Saturday, 31 March 2018

Slip Coaches in Action

Something now totally missing from today's world either on the main line or on private railways is the slip coach. And no real prospect of it reappearing again.
The vision that a portion of the train could just be uncoupled and then run of its own accord into the station is today unparalleled. Here is a great period video explaining the whole operation at Bicester. My favourite moment? It's the cheery wave from the train guard out of the window as the slip coach is detached and slows.
So how did the passengers know to get into the right portion? And if they wandered off or went to the buffet, how were they all gathered up before the guard pulled the lever. And to someone like me who enjoys fiddling, how did you prevent small boys playing with the lever?
How is this relevant to the WSR? Slip portions were dropped at Taunton and hauled to Minehead. There is a picture somewhere. I'll try and find it!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

PLC Board Update March 2018

The board met this month in the midst of the successful spring steam gala.
We have just issued this update. Please click here for the full document:  Board Update March 2018

Sunday, 25 March 2018

On the Auto

One of my favourite trains! Any chance to travel on the GWR Auto train is welcomed. The coach and tank has been lent by the Severn Valley who were looking after it and cosseting it jealously! A sunny Sunday saw us on the train to Norton and back. Here are a few quick picture.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Mystery Shopper at the Spring Gala

Well maybe not such a mystery as I had my name badge on! Saturday started a bit damp but we arrived at BL safely. Good signs into the car park, yet using my chaimans privelidge we sneaked into the staff car park. Military train parked up looked very impressive. Friendly troops welcomed us and posed for pictures.

We were invited onto the footplate of the S160 and given a good explanation of the workings. Trains seemed to be running late but there were no explanations, maybe something to be sharpened up. 

Eventually the train to Norton arrived and we joined the QB section.

The journey to Norton and back felt quite dragged out. A lot of waiting around and a hour and twenty minutes later saw us back where we started at BL. A very efficient service on the QB saw us devour steak and ale pies followed by cheesecake. Slight confusion over the menu saw us being offered salmon, but this was later cancelled!

Our train was delayed at CH with an overheating lubricator but this appeared to be rapidly fixed and we were kept well informed throughout.

The QB was reasonably well filled but I couldn't help thinking that more tables could have been occupied if there had been some better advertising on the platforms.

Currently sat at Williton station. Double headed panniers just arrived on the up service. Things seem to be running about 20 minutes late, but its a gala. Everybody is enjoying themselves and they don't seem to mind.

Overall impression is good. Staff very friendly and helpful. A good train service and a variety of motive power. Great food on QB which was the highlight. A real buzz about the railway and a great atmosphere all round. Well done to everybody.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Spring Steam Gala Kicks Off

Today is the start of the spring gala. It always seems to me that this is the real start of the new season, the running days before this being tasters and practices for the real thing.
I hadn't intended to be on the trains today, but an unexpected change of plans meant that I was able to 'pop into' Bishops Lydeard for a while. First thing to be seen was the US Army Transportation Loco sat in the QB siding. And a fine sight it was too.

It was well loaded with military vehicles - jeeps, guns and even a landing craft - not quite sure where that was going to. Well done to the team who turned out the train. It looked splendid and is a credit to all who have worked so hard on it. I understand more work is planned ready for running it again during the 1940s weekend.

At that point, the QB arrived at the station  - and well it would have been rude not to board and sample the offerings. As always, a great presentation and a very tasty steak and ale pie made the journey down to Williton most enjoyable. even a chickatarian is allowed a day off!

A nifty turnaround at Williton saw me behind the double headed panniers back to BL. A jourrney spent in the brake van riding shotgun with Chris Austin who was transferring valuable historic artefacts from BA museum up to BL.
Later in the day I understand that the S160 decided to shed some parts along the line which meant a rescue by 7714, so a late end to the day for some. As always, in these circumstances the dedication and commitment by the railway staff is second to none. Well done to all.
And especially well done to the new rookie waiter in the QB - say hello to the young lad if you're on the train tomorrow!

Monday, 19 March 2018

Looking Forward to the past - 1940s weekend

The launch of the military train this weekend has got me thinking about the 1940s weekend on 15 and 16 September.
This is lining up to be a great event. The organiser, Robin Wichard, is making great progress and many exciting events are anticipated. The Spitfire, of course, 1940s dancing on Minehead Station, RAF displays, the Military train loaded with WW2 Vehicles and troops to run from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard, Military and civilian vehicles and displays at Minehead, Watchet and Washford. Land Army, civilian life and home front displays at both Watchet Station and Watchet Town. Uniformed British & American troops who were both stationed in the area during the war.
There are some rumours that Winston Churchill and the King and Queen may put in an appearance.
I understand that there could be allotments at stations and lets hope we see lots of parcel tape on windows and plenty of sandbags. ID papers for the public and military guard posts at stations???

To get fully into the spirit of things, I have decided to turn myself out as an army colonel for the weekend. A rank, I think, that befits the chairman! Robin has suggested that if I am properly turned out I can accompany the royal party. So I have been researching uniform hire and come across this which looks very promising.

So now I am looking at the all the supporting stuff. Do I need a lieutenant to accompany me? Where do I get a general service watch and should I find some 1940s maps to stuff in my pocket....and what about carrying the right money, notes and coins! I spent last evening browsing the 'soldier of fortune' website and am amazed at what you can buy. I am totally new to all this re-enacting stuff so any advice would be great to receive.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

A Day Out with Tim West and Prunella Scales

Today the railway had the honour of entertaining Tim West and Prunella Scales in the Hawksworth Saloon. Both are well known in the acting trade. If you are in a slightly older age group then just think Sybil Fawlty, but if youth is on your side, then Eastenders or now Great Canal Journeys may be the prompt you need.
A bitterly cold day, we were pleased that the saloon had been preheated and equally grateful to Jenni for the hot tea, coffee, biscuits and cakes. James Mills as the most polite guard made sure everything ran efficiently.
The trains were delayed due to technical faults - I am not sure exactly what but at one stage the fitters at Minehead were working hard under Foxcote Manor fixing a broken pipe.
An excellent journey to Minehead was made even better by a visit to Williton signalbox. Arrival at Minehead saw a guided tour of the engine shed followed by a Turntable Buffet lunch.
Jenni's tea and cakes brought us back to Lydeard which was rounded off by a visit to the Gauge Museum.
Both Pru and Tim were gushing in their praise for our railway and clearly enjoyed the day. The railway looked fantastic - as usual  - and all the staff helpful and friendly. Just as we all know anyway but its always good to see it in practice. Many thanks to everybody on the railway who made this such a great day.
We are now looking forward with excitement to the Spring Steam Gala.Today the S106 steamed to Minehead and the military goods train is assembled ready to go....
Here are some pictures of the day.

The saloon at Williton waiting for the up train

A visit to Williton Signalbox

Inside the saloon at Williton

Pru inspects the newly rewheeled Edward I at Minehead

Jenni's excellent tea and cakes....

Chairman and Chairman's wife entertaining in the Gauge Museum

At BL....

Waiting to leave MD

Tim travelled on the footplate to Washford - just getting ready to board!