An unofficial website featuring the West Somerset Railway

Latest news

The WSR family responds to recent petition

WSR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petition Covering letter Open letter

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

WSRA webpage

9 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Glimmer of hope for a mini 1940s weekend

WSR

Announced on the Facebook page of the WSR Forties Weekend:

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

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

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

WSR 1940s Weekend Facebook page

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

Weeding the track at Greenway Wood

WSR

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

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

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

6 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

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

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

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

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

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

Together that makes £189,273.57 from all sources.

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

6 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Gauge Junction features in latest WSRTV video

WSR

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

Gauge Junction video WSRTV Channel

4 July 2020
Details kindly provided by WSRTV

Brunel K Beagle T-Shirts now available online

WSR
© Kerry Noble (picture used with permission)

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

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

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

Online Shop

4 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Partnership Development Group minutes of the recent meeting

WSR

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

Please click the button below to read the document.

Minutes

4 July 2020
Details kindly provided by the Partnership Development Group

An update from the WSR Fundraising Group

WSR

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

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

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

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

Full Update Fundraising Webpage

3 July 2020
Details kindly provided by the WSR Fundraising Group

Railway to feature on ITV West evening programme

WSR

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

2 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Views sought on Bailey Report WSR restructuring proposals

WSR

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

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

The Bailey Report Somerset County Gazette news item

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

2 July 2020
Details kindly provided by local correspondents

Latest WSR Association Board Meeting documents published

WSR

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

Minutes Synopsis

2 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Restoration of the Taunton Inspectors Saloon

WSR

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

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

Go to the Crowdfunder page

2 July 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

The relaunch of the Partnership Development Group

WSR

The Partnership Development Group have provided a Briefing:

Partnership Development Group (PDG) has held its first meeting since 2018. PDG is an advisory and stakeholder body drawing together participants from all the major groups on the WSR together with County and District Council representation. Its role is to provide a forum for members of the WSR family to discuss railway wide issues and to provide advice and support for projects and initiatives.

Members of PDG are:

Justin Kerr-PetersonWest Somerset Railway Plc
John Parsons Station Master, Williton (representing Station Masters)
Ian Young Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust
Martin Howard Diesel & Electric Preservation Group
Richard Newton Friends of Minehead Station (representing Friends Groups)
Mike RigbySomerset West and Taunton Council
David Hall Somerset County Council
Mike Sherwood West Somerset Railway Association
Steve WilliamsWest Somerset Steam Railway Trust

PDG will be adding a WSR staff representative to its membership in time for the next meeting.

At the first meeting on 26 June, Steve Williams was elected Chairman and Mike Sherwood Vice Chairman. In order to keep WSR staff and supporters up-to-date with developments, PDG will be publishing its minutes on the various websites and social media platforms normally used for WSR matters.

Mel Hillman has kindly agreed to return to his role as PDG Secretary.

PDG will meet quarterly unless a more urgent discussion is required and the next meeting will be in September 2020.

We understand the minutes are in process of being approved and will be published shortly.

30 June 2020
Details kindly provided by the Partnership Development Group

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures up to 28 June for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£57,750.00
Cheque Donations £16,603.26
Share Purchases£33,750.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£150,733.26

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £31,534,00.

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

Together that makes £184,833.57 from all sources.

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

29 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Two Living Museum weekends at Minehead Station

WSR

The West Somerset Railway has announced plans for two Living Museum community weekends at Minehead Station on the West Somerset Railway. These are planned for 25 & 26 July 2020 and 1 & 2 August 2020. Further dates may be announced dependent on the level of interest shown in these events. Exact details are still to be confirmed but it is hoped to include the following activities:

  • Live steam locomotive performing shunting activities around the station
  • Turntable in action with a steam locomotive being turned 180 degrees
  • Shunting competition for children to work out how to shunt wagons
  • Visits to engine shed with close inspection of locomotives
  • Hourly tours of the Minehead engineering workshops
  • Cafes open for sale of refreshments, hot food and drinks
  • Burger van available for snacks in the station yard
  • Bookshops open for sale of books, magazine, models and so on
  • Railway groups selling various items of railwayana

Entrance tickets are expected to be £5 per person [presumably this will be confirmed nearer the date]. Tickets will be bookable in advance online or via contactless purchase on the day.

Further information

29 June 2020
Based on details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The Association response to the Bailey Report

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association have published a full response to the Bailey Report:

The WSRA thanks John [Bailey] for engaging in the first part of what we hope will be a process that both resolves the issues at Washford between the S&D Trust and the WSR plc and allows the railway family to explore possible new structures that will indeed bring a much overdue 'Peaceful Somerset'.

Full response from the Association

29 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Diesel hydraulics - a new video on WSRTV

WSR

Andy Royal of the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group based at Williton writes about the Group's latest video recently uploaded to WSRTV (the WSR's YouTube channel):

WSRTV have now uploaded our latest DEPG video 'Diesel-hydraulics of British Railways Part 1' to their channel and it is available for viewing by following the link below: And before you ask, yes, I am working on Part 2 right now.

Watch the video WSRTV

28 June 2020
Details kindly provided by Diesel and Electric Preservation Group

The Steam Trust response to the Bailey Report

WSR

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust have published a full response to the Heritage Railway Association's recent report written by John Bailey. Here are the first few points of the Trust's response:

The Trust is grateful to John Bailey for the comprehensive report he has produced and the commendable speed with which it was produced. The PLC response to it is welcomed, and we look forward to participating in discussions on how best to take forward the ideas put forward by John Bailey on structural change.

We are grateful for his kind comments on the Trust in para. 4.2 which, he says, 'seems to have a well-defined sense of its public benefit role as enshrined in its Articles. Its focus on its core educational purpose is clear and its attitude to the PLC is collaborative without being subservient.'

We are grateful for the clarity given by John Bailey's advice on fundraising (para 4.5), where he highlights the confusion he sees. We have to take this seriously but think the proposition is relatively straightforward - the PLC needs money to survive the current crisis, but that cannot be simply be provided by the charities and it has to raise that separately. The charities can, however, raise funds for projects that are consistent with their objects and will support the railway through such things as track renewal, particularly where heritage components are being used, or where heritage rolling stock is being restored. We will need to work hard to develop messages that make this clear and overcome the confusion that John experienced.

Para 4.9 highlights a key issue of the railway's raison d'être, and the Trust is clear that the railway is principally a part of the Somerset Tourism market, and that has to be the basis of its future survival. It is not primarily a public transport provider for the local community, nor could it be without government support, in common with local lines on the national network. However, the railway does bring major community benefits, principally in bringing tourists to the area and also in the engagement with local schools and family groups which the Trust has developed and continues through its project which it jointly funds with NLHF. It also provides worthwhile and satisfying activities for the volunteer workforce with significant benefits to the wellbeing and health of all those involved, as well as to visitors. This is an area where the support charities can offer real benefits, which cannot and should not be the responsibility of the PLC.

Full response from the Steam Trust

28 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

New Trustees welcome at the Steam Trust

WSR

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust say:

As part of its ongoing process to strengthen the Board and to continue with its programme of succession planning, the Trust is seeking expressions of interest from individuals who have a love of and commitment to, railway heritage and who would be interested in working in a small charity. The Board has three main objectives around museums management, heritage carriage restoration and learning and education. We have a full programme of interesting work, which although interrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, is still being taken forward in the background whilst we wait for the WSR to reopen.

If you feel that you have something to offer and would like to be part of a well formed team, then do please contact Chris Austin, Chairman (see Trust website for contact details)

27 June 2020
Based on details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

The WSR Plc responds to Sections 4-5 of the Bailey report

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc have published their response to Sections 4-5 of the 'John Bailey Report'. The response begins with:

The West Somerset Railway (WSR) PLC welcomes the recent Bailey report produced on behalf of the Heritage Railway Association, which addresses several important issues on the railway of which we now share with you to ensure absolute transparency.

The issues surrounding Sections 1-3 about the S&DR were the subject of an earlier response. This announcement specifically addresses Sections 4-5, which covers the current structure, culture and fundraising of the railway, along with recommendations on a potential new structure.

The WSR PLC warmly welcomes the report's recommendations and intends to commence a consultation process with its own shareholders. In addition, it will commence discussions with the other charities via the forum of the recently re-formed Partnership Development Group (PDG).

The consultation will specifically cover the recommendation to consider the creation of a new incorporated charity with an operating company as a controlled subsidiary. It recommends the creation of a charity that can act as a clear focus for the railway’s core activities, where the charity owns the physical assets and contracts with a controlled subsidiary to run the railway.

Full response and (partly redacted) Bailey Report

26 June 2020
Based on details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Introducing the West Somerset Railway Fundraising Group

WSR

The Fundraising Group has issued a helpful 'Introduction' about the Group's origins and formation along with its terms of reference. Also covered are the Group's membership, its immediate plans and a look forward too. To read the 'Introduction' document please click or tap the button below:

Read more

26 June 2020
Details kindly provided by WSR Fundraising Group

Friends give a sad farewell to Andrew Sillett

WSR

West Somerset Railway footplate volunteer Aaron Manley has written a fine tribute to his colleague Andrew Sillett who passed away recently.

A great turnout today (25 June 2020) in Minehead to say a final farewell to Andrew Sillett. As testament to what a true gentleman and character Andrew was, most turned out in railway uniform/footplate overalls even in the baking sunshine which was fantastic to see. Farewell old friend, we will be thinking of you especially when steam begins to drift over West Somerset once again.

26 June 2020
Details kindly provided by Aaron Manley

Trains again on the West Somerset Railway

WSR

A mile or so of the rather rusty rails of the West Somerset Railway were polished on 23 June 2020 by an incoming High Output Ballast Cleaner (HOBC) from Network Rail. The HOBC arrived at the WSR's Norton Triangle to offload spent ballast from a Network Rail worksite in South Devon. This train was the first of many expected over the next month or so. It is believed to be the one of the first revenue-earning trains to run on a heritage line since the Covid-19 lockdown. Spent ballast from Network Rail has been processed and recycled at the Norton site since 2008.

Freightliner Class 66 no 66414 brought the HOBC across to Norton from Fairwater Yard, and later used the Triangle to run round its train before heading back to Fairwater Yard.

Sadly there is currently no likelihood of passenger trains operating on the West Somerset Railway until 2021. But watch this space as things may change.

24 June 2020
Based on details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The WSR is aiming to try and reach £500,000 as the target figure it estimates is the amount needed at least to combat the loss of income during Covid 19, so is doing well at just over 36% of this target, so over a third of the way there now, and closing in on £200,000 fast.

The WSR needs to keep the railway going at present on an ongoing 'care & maintenance' basis which is costing some £50,000 - £60,000 a month at present in unavoidable costs. So, whilst almost all staff are currently Furloughed but also at potential risk of redundancy, other than in essential admin and finance roles, the flow of money coming in via donations is therefore vital to keep the railway going without any other income.

The WSR has had to ensure the security of stations, engineering facilities and rolling stock, and develop a recovery strategy and prepare many detailed Risk Assessments for staff and future visitors, plus all necessary documentation, required by the Office of Rail & Road as regulator so that the railway can be ready to open again in whatever form if and when the time is hopefully right. The WSR says they'll know more tomorrow (Tuesday) hopefully.

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

Website Donations£55,920.00
Cheque Donations £16,553.26
Share Purchases£33,750.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£148,173.26

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £31,285,00.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's appeal totals £2,276.89.(the Trust's figures are provided monthly).

Together that makes £181,735.15 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.

22 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Steve Williams joins the Board of WSR Plc

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc has announced the appointment of Steve Williams as a Director of the Plc, saying:

Steve has been a volunteer with the railway for around 12 years and previously held the post of PLC Planning Director until 2017.  He has subsequently been Company Secretary of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, being appointed Vice Chairman last year.   He has a lifetime's experience in NHS management and as a management consultant, and lives in Oake village.  Steve will continue to be a Trustee with the Steam Trust.

Click the button below to read more about Steve's appointment.

Read more

18 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Andrew Sillett

WSR

Rich Hiscox writing on WSR Mechanical Engineering's Facebook page has sad news about colleague Andrew Sillett:

Another one of life's great gentlemen gone from us. Sad to report to all our locomotive colleagues that Andrew Sillett passed away on Tuesday at Musgrove Park Hospital. For those of you who knew Andrew he was mega passionate about everything WSR and always brought joy to us; many a time had us all crying with laughter in the messroom at Minehead. RIP Sir you'll be sadly missed but never forgotten

Andy and Julie Norman have kindly provided the following:

Andrew passed away on Tuesday evening from Cancer. There will be a private family-only funeral next Thursday. However Angela, his wife, will be planning at a later date a party in accordance with his wishes for all of his friends to celebrate his life. Anybody who knew Andrew will understand he would want people to be happy and enjoy themselves rather than mourn his passing so the planned party will be a upbeat, happy affair.

18 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway colleagues

A joint statement issued concerning the Washford situation

WSR

The Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust Limited and the West Somerset Railway Plc confirm that an initial teleconference meeting, facilitated by the Heritage Railway Association, has been held to discuss the future of the Washford Station site occupied currently by the Trust.

Please click the button below for the statement.

Joint statement

17 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

WSR Association Chairman writes to members

WSR

The Acting Chairman of the West Somerset Railway Association, Mike Sherwood, has written to Association members regarding the sale of WSRA Promotions Ltd to the West Somerset Railway Plc. To read the letter please visit the Association website or click the button below.

WSRA website Letter to members

17 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

The first edition of The Platform now available

WSR

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

The first issue of 'The Platform' has an inevitable focus on the work the WSR Plc Board is doing to keep the railway in good order and prepare for re-opening as soon as they can. There are also brief contributions from the West Somerset Railway Association and the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust which is hoped will be a regular feature. This edition also includes a main focus on engineering activity.

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

Download 'The Platform' Official webpage

16 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 14 June for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£53,030.00
Cheque Donations £16,443.26
Share Purchases£30,200.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£141,733.26

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £30,705,00.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's appeal now totals £2,276.89.

Together that makes £174,715.15 from all sources.

The WSR is aiming to try and reach £500,000 as the target figure it estimates is the amount needed at least to combat the loss of income during Covid 19, so is doing well at just over 34% of this target.

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

15 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

A radical change in organisation structure perhaps

WSR

In the latest Journal, the Acting Chairman of the West Somerset Railway Association, Mike Sherwood, writes about his conclusion that radical reform of the organisational structures is the only sustainable model for the Railway. A growing number of supporters, including the owner of this website, agree such a reform is much needed. Here are Mike's words taken from the Journal:

I have concluded that we must look again at the structure of our railway: a single charitable body containing an operating company looks more and more like the only sustainable model for the future of our railway. The potential to uplift the value of the fare box by 25 per cent is too important to ignore. The freedom that would come from a unified structure to apply for the sort of seven figure grants we will need is too important not to consider. Therefore I propose to initiate a series of discussions with other members of the railway family.

The time to truly become one railway is now if we are to preserve the WSR for future generations and preserve the legacy of all those members and supporters on whose shoulders we stand today.

Whilst we at wsr.org.uk, agree a discussion about radical reform needs to start, the most pressing need for now is to ensure the Railway survives the Covid-19 crisis. To that end we encourage all supporters, and well-wishers, to chip in with a donation or a series of regular donations. There are links to the online donation pages under the 'Appeals' tab at the top of each page. Or click below to go straight to the WSR Plc donation page.

WSR Plc donation page

14 June 2020
The quote is gleaned from the West Somerset Railway Journal

The latest Journal posted to WSR Association members

WSR

The Editorial Team of the West Somerset Railway Association, led by Editor Ian Coleby, have published Journal no 169. This edition carries all the regular reports from the Railway's various departments and stations, along with features covering historical matters, the mystery of Bradley Gate, the story of Williton's footbridge, and much more including a fine tribute to Tim King who sadly passed away recently. Yet another superb publication from the Journal Team.

WSRA website

13 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

A fundraising group working for the whole Railway

WSR

News from the West Somerset Railway Association:

The WSRA is pleased to say that, as a result of the regular meetings being held with the WSR plc and WSSRT, it has been agreed to establish a fundraising group working for the whole West Somerset Railway. This flows from the fundraising role recommended for the WSRA by the Coombes Report. Initial membership of the group will be WSRA Trustees Robin Moira White and Diana Ricketts Tanner, Dick Wood representing the WSR plc and Steve Williams for the WSSRT. The group will be supported by WSRA General Manager Jacquie Green and the services of Kate Williams, professional fundraiser financed by the WSRA. It is anticipated that as the effort grows in strength, other groups and individuals will be asked to join in. A first meeting of the Group has been set for Wednesday 17th June. Railway supporters interested in helping should contact any of those mentioned above.

Read the full statement

11 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Plc, Association and Steam Trust issue joint statement

WSR

The West Somerset Railway has recently agreed three key steps to enable the 22-mile long heritage line not only to survive the current Covid-19 crisis, but also then to rightly resume its position as 'the jewel in Somerset's tourism crown' when it re-opens - probably now in 2021.

  • Fundraising with a target of £500,000 or more to allow the railway to survive without any income this year in order to carry out essential maintenance and renewal works before it re-opens to visitors.
  • The re-establishment of the 'Partnership Development Group', involving the West Somerset Railway family (the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group, Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust, West Somerset Railway Association, West Somerset Railway Plc, West Somerset Steam Railway Trust and the Friends of the Stations groups), together with the local authorities for whom the railway is so important as part of the Somerset tourist economy.
  • A new approach to the recruitment and retention of volunteers to help to run the railway when it can reopen, involving the WSR's two main support charities: the West Somerset Railway Association and the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust.

Please click or tap the button below for the full joint statement which includes other topics and quotes.

Joint statement

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

9 June 2020
Details kindly provided via West Somerset Railway Plc

Update on the WSR Emergency Appeals

WSR

The updated Emergency Funding Appeal figures up to 7 June for the West Somerset Railway are as follows...

Website Donations£51,340.00
Cheque Donations £16,003.26
Share Purchases£28,800.00
Station Donations£41,950.00
Total Donations£138,093.26

The West Somerset Railway Association's Rail Renewal 2020 appeal now totals £30,289,00.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's appeal now totals £2,276.89.

Together that makes £170,659.15 from all sources.

The WSR is aiming to try and reach £500,000 as the target figure it estimates is the amount needed at least to combat the loss of income during Covid 19, so is doing well at just over 34% of this target.

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

8 June 2020
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Williton Depot re-opens under strict controls

WSR

The Diesel & Electric Preservation Group (DEPG) report a resumption of activities - albeit limited - at their Williton Depot under the current working arrangements issued by WSR Plc. The DEPG say:

Williton depot has re-opened under strict control of attendees and the implementation of social distancing and special hygiene measures as per government guidelines. We thank our volunteers who have all taken on extra tasks to ensure that the depot can be operated in a safe and compliant way.

We have compiled a short video entitled 'DIESELS TO THE SEASIDE 2019' and have just released it to our DEPG video channel. Please click the button below and take a look.

Diesels to the Seaside 2019

6 June 2020
Details kindly provided by Diesel & Electric Preservation Group

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

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