The West Somerset Railway Association’s locomotives
The West Somerset Railway Association owns two former Great Western Railway steam engines.
- GWR 45XX Class 2-6-2T No 4561
- BR(W) Manor Class 4-6-0 no 7821 Ditcheat Manor
Also owned until its sale in 2008 to South Devon Railway, former Great Western Railway steam engine:
- GWR 64XX Class 0-6-0PT No 6412
- Nos 4561 and 6412 have given invaluable service on the WSR over many years. No 7821 was acquired in 2008.
Having worked on West Country branch lines for over 30 years prior to its withdrawal in 1962, No 4561 was purchased by the WSRA from Barry scrapyard in 1975, and - following extensive restoration by volunteers - re-entered service on the WSR in August 1989. The engine was a regular performer on the WSR over the following ten years - recreating a past era, as the 'small prairie' tanks were a regular sight on the Minehead branch in GWR and BR days - but was withdrawn for heavy overhaul in November 1998, having run over 46,000 miles in that period. No 4561 also spent short periods on hire to a number of other heritage steam lines . On 6 August 2007 the engine left Williton for static display at the Steam Museum at Swindon. No 4561 returned to West Somerset in September 2008 and is currently undergoing a heavy overall at West Somerset Restorations in Williton. It is hoped to have 4561 steaming on West Somerset metals again in 2016.
The WSRA purchased GWR-designed 4-6-0 Manor class locomotive no 7821 Ditcheat Manor in 2008. Ditcheat Manor visited the West Somerset Railway in 1998 and the type is very suitable for the line, designed specifically for heavy traffic on more lightly engineered lines. No 7821 was built at Swindon in 1950 and had a short working life with British Railways, baswed at Newton Abbot and Wolverhampton, before being withdrawn in 1965. It then spent 15 years at Barry scrap yard and was rescued by previous owner Ken Ryder in 1980.
Restoration was completed on the WSR and the engine subsequently moved to Great Central Railway and later the Churnet Valley railway before purchase by the West Somerset Railway Association. Ditcheat Manor has been cosmetically restored and is currently on display at “Steam” museum in Swindon. The locomotive is next in line to be fully restored by the Association for use on the West Somerset Railway.
No 6412 was one of the first engines to work on the WSR in the preservation era, sharing train workings on 'reopening weekend' in Easter 1976. The 'popular pannier' - as it is affectionately known - worked between 1976-78 and, after heavy overhaul from 1984 to 1993. A second heavy repair carried out by WSRA volunteers culminating in the engine re-entering service again in May 1998. No 6412 has worked over 40,000 miles whilst in WSRA ownership.
Following a full consultation with WSRA members, and a lengthy debate in committee, in October 2008, the Association decided to accept the offer from the South Devon Railway.
This locomotive has a very special place in the history of the West Somerset Railway and it is good to know it will be in good hands on a nearby railway. And No 6412 is sure to return to the WSR in the future as a very special guest at one of our events.
The WSRA also has a shareholding in another WSR-based engine - GWR '4575' Class 2-6-2T No 5542. This engine has been a regular member of the WSR steam fleet in recent years.
The WSRA has established an excellent engineering base at Williton (in a building formerly located at the GWR's Swindon Works), where all its locomotive restoration activities are carried out. A current project is the damage repair and overhaul of GWR 66XX 0-6-2T No.6695, following an incident whilst in transit from Swanage to the WSR for the 2015 Spring Steam Gala.
Donations to the overhaul and return to traffic of 4561 and, in due course, 7821, be they one off or on a regular basis (e.g. by monthly standing order), are warmly welcomed.