Saturday, 24 February 2018

Railway Supporters' Day

We had a good attendance at the supporters day today. A small crowd gathered to look round the development sites at Bishops Lydeard station  - the crowd being smaller than expected due to the cold weather.

This was conducted by Frank Courtney who explained the lie of the land at Station Farm and provided a tour of Blackmore House. We also looked around the new developments in the Gauge Museum. 
After lunch, we gathered in BL village hall for the main event. I provided my first chairman's address - nervously but soon settled down! and Paul Conibeare gave a preview of the railway's events in 2018. I was really pleased that both Paul Whitehouse and Chris Austin were able to be present and to give presentations on the work of the Association and Trust.
We have just launched a consultation phase for the new corporate plan, and we wished to use this time to involve as many of our supporters as we can in its development. We have a number of questions in our minds that we want to get answers on. Accordingly, we split the supporters into four groups and asked them to consider the questions and provide feedback. The six questions we have are:

1. Should we seek funds (e.g. a share issue) so that the railway be developed so that it can regularly accommodate large engines, or should funds be sought for other purposes and the railway only operate locos of a size appropriate to a West Country branch?

2. To what extent should we cancel timetabled trains in order to accommodate incoming charters which bring in more money?

3. How can we upgrade our buffet cars and our off train catering to provide better and more attractive facilities for passengers?

4. What aspects of heritage are most important to preserve? (For example, trains, bull head rails, signalling systems, buildings, railway operating systems)

5. Which is a higher financial priority: painting carriage roofs or improving station toilets? What other non-essential work may be a higher priority?

6. How could we try to extend the season to generate additional revenue, particularly in late February and March?

Some very interesting feedback was received! Here are some photos of the groups considering the questions:

We have carefully kept the responses and will be adding this to the new plan. The consultation phase runs until 7 April, so please take part. You can either respond directly to the plan or provide feedback on the six key questions above. The draft corporate plan is available here

Thanks are due to all who took part, helped set up the event and participated in any way.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Supporters Day and the corporate plan

This coming Saturday is the supporters day. Held at BL village hall at 2pm, this is the chance for all supporters of the railway to hear about coming events and contribute to the new corporate plan.
The new plan has been worked up by the board and senior management team over the last few weeks and is now in its final draft form. We now wish to share our draft with our supporters and, most importantly, seek views on its content. We have a number of specific questions we wish to get input on. The draft plan will be launched on Saturday, but is available now for those who wish to read it up front. The new plan is more meaningful, clearer, briefer and smarter than previously and will be a plan that we can use rather than just sitting on a shelf! Here is a link to the new plan.

Please have a read through and let us know what you think. I will add more information over the next few days on the agenda and format of the day. The plan is also available from the official WSR website and Steve Edge's site.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

First day of the new season

So finally the first services of the season are here. Yesterday saw the official sign off of the newly relaid track at Alcombe and today the first timetabled trains ran.
I joined the 1015 from Bishops Lydeard with my wife and new puppy - maybe not quite so new any more. The train was reasonably well filled and everybody was so friendly and welcoming - the mystery shopper in me was very proud of our railway. It was a bitterly cold day so it was rather a relief to join the train, even if the steam heat was ineffective in our carriage.
A very competent run down to Minehead, a browse round the shop and Readers Halt, a congenial lunch and a good run back behind the 7F rounded off a great start to the year for me.

Raveningham Hall ready with the first departure from Lydeard:

53808 waits with the 1415 return journey

Later the sun came out and shadows of the train were thrown on the fields at Blue Anchor

Journeys End: a tired puppy has just enjoyed his first steam train journey - maybe not the last!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Thornbury Castle and Williton

We had a great day out today. Built in 1949, Castle class locomotive 7027 "Thornbury Castle" is currently owned by Jon Jones-Pratt and lives at the Crosville Bus Deport in Weston. Today we had a visit to Weston to see the locomotive and to launch the initiative.

The railway has agreed that Jon can restore the locomotive at Williton on the West Somerset Railway, subject to detailed negotiation. This is a great opportunity for the railway. This is a locomotive in ex-Barry condition that has never run in preservation. It is a locomotive that enthusiasts will never have travelled behind. Jon can bring a huge amount of publicity to the railway and his intention is to team up with Bridgwater College to provide engineering apprenticeships. The young people at the college need work experience projects and the opportunity to work on this locomotive is a very special one. It might be that components for the locomotive will be manufactured at the college or that the apprentices will come at work at Williton under supervision to learn their trade on the locomotive itself. When completed, we will have the prospect of a brand new Castle class engine working the line from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead. Thornbury Castle will be restored to mainline condition and so it is possible that you may be able to travel from Paddington to Minehead, safely snuggled into a cosy seat, rejoicing in the fact that its 'rather a relief to be hauled by steam'. Lots of detail to be worked out yet, but all being well the engine should be with us early in September for work to start. Here are some pictures I took today.

This is the locomotive in its current home at Crosville:

This is what we are going to rebuild:

7027 Thornbury Castle at Swindon Works

As part of the day, we had a guided tour of Bridgwater College. What a place! It looks rather like a formula one car workshop. Here are some pictures:

Later we visited the Hinkley C construction site. Biggest building site in Europe. Absolutely amazing!
Lots more info to come in due course!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Shunting by tractor

Looking through some old pictures a few days ago, I came across these of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust's heritage coaches being manoeuvred around Williton yard. The late David Holmes was in charge that day and had arranged for a JCB to do the heavy work.
Its 10th May 2010. Seems quite recent until you remember that its almost 8 years ago. I had stolen a day off of job being the heavy one of pressing the shutter button.
Here the JCB is pulling a toplight across the concrete of the yard.  Later, David arranged for some rails to be laid on their sides and the coaches were slid onto those.

Whats for lunch? Although looking as if the JCB is about to gobble up the coach, it is infact pushing it up onto the rails (you can see if you look closely). Well, the coaches are still there. 6705 is getting nearer to completion, but I am sorry that the remainder are sat in the open or under tarps, slowly moldering away. Repairing coaches is a very expensive and time consuming job, now we need the people to come forward to help make these happen!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Castle Cary station improvements

My post of a couple of days ago generated some modest email traffic about the changes made to the station in 1984. This was when the Westbury resignalling scheme's tentacles reached this part of the world. The signalbox was closed, the up loop removed and a new 3rd platform serving the Weymouth branch trains was built. The pity was that the old downside building was demolished and replaced with a bus shelter type structure, the one you see today. Its hard to argue with the logic, but still a pity. I visited the station a lot during that period and I have scanned a few pictures for your interest.

21 July 1984 sees the old headshunt removed and teh trackbed being prepared for the new Weymouth platform.

A week later and the track has been laid. 28 July.

27 January 1985 sees a crane about to lift put the old down main starter bracket. It was a dreary day!

Looking the other way on the same day, the up starter bracket has lost its arms and the up loop has been removed.

My notes say this was also 27 Jan, bu tit can't be as there is now snow on the ground....Anyway, a class 47 stands on the down main and has track panels from the old up loop loaded on to wagons. What a cold and wet day for such work. I expect the diesel driver was tucked up warm!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

A lucky find

Yesterday I stumbled (literally!) across this old map in a friend's garage. Maybe because he felt sorry for me, he said I could have it.
It's a Bristol Omnibus map of the northern part of Somerset. Don't know the day, I guess 1960s or so.
Here's the front cover:

The map is advertising "Day Out tickets" so you could visit places (I guess) as far afield as Cheddar or Weston. As it says, some hardy souls have covered 300 miles in a day - and on an old Bristol Omnibus, that's something! I am amused that both dogs and children are the same price at 6s3d.
At least you could get refreshments, with the snack snack bars and the "temporary snack caravan" at Bristol. And its all under cover on a wet day - when no doubt the bus windows would have steamed up and you couldn't see anything anyway.
Heres the Bristol; Omnibus heading:
And finally a glimpse of the inside map showing a bit of Weston
I shall be passing this to the local Somerset archivist for safe keeping.