West Somerset Railway
Between the Quantock Hills and the Coast. Steam trains through 20 miles of superb scenery.
Station Masters' Jottings
The good weather over the recent school holiday period helped the railway get off to a good start to the season, with more passengers carried than last year. The change to steam from the Bishops Lydeard end, rather than the diesel multiple unit, has paid off.
Having looked at the new timetable for this year I note that there are only two weekends in November when we are not running trains. This is possible because all major track and bridge replacement work is now finished and those parts of the line affected have now been brought up to standard by mechanical tamper. The restored footbridge for Williton platform, that I have mentioned Before, is finished and is due back from Cardiff on the 15th March when it will be hoisted into place, with secondary work being carried out on the 16th. Unfortunately, the bridge will not be in use as the steps will not be in place for the Gala weekends. The next major project by the Railway for Williton is to increase the length of the up passing loop so that each loop can accommodate ten coach trains. The loop was shortened by British Rail as part of the rationalisation plan. The Railway will have to have a second bridge over the river and the point currently under the road bridge will be moved out nearer to the Taunton end of the station. This work will involve additional signals, point rodding and cabling. There could also be a head shunt incorporated to make the track layout more flexible in the future. This project is likely to cost some £40,000 and will be subject to this year's appeal to shareholders of the railway and the travelling public. An additional point at the North end yard (Minehead end) is currently made up in three sections ready to be slid into place and bolted up ready for use; this will leave only the sleepers and rail to be put in place for a new siding to be complete.
Most of you will have seen in the press that the boiler of the newly built Locomotive, Tornado, has been returned to Germany for repair following three separate failures of stays. Unfortunately, this has led to the cancellation of the loco's visit to the railway in July although the August appearance is still on.
I touched on the timetable for this year earlier but remind all readers that there is no 09.35am service to Minehead this year - the first train of the day is 10.25am on all running days except Gala days, which are subject to special timetables. Please be aware that Mondays and Fridays early and late season there are no trains. I believe we are in exciting times as the timetable is the best so far. From April to the end of September there are a minimum of six trains a day in both directions. I feel it is appropriate to mention that the Railway has had no confirmation as to the Red Arrows re-visit this year. However, I am informed that following last years events, lessons have been learnt and the normal timetable will be substituted and a special timetable will be put in place for the day should this event take place sometime early August.
The railway also runs Murder Mystery, Fish & Chip and Cream Tea trains plus a Steam and Diesel Engineman course - to book phone Minehead 01643 704996.
Lamp posts - whilst every County seems to be switching theirs off, the railway is adding more to some of its stations with additions at Stogumber, Crowcombe Heathfield and shortly, Dunster - by the way, have you spotted the missing trees at Stogumber and Dunster? The Railway is going to make a memorial garden at Stogumber for those who wish to have a memorial to their loved ones who served on the railway.
Preparations for the new season are underway at all stations with much painting and gardening taking place, ready for this year's best kept station competition. At Bishops Lydeard most of the flower tubs are planted up ready to be placed out on the platforms and you will note that a new retaining wall has been built by the bridge on Platform Two for a new flowerbed to be created. There will be a bigger display this year of spring flowers and some of the existing flower beds have been revamped.
Behind the two maroon vans in the old cattle dock siding standing is an old rail horse box awaiting restoration. A spare wagon chassis has been earmarked to put it on when finished so that it can form part of the heritage wagon fleet, although they mainly ran on the back of passenger trains in former days.
Revamping of the model railway in the gauge museum is taking place with many hours work taking place. It is hoped to be finished by the Spring Gala. The Taunton Model Railway Club, who have their railway layout on Platform 1, are also preparing for this season. They have a superb layout based on the Somerset & Dorset Railway's Bath Green Park Station, which I understand is now a Sainsbury's Supermarket! The model railway will be open for viewing on all Gala Days and on Wednesdays in August. If you would like to join the group why not pop along and see them on a Monday or Thursday evening, 7.30pm to 9.30pm - you will be most welcome.
Finally, I move onto Norton Fitzwarren where I am informed the rest of the rail is now awaiting manpower to lift it onto sleepers and bolt it all up so that the triangle will be complete. This is going to be a slow process as there is a lot of work to be done by the permanent way gang on other more urgent projects but has to be done by August 6th, ready for the Steam Fayre and Vintage Vehicle Rally, which takes place over the weekend of the 6th -7th. Please note there are no vintage buses to this attraction this year. New for this year is a combined Rail and Rally ticket as a train shuttle service will run between Bishops Lydeard and the Rally site.
A Happy Easter to all readers.
Ian Aldridge. Former Station Master.