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West Somerset Railway re-opens on 30 March 2019

WSR

The West Somerset Railway (WSR) has won a Herculean race against time to undertake major infrastructure works costing some £170,000; overhaul its staff training, competence and compliance systems, and sort out its finances in going forward during the first three months of 2019 during an extended Winter closed period.

The Office of Rail & Road (ORR) visited the WSR again last Friday (22 March) to undertake an audit of progress made by the WSR against recommendations for changes in governance, regulatory compliance, mechanical and infrastructure improvements since the ORR's last inspection in October 2018. Following the ORR visit, WSR plc Chairman Jon Jones Pratt commented:

The ORR inspectors were very impressed by all of the massive progress across the board that we have made during a relatively short period, and I'm delighted they gave us a clean bill of health to re-open this coming weekend.

But it's been a race against time to try and get all of the work completed and a great testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff, volunteers, contractors and supporters to whom we owe a great debt of thanks. Our shareholders have bought over £20,000 of new shares since our stakeholders meeting on 2 March to help fund the works, and it's been reminiscent of the efforts by the early WSR's pioneers who first re-opened the line in 1976.

The extended closure period enabled the WSR to focus its efforts on vital track works and other maintenance along the line, as well as dealing with all of the ORR's recommendations. Although all of the infrastructure works are well advanced, some unforeseen problems were found with the track work around Blue Anchor, including having to order a new replacement point, which means that steam and diesel train services will begin initially between Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, and Watchet from Saturday 30 March, and then over the full line to Minehead from Good Friday 19 April once the Blue Anchor works are largely completed.

So, on Saturday 30 March, former Great Western Railway Hall Class no 6960 Raveningham Hall will steam out of Bishops Lydeard station at 10.15 - appropriately crewed by Jon Jones Pratt as Fireman and Driver Ray Lee - and operate the day's services through the beautiful spring countryside, complete with lovely views of the Quantock Hills.

As there is no loco turning facility at Watchet, the return legs from the seaside town will be hauled by a 1960s heritage diesel locomotive courtesy of the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group's fleet at Williton in what railwaymen and women call a 'top and tail' operation with a loco at each end of the train, so recreating a realistic 1960s branch line theme.

WSR trains will then run to the same 'top and tail' service pattern on all timetabled running days until Friday 19 April, when the first full line steam services of the season will run through to Minehead. Jon Jones-Pratt comments:

The WSR wishes to apologise to all accommodation providers in West Somerset who have been inconvenienced or lost business as a result of the extended closure period, but we had no choice and had to undertake some costly, unexpected and time consuming track works, especially around Blue Anchor. I look forward greatly to the day when the whole railway is open again.

And the scheduled Quantock Belle dining train on 31 March will unusually traverse the line between Bishops Lydeard and Norton Fitzwarren, which is rarely used by passenger trains, before taking its Mother's Day customers on their journey through the hills to Watchet. WSR plc Chairman Jones Pratt continued:

Although we are all looking forward to our services continuing through to Minehead, the work needed at Blue Anchor has been more extensive than first thought. Having access to just over half of the line allows us much needed time to complete the works to the high standards required.

Our Permanent Way Engineers and volunteers have all been working extremely hard, and in all weathers, over the closed period to ensure that we can get our services back up and running as soon as possible and we are grateful for all their efforts so far and the many thousands of hours worked.

We hope that people will turn up in good numbers during our first weeks of operating to support the WSR again and enjoy the heritage steam railway experiences and services we offer.

Our temporary terminus at Watchet is a vibrant seaside destination, and we have been in communication with many in the town to help enhance the experience as much as possible during this period.

The support which the WSR has received from volunteers, staff, shareholders, support organisations and the general public over the closure period has been extremely humbling.

2019 also marks the 40th Anniversary of the completion of the re-opening of the full length of the West Somerset Railway in 1979 and a celebration weekend will take place on 8th and 9th June. Information about this and other special events including dining trains, children's events, driving experiences and more can be seen at www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk or obtained by ringing 01643 704996.

26 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

News about the Gauge Museum Project

WSR

A posting on the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust website brings a useful update on project developments at the Gauge Museum. The update includes details of how the Trust is recruiting new Learning Assistants; the Design and Interpretation Programme for the Gauge Museum following the appointment of Smith and Jones as external consultants; the establishment of the Learning and Education working group; and a PDF copy of the presentation on the Project at the recent Trust AGM.

The Trust website

26 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

News from the Station Shop at Bishops Lydeard

WSR

Kate Beard writes:

To celebrate the return of our trains, the Bishops Lydeard Station Shop is offering up to 30% off the RRP of selected model railway locomotives currently on our shelves. This offer is for a limited period only. Don't forget that we also have some of the best stocks in the area of diecast models and railway books, so why not pop in and browse our shelves during your first Spring visit to the railway.

Bishops Lydeard Station Shop

25 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

WSR Association signs up to fundraising standards

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association has announced:

The WSRA strives to be transparent, ethical and responsible in all fundraising activities. In order to demonstrate this we have published our own fundraising policy and registered with the fundraising regulator, an independent, non-statutory body that regulates fundraising across the charitable sector in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The fundraising regulator publishes a code of fundraising practice, which we will abide by in all our fundraising activities. The fundraising regulator promotes best practice in fundraising, in order to protect donors and support the vital work of fundraisers. We are proud to carry the logo in our fundraising publicity.

WSRA fundraising policy

21 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Re-opening the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Museums

WSR

The Museums at Bishops Lydeard and Blue Anchor will re-open soon for the 2019 season, say the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust. The Blue Anchor Railway Museum will reopen with the start of trains through to Minehead on Good Friday, then Saturday 20 April, Easter Day, Easter Monday and every Sunday and bank holiday through the summer.

The new season on the WSR starts on Saturday 30 March, and the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard will re-open on that day as will Gauge Junction, the model railway. The Blue Anchor Railway Museum will reopen with the start of trains through to Minehead on Good Friday.

Find out more of the railway's history and the story of how it was part of Somerset's development and continues to serve the county today.

The Trust Museums

21 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Times of early spring Bishops Lydeard-Watchet service

WSR

The West Somerset Railway have released details of the Bishops Lydeard - Watchet service. These trains - three trains a day each way - will be steam hauled from Bishops Lydeard and diesel hauled on the return from Watchet and will operate on 30, 31 March and 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 April and from 13 to 18 April.

Train times Visit Watchet Watchet Station

19 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Readers Halt at Minehead Station opens 30 March

WSR

The Friends of Minehead Station have announced:

It is planned to re-open Readers Halt on Minehead Station from Saturday 30 March even though trains will not be running to this end of the line by then. We hope that our regular customers and the many visitors that come to the station will visit 'The Halt' and patronise the Turntable Cafe and the Buffer Stop Shop.

18 March 2019
Details kindly provided by the Friends of Minehead Station

West Somerset Railway celebrates Somerset Day

WSR

The West Somerset Railway will be celebrating 'Somerset Day' - 11 May 2019 - at Bishops Lydeard Station and also at Minehead Station. Anyone wishing to display or perform at Bishops Lydeard please contact Catherine Dance (WSR Community Engagement Officer) by email - catherine.dance@wsra.org.uk - likewise anyone wishing to display or perform at Minehead Station please contact Alan Smithers (Station Master) by email at smmd@wsrail.net

Somerset Day 2019 Bishops Lydeard Station Minehead Station

17 March 2019
Details gleaned from Somerset Day BL

WSR issues covered in latest edition of 'Heritage Railway'

WSR

Page six, seven and eight of Edition 252 of the 'Heritage Railway' magazine, carry a lengthy article by Gareth Evans about the recent events on the Railway. The quotes from WSR Plc Directors Jonathan Jones-Pratt (Chaiman), Mark Smith and Ric Auger, are frank and detailed. It would be wrong to provide more information on this page so we encourage folks to either buy a copy of the magazine or to have a peek at those pages via the 'Heritage Railway' website (use the button below, then use the interactive pages under the heading 'Check out heritage railway')

Heritage Railway

15 March 2019
Details gleaned from Heritage Railway

Diesel shunter cab rides during 2019 Steam & Vintage Rally

WSR

The folks at the Steam & Vintage Rally have posted the following on the Rally's facebook page:

We will be offering the opportunity to have a cab ride in one of the diesel shunters that operate on the West Somerset Railway. Depending on availability of the loco and crew, this is likely to be either the 03 or the 09: the details will be clarified nearer the time. So come along on 3 and 4 August 2019 and experience the sound, smell and driver's eye view.

15 March 2019
Details kindly provided by Steam & Vintage Rally

WSR Plc strengthen the Board of Directors

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc has taken steps to further strengthen the Board of Directors with three new role and advisor appointments.

Former WSR Plc Managing Director and Heritage Railway Association (HRA) Vice Chairman Mark Smith, who became a Plc director late last year, now becomes the company's new Vice Chairman and he will bring his wealth of heritage railway experience to bear on operations.

Martin Brown has been appointed as Safety & Compliance Adviser to the board initially, but with a view to him becoming a full director in due course after a trial period. Mr Brown is currently Crossrail's, or the Elizabeth Line's, Health and Safety Director.

Following the recent decision to split the Signalling and Guards inspector functions and roles after the ORR review last year, long-serving WSR volunteer Chris Pratt has now been appointed as Acting Chief Signalling Inspector by new Plc Vice Chairman Mark Smith. This new role is part of the continued plan to take the WSR forward in best practice fashion, and the WSR has thanked Steve Bailey for covering the combined role in the interim but, given the WSR is the largest standard gauge line in the UK, it made perfect sense to split the inspector roles between Guards and Signalling.

Full details

11 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

The film premiere of 'Chance Encounter'

WSR

The Chance Encounter folk say:

This is a chance to see the premiere of a local home-grown film made in aid of Hope for Tomorrow, the charity that provides Mobile Cancer Care Units across the country. The charity is much loved by the people of West Somerset, as the local unit - known affectionately as 'Bumble' - travels every Wednesday from Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton to Minehead for the benefit of local patients.

The short film (approx 45 mins), shot on location on the West Somerset Railway, features local actors and recreates a journey on the Devon and Somerset Railway that used to run between Taunton and Barnstaple before it was closed in 1966. Set in the late 1950s, 'Chance Encounter' is a gentle love story about a young couple who meet on the train one summer.

The film was produced entirely by voluntary contributions. Nobody has been paid and it is a true labour of love to support a charity close to everyone's hearts. The premiere also provides the opportunity to enjoy the West Somerset Railway as ticket packages are available (see link below). Come and be wined and dined on the legendary 'Quantock Belle' and make it a real afternoon to remember.

Tickets The Film Hope for Tomorrow

10 March 2019
Details gleaned from the website of Chance Encounters

The Cricket World Cup Trophy Tour 2019 at Minehead Station

WSR
© Clayton Jane

The West Somerset Railway Plc say:

On Tuesday 5 March 2019 we were delighted to welcome the Cricket World Cup Trophy Tour 2019 to Minehead Station. Children from local schools, local press and VIPs attended the tour and had a 'Question and Answer' session with the professionals. Thank you for letting us be part of it.

5 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Steam Trust appeal for help with learning

WSR

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust write:

Our Schools programme is now moving forward from its initial phase of development. As we indicated earlier, we are very keen to provide hands-on museum sessions that will cover the WSR's links with Brunel and the GWR, the impact of the railway on local history as well as links to the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

In order to deliver these initiatives, especially for our younger visitors, we will need some particular resources. We are planning to provide among other things, activity boxes for loan or to be used in conjunction with learning sessions. We would like to open an appeal for donations for our Learning Centre for items such as Lego, similar style construction toys and children's books such as Thomas the Tank Engine or Peters Railway or similar.

If you are able to donate items as mentioned above, please bring them to the museum at Bishops Lydeard or email learning@wssrt.co.uk You can also contact us at our registered office: West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, The Railway Station, Station Road, Bishops Lydeard, Taunton, Somerset TA4 3BX

5 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

The pre-season WSR stakeholders meeting

WSR

It was standing room only as 320 supporters of the West Somerset Railway (WSR) attended a packed, three-hour meeting for stakeholders at the Oake Manor Golf Club, near Taunton on Saturday 2 March 2019. WSR plc Chairman, Jonathan Jones-Pratt, and a number of other directors and senior figures from the railway addressed those present and they all set out a very open and honest appraisal of the various financial, governance, regulatory, compliance, mechanical and infrastructure difficulties which the WSR has faced over the winter months.

The various far-reaching steps and fund raising measures that have been taken so far and will be implemented soon were outlined to the audience, the aim of which is to put the railway onto a firm footing for the future. Commenting after the meeting, Jonathan Jones-Pratt said:

It was heartening to see so many committed railway staff, volunteers and supporters at the packed and professionally run meeting. So many people wanted to attend that we had struggled to find a local venue big enough to accommodate everyone, such is the strong support for the WSR!

Over the last six months, we have had to take some very tough and painful decisions to safeguard the railway's future after a significant £500,000 funding gap became obvious, and also in the light of various recommendations made by the Office of Rail & Road ORR) regulators following an inspection in October 2018.

We have had to cut rapidly our costs and staffing, quickly sell some of our assets such as unrestored steam loco no 4110, introduce new safety, training, competence and operating systems, totally overhaul our finances, and invest in and improve our infrastructure significantly at a considerable cost of £140,000, with even more spending on it needed every year from now on just to stand still.

But I was very pleased to tell everyone present that the WSR has been pulled back from the precipice of potential insolvency by our firm and decisive actions so far, and we can now face the 2019 season, and our 40th anniversary of running to Bishops Lydeard, with much more confidence and a much brighter future too.

I was particularly glad to have the Chairman of the West Somerset Railway Association, Paul Whitehouse, and the Chairman of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, Chris Austin, speaking alongside me and fellow directors today to share our 'One Railway' vision. We will all now put the difficulties and squabbles of the past few years firmly behind us and move forward as one railway acting in unison.

Many of the people who asked questions at the end of the meeting also complimented all of the speakers for giving the audience such an open, honest and frank appraisal of the situation which faced the WSR in terms of improving regulatory compliance, strengthening the Board and management via new appointments, completely overhauling the finances, and investment in infrastructure .

This was evidenced by the fact that a cash collection after the meeting raised £3,250 towards work on GWR locomotive 9351 (which is due to return to traffic in July) and further sums towards infrastructure work on the line.

And another £6,200 was raised in new plc Shares showing solid support from existing shareholders that were at the meeting, plus another £1,000 promised by email, so over £10,000 was raised in just one afternoon. All 4,000 WSR plc shareholders will also be contacted shortly to seek further necessary investment which is expected to be at least £500,000 a year.

Jonathan Jones Pratt continued:

After we decided to extend the usual winter shut down period from January this year to carry out essential infrastructure works, the West Somerset Railway is now expected to re-open partially again on Saturday 30 March after a follow up inspection by the ORR in late March.

So, our steam services will run initially from Bishops Lydeard to Williton, with a Diesel unit shuttle to and from Watchet so we reach the seaside, but the full line should re-open to Minehead on Saturday 6 April following completion of major track works at Blue Anchor which have proven to be more extensive than first thought sadly.

I know this the phased reopening will disappoint everyone at the Minehead end of the line, especially those in the local accommodation, retail and catering sectors, who have been looking forward to our steam trains returning, but we will be running to and from Minehead in good time for Easter, and our teams are working very hard to get everything ready in time.

In June this year, the WSR will be celebrating 40 years of running heritage services between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard, and a special celebration is planned to mark the significant date. A more detailed note of the stakeholder meeting on Saturday 2 March will be posted onto the WSR websites shortly.

4 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

WSRA members discount at Dunster's Yarn Market Hotel

WSR

The Yarn Market Hotel in Dunster - very handy for a visit to the Railway - is offering a 10% discount on accomodation for members of various organisations including the West Somerset Railway Association. To obtain the discount bookings must be made directly with the hotel via 01643 821425 or hotel@yarnmarkethotel.co.uk . It is not available via booking agencies. Other organisations whose members can obtain the discount include the National Trust, English Heritage, the AA and RAC, Women's Institute and Townswomen's Guild.

4 March 2019
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

The Chairman's long line walk

WSR

On Thursday 28 February 2019 the WSR Plc's Chairman, Jon Jones-Pratt conducted a line walk from Bishops Lydeard to Blue Anchor - over sixteen miles - to inspect the areas of progress and concern. Perhaps the first time a Plc Chairman has reviewed so many work sites in person during a single line walk, although it must be admitted some of the distance was covered by road transport. A few photos - in the Latest Pictures page - show how tidy the line looks now after great work by the folks on the ground.

3 March 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

WSR/CAMRA Washford Real Ale & Cider Festival 2019

WSR

Following the success of this event in 2018 the WSR, the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust and the Somerset Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) are hosting a larger event for 2019 between Thursday 20 June and Saturday 22 June. Those who attended last year will have appreciated the selection of ales not normally found in the South West plus the traditional ciders and this year there will be 24 cask conditioned ales and 6 ciders on sale.

The venue is Washford Station and the opening hours will be midday to 8pm Thursday 20 June, and midday to 10pm Friday 21 June and Saturday 22 June.

As the dates coincide with the 2019 WSR Diesel Gala - featuring vintage machines that were working the railways when CAMRA was founded in the 1970s --there will be an hourly service of trains during the day, plus evening trains to take drinkers home. And of course this is the time of the year with daylight well on into the evening. Car parking at Washford station is extremely limited so travel to and from the Festival by train is by far the best way to get there.

There are special return tickets available from Bishops Lydeard and Minehead to get visitors to the Festival with the price including three beer tokens to use for three half pints. Tickets are for over 18s only, please note there is a challenge 25 policy, so please bring ID on the day.

Book special train tickets

2 March 2019
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

Working parties in the Gauge Museum

WSR

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

It has been a long winter without trains, but the new season is fast approaching, and we will be opening to the public from Saturday March 30th onwards. Before we get there, though, there is a lot to do to refresh the displays, and to give the museum a heavy clean. So, with this in mind, I am planning in the Gauge Museum, to organise three working parties to get things in order and I am thinking of the following dates - 8, 9, 27 March 2019. Please let me know if you would be available to help on any or all of these dates, please email on this address info@wssrt.co.uk times to suit you, but I should think we would aim to be there from 10.00 to 15.30 or thereabouts. Apart from cleaning, we can take time to talk through the emerging plans for the museum, progress with setting up our library and the work we are doing to encourage visitors and particularly younger visitors.

I will be inviting bids for the rosters shortly, covering the period from March 30th to the end of June in the first instance. Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

28 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Help still needed as fundraising appeals near finishing line

WSR

In the past few weeks the West Somerset Railway Association has launched funding appeals for the final work to put the unique WSR 2-6-0 no 9351 back in service on the West Somerset Railway (£14,000) and to cast four replacements for historic Bristol and Exeter Railway cast iron station signs for the Railway (£3,200). In each case the appeals are within sight of the finish line. WSRA Manager Jacquie Green said:

Supporters have been very generous. We now only need £4,000 plus gift aid to reach our target for loco 9351 and only a further £800 plus gift aid for the station signs. Remember that, as the principal supporting charity for the line, for every £1 donated by a UK tax payer, under the 'Gift Aid' scheme, the UK government adds 25 pence.

Work on loco 9351 can be followed on the blog which is updated as the work progresses.

Donations can be made by visiting this page and either clicking through to make an online donation or following the instructions for cheque donations.

9351 Blog Donations

26 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Assocation

Looking at education, community, promotion and volunteering

WSR

The team of Gauge Museum Model Railway operators and Helen Anson (Gauge Museum's Educational Officer) and Catherine Dance (WSRA Community Engagement Officer) are looking at ways to promote the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust and the WSR to others and hopefully encourage more people to volunteer.

On 21 February 2019 a meeting took place in the Gauge Museum between Matt Sutton, Helen and Catherine to discuss ways in which the layout - a worthy tourist attraction in its own right - could play a part in future educational and community projects that are being developed.

23 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

A358 will be closed near Williton from 18-31 March 2019

WSR

Folks making their way to the area at the end of March should note the total closure of the main Williton-Taunton road (A358) between 18 and 31 March 2019.

The A358 will be shut day and night to all traffic just outside Williton, near Sampford Brett, at the railway bridge referred to as 'Black Arch' by the local authority (named 'Sampford Brett Bridge' by the West Somerset Railway). Official diversions are via Bridgwater but it seems likely drivers will find shorter routes.

Planned works include improvements to the road drainage system and resurfacing. The railway and the bridge itself are not part of the programme and trains will traverse the bridge when the Railway's 2019 season opens on 30 March.

Link to map

21 February 2019
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

Work continues at Blue Anchor Level Crossing

WSR

The Signal & Telegraph Department's volunteer 'Monday Gang' were out in force once again at Blue Anchor Level Crossing, cleaning out the gate locking mechanisms in the middle of the road to ensure fault free operation. This required the use of traffic management and stop/go boards on this busy road.

Many buckets of mud and silt were removed and the holes were washed out. A further visit will be required to attend to the actual gate mechanisms.

Meanwhile, colleagues were installing a new uninterruptable power supply (UPS) at Blue Anchor Signal Box to make the systems more reliable and less susceptible to local power supply faults. The electric locking of the pedestrian gates also received some attention and some cables feeding a location cabinet at the Williton end of the station were being replaced.

20 February 2019
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

Buffer Stop Shop & Turntable Cafe open during half term

WSR

Minehead Station will be open daily throughout half term between 9.30am and 2.30pm.

Venture down to Minehead Station, browse the shop taking a look at the Brunel Merchandise, WSR branded clothes and so much more. Then along to the Turntable Cafe for a nice cup of locally produced Miles tea or coffee, along with a lovely slice of cake.

A lot of work is being carried out behind the scenes, and the Railway really looking forward to running services again on 30 March.

Please note: the Railway have advised the Brunel Birthday Bonanza event planned for 21, 23, 24, 26 February is not going ahead.

20 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Synopsis of recent WSR Association Trustee Board Meeting

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Association has published a brief synopsis of the Trustee Board meeting held on 11 February 2019. To read more, please click or tap the button below.

Synopsis

18 February 2019
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

Developing learning at the Gauge Museum

WSR

Helen Anson, Learning Officer with West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, provides an update on progress following the successful application for Heritage Lottery Fund funding last year.

Our Schools programme is in the initial phase of its development, with hands-on museum sessions planned, covering the WSR's links with Brunel and the Great Western Railway, the impact of the railway on local history as well as links to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects.

We are also developing a collection of Loans Boxes, to be used in schools for hands-on learning about the railway using a range of real and replica objects.

Full story on the Trust website

18 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

WSR featured in RAIL magazine article

WSR

Issue 872 of RAIL carries an article by Daniel Puddicombe examining the growing trend for service trains running between heritage railways and the main line network. The article looks at four heritage lines, the Swanage, the North York Moors, the Chinnor, and the Minehead line, each having a different angle on the topic. As far as the West Somerset Railway is concerned, Daniel looks at both the Minehead Rail Link Group's ambitions and claims, and also at the WSR's own plans for a possible service between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard run by GWR on certain days in the summer of 2019.

15 February 2019
Details kindly provided via Daniel Puddicombe and RAIL

Exmoor Coast Railway Modellers Annual Fair

WSR

The Exmoor Coast Railway Modellers are presenting their annual Fair at the regular venue on Saturday 23 February. As usual there will be an excellent selection of traders offering model railway items, diecast models, new DVDs and books, secondhand books, railway paraphernalia, photographs, toys, games, etc. There is a modern restaurant offering hot and cold food/drinks all day. Extensive free parking is available onsite, and all stands are on the ground floor. The bright venue is on the B3170, just south of the town centre, and only five minutes drive from Junction 25 on the M5. This is a really friendly event and all are welcome, so please come along. The Fair is open 10am to 3pm and is held at Richard Huish College, South Road, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 3DZ. Admission is £2.

15 February 2019
Details kindly provided by local correspondents

Next phase of Heritage Carriages Project

WSR

At their January 2019 Board Meeting, Trustees agreed the next stage of the Heritage Carriages Project and reaffirmed their 2016 decision to make it carriage TK no 3639, a toplight vehicle with a rich history as a passenger coach, an ambulance coach and a camp coach prior to its acquisition by the Trust.

Full story

14 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Update on the Gauge Museum HLF Project

WSR

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust have announced the appointment of design and interpretation consultants for Gauge Museum Heritage Lottery Fund Project. Following the completion of a formal tendering exercise, the Steam Trust is delighted to confirm the appointment of Smith and Jones as the preferred design and interpretation consultants for the Gauge Museum Project.

Full story

14 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

Could you serve as a WSRA Trustee...

WSR

The 2019 West Somerset Railway Association Annual General Meeting for members is to be held on Saturday 13 April 2019 at 2pm at Crowcombe Village Hall. Nominations for WSRA Trustees are now open. The closing date is 14 March 2019; all completed forms must be received by that date. The requirements for serving as a WSRA Trustee can be found in the WSRA's Articles of Association and the Trustees Code of Conduct (recently agreed by the current board), both available on the WSRA website along with the Trustee nomination form

More info and links

13 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

The '9351 Blog' has been updated

WSR

The WSRA's '9351 Blog' has been updated with the latest news and progress on the final reassembling of WSR 2-6-0 no 9351 by the Railway's West Somerset Restoration team at Williton.

The 9351 Blog

13 February 2019
Details kindly provided by WSR Infrastructure Engineering

Much work happening along the Minehead Branch

WSR

The Facebook page of WSR Infrastructure Engineering provides a useful update on the many and varied tasks the department is currently undertaking along the line.

  • The Restoration and Maintenance Squad (RAMS) team working on the roof at the Gauge Museum; and repairing the Down platform fence at Bishops Lydeard.
  • The Signal &Telegraph team are hard at work on the phones.
  • New stone going in for drainage at the relay of the stock loading road at Bishops Lydeard; the alignment staying the same but with a raised level to improve loading.
  • Friends of Minehead Station (FoMS) are funding the painting of the canopy at Minehead and repairs taking place to the weathered pillars.
  • Rail is being turned on the curves near Nethercott.
  • Planning the imminent drainage works at Washford Cutting.
  • Geotechnical consultants have reviewed the earthworks at Stogumber and Roebuck.
  • Work on River Avill Bridge work - repointed and replaced brickwork in number one arch; now looking for volunteers to help with laying a new rock floor (subject to EA approval) to preserve the repaired arches.

Infrastructure's Facebook page

13 February 2019
Details kindly provided by WSR Infrastructure Engineering

No 4110 leaves Minehead for its new home

WSR

Following its sale by WSR Plc to the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway, the unrestored GWR Large Prairie no 4110 left Minehead on 12 February 2019 and made its way by road to Devon. The loco had been central to a purchase bid by local folks hoping to keep the engine on the Minehead Branch but sadly it was not to be.

12 February 2019
Details kindly provided by local correspondents

Friends of Minehead Station sponsor overhaul of Lorna Doone

WSR

The Friends of Minehead Station (FoMS) are to sponsor the overhaul of the wheelchair-accessible carriage known as Lorna Doone.

At the recent FoMS Annual General Meeting, it was agreed that FoMS will sponsor the overhaul of carriage no W80736 . The work needed to put the carriage back into operational use includes changing the four wheelsets, removal of an electric lift, re-painting the outside including the roof and providing steam heating for the passenger carrying area. The work is likely to be undertaken by WSRA Restorations at WIlliton. If anyone out in FoMS land would like to make a financial contribution (however small) to this considerable expense, they are asked to forward a cheque made payble to FoMS to The FoMS Treasurer, Dept LD, Minehead Railway Station, The Esplanade, Minehead TA24 5BG Thank you

11 February 2019
Details kindly provided by Friends of Minehead Station

Transport to and from Stakeholders Meeting at Oake Manor

WSR

The venue for the Stakeholders Meeting on 2 March 2019 is some way off public transport routes and a significant attendance is expected. If you would like (or can offer) a lift to the venue, or would just like to car share, please be in touch with WSRA Trustee Robin White who has offered to co-ordinate offers/requests. She can be contacted at robin.white@wsra.org.uk

Stakeholders Meeting

10 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Assocation

Award success for three young volunteers from the WSR

WSR

Three young volunteers from the West Somerset Railway - Matthew Sutton, Lee Robbins and Matthew Jackson - each received a framed runners-up 'Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer Award' certificate at the Heritage Railway Association's 2019 Awards held at Birmingham's Burlington Hotel on 9 February 2019. The category was won by the very worthy Matthew Wilson from Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. Congratulations to Lee, Matt and Matt, and to all the winners on the night. Great to see hard work recognised and rewarded.

10 February 2019
Details kindly provided by local correspondent

Buffer Stop Shop reopens on Monday 11 February

WSR

Minehead Station's Buffer Stop Shop reopens on 11 February 2019 as announced on the WSR Buffer Stop Shop's Facebook page:

The Buffer Stop Shop, Minehead Station, is pleased to announce that from next Monday 11 February 2019 we will be open! Hurrah!

9 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

Re-arranged WSR stakeholder meeting now 2 March 2019

WSR

WSR Plc have confirmed a new date for the meeting previously due to be held in early February but was cancelled due to bad weather. The WSR Plc Board would like to invite shareholders, staff and volunteers to the re-arranged meeting to be held on Saturday 2 March 2019 at 11am at Oake Manor, Oake, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 1BA. WSR Plc Chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt says:

We will discuss how your railway will be facing up to the challenges of operating England's longest heritage railway; what work is planned and what will be deferred for future closure periods, in order to operate our steam railway using locomotives which would not have operated on our line in British Railway days.

More information

7 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

A Class 50 booked for the 2019 Diesel Gala

WSR
© Unzi Paul/Class 50 Alliance

Don Bishop, Chairman of the WSR's Gala Planning Team, has announced the second 'guest' locomotive for the 2019 Diesel Gala in June:

We are pleased to announce our second guest locomotive for this years 'Vintage Diesels to the Seaside II' gala on 20 - 23 June.

We have agreed the hire of one of the fleet of Class 50s from the 'Class 50 Alliance Ltd', although it is yet to be decided on which one of their fleet will be able to attend as several issues could yet affect this. The class 50 will join former Laira depot stablemate Class 46 no 46010 in a West Country diesels recreation.

We plan to announce further visiting locos in the coming weeks.

Click or tap the button below to book tickets for this special event.

Book tickets

6 February 2019
Details kindly provided by WSR Gala Planning Team

An update on the Bristol and Exeter sign castings fundraising

WSR

Robin White of the West Somerset Railway Association provides an update:

Funds towards the Station Sign Castings continue to come in. We now have around £1,400 of the required £3,200. Further donations, of any size, welcome. You can donate either via the WSRA Facebook arrangements or contact the WSRA direct at manager@wsra.org.uk

WSRA Facebook Page

4 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

The 2019 Cheese and Cider Specials

WSR

Fresh local breads accompany a tasting of selected Somerset cheeses washed down by a pint of Somerset Cider or fresh apple juice drink.

This lunchtime Special Train is in support of local Somerset food producers. The lunch is a tasting of local Somerset cheeses, with garnish and freshly made local breads, washed down by a pint of Somerset Cider or fresh apple juice drink. Cheeses are supplied by local cheese makers such as The Exmoor Blue Cheese Company just a short distance from Bishops Lydeard Station. The Cider is made by Harry's Cider.

The 2019 Cheese and Cider Specials run on 14 June, 12 July, 6 September and 20 September.

Click or tap the button below for the full statement.

Full details and booking

3 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

A joint statement about the future of GWR 2-6-2T no 4110

WSR

GWR4110 Ltd, West Somerset Railway Association and WSR Plc have issued the following statement:

It is with regret that we have to announce that even with the three organisations working closely together we have been unable to find a way to keep 4110 on the WSR. As late as 25th January 2019 we were still in joint discussions to try to find a way to deliver this objective.

The WSR Plc finds itself in a position where it needs cash immediately and its Directors have no choice but to maximise the return to the company in such a circumstance. The Directors of GWR4110 Ltd and the WSRA Trustees understand this is the reason the locomotive cannot be made available at a lower price.

Click or tap the button below for the full statement.

Full statement

The WSRA's General Manager Jacquie Green adds the following advice:

The WSRA has received over £13,000 in donations towards the purchase of 4110. Any donor who would like their money refunded should advise Jacquie Green of their bank details. Alternatively you could ask for it to be put towards the refurbishment of 9351 or 4561, which would be a great help to the whole railway.

3 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

Bristol and Exeter signs for West Somerset Railway Stations

WSR

Robin White of the West Somerset Railway Association writes:

Folks may remember that we were unsuccessful last year in buying back at auction an original Bristol and Exeter Railway Station name board from Dunster Station. The WSR supporters who had pledged funds towards that generously allowed their pledges to be used for a professional pattern maker to produce patterns for these distinctive boards at Dunster, Watchet and Stogumber Stations.

We have now identified a foundry with the skills to cast these distinctive items and need your help to raise the £800 per sign cost of the items. Gift aid will add 25% from the government to anything you give if you are a UK tax payer.

Please give generously - click or tap the button below for more information.

WSRA Facebook Page

1 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Association

WSR stakeholder meeting on 2 February cancelled

WSR

The West Somerset Railway Plc have announced the cancellation of the meeting on 2 February 2019 at Oake Manor.

Due to the current weather conditions and the risk of ice tomorrow morning, it has been decided to cancel tomorrow's meeting at Oake Manor. We do not want to put the lives of our Shareholders, Staff and Volunteers at risk.

We are currently in the process of rearranging the meeting and will contact everyone as soon as details of a new date are confirmed, we hope this will be in the very near future. Anyone who already had a reservation will automatically be transferred to the new date and venue unless you inform us otherwise. Anyone who had booked for the lunch at Oake Manor will automatically be refunded.

1 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Railway Plc

News of a Peter Barnfield exhibition for summer 2019

WSR

West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Chairman Chris Austin writes:

Drawings, paintings and models by Peter Barnfield (1942 - 2018) will be the basis of a summer exhibition in the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard from 13 to 28 July 2019. With his wife Ginny, Peter created the Blue Anchor Railway Museum for GW150 in 1985 and ran it for 10 years before handing over to Pete Treharne. For many years he produced some of the WSR's best publicity; Peter was a gifted artist, photographer, designer and writer and some of his best work will be on show. This exhibition will draw together for the first time around 50 art works, many now in private collections. A feast for the eyes and the soul. Admission will be free and the exhibition will be open between 10.00 and 16.00 daily between 13 and 28 July 2019.

1 February 2019
Details kindly provided by West Somerset Steam Railway Trust

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