Chris Austin, Chairman of West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, reports:
The author and broadcaster Christian Wolmar (right) presented the Heritage Railway Association awards in Birmingham on 8 February 2020 and seen here with James Pearson (left) and Tom Shaw (2nd from right) who were runners up for the Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer of the Year award. James is a PIC on the Gauge Museum Model Railway and Tom works regularly in the shop at Bishops Lydeard. With them is Alan Meade, who oversees the model railway.
Bob Meanley - nowadays very much a part of the WSR's new management team - was joint winner of the 'Railway Magazine' award for Railway Preservationist of the Year.
The NYMR won the 'Steam Railway' award for restoration of 9F no 92134 - which of course will be visiting the WSR in April.
We were very proud to see them represent the WSR at these prestigious awards attended by 240 people from the heritage railway world.
Work has continued apace all along the Railway in the first few weeks of 2020.
The most visible works are the track relays at Marsh Common and at Helwell Bay which follow similar tasks now completed near Mineral Line Bridge and at Goviers Lane Crossing. These are in addition to other permanent way tasks.
Meanwhile, cutting back of vegetation at Roebuck Gate Crossing is a fine example of teamwork with participants from several departments working together.
The same can be said for the Tidy Train and its 'multi-department' volunteer work force.
Carriage overhauls are well underway. At Williton's Swindon Shed, the Quantock Belle dining car rake is being repainted into a rather fine BR maroon livery; whilst at Minehead's Carriage Shed, several vehicles from the standard passenger stock are being outshopped in superb BR Western Region chocolate and cream colours.
In the loco shed at Minehead, the team are very busy with winter maintenance of the line's steam locos, particularly nos 9351, 7828 and 53808.
Along the line the local groups are busy refreshing the stations ready for the new season.
At Bishops Lydeard, the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust are undertaking a complete overhaul and a major reorganisation of the Gauge Museum in the former goods shed.
To say the Railway's Commercial Team are busy would be an understatement. Lots of promotional material, both hard copy and digital, is being produced and posted to seemingly every corner of the land. Special days, such as the visit of 'Peppa Pig', are being organised and much updating of the Railway's information tools such as the official website. Some very nice, fresh looking graphics support these fine efforts.
Likewise, the Gala Planning Team beaver away in the background making arrangements for the season's special events ensuring a fine show is put on.
There are any number of other works and projects underway which have not been mentioned but, as with all the above, rightly deserve mighty thanks from all who love and support the West Somerset Railway.
7 February 2020 Details kindly provided by local correspondents
All quiet - for now - at Minehead Station
The Friends of Minehead Station have reminded folks that the station is closed for the weekend although it will be open Monday 3 February to Friday 7 February. The cafe and shop are due to reopen on Tuesday 11 February 2020.
BR Class 4 no 76084 to visit for Spring Steam Gala
Don Bishop, Chairman of the Gala Planning Team, writes:
The Gala Planning Team are very pleased to be able to announce that we have agreed terms, subject to contract, for the second star guest engine for the Spring Gala between 23rd and 26th April 2020.
Following our desire to have several BR Standard locos for this year's event the latest loco is Class 4 2-6-0 no 76084, courtesy of its owning group and the North Norfolk Railway where it is usually based. Our thanks to both for their co-operation in allowing the loco to visit Somerset. No 76084 is a first time visitor to the WSR, and indeed an unusual one anywhere away from its Norfolk home. Joining 9F no 92134, already announced, and our home fleet, this impressive machine will look and sound great climbing the WSR's gradients. The loco's visit will only be a short one, so if you want to see it on the WSR you need to attend our Spring Gala.
We are still working on further locos to join the line up and will reveal what these are once everything is agreed.
Thornbury Castle heading for the Great Central Railway
GWR 4-6-0 no 7027 Thornbury Castle has been sold to a private buyer, the present owners JJP Holdings have announced. Under the sale and purchase agreement, the locomotive is to be restored at the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire and will run there for the duration of its next ten year ticket. No 7027, currently housed at Williton on the West Somerset Railway, will be transported by road to Loughborough during week commencing 27 January 2020.
Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published
The West Somerset Railway Association have published the agreed Minutes of the Board Meeting of 9 December 2019 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 13 January 2020. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.
Repairs to telephone system at Bishops Lydeard Station
The West Somerset Railway Association report that the main telephone system is under repair at Bishops Lydeard Station and say it is best to contact by email at present. Membership enquires to email@example.com and Bishops Lydeard Shop enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org Update 25 January 2020: repairs now completed.
News about the 'Tales of the West Somerset Railway' book
Ian Coleby, from the team behind the 'Tales of the West Somerset Railway' book published last year, has recently provided an update to the book's contributors.
You will be pleased to know that we have now virtually sold out of the 800 copies we had printed of the 'Tales of the WSR' book. This has raised a significant sum for the railway as well as being excellent PR. Yesterday I ordered a reprint of a further 400 copies to sell in the coming season. We are now considering a second volume.
21 January 2020 Details kindly provided by the 'Tales of the West Somerset Railway' team
New livery for Quantock Belle stock during winter overhaul
A recent discussion on the Facebook page 'WSR Swindon Shed' reveals the stock of the Quantock Belle dining train is undergoing a significant repaint during its normal winter maintenance at Williton. No 3108 - a First Open - has already been rubbed down ready for the repaint into BR maroon livery. The rake's long-standing carriage names will not be retained. The WSR Plc are now running and marketing the Quantock Belle and have a new operating model - the Quantock Belle is now a partnership between the West Somerset Railway and Claire's Kitchen. See the link below for more details. Underlining the teamwork involved here, the Plc say the welcome investment of £33,000 by the rake's owners, WSR Association in these valuable vehicles is much needed to improve the asset. The WSRA strongly support the new 2020 operating model.
19 January 2020 Details gleaned from discussion on the Facebook page 'WSR Swindon Shed'
New curator for Blue Anchor Museum
Steve Williams, Secretary of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust , reports:
The Board of Trustees is delighted to be able to announce the appointment of Alan Smithers as the new substantive Curator of the Museum at Blue Anchor Station. Trustees thanked David Baker for his interim stewardship of the Museum. David will continue to be involved with developments at Blue Anchor.
In addition to being a Trustee, Alan is also Station Master at Minehead, and brings considerable experience of the heritage museum sector to the role and is looking forward to working with volunteers and greeting visitors alike for the 2020 season.
Ken Barker has kindly provided details of the funeral of long-serving WSR volunteer Richard Brooks.
Richards Brooks funeral will take place on Monday 3rd February at 1200 at Taunton Crematorium, Wellington New Road, Taunton TA1 5NE. The family have requested no flowers but a donation to the WSRA towards a Permanent Way fund/project. The undertakers are E White & Son, 138-139 East Reach, Taunton TA1 3HN.
17 January 2020 Details kindly provided by Ken Barker
A large contribution from the Steam Trust to the Track Appeal
The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Chairman, Chris Austin, has presented the West Somerset Railway Chairman, Jonathan Jones-Pratt, with a cheque for £35,000 as a contribution towards the WSR Track Appeal. The Trust has to date donated over £40,000. The contribution is for the purchase of heritage track components, particularly for Blue Anchor and falls within the WSSRT objects and powers.
The Gauge Museum has now been scaffolded throughout and the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust will start to get the inside of the museum repainted in preparation for the new 'storyboard' approach that will show the railway and its role within the wider context of the socio-economic, heritage and historical events in West Somerset and Taunton Deane since its inception.
On 11 January 2020 Steam & Vintage Rally Chairman Geoff Garfield presented the retiring Section Marshals with engraved tankards as a 'thank you' for all their hard work. New Marshals are in place for all sections and the Rally Team are gearing up for this year's Rally to be held at Norton Fitzwarren on 1 and 2 August 2020.
Ken Barker (recently retired volunteer PW gang supervisor) has some very sad news about our good friend and long serving volunteer Richard Brooks:
It is with great sorrow and shock to report the sudden passing of Richard Brooks whilst walking on the Quantocks on Thursday 9th January at the age of 64. He joined the WSRA in April 1975 and worked virtually continuously up to last Sunday with the Volunteer PW Gang. Our condolences go out to his partner Sandy and his brother and sisters. Funeral details when known will follow.
11 January 2020 Details kindly provided by Ken Barker
Proposals for redesign and reinterpretation of Gauge Museum
The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust have published the proposals for the redesign and reinterpretation of the Gauge Museum:
Following 12 months of hard work by its Project Team and volunteers, the Steam Trust is pleased to be able to publish the proposals for the redesign and reinterpretation of the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard station. This has been made possible by the National Heritage Lottery fund grant of £40,000 together with a contribution from the Steam Trust's own resources of just over £20,000. There is more work to do but we reached the stage where we want to hear from our Members, volunteers, railway partners and other key stakeholders about the proposals in this document. We look forward to hearing from you.
There will be a further announcement in a few weeks about the arrangements for reopening the Museum and the formal launch.
The West Somerset Railway's 'Sixties Day' special event on 4 July 2020 plans to include a classic 60s vehicle display; a vintage fair; a screening of the Beatles film 'A Hard Day's Night'; a recreation of some of the famous scenes filmed at Crowcombe Heathfield Station; and a dance at Minehead with the 'Upbeat Beatles'. Look out for more details soon...
8 January 2020 Details kindly provided by local correspondents
Saturday openings for Bishops Lydeard Station Shop
Kate Beard, Retail Manager of the Station Shop, Platform Two, Bishops Lydeard Railway Station, writes:
The Station Shop on Platform Two, Bishops Lydeard will be reopening on Saturday 18 January from 9.30am to 2.30pm and every following Saturday while there are no public service trains on the WSR.
As you know there has been a press release from Hornby with all the new 2020 items as it is Hornby's centenary year; there are a lot of limited editions being produced in low volume numbers so if any customers would like to preorder, please contact the shop as to the above opening times or by e-mail on email@example.com. Also we are hoping to receive the new Hornby centenary catalogues as soon as they are desptached. Also if you would like to order any other items inc model railway, books and diecast you are more than welcome to contact us.
Over the next month or so, there is much work to do the track, bridges, stations, locomotives, carriages, training, marketing and so on. Just time for the folks at the Railway to say:
And that's the 2019 season over! Our next operating day will Saturday 21 March 2020. A huge thank you to everyone who travelled with us in 2019, we are really looking forward to seeing you again in 2020. As well as the regular train services, we also have lots of exciting events planned...
23 to 26 April 2020 - Spring Steam Gala
4 to 7 June 2020 - Diesel Gala
4 July 2020 - 1960s Day and Dance
1 & 2 August 2020 - Steam and Vintage Rally
12 & 13 September 2020 - 1940s Weekend
1 to 4 October 2020 - Autumn Steam Gala
29 & 30 December 2020 - Winter Steam Festival
Please keep an eye out on our website and facebook page for more details of these events in the future - www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk.