An unofficial website featuring the West Somerset Railway

Latest news

WSR Plc issue a briefing paper to staff and volunteers

WSR

On 3 June 2020, the West Somerset Railway Plc issued a briefing paper to staff and volunteers providing an update on latest options being considered by the Plc Board for future operations of the WSR, given the government's recent announcements on partial relaxation of restrictions. Now the Plc has helpfully published a version of that briefing paper on its public website to help all folks understand the current position in these difficult times. Click or tap the button below to read the full paper.

Read the WSR Plc Briefing Paper

4 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Fundraising for GWR 2-6-2T no 4561 via Aviva Community Fund

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association have launched a fundraising project for GWR Small Prairie no 4561 with Aviva and are seeking donations to help reach their target of £1,000. This will help pay for the next stage of the refurbishment.

  • Complete frame riveting
  • Machine frame extensions as required
  • White metal and machine bogie frame boxes x 2
  • Paint and assemble same

Go to Aviva Community page

3 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Cancellation of special events in 2020

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc have provided an update about special events and special trains during the 2020 season.

We regret that the West Somerset Railway is currently closed due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic. We are fully complying with and following government guidance. At the present time we are not clear when the railway will reopen, but this information will be posted here [on the official website], as soon as it becomes available. We are working to maintain the railway, and plan to operate a service as soon as we can

We regret however that for the remainder of this year, 2020, all special events, including galas and dining trains, have been cancelled. This information supersedes any information about these events elsewhere [on the official website]. In some cases that information is still shown so that you may plan for the future. No bookings for any of these events are being taken at the present time.

We are very sorry to have had to take these decisions, and we very much look forward to welcoming you back to the West Somerset Railway as soon as we are able to do so.

1 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Trading results bring good news to the West Somerset Railway

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc's summary of trading results for the year ended 31 March 2020 help offset the gloom of Covid-19 and should really help to safeguard the railway's future financially. Here are the first opening paragraphs of a press statement dated 1 June 2020 (click the button below for the full text):

Draft trading results just released by the WSR Plc show a stunning profit figure of £311,217 for the year 2019/20.

This clearly illustrates a complete sea-change for the railway’s financial performance when compared to recent years when the WSR was clearly in steep decline, culminating in a near £800,000 loss for the turbulent year of 2018/19.

But with a determined new Chairman and Board of directors in place, who set about charting a new course for the railway, the situation has been turned around to the good again.

Full text of the press statement

1 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures up to 31 May for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£48,375.00
Cheque Donations £14,953.26
Share Purchases£25,500
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£130,778.26

Also an update on the West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal which now totals £24,953,00.

Together that makes £155,732.26 from all sources.

Of particular note in the weekly increase is a sizeable donation of £12,000 from Williton Station Group and Friends, including one individual's contribution of £2,000.

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

1 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Once again a GWR loco carries the name Dunster Castle

WSR
© Harry Morris

Many a passenger has gazed across Ker Moor towards Exmoor, the hills cut hereabouts by the Avill Valley and guarded for centuries by the imposing Dunster Castle. Long has been the association between the castle and the local railway. The Minehead Railway - which ran from Watchet by means of an end-on junction with the original West Somerset Railway - was promoted and built by George Fownes Luttrell of Dunster Castle and opened in July 1874, some twelve years after the original line from Watchet to Taunton.

In 1926, the Great Western Railway named one of its 171 strong 'Castle' class express steam locomotives, no 4093, Dunster Castle. No 4093 gave excellent service until it was withdrawn in 1964.The loco no longer exists but happily a numberplate and the left-hand nameplate are known to be in the hands of private collectors.

Now, the name Dunster Castle has been revived by the present Great Western Railway. One of the iconic High Speed Train power cars, no 43122, received a brand new nameplate in early 2020. No 43122 now works at one end of the reformed, and shorter, 'Castle Class' sets operating between Bristol and Penzance. Who knows, one day this set may traverse the old Minehead Branch passing the real castle.

1 June 2020
Details kindly provided by local correspondents

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures on 25 May for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£47,405.00
Cheque Donations £7,668.26
Share Purchases£22,950
Station Donations£31,950.00
Total Donations£109,973.26

Also an update on the West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal which now totals £22,966,00.

Together that makes £132,939.26 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.

27 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

New membership video needs help with voiceovers

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association are planning a new membershp video and are looking for help - of a fun kind - from supporters of the Railway. A real chance to show off 'voiceover' skills...

WSR supporters - we need your help. We would like to record a short video using the following text involving as many supporters as possible, with each of you speaking a word or two relevant to what you do. We might have to use still photographs for some of this in present circumstances but we would like it to be your words and pictures. If you feel we have missed something out, do say. Please send your words and pictures to Trustee Robin White robin.white@wsra.org.uk who will be stitching this all together, Here is the script for the video:

We are supporters of the West Somerset Railway which runs steam and diesel heritage trains for 20 miles between Bishops Lydeard near Taunton and Minehead on the Somerset coast.

You can join specialist groups on the Railway which include those with an interest in diesel locomotives, heritage carriages, wagons or museums, and look after each of the stations: Minehead, Dunster, Blue Anchor, Washford, Watchet, Doniford Halt, Williton, Stogumber, Crowcombe and Bishops Lydeard.

To support the Railway generally you can also join the West Somerset Railway Association. The line's support charity. We lead for the Railway on recruitment of volunteers. There's a role for everyone from footplate staff, guards, ticket inspectors, signalman, buffet stewards and station and shop staff, track, engineering and maintenance staff, to booking clerks, gardeners and office workers to name just a few.

The WSRA own rolling stock including GWR steam locos 4561 and Ditcheat Manor, a GWR Inspection Saloon, a train of dining coaches and some of the coaches used to run passenger trains on the Railway.
We publish the Railway's quarterly journal.

We run an annual steam and vintage transport rally on the fields around the Railway triangle at Norton Fitzwarren that we look after.

We fundraise and make grants for projects on the railway. In 2019 we raised £30,000 to return locomotive 9351 to traffic and £187,000 for track renewal.

Join our Railway and we can do so much more.

(Membership joining instructions for all groups on slides on screen at end).

27 May 2020
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 21 April 2020 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 19 May 2020. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.

Minutes Synopsis

26 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Alan retires after 29 years as a volunteer on the WSR

WSR

Chris Austin, Chairman of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, writes:

After 29 years service to the WSR, the Trust will miss the support of Alan Meade who has retired as a Trustee and as leader of the Model Railway Group at the Gauge Museum.

His career on the railway included time as a guard, guards' training, DMU driver and managing the model railway group. In this role he encouraged and enthused a whole generation of young volunteers, many of whom have gone on to fill other important posts on the railway, including that of General Manager. Under his leadership, a steady stream of young people queued up to join the group, until Coronavirus stopped everything in its tracks.

We shall miss his wise counsel and good humour and wish him well in retirement.

Read more

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

Possible redundancies at West Somerset Railway Plc

WSR

Folks may have seen in the local media and the railway press the news of possible redundancies at West Somerset Railway Plc To help understanding, a WSR spokesman explains:

The letter to all 45 members of WSR plc staff is an initial move to put staff 'on notice' of being at 'possible risk of redundancy'. It's being done in the event of a worst case scenario for the railway, and we certainly do not wish to lose any of our skilled workforce if possible, but we have to be realistic too and protect what we have.

It's nothing more than that at this stage and normal practice in crisis situations like this, but been dictated by the changed Furlough regime which now ends at the end of July for payment of 80% of wages, and then carries on until October at a lower rate with contributions expected from employers.

The WSR plc very much regrets it has had to do this, but we had no choice but to do so due to zero income coming in currently and our continuing monthly payroll costs - we have to reduce costs to save the railway. Every other heritage railway in the country is in the same boat right now and many will be doing exactly the same thing as us.

This is the start of a possible process which will involve two-way consultation with our staff and whose ideas are being used to inform our future plans in dealing with the dire situation the WSR faces, but events are sadly out of our control with Covid 19 restrictions and social distancing regulations at present. The plc wishes to be open, honest and transparent with its valued staff and the consultation process evidences that.

The worst case scenario we face is that re-opening and running trains again this year is uneconomic anyway. If this happened, it would be due to a number of factors:

  • the high start-up costs of getting locos, coaches, signalling and PW all checked out and working properly again, all of which are considerable and cannot be ignored because it's just not like flicking a light switch when dealing with heritage steam railway equipment
  • getting all of the competency and training right for our now 'ring rusty' safety critical operating staff after a long break
  • implementing the current social distancing requirements, but which actually mean that trains could only carry limited numbers and not the volume of traffic we need
  • we could make our financial position worse by re-opening too soon with such restrictions if it costs us more money to run them than we gain

And there is no guarantee yet that visitors will want or be able to return to visit us after the much discussed possible easing of stage three anyway in July, and people will only return when they have confidence to do so, can travel easily and also be welcomed not shunned.

Despite all this, we remain positive that the WSR can and will survive this terrible Covid 19 crisis and the great support from our supporters to the WSR emergency funding appeals is heartening and shows that people want to help us by giving donations to our cause. You can see more at our Chairman's Vlog at www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHxhy9_9wUs

23 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

WSRA Annual General Meeting postponed

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association Trustees were forced to conclude at their May meeting that it would be better to postpone the AGM until the autumn. They were looking at holding a virtual meeting on 10 July 2020 but have now concluded that the technology would be a barrier for too many of Association members. So the Trustees have taken advantage of the latitude provided by the Charity Commission for this year and postponed the meeting until a date yet to be confirmed in the Autumn. Papers will be sent out with the Autumn Journal due to be published in September. Read more by clicking the button below.

Read more

21 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

The West Somerset Railway Plc Chairman's Vlog

WSR

Some important messages and updates in the latest Vlog from the West Somerset Railway Plc Chairman Jon Jones-Pratt. Links to the online donation pages can be found under the 'Appeals' tab at the top of all pages on this website.

20 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The WSR 2020 Limited Edition Buffet Mug now available

WSR

On the West Somerset Railway's Facebook comes news of the 2020 mug:

By popular request, our 2020 Limited Edition Buffet Mug is now available to purchase through our online shop.

Due to Covid-19 we are currently unable to operate trains. Usually sold from our on-train buffets, the mug comes with your first drink free, we are including a voucher for this so you don't miss out.

When using your mug, refills can be purchased for the remainder of the calendar year at a discounted price. As we do not know when we will be able to operate at the current time, refills of 2020 mugs will be at the discounted rate for our whole 2021 season.

These are limited edition and sell out fast so get yours today.

Link to the Online Shop

19 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures on 18 May for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£42,710.00
Cheque Donations £7,008.26
Share Purchases£19,850
Station Donations£31,950.00
Total Donations£101,518.26

Also an update on the West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal which now totals £22,636,00.

Together that makes £124,154.26 from all sources.

WSR Plc Chairman Jon Jones-Pratt said:

The West Somerset Railway is deeply indebted to all those wonderful people and supporters who have given their hard-earned cash to us already at an unbelievably hard time for us all, and especially those making repeat donations to us too. It's all been simply brilliant and very humbling to know that we have such strong support and people are confident in what we are doing for the good of the railway.

With help from our support groups, we're now a quarter of the way there in raising our survival bid appeal total of £500,000, so we have to just keep going in trying to generate money from donations and maintaining interest in what we're doing and what's potentially at risk if we don't hit our targets. We still have no idea when the railway might re-open, and the longer this crisis continues then the worse it will be of course.

To try and help promote the appeals, I have just completed a short, three-minute video which was launched last weekend on Saturday 16 May. It was produced quickly in-house to save costs and time so it's not a professional production, deliberately, but it tells people what our appeals are all about and why they are needed. See it online

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

19 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The West Somerset Railway Emergency Appeal Video

WSR

Please have a look at the West Somerset Railway's latest video about the Emergency Appeal and perhaps make a donation towards helping the Railway get through the Coronavirus crisis. Click or tap the button below to make a donation. Also, links to the online donation pages can be found under the 'Appeals' tab at the top of all pages on this website.

Emergency Appeal donations via official webpage Track and bridge works donations via JustGiving Donate via West Somerset Railway Association Donate via West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

19 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust issue new press statement

WSR

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust issued a further press statement on 15 May 2020 concerning the Trust's relationship with the West Somerset Railway Plc. The owner of wsr.org.uk says:

Supporters of the West Somerset Railway and the Trust will surely wish for a speedy resumption of working together for the good of the Railway and making the Trust's offering at Washford even more attractive for our visitors. Folks should be cheered by the closing paragraph which mentions proposed talks with the Plc and other stakeholders, moderated by the Heritage Railway Association.

Click or tap the button below to read the full statement.

S&DRT statement

17 May 2020
Details kindly provided by Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust

WSRTV now has more than 500 subscribers

WSR

WSRTV, the YouTube TV Channel set up to inform WSR volunteers, staff, supporters, local people and the rest of the world, has passed another milestone. On 14 May 2020 the number of subscribers passed the 500 mark. That's half way to the target number at which the channel starts to generate income for the Railway, provided also that more than 4,000 'watched hours' have been made. The 'watched hours' already exceeds 2,500. A brief two-minute video explains all - click or tap the button below to view that video. Help the Railway, become a subscriber to the WSRTV YouTube Channel, and help spread the word about WSRTV.

View the brief update video The WSRTV YouTube Channel

14 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures on 11 May for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£39,115.00
Cheque Donations £3,388.26
Share Purchases£17,200.00
Station Donations£31,950.00
Total Donations£91,653.26

Also an update on the West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal which now totals £19,305.

Together that makes £110,958.26 from all sources. A WSR spokesman added:

It seems that a lot of loyal WSR volunteers are donating money to the appeals which they would have normally spent on fuel travelling to and from the railway which is remarkable in such difficult times, and one generous volunteer - who is a supermarket delivery driver - is doing overtime on the days he would have been volunteering and then donating all his wages from those overtime days to the railway!

And regular and loyal WSR visitors are also sending in donations for the same amount they would have paid to travel on our trains too had they been able to ride on the WSR, and telling us how much they miss seeing the steam trains.

The WSR is also doing an updated donations video for social media which should be out in the next couple of days, and it is trying to keep interest from followers in all of the WSR's social media too, so don't forget to look at those pages and the various WSR websites.

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

12 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Steam Rally Chairman speaks on BBC Somerset

WSR

Geoff Garfield, the Rally Chairman, was interviewed by BBC Somerset's Luke Knight on Sunday 10 May 2020 about the cancellation of the 2020 Steam and Vintage Rally in August. The discussion also covered the effect on the Railway itself following the enforced closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. Geoff's interview can be heard on the BBC Somerset website for the next four weeks or so. Click or tap the button below to load the webpage and then move the slider to about 3 hours 14 minutes into Luke's programme.

Listen via BBC Somerset

11 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

The Steam and Vintage Rally 2020 is cancelled

WSR

Writing on their Facebook page, the Rally Team say it will not be possible to run the 2020 Rally, planned for 1-2 August 2020.

The Rally organising team have reluctantly come to the decision that it will not be possible to run the 2020 Rally, planned for the 1st and 2nd of August 2020. We had held off the decision for a long as possible, in the hope that restrictions would be lifted, and we could still safely organise a Rally. We have now concluded that this is not possible.

We know that this will disappoint our exhibitors, traders, and visitors. We are grateful for your support and look forward to seeing you on the 7th and 8th August 2021.

Some exhibitors have already paid for tickets, and some traders have paid for their trade or craft pitches. We will, of course, refund your payment, or return your cheque if it has not yet been banked. If you wish, your payment could be held over until 2021, or treated as a donation to our charity as our income will be severely reduced without the Rally.

If you have paid, please do contact your marshal, by email or phone. If you would like a refund, the best way is to let us have your bank details: sort code and account number. We will then set up a refund with the reference WSRA rally. Please do allow us a little time to set this up. Alternatively, please let your marshal know if you would like to donate your money or hold it for 2021.

9 May 2020
Details gleaned from Facebook

An e-letter to Shareholders, Volunteers and Supporters

WSR

A letter issued by electronic means to shareholders, volunteers and supporters opens with these words from the WSR Plc Chairman:

I am writing to you today to bring you up to speed with what has been happening on the railway in the past month or so, to set out the destination we are working towards, to set out how some of the challenges are being dealt with, and to seek your help with the challenge the railway is facing. It is really important to me that I can communicate directly with you.

I very much hope that in these challenging times which we find ourselves in, you are physically well, and you are coping well with the constraints the Government has asked us to comply with. I know how hard this is, but we can see it is making a difference, and like you I am determined that we keep doing our bit.

I want to formally recognise the many people who contributed so much to our Railway's recovery in 2019 and through the early months of 2020. It was a great achievement and we were set fair for a wonderful summer of train operations. We had reduced the number of our paid staff, and made real progress in the reorganisation of our contracts and liabilities. Our paid staff and our volunteers had re-established the effective and profitable operation of the railway, through their many capabilities and competence. We were ready to build on this, and we know what was needed for our great trains to thread their way between the Quantocks and Exmoor and on to the seaside.

Click or tap the button below to read the full message.

Read the full message

8 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

New Director for WSR Plc Board

WSR

Jonathan Jones-Pratt, Chairman, West Somerset Railway PLC, writes:

Over the past few months the West Somerset Railway PLC, has been looking to strengthen the membership of our Board. If anything we have more to do in these troubled times, than if we were actually running the train service we had hoped to be.

In the last few weeks we concluded our search for a new General Manager (GM) for the Railway, and were really pleased to be able to offer the post to Justin Kerr-Peterson. We were pleased that Justin accepted our offer. However in the current situation we cannot offer a meaningful full time role to Justin as the Railway is currently closed and we are focussed on saving costs for survival, working closely with GWR we have decided that we will hold the GM appointment start date in suspense until things improve and we very much look forward to getting Justin started to lead the WSR forward for the years to come at the appropriate time.

During the past few weeks, Justin has in his own time, been helping me and the Board in managing the response of the Railway to the Covid-19 situation. He has been a real asset to the Board, and we have therefore asked him if he would consider becoming a full member. He has agreed to this.

In setting up the Job Description for the new GM, we made it clear that the post reported to the Board, but was not a member of it. We have made clear to Justin that this has not changed. Being part of the current Board means that his depth of experience will continue to be available to us, and he will develop a fuller understanding of the Railway. A positive for him and us.

Mr Justin Kerr-Peterson says he is honoured to be asked to join the board at this difficult time in the history of the WSR, and he hopes to be able to assist the railway during this time of unprecedented change.

Please join me in welcoming Justin to the Board of the West Somerset Railway.

6 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures today (4 May) for the West Somerset Railway are as follows, and it's a big rise of £30,000 in a week:

Website Donations£35,435.00
Cheque Donations £2,973.26
Share Purchases£11,650.00
Station Donations£31,950.00
Total Donations£82,008.26

Also an update on the West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal Appeal for 2020 which now totals £18,893. Together that makes £100,901.26 from all sources.

Emergency Appeal donations via official webpage Track and bridge works donations via JustGiving Donate via West Somerset Railway Association Donate via West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

4 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Tim King

WSR

I have received the sad news of the passing of Tim King, a long time supporter of the Railway, one of the pioneer volunteers, a huge Beatles fan, and a great friend to many. One of Tim's closest friends, David Northey, writes:

It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce the sudden death of Tim King on 2 May 2020.

An avid supporter of the West Somerset Railway and all things related to railways, Tim was one of the stalwarts of the Railway starting back in 1976 when he came to volunteer after university in Brighton. He made many friends and could be often seen guarding a service from Minehead - a role which landed him a small part as a Guard playing opposite Michael Crawford in the BBC's 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em!' filmed in the seaside resort, along with another Tim (Maddocks).

His work took him away from the Railway for a short time to Salisbury before returned as Tourism Officer for West Somerset, which gave him a great opportunity to push the benefits of the Railway. His love of a good pint made him ideal for the role of Wine Waiter or Bar Tender on the Quantock Belle and there are many fond memories of the crew, Claire, Wendy, Steve, Rob, Andrea, Tim and Magda, and many more, in our years serving customers.

Although Tim moved away many years later, he would still visit Somerset with his partner Maryon whether it was on a charter steam train or to visit family and friends.

He will be a sad loss to the Railway and our thoughts are with Maryon at this time.

Tim King 5 May 1956 - 2 May 2020 RIP

My thanks to David and Maryon for permission to place David's words on this page

3 May 2020
Details and permission kindly provided by David and Maryon

Statements about the Washford lease

WSR

A Joint Statement has been issued by West Somerset Railway Plc, West Somerset Railway Association and West Somerset Steam Railway Trust. The first paragraph reads:

A meeting was set up between representatives of the three bodies, to discuss the dispute between the WSR Plc and the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust, concerning the Trust's occupation of the site at Washford. This followed representations to all three bodies by members, volunteers and others, and press comments.

WSR Plc have also published a Joint and Position Statement.

And the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust have now published a response from the Trust Chairman.

Please click or tap the buttons below to read more...

Joint Statement WSR Plc Position Statement Latest S&DRT response

1 May 2020 (updated 4 May 2020)
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association, West Somerset Railway Plc and local correspondent

Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association have published the agreed Minutes of the Board Meeting of 17 March 2020 and a synopsis of the more recent Board Meeting held on 21 April 2020. Click or tap the buttons below to load the documents from the Association's website.

Minutes Synopsis

1 May 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

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