1 2857 at Kidderminster by Phil Marsh

Severn Valley Railway pair to visit West Somerset Railway Autumn Gala

Published: 25th August 2015

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Headline visiting locomotives for West Somerset Railway’s (WSR) October 1-4 Autumn Steam Gala will be GWR 2-8-0 No. 2857 and No. 7812 Erlestoke Manor. Owned by the 2857 Society and Erlestoke Manor Fund respectively, both are based at Severn Valley Railway. This will be No. 2867’s first appearance on the Minehead branch while Erlestoke Manor has previously visited and further guest locomotives are anticipated.

WSR-based motive power expected to be in action for the gala comprises ‘Large Prairie’ No. 4160 (making its final gala appearance before withdrawal for heavy overhaul), No. 4936 Kinlet Hall, No. 6960 Raveningham Hall and No. 7828 Odney Manor. In addition, Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust’s Peckett 0-4-0ST Kilmersdon is expected to provide shunting displays at the trust’s Washford station HQ.

Gala marks 40 years of WSR

Public passenger trains started operating over the revived WSR on Good Friday 1976 (when the inaugural train from Minehead to Blue Anchor was flagged away by Lord Montague of Beaulieu) but the first train movements on the line began the previous autumn, hence WSR is making the 2015 Autumn Steam Gala a commemoration of four decades of WSR operations. The Severn Valley Railway celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this summer.

Additional attractions include model railways at Bishops Lydeard and, on the Saturday and Sunday, a model railway exhibition in the Beach Hotel opposite Minehead station. The museums at Bishops Lydeard, Washford and Minehead will be open, as will the headquarters of the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group at Williton.

An hourly train service will run from both ends of the railway with licensed buffet cars on most gala trains. West Somerset Railway Association’s Hawksworth Inspection Saloon will be included in some selected trains and available for travel on payment of a supplementary fare on the day of travel.

How much and how?

Discounted Rover Tickets can be purchased in advance from www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk or by telephone from 01643 704996 (seven days a week).

One Day Rovers: £21.60 Adult, £19.35 (60+), £10.80 (5 to 15), £60.00 (family of two adults and up to two children).

Two Day Rovers: £32.40 (adult/senior), £16.20 (5 to 15).

Three and Four Day Rovers: £43.20 (adult/senior), £21.60 (5 to 15) £2.00 for 5 to 15 year olds on Sunday 4th only.

Younger visitors (age 5 to 15) will only have to pay a £2 flat fare for any journey, including Rovers, on Sunday October 4 when accompanied by a full fare paying adult or senior.

The nearest national network station is in Taunton, transfer to Bishops Lydeard then being required by regular bus or taxi.

Reunion lunch for WSR pioneers – were you one of them?

A reunion lunch for original volunteers and staff who helped to reopen the WSR is being held in the Beach Hotel (opposite Minehead station) on October 3. “We would like to welcome back those pioneers who worked from 1971 to 1979 to restore the line from Minehead stage by stage until trains began running to and from Bishops Lydeard in the latter year,” said WSR General Manager, Paul Conibeare.

“Sadly, of course, age will have thinned the ranks of those early volunteers and staff but we would like to welcome those who wish to attend to be our guests.” Attendees will be offered two day tickets so they can also travel the line - and in their mind’s eye compare the current line with what is was like in the first decade of its revival.

Volunteers from the early era, including members of support groups such as the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust and the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group, who would like to attend should contact John Simms at WSR’s Commercial Department via john.com@wsrail.net or 01643 700382 by Monday September 28.

Railways of Exmoor weekend

The 3-star rated Yarn Market Hotel in Dunster is offering a special themed break over the gala weekend presenting the opportunity to visit the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway and the water-operated Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway in addition to WSR’s gala. The package includes free transport to Dunster station, a WSR gala Day Rover, an evening post-dinner talk about WSR, a coach to Lynton and Woody Bay to visit the Cliff Railway and L&BR and hotel meals. For details and bookings call 01643 821425 or email hotel@yarnmarkethotel.co.uk.

Other news from West Somerset Railway

WSR has purchased GWR Large Prairie No. 4110 as ‘one for the future’. No. 4110 was purchased from Woodham’s Barry scrapyard in 1979 by what became the Great Western Railway Preservation Group. The locomotive, built at Swindon in 1936, last steamed in June 1965 and has never been restored, latterly being stored at Tyseley. The sale by GWRPG raises funds to complete the overhaul of its GWR 57xx Pannier No. 9682.

WSR confirms No. 4110 will be restored as a 2-6-2T (some years ago WSR restored Prairie No. 5193 in the form of a 2-6-0 tender locomotive in the form of a projected but never originally built GWR ‘Small Mogul’ which became WSR’s No. 9351). In addition to No. 9351, WSR owns No. 7828 Odney Manor. Other locos at Minehead are under long-term hire agreements. No prediction is being made as to when No. 4110 will be returned to steam, Minehead works currently being committed to overhauling No. 9351 and S&DJR 7F No. 88(53808).

A ‘Tiles and Towers Appeal’ aims to raise £150,000 to finance enhanced locomotive compound facilities at Bishops Lydeard station. Plans envisage construction of an open-sided shelter over the two existing inspection pits which will be sufficient to place four tender locomotives (or six large tank engines) under cover.

The appearance will be similar to GWR wartime ash shelters. The roof line will have a central raised clerestory vent running the length of the building, with illumination provided by flood lights down each side and centrally between the pits. The appeal also covers erection of a 22,000 gallon water tank obtained from Reading in December 2013. This will replace the existing life-expired tank at Bishops Lydeard and, with a weight of 80 tons when erected, will be one of the largest in use on a British heritage railway. Donations can be sent to West Somerset Railway plc (Tiles and Towers Appeal), The Railway Station, Minehead, TA24 5BG.

The total raised by The Friends of Minehead Station (FOMS) at its Readers Halt sales outlet on the station platform has passed the £350,000 mark. FOMS exists to support and improve Minehead station as a gateway for both the West Somerset Railway and the town. All the money raised is spent on improvements to Minehead station and its general upkeep. The Readers Halt second hand stall first opened in 1998.

WSR Plc has signed a new contract with Network Rail to assist with current work during the Bathhampton Blockade, part of which is linked to electrification of the Great Western main line. During August Freightliner Heavy Haul trains are being worked between the blockade and Norton Fitzwarren, where stone is unloaded on the WSRA’s Norton Triangle site by John Luffman Trading, which operates at the location.

Call for directors

As part of a move to strengthen the Board through a formal restructuring process, West Somerset Railway PLC is seeking to appoint new Directors to take strategic and policy leadership in the areas of Volunteer Development, Marketing, Inward Investment, Safety Audit and Human Resources. People from all walks of life with suitable professional and business backgrounds are being sought to fill these voluntary positions, although some expenses are reimbursed in line with Company policies. Recruitment packs are available from Steve Williams, Plc Planning Director, at williams@oakevillage.wanadoo.co.uk or by calling 01823-4628908 or 07748-637209. Applications close on September 7.

A recruitment day for volunteer guards and signalmen will be held at Bishops Lydeard station on November 15 starting 10.00. The event aims to address a potential shortage of volunteers in the near future. The day offers a chance to gain hands-on experience of what is involved in both roles without any commitment. Potential volunteers can turn up on the day, but if you want to know more about what is involved before deciding whether to go contact Pete Vile (guards) on peter.vile@wsrail.net or Chris Pratt (signalmen) on chris.pratt@wsrail.net for more details.

A sculpture by local artist, Dave Milton, was unveiled at Watchet station on August 15 by Cllr. Peter Murphy, Chairman of Watchet Town Council and Mayor of Watchet. The work was commissioned and funded by Friends of Watchet Station to commemorate the stations history and heritage. Fashioned in natural stone, inscription plates depict the stations along the Brunel-designed line to Watchet when it opened in 1862. The main inscription, ‘Welcome ye friends of progress’ , commemorates the words above the ‘welcoming arch’ when the first train arrived at Watchet station all those years ago.

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