An unofficial website featuring the West Somerset Railway
Recruitment of new volunteers suspended
The West Somerset Railway's recruitment of new volunteers has been suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak. A recent news item on the Association's website explains:
Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Railway is closed and we are not currently processing new volunteer enquiries. However when we reopen we will very much need all the volunteer help and support available so please keep an eye on our volunteering page [click the button below] for news and updates about volunteering on the West Somerset Railway.
Activity sheets can be downloaded from the West Somerset Railway website:
To help entertain the children, we have uploaded our activity sheets to our website for you to download and complete at home.
We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
One activity on our Easter sheet will be difficult to complete as it requires looking out the window to piece together the Easter word hidden along the line, so instead, perhaps ask whether they can find an Easter word to fit into the space?
The sheets can be found here https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/brunel-k-beagle or simply click the button below.
The Turntable Cafe at Minehead helps the local community
The folks at the Railway's Turntable Cafe at Minehead Station report:
We have today (Monday 30 March 2020) delivered some stock to the West Somerset Food Cupboard, supporting the local community as best we can.
Please note the Turntable Cafe is closed until further notice due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
30 March 2020 Details gleaned from the Facebook page of the Turntable Cafe
DEPG support for WSRTV
The Williton-based Diesel & Electric Preservation Group have issued a statement of support for the WSRTV initiative.
The DEPG applauds the WSRTV initiative and will support it by producing short video compilations that feature the DEPG heritage locomotive fleet at work on the WSR in the first instance, to be followed up by more detailed studies of the individual locomotives and their histories.
Claire Sheppy, a long serving volunteer with the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, writes:
When dad died, I rescued his many many railway magazines, and I am now thinking to dispose of them. I am wanting to give my drawing studio quite a makeover and I have been wondering whether any of the people who look at your website would be interested in having some of them. There is a lot of very historical information here, copies of the 'Railway Magazine' going back to before the Second World War and I think there may even be some going back further than that. I do not want any money for them, I just want to try to find someone who might appreciate them. others that are there, are copies of 'Trains Illustrated', copies of 'Meccano' magazine, copies of the 'Model Engineer'.
I want to give out a whole set of the title rather than having to trawl through looking for a specific issue. Or in the case of 'Railway Magazine' a complete year at a time with no limit as to how many years because there are very nearly a complete set of these from the end of the second world war to the millennium and some issues from even earlier. A donation toward the WSR rescue fund would be great but not a condition.
Railway Magazine' May 1921, (Then there are a few until 1935, and then there seems to be an almost complete set all the way from 1935 through to December 2000.
'Railways' July 1943 to July 1952 with gaps
'Meccano Magazine' April 1932, then January 1938 to April 1969 with gaps.
'Model Engineer' January 1945 to May 1958, with the occasional gap.
'Railway World', January 1964 to April 1996 with gaps.
'Trains Illustrated' January 1951 to December 1961 complete.
Would interested parties please contact this website by email in the first instance and the email will be forwarded to Claire.
27 March 2020 Details kindly provided by local correspondent
An update from the WSR Plc Chairman
Jon Jones-Pratt, Chairman of the West Somerset Railway Plc, has issued an update on how the Covid-19 emergency is affecting the Railway. The Chairman's message covers many topics and can be read in full by clicking or tapping the button below to load the PDF document in a new window.
Don Bishop, Chairman of the Railway's Gala Planning Team writes:
The WSR has made the difficult decision to cancel our Diesel gala, we have held on until now so that we can understand the implications of the state of emergency we currently face.
The Railway is now going into a period of care and maintenance and as it is now clear to the board we will not be operating, it has been chosen that stage one will be to cancel all events up to month end June 2020. It is likely that there will be further cancellations, but we are trying to ensure we make decisions with accurate date/information.
We are fully committed to running a Diesel Gala again and will work hard with the team to deliver an exciting event again once we are back in good health.
Please all stay safe and we look forward to seeing you again in the future.
Following discussions among the WSR family over the past day, the WSRA is delighted to announce that we have been asked to re-badge our 'TV' initiative to make clearer that we are managing this on behalf of the whole West Somerset Railway family.
We have taken the opportunity at the same time to move the channel to a new YouTube location which will be more resilient during the difficult days ahead. It was easier to make this change while the channel had limited content.
The new channel can be found at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZFaYG5_kwQ4rKuSovan9_w or click the button below.
West Somerset Railway Association launches WSRA TV
UPDATE: Please see news item above for recent changes to this story
To assist the West Somerset Railway community, the West Somerset Railway Association has today launched 'WSRA TV' - a YouTube channel.
This intention is to publish short videos dealing with WSR subjects of interest to supporters, which could include the work of departments on the Railway, Railway Groups and individuals. Forthcoming videos will deal with the line’s history, locomotives track rolling stock and the like.
The channel can be found by clicking the button below.
The introductory video can also be watched below - click the play button below and have a look.
It is expected that new material will be loaded over the coming days as it becomes available. Social distancing will be respected, and much (perhaps most) of the work to produce content will be done electronically. WSRA Trustee, Robin White said:
The WSRA Trustees have thought hard about how we can support our Railway comminuity through the difficult weeks ahead until normality returns. This initiative will hopefully produce a body of material useful to the Railway for the future. If our first efforts are a bit amateurish, please forgive us as we learn but its been a steep learning curve. What we would most like to hear now is what content supporters would like to see. We are working on things like logos and format but thought it was important to get things going.
The WSR Trustees have been pleased to welcome WSR plc Director Martin Brown to the Advisory group overseeing this work, along with Trustees Diana Ricketts-Tanner and Robin Moira White. They can be contacted via the WSRA website www.wsra.org.uk
The Railway needs your help and welcomes your donation
The West Somerset Railway Plc say:
Along with many other heritage railways, we have taken the hard decision to postpone the opening of our Railway until further notice.
This comes as a massive blow to the business who over the past 12 months, have been working tirelessly to improve the financial situation. This new threat could not be foreseen but without running our services, we are without income.
The Plc board have discussed this situation at length, and have decided to put the Railway in a state of care and maintenance, to safeguard the future of the Railway due to the current circumstances.
We therefore need your help, to ensure we have a West Somerset Railway going forward. We are asking those of you, if you are can, to please donate to the Railway to help us through this difficult time.
Your money will be used towards the general operating of the Railway.
We could potentially be in a very difficult situation within the next few weeks and your continued support is greatly appreciated.
Time for a spot of reading - browse the WSR Webshop
The West Somerset Railway is offering a free £5 gift voucher with every order over £50 made through the webshop:
With every order above the value of £50 through the Webshop, we will be giving away a free £5 voucher! So with extra time on your hands, go on, purchase a few railway books or DVDs. Or maybe prepare for when we are running again and buy some gift vouchers to use for a day out? We will be adding products over the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled.
After a stay of two and a half months in the loco compound, while the Gauge Museum was repainted and refurbished, the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's sleeping car, GWR no 9038, returned to the museum on Wednesday 18 March 2020. Before being allowed back inside the building, the sleeping car was given a thorough wash and brush-up in the cattle dock road.
Appeal for funds for works during current closure of line
The West Somerset Railway Association held its monthly Trustees' meeting on the evening of 17 March 2020; this was a telephone conference call to take account of current concerns.
West Somerset Railway Plc Director Martin Brown attended the meeting by invitation, and informed the Trustees of the understandable decision that the Railway would now not open on 21 March as expected. That closure is expected to last for some weeks.
The WSR Plc is now considering how it can make best use of the period of enforced closure, perhaps by tackling some further infrastructure projects and transferring staff to work on those. The WSRA Trustees considered how they might support that effort as the WSR body with the lead responsibility for fundraising. The Association say:
The WSRA has already opened a fund for infrastructure works, intended for use in the winter of 2020/2021. We have decided to promote that fund now and be prepared to fund infrastructure works in the coming weeks if suitable projects can be identified by the WSR Plc.
For more information on the fund and how to donate, please click or tap the button below:
The Steam Trust announce re-opening of museums postponed
Following the decision to postpone the reopening of the railway, the Trust will not be reopening the museums at Bishops Lydeard and Blue Anchor this weekend either, and similarly the formal reopening of the Gauge Museum on 11 April is postponed as well. In the circumstances, this is inevitable. All will be ready for when the railway steams again. It will be worth the wait!
The West Somerset Railway has made an announcement about the postponed start of train services:
It is with real regret that West Somerset Railway has decided it has to postpone the first running services of the season.
Our staff and volunteers were really looking forward to welcoming visitors back to the railway, and did want to open, but following the most recent Government advice, we have concluded we cannot operate the service.
We will open as soon as the present health concerns are sufficiently under control, and this will be under consistent review.
We will be offering a refund for cancelled services or transferring to a new booking for when we are running again.
We will be putting out an update every fortnight at least, so watch for further news.
Spring Steam Gala cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreak
Don Bishop, Chairman of the Railway's Gala Planning Team writes:
Following a board meeting today I am very sorry to have to advise that we are having to cancel the Spring Steam Gala in view of the Covid-19 problems.
With government's advice to people to avoid social interaction and groups of people there would likely be a large reduction in visitor numbers to the gala. Having looked at the potential outcomes of going ahead, we are concerned that we would struggle to cover the costs of bringing in the three visiting engines and other things in connection with the event, let alone make a reasonable profit for our railway.
We will consider this same theme for our 2021 Spring Gala and will of course update everybody as times goes by.
I have also been advised by the Somerset branch of CAMRA that they will be unable to run our beer festival at the Diesel Gala in June, as the HQ of CAMRA have instructed all branches not to hold events until late June following the government advice.
Quantock Belle dining trains cancelled until further notice
Claire's Kitchen - the key partners of the Railway's Quantock Belle dining train operation - have announced on their Facebook page that the trains will not run due to the coronavirus outbreak.
It is with great sadness that i have chosen to not run the dining trains until further notice. I could not take the risk of all the wonderful volunteers that work with me on the Quantock Belle contracting COVID-19.
Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard Station re-opens after refit
On Saturday 21 March 2020, the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust will be re-opening the popular 'Gauge Museum' to the public at Bishops Lydeard Station on the West Somerset Railway after an extensive £60,000, professionally guided, refurbishment.
The challenging project in an historic building to redesign and reinterpret the ‘Gauge Museum’, first started in July 2018, has been achieved thanks to a grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund of £40,000, together with £20,000 of Steam Trust money.
The focus of the refurbishment project has been to take a fresh look at Somerset's railway history and bring it up to date using modern museum interpretation methods.
The fascinating story of the West Somerset Railway is re-told in a way that appeals to families and enthusiasts alike, and will provide a valuable resource for local schools too as they tackle science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.
And, right on time for the start of the WSR's 2020 season on Saturday 21 March, the museum will reopen to visitors the same day, thereby adding to visitors' experiences on the heritage railway line.
The 'Gauge Museum's' interpretation work has been supported and developed by Smith and Jones Design Consultants Ltd. The firm are interpretation and design specialists based in Bristol who help museums, visitor centres and family attractions to enhance their visitor experience with carefully thought-out communication and inspirational design.
On Easter weekend, there will be a further formal re-opening of the 'Gauge Museum' on Saturday 11 April by Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The official re-launch event will be attended by a number of invited guests, including many of the volunteers who have worked so hard on the project.
West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Chairman Chris Austin said:
We have transformed the 'Gauge Museum' not only to appeal to visitors to the WSR, but also to illustrate to our local community the rich heritage of the longest heritage railway in England. Our volunteers have pulled out all the stops to complete this huge task over the short winter period, and the results are stunning. I am so grateful to everyone who has contributed to this wonderful project.
The Gauge Museum will be open whenever WSR trains are running and stewards will also be on hand to open the Steam Trust's unique Victorian sleeping car on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, plus WSR Gala days, until October.
WSR Plc issue a statement about COVID-19 coronavirus
The West Somerset Railway Plc have issued a statement about COVID-19 (coronavirus).
We understand that there are concerns about the current COVID-19 coronavirus. We are still planning to operate our services at the present time. However we are closely following the medical advice from the Government, and if this changes we will alter our approach to meet the new advice.
We were well prepared and have put into place a detailed and regular cleaning regime for our cafés, buffets and carriages.
We will utilise online booking and contactless payment to cut down on cash handling.
We will be putting regular updates on our official website so please check these regularly.
Click or tap the buttons below to read the official webpage.
Prompted by reports reaching him, local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has issued a press release relating to a grant made to the West Somerset Railway Association, one of the railway's supporting charities, by the Hinkley Point Community fund. Unlike the local press we are providing a link to Mr Liddel-Grainger's full press release along with a link to a press release, in full, which is a response to the MP from the West Somerset Railway Association, the body responsible for ensuring the project's agreed outcomes are met. Folks can then read both in full. Click or tap the buttons below to read the full documents.
West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Director and Trustee Geoff Evens writes:
Just arrived from Isle Joinery of Taunton, the newly completed frame for the original Roll of Honour in memoriam which is to be displayed in the refurbished Gauge Museum. Harry Kirkland made the original frame for the museum in 1990. I am sure many of you will remember viewing the in memoriam over the intervening years. Harry thinks the roll arrived from the Swindon Works following its closure in 1985.
Work on the museum refurbishment moves on a pace. The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust say a number of the new story boards are now installed and the majority of the outstanding painting is almost complete. It is planned that the final fit for the story boards and exhibits will take place in next week.
On 12 March 2020 a film crew from the Department for Transport (DfT) visited the museum. By all accounts, the visit went very well indeed, much of the ongoing work has been filmed and is 'in the can'.
During the rest of the day Trust Chairman Chris Austin accompanied the film crew to Williton where they observed some carriage painting, the restoration of wooden bodied carriages and machining work. They also visited Alcombe Footpath Crossing to view the track work being carried out at Marsh Common.
The Trust add:
The crew was delighted with what they were able to film and were very impressed with the quality of work. In particular the carriage painting (they were able to film a scruffy carriage alongside a freshly painted one), and the modern track going in between Dunster and Minehead.
The West Somerset Railway Association's engineers visited contractors Roach Engineering a few days ago to check on progress being made on machining the cylinder blocks for GWR 'Small Prairie' 2-6-2T no 4561.
The blocks are expected back in West Somerset in around six weeks time, when the liners will also have been inserted.
A look at the steam on offer at the Spring Steam Gala
The West Somerset Railway's Gala Planning Team and Jake Genge have produced a short promotional video featuring the steam locomotives due to work trains - subject of course to availability - during the four day Spring Steam Gala being held on 23 to 26 April 2020. Click the play button below and have a look. Then maybe click the 'Gala details' button further down and book a Gala ticket.
The Gala Planning Team have announced the second visiting diesel loco for the 2020 'Vintage Diesels to the Seaside' Diesel Gala:
It is a return visit of the very popular mighty Deltic Class 55 no 55019 Royal Highland Fusilier courtesy of our good friends at the Deltic Preservation Society.
The Deltic Class 55s worked express passenger trains on the East Coast mainline of British Rail, primarily between London Kings Cross to Leeds, to Newcastle and to Edinburgh, including on the famous Flying Scotsman service until displaced by the High Speed Trains in the late 1970s. These too have now been replaced by today's new Inter City Express units.
The Deltic joins the already announced Class 25 no D7659 from Peak Rail and members of the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group's home based fleet.
The Railway celebrates the retirement of Hein Burger:
Yesterday - Friday 6 March 2020 - we held a celebration for one of our long standing volunteers Hein.
Hein has been a major part of the railway family for over forty years.
His dedication, hard work and enthusiasm has become the foundation of many administrative practises across the business and are still used to this day.
We wish Hein well in his 'retirement' however we know that he will still be a familiar face around Minehead Station.
We appreciate everything you have done for us Hein, you are a wonderful person, and a dear friend to so many here at the West Somerset Railway.
To which I can add a personal thanks, Hein, for more than forty years of friendship. We have worked together as WSR volunteers on booking office administration, commercial activities, you as DMU driver with me as your Guard, the internet (how difficult it was back then!), and a host of other aspects of helping the Railway. Thanks for everything, Hein.
When the WSR's Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) returns to service on Saturday 21 March for the 2020 season after the hard work carried out during its winter maintenance programme, it will be entering its seventh decade of carrying passengers having been built in 1960 - still going strong whilst some of the second generation of DMUs - the 'Pacers' - that replaced the DMUs on the national network are now being withdrawn. Hopefully passengers will be able to enjoy the views of the Railway and of West Somerset from the railcar windows for many years to come.
7 March 2020 Details kindly provided by local correspondent
Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published
The West Somerset Railway Association have published the agreed Minutes of the Board Meeting of 13 January 2020 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 18 February 2020. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.
With the new WSR operating season beginning on the weekend of 21-22 March, a feature of the first weekend will be the start of a programme of regular Sunday lunchtime Quantock Belle dining services. These will run on selected dates through spring and early summer but seats must be pre-booked via www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk (or click the button below) where menu information, including vegetarian options, can be found also. The 2020 Quantock Belle programme will be a joint enterprise with Claire's Kitchen. And, looking ahead, for those who would like an evening meal on Friday 24 April there will be a Quantock Belle portion of the 'Mega Train' due to be hauled by Spring Steam Gala visitor BR Class 9F 2-10-0 no 92134. Again pre-booking is necessary. More details of the Gala can be found on the official WSR website or click the button below.
Candidates are invited to apply for two key roles on the West Somerset Railway. The Chief Mechanical Engineer and the Head of Infrastructure are responsible for the day to day delivery of the locomotive and rolling stock, and the railway's infrastructure respectively. These are both important roles in the development of the railway and also key to the delivery of a safe and sustainable railway for the long term. Both report to the General Manager. More details can be found on the official WSR website - click the button below.
The folks working hard on the winter maintenance of the DMU are replacing each of three hinge pins in every DMU door. Lots of doors! The pin locates the door vertically and the door rotates on the brass ball. Each door is jacked up enough to withdraw the pin then remove and replace the ball one hinge at a time.
2 March 2020 Details kindly provided by the DMU maintenance team
WSRA initiative bears first fruit
As a result of an initiative on which the West Somerset Railway Association has been working for some time with Network Rail, 12 NR staff from Swindon and Birmingham came to work on the West Somerset Railway on 2 March 2020, assisting with the winter works programme.
One group worked to lay out sleepers on the track relay at Marsh Common and the other group moved and filled gabion baskets as part of ground stabilisation works in Washford cutting. NR staff can be paid to volunteer for charities for five working days a year.
WSRA Trustee Robin Moira White said:
We are delighted with the first steps in this collaboration with Network Rail. We hope this can grow significantly in future years. We would be pleased to welcome NR staff from all over the UK. We are particularly grateful to the NR Western Route Director and local Asset Manager Matt Redstone for help to get this off the ground.
The work carried out by NR staff is worth several thousand pounds which adds to the £187,000 invested in the railway this winter by the WSRA.