West Somerset Railway Association Station Jottings

As I write these jottings I am acutely aware that the week ahead will see the second major event of the year on the railway, that of the Antiques Road Show event at Minehead. Our own sleeping coach was sent to Minehead to be part of the set up. I well remember the hours and years it took to restore this coach to its former glory behind the scenes in Williton Shed and the same is happening today. If you would like to volunteer to help please let me know and I will put you in touch with someone; this work is very rewarding, if a little slow at times.

Unfortunately, due to gauging issues an incoming High Speed train could only go as far as Bishops Lydeard and not to Minehead this as the coaches on these trains were some ten feet longer than those running on the railway.

I was fortunate enough to attend the South Devon Railway on the evening of 9th May to witness the last but one run of the day before the little tank loco, 1639 came out of service after ten years in service. It will now undergo it’s ten-year boiler examination and overhaul. It is the first loco on that railway to last the full

10 years, in that time it has worked on a number of railways and I believe it worked on the Weymouth Quay line and it still carries it’s warning bell on the side. When I first saw it that day I thought I was seeing double as it was not in its usual green with markings and it had Z48 head board on the front with A-class headlights. But no, I was not seeing double: the little loco had, with permission of First GWR, been repainted in the First’s new colour with their logo on the sides of the tanks and the Z48 represented the last official fast run of a Castle class loco on the Western Region of British Railways. All good fun and a most enjoyable evening for those that went.

The loco Royal Scot visited the railway but was taken off the train at Norton Fitzwarren. It was coaled-up there and after turning came up to Bishops Lydeard for servicing before going back later that day. I hope Fiveways gets to you early so that I can you remind you that Flying Scotsman is around on 26th May.

Now that all track work and signalling is complete at Williton, I was amazed at the number of changes that have taken place in the signal box. There is only one spare signal lever now and what they call the block shelf is now littered with instruments along with a fully illuminated track diagram. If you get the chance go and have a look.

If you have been down to the station lately, no doubt you will have seen that some of the coaches have had a colour change to blood and custard. This was the early British Railways colours for coaching stock before it went back to maroon and then each region went back to their former colours. I used to like the later colour of the Western suburban coaching stock, which was red. These coaches were made into sets of 2, 3, and 6 formations, depending on what services they were used on and were called B sets. There were mainline coaches and we could call these the A sets but in between these two lots of coaches sat the Auto coach trains and the flying bananas as they were affectionately known. These were the pioneering diesel rail cars of the Western Region the forerunners of the diesel multiple units of today. They were known as flying bananas because of their colour scheme of chocolate and cream and because of their shape. There are additional diesels running days over the next two months as well as the Diesel Gala in June.

Finally, a reminder that the WSRA Gala takes place on the weekend of 5th/6th August at Norton Fitzwarren.

Ian Aldridge

Railway Correspondent 

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