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13. 200922 4561 RD Horn wip 6

This Photo shows the Right Driving horn with both horn blocks snugly in place and bolted to the frame plate. The domed heads of the 14 fitted bolts, 7 each side, have been given a coat of primer to protect them against corrosion. A square shanked horn stay stud has been fitted to the underside of each horn block for alignment when fitting the horn stay. These stay studs have yet to be finish machined with a screw thread beneath the shank for bolting up the horn stays in due course.

14. 200922 4561 Hornstays wip 7

Horn stays are fitted across each pair of horn blocks partly to retain the axle boxes but also to tie the lower edges of the frame plate together. This Photo shows the 6 new horn stays which were cut from thick steel plate prior to being machined with a square hole within each of the recessed sections. Each stay is identified with its position under the horn blocks in the frames and has been fitted over the appropriate stay stud shanks in order to mark out where the recessed sections needed to be located. Each has been rough machined but has yet to be finished to suit the underside of its horn blocks in such a way that limited adjustment can take place in service to compensate for wear and tear in service.

15. 200917 4561 Wheelsets 8

Away from the frames work has been steadily progressing with painting the 5 wheelsets shown here. The 2 smaller, or pony wheels are from the leading and trailing trucks, the others being the main driving wheels. All have been primed with one pony set having been given its first coat of black paint. Unfortunately it has been found that the main driving axle (far right in photo.) has to be replaced as its axle journals have worn below scrap size. Arrangements are to be made for supply and fitting which will have to be done off site. If you would like to contribute to the cost of this work you can do so  HERE

“The Partnership Development Group (PDG) met yesterday to consider proposals from the PLC towards achieving ‘One Railway’ via a fundamental re-organisation of the PLC to create a parent charity, with the PLC operating as a subsidiary company. The meeting was also attended by John Bailey, architect of the recent report recommending these changes.
The PDG is the WSR stakeholder forum established to consider and advise on policy and other matters affecting the whole railway. The group includes representatives from the WSRA, WSSRT, DEPG, S&DT and representatives for Staff, Station Masters and Friend groups, as well as the PLC and representative from the Local Councils.
The whole PDG was unanimous in supporting the roadmap and principles of the PLC initiative. It endorsed the terms of reference for the project and has also agreed to act as a reference group for ongoing consultation and assist with project development.
The Group recommended that the project should get underway as quickly as possible since there appears to be a consensus across the majority of people on the railway that this is right way forward. Indeed, there was an element of ‘just get on with it’ along with a recommendation to try and find a respected and independent chairman to lead the initial formation of a new parent charity and develop relevant articles of association.
Steve Williams, PDG Chairman commented: ‘This is potentially the biggest change to the WSR railway structure in over 40 years and it was heartening to see a cross-party consensus across all representatives on the PDG. It also re-enforced the message that in order to achieve the required agreement on the proposed changes, it is important to work across all groups in a process of consensual evolution’.
Mike Thompson PLC Project Lead confirmed that the next steps are to send a letter to all shareholders of the PLC outlining the broad proposals to solicit an initial indicative response. If this is broadly favourable, the next phase will be to develop appropriate timescales and milestones toward achieving the desired re-organisation, ready to present for approval by the relevant member groups, no later than their 2021 AGM’s.”

Members will have received invitations and documents for the AGM, to be held on 26th September 2020, at 10.00am. There is detailed information on this website under Membership/AGM 2020 explaining how to book your place at the AGM, either in person, or via the weblink.

All places at the AGM must be pre-booked and will be checked for valid membership in the normal way.

Clearly, this year’s AGM will be different from normal, as the Covid-19 restrictions limit the numbers of members who can attend the meeting, and have forced us to set up the remote online meeting, with postal voting for online attendees (as well as anyone else who wishes to use it)

Some members have told us that these arrangements make it difficult for them to express their views and have asked us to consider postponing the AGM. This is not possible, for two reasons:

  • We are required to hold our AGM by 30 September 2020 by legislation (Corporate Insolvency & governance bill 2020). The same legislation allows for AGMs to be held virtually.
  • If we postponed the meeting, there is no guarantee that Covid restrictions would be less onerous at any foreseeable future date. Indeed, they could become more restrictive.

Your Trustees therefore believe that it is right to go ahead and want to make it as easy as possible for members to ask questions, receive answers and air their views. The website and the information posted to you shows how you can vote at the AGM. In addition, we would like to offer further support:

Joining the virtual meeting
This is easy, requiring only a laptop PC or tablet or mobile with an internet connection. You will need an entry code and link, which will be sent to everyone registered for the remote meeting. There will also be detailed instructions on the simple process to be followed, for those who are not familiar with joining online meetings. These emails will be sent out in the days before the meeting, with the meeting link being the last email sent.

Asking questions, or expressing views
As an alternative, you are offered the opportunity to ask a question by email, which will be publicly asked and answered at the meeting, and the answer emailed to you afterwards. If you would like to take this up, please email to the trustee appointed to receive these questions: with the title “AGM question”

If emails are not your thing, you are welcome to phone Geoff on 01643 863574. If he is not available, there is an answerphone that will take messages, and calls will be returned if you leave a contact number. Anything received by 18.00 on 25th September will be followed up.

You can also listen to the debate by phone, by ringing a dedicated number and entering the conference ID. IF you would like to do this, please let Geoff know at least 24 hours before the meeting and he will arrange for you to have the necessary information and joining instructions.

By these means, we hope to make sure your views are heard at the AGM in a way that suits you.

WSRA Trustees 21/9/2020


If you have any technical queries on the joining process for the meeting (online or in person) please email or call the WSRA office on 01823 433856.

Not yet a WSRA member?   You can JOIN US NOW

11. 4561 Horn bolts wip 4

Having fitted the bolts to 5 sets of horn blocks so far the final 14 bolts are seen here during manufacture. The two on the left have their shanks rough turned and their screw threads cut while their heads have yet to be domed. The remainder have already been done and now await their shanks being turned to finished sizes with the required tolerance to suit their individual holes in the frames.

12. 4561 Expansion link 5 copy

Although we have access to the majority of the original drawings we need for the overhaul, many railway drawings were produced of assemblies. Where specific parts are needed, separate detail drawings of the particular items have to be produced either to ensure clarity in the workshop or to pass to our supplier when parts have to be bought in. An example are the two expansion links which have to be replaced for which the drawing shown here has been produced. This shows the finished product but needs to have some machining allowances added when we have finalised the production process to be used and can place an order.

Work has also started on producing the studs that are required to be fitted in the underside of each horn block and used to secure the horn stays when fitted. These horn stays which are the next items to be machined and fitted, straddle the gaps between each pair of horn blocks to retain the axleboxes in the frames. This will become clearer when we have a photo to show you.

National Transport Trust (est. 1965 as Transport Trust) is the only national body which promotes and encourages the preservation and restoration of Britain’s transport heritage in all its forms – road, rail, wings and water.

The National Transport Trust Commemorative Awards comprise four Commemorative awards named after key founding members of the Transport Trust and represent the very best of the year’s nominated projects.

Small Prairie 4561 Steam Engine
Owned by the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA)
The Alan Moore Awards for restoration assist preservation projects that are underway but not completed. Applicants need to show that some progress has already been made, that there is a clear and costed future plan and a realistic likelihood of completion within 12 months of the application being made. Applications will assessed on the basis of rarity, technical historic or social significance, quality of workmanship, proportion of work being carried out by applicant, originality of design and materials. in addition The Trust needs to be satisfied that, after restoration, the item will be seen and enjoyed at reasonable intervals by the general public and that, as far as is reasonably foreseeable, the item is not destined for the market place and will be retained by the restoring owner/s.

Designed by G J Churchward and built at Swindon Works in 1924, Small Prairie 4561 is typical of the steam locomotives that would have run in the West Country and beyond between the 1920s and the mid-1960s. It spent 32 years of its working life on branch lines in Devon and Cornwall, before finally being withdrawn from service and scrapped in May 1962, having notched up 997,635 miles.

The next 13 years were spent languishing at Woodham Bros scrap yard in Barry, South Wales. In 1975 it was purchased by a group from the West Somerset Railway and transported by road to the WSR. After some repair work, the 4561 became a regular feature on the West Somerset railway between 1989 to 1998, and was a popular part of the locomotive fleet. Since this time it has been stationed in our restorative workshops awaiting repair.

In April 2018, a small group of WSR engineers, including the Head of Mechanical Engineering and the WS Restoration Engineering Foreman, met with a group of trustees and the ex-CME Andy Forster and all confirmed their agreement that Small Prairie 4561 was the right locomotive to prioritise for restoration. That decision was endorsed by the full board of WSRA Trustees and it was agreed to re-start the restoration project in earnest. The bulk of repair work will be completed at the Restoration works in Williton by a team of trained staff, volunteers and apprentices. It is a smaller locomotive than some of the others which are regularly run which makes it ideally suited to the West Somerset railway, which mainly transports visitors and tourists along the 23-mile line.

The Small Prairie offers a cheaper alternative to some of the larger steam trains as it is more efficient and designed for a smaller track. Furthermore, running their own locomotive would reduce the cost of renting steam trains for the line, in turn saving  around £40,000-£50,000 a year.

The West Somerset Railway (WSR) is a 23-mile long railway running through the heart of West Somerset. WSR is one of the largest tourist attractions in the area, bringing around 200,000 visitors each year. The organisation has become an integral part of the wider local community, providing employment and volunteering opportunities and contributing around £9 million a year to the local economy through tourism.

West Somerset Railway Association is a community led, member driven, charitable association that supports the West Somerset Railway. The aim is to preserve and restore the heritage of the WSR, to fundraise, promote education, ensure community involvement, and to leave a legacy for future generations. The WSR operates heritage steam trains along its line as its core activity, however, it also has a large number of other activities including educational visits, heritage restoration, museums, local events like the 1940s weekend, to steam galas and even Santa trains for the younger generation! Thus the restoration of this iconic locomotive will secure its place in the local and national transport heritage scene and is therefore thoroughly deserving of a restoration award.

The award, which under normal circumstances would have been presented in June, is now hoped to be presented in October at Brooklands.

WSRA fundraiser, Kate Williams, reports that we have received a grant of £3,500 from the Aurelius Charitable trust to help towards the restoration costs of 4561. This brings the total secured towards this project from trusts and foundations to £82,940.67. The Aurelius Charitable Trust makes donations reflecting the founder’s interests in the conservation of culture inherited from the past and the dissemination of knowledge, particularly in the humanities field although not in the educational field.

Together with individual and regular giving commitments we have now raised almost £150,000 towards the restoration of Small Prairie 4561. Work is ongoing at Williton and the blog can be read HERE

I have been a WSR volunteer since 2000, working in the loco department and involved with heritage standard gauge steam locomotive operation and overhaul since 1990. I am also director of a small engineering company that uses traditional engineering processes but also embraces modern processes.

I have been greatly concerned by recent loss to the WSR of much potential for the future, the loss of the support of people who could deliver that future and loss of the good reputation that the WSR had built up in the past.

I would seek to ensure that the considerable efforts of those who have gone before should not be lost to the future.

To this end, the restructuring of the WSR as outlined in the Bailey report is something that I fully support and wish the WSRA to progress taking a lead to bring all WSR stakeholders together to provide a safeguarded future for the WSR.

I also wish to see a WSR evolve that is welcoming to its many volunteers and can effectively engage with the local  community to enhance the West Somerset offer to visitors and residents alike.

Additionally the WSR has a role to play facilitating the training of young people in business, hospitality, engineering and land management skills. Beyond that the development of training in traditional heritage engineering will ensure that our wonderful railway has a sustainable future.

The WSRA is well placed facilitate delivery of these essential building blocks for the future.


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9. 200820 Cylinders loaded plus blokes copy

At around 9.30 on the morning of 20 August Andy Lee (on ground) and his colleague from R&A Transport are looking very pleased with themselves in photo.1 (courtesy Martyn Hughes, Roach Eng.) having just loaded our freshly machined cylinders plus the old cylinder block on to their lorry at Roach Engineering ready for transport to Williton. The old cylinder block is on the LH end. This had been sent to Roach to act as a pattern along with copies of the relevant ex GWR drawings to ensure that all the necessary machining was undertaken of cylinder faces, piston and valve bores and all holes drilled to size and/or tapped as needed.

8. Cylinder blocks arrived (2)

This Photo was taken just after 14.00 the same day in Williton Works yard and shows the two new cylinders which had just been delivered on their pallets on the ground with a rather pleased looking Ryan Pope. He did pass the comment that “they’re here and I am very happy.” The next stages will be to fit the new extension frames together with the cylinders into the locomotive’s main frames in the workshop. At present the boiler for 0-6-0T no.1857 is in the way for doing this so priority has had to be given to completing the re-staying of the firebox backhead and checking that all other work has been completed ready for testing to be carried out preparatory to replacing this boiler on that locomotive’s frames.

10. 200825 Left driving horn bolts fitted copy

Meantime, progress has been made with making the new fitted bolts for the horn blocks. These are the guides within which the locomotive coupled wheel axleboxes are located. The first 28 bolts have enabled the final fitting of the left trailing and left driving wheel horn blocks. Photo.3 (maj) at midday on 25 August shows the 2 LH driving wheel horn blocks assembled in the LH frameplate with 7 bolts driven into each block place with nuts on the inside. One of the RH blocks can be seen through the horn awaiting its new bolts to be fitted. It was planned to compete fitting of the LH horn blocks by close of work the same day. On completion of fitting all 6 horn blocks the next stage is to fit the horn stays preparatory to grinding the working faces true to specific dimensions ready for fitting the axleboxes.

The trustees of the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA), and the board of the West Somerset Railway PLC (PLC) are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement which will financially support the railway during these challenging times. Today’s agreement means that:
• The WSRA has sold their promotions business (which operates a shop & café at Bishops Lydeard and a restoration workshop at Williton) to the PLC
• The PLC will pay the WSRA an agreed sum of £90,721 for the assets of that business
• The WSRA will loan £70,000 to support the PLC, which has been prevented from operating by the Covid-19 restrictions. The low-interest loan is secured by charges on two WSR PLC owned coaches.

Mike Sherwood, acting Chairman of the WSRA said “I am pleased that we have been able to conclude this matter to the satisfaction of both parties. The WSRA will now be able to give its full attention to fundraising on behalf of the railway, to further supplement the financial support we are already providing at Williton, Minehead and via the rail renewal campaign”

Jonathan Jones-Pratt Chairman of the PLC said “Both parties have worked hard to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. We can now move on to focus on the preparations and funding necessary to bring the railway back into operation”.

Further details from:
Mike Sherwood, WSRA Chairman – or 02920 890055

Steve Williams PLC Director- or 01823-462898

Statement Ends


I have been a trustee of the Association for the last 3 years.

During that time, I have:


  • Chaired the Rally committee, which organises the annual Steam Rally, attracting around 6000 visitors and generating profits of some £40,000 each year.
  • Acted as steward of the Association’s land at Norton Fitzwarren until recently, and led the negotiations with the developer of Ford Farm, resulting in a positive outcome for the WSRA
  • Taken on the acting role of treasurer, by chairing the finance committee, formed after our treasurer stepped back for personal reasons
  • Provided support to Mike Sherwood, joining him at the ongoing working group with the plc and the Steam Trust
  • Acted as a director of WSRA promotions Ltd.
  • Volunteered as a signalman at Minehead and Blue Anchor

If re-elected, I will continue to work to secure the future of the Association and support the plc through the Covid crisis. In the longer term, I am in favour of restructuring the whole railway along the lines of the Bailey report. If successful, this would mean that the Association, and  other support groups, would merge into a totally new charity. This would be the most effective way to use the tax & other benefits of a charity to raise the funds we need for the future, as well as to avoid the conflicts that have bedevilled the railway over the years.

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