Click or tap the button below to download and read.

PDG minutes

5 March 2021
Details kindly provided by the Secretariat of the Partnership Development Group

Trains may run at any time - a timely reminder

WSR

West Somerset Railway's Infrastructure Engineering team have issued a timely reminder on their Facebook page:

A reminder that the Railway is still open to traffic and operating engineering trains while passenger services are paused. Our team sadly witness trespassers on the line regularly - if you see anyone walking on the line not wearing bright orange clothing, please report it to the Railway.

Our clip here shows the ballast train topping up the side ballast along the line. We're dropping around 800 tonnes over the coming weeks which will help maintain the comfort of our passengers, when they return in a few months time!

Facebook page

4 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the Seaward Way Crossing upgrade

WSR

Work to renew Seaward Way level crossing in Minehead has been proceeding as fast as possible over the last ten months, but progress has been hampered by Covid 19 of course due to furloughing of key staff and other restrictions in place, plus the complex nature of the new crossing works themselves. The Railway explain further:

A key factor to be considered is that the crossing is not actually a renewal of Seaward Way at all but is, in effect, going to be a completely new, different and advanced safer type of level crossing.

It includes improved safety systems such as new double barriers, a new CCTV system and, most importantly, completely renewed electrical and signalling systems to ensure safe operations.

This work is necessary now not only because of the significant increase in road traffic since the old crossing opened, but also the number of pedestrians now regularly walking between Butlins and the sea front on the one hand, and McDonalds and the various supermarkets etc on the other.

When the crossing was first built and opened thirty years ago in 1992, neither McDonalds nor any of the supermarkets, hotel and newer housing were built of course. But the volume of traffic now using the crossing has changed massively, so requiring a new solution for safe movements where the road, footpaths and rails meet.

Also, after 30 years in the seaside atmosphere, all of the old crossing equipment has become life expired and so obsolete and unfit for the task which is now required.

But detailed planning is now all complete, and technical teams have been busy dismantling the existing signalling equipment. A pre-fabricated electrical switch room has been constructed off site and will soon be installed at its new home.

Later this month there will be a full extensive testing of the new CCTV system. The main phase of construction will then shortly commence. All through this preparatory work, detailed discussions have been taking place with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) who have to give official permission for the work to proceed and the crossing to re-open.

The various activities of the project have to be dovetailed with each other, but this has proved particularly difficult during the Covid restrictions period. But WSR, Somerset County Council and Contractors staff have all been working closely together, including having regular detailed technical meetings in order to maintain progress despite Covid issues. This partnership working will continue and intensify until the project is concluded.

Both the West Somerset Railway and Somerset County Council readily recognise the pressure and need to get this job completed as soon as possible, and to have the new crossing ready for when the WSR re-opens and trains can run to and from Minehead again, but this is a complex technical project which must be correctly planned and delivered.

However, due to social distancing, it will not be sensible for the railway to open the full length to Minehead in any case until the Covid restrictions are significantly relaxed. We envisage this will now be towards the summer, perhaps from mid-June onwards, by which time we expect the crossing to be fully operational.

Consultation with the County Council as Highways Authority is required about the new crossing, followed by a formal public consultation process which lasts two months, and which will include a firm date for reopening.

As a result of Covid restrictions, plus completion of the ongoing WSR infrastructure works along the line between Watchet and Minehead, the railway will reopen in stages in line with the Government’s planned roadmap in lifting Covid restrictions.

Firstly, so that drivers, firemen, guards, signalmen and other key operating staff have sufficient time to re-familiarise themselves with the line and safety procedures via practical experience on one section at a time and, Secondly, because of the need to continue social distancing for passengers.

So, the section from Bishops Lydeard to Williton will be the first to reopen, followed shortly afterwards by extending to Watchet. In May, it is hoped to extend services to Dunster, with a connecting bus to Minehead, which, it is hoped, will again be reached by trains by the start of July.

WSR plc Chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt said:

Given the mountains we have had to climb in the last 12 months, it’s unlikely that we will be operating what can be described as a ‘traditional’ WSR timetable any time this year.

Seats on trains will very likely have to be pre-booked only and with reserved seats or compartments. I’m really looking forward to our trains returning to Minehead again and using this superb new level crossing this Summer.

But we have not forgotten that one of the attractions of the WSR is the capability to travel from one station to another station at will, and without pre-booking, so we are working out ways in which this experience can continue in the era of social distancing.”

More views and comments can be found on the Somerset County Gazette website - click or tap the button below:

Somerset County Gazette report

4 March 2021
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

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