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GWR 0-6-0PT no 9466 will be a surprise operating guest exhibit for the West Somerset Railway Association’s Steam and Vintage Rally at Norton Fitzwarren on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 August 2019, As a red route engine, no 9466 is restricted to the Norton – Bishops Lydeard section of the WSR but is likely to head the empty stock of the evening Somerset Coast Express from Bishops Lydeard to Norton Fitzwarren on Friday 2 August 2019. The Somerset Coast Express is a special excursion for those folks involved in the Rally. The loco will then bank the excursion from Norton to Bishops Lydeard, then cut off and return to Norton.
Over the Rally weekend, the loco will spend some time on static display and footplate visits, plus will also share duties with Barclay 0-4-0ST no 1219 on brake van duties on the Barnstaple Branch section of the Norton Triangles helping to raise more funds for the WSR’s current £250,000 track appeal.

Download the full press release HERE

The WSRA has two pieces of good news to share with supporters.


Firstly, we are very pleased to announce that on Friday Locomotive 9351 was handed back to the WSR plc in Minehead.  After a little more gentle running-in the loco is expected to return to traffic within a few days. The overhaul of this locomotive was a truly collaborative venture.  The boiler was overhauled at LNWR Crewe and the bottom end was overhauled at Minehead. The re-assembly and refurbishment of a suitable tender were then completed at WS Restoration in Williton. The total cost of the re-assembly and tender work was just short of £30,000, which has been funded by donations from supporters and by the WSRA.

 


Our second piece of good news relates to our own locomotive, Small Prairie 4561.  On Friday we received a cheque for £20,000 towards the cost of the restoration of the loco, from Garfield Weston Foundation. This is a result of the work of our Trusts and Foundations fundraiser Kate Williams.  Kate has also sourced £5,000 from the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust and £15,000 from the Pilgrim Trust for this project and the total now held in donations and pledges for restoring 4561 is over £120,000.  We still need more, but we are well on the way and now that 9351 has been returned to Minehead the team at Williton will be able to turn their attention to 4561.  More details on the restoration of 4561 can be found at https://www.wsra.org.uk/restoring4561/


9351 resting at Minehead after delivery ready to enter service after some more loaded test runs.


Ryan and Liam Pope with 9351 as they wait in Williton station to collect the token for the light engine return trip to Minehead, with driver Colin Henderson and fireman Liam Pope.

FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR RETURN TO MINEHEAD


Regulator rod with handle removed to allow additional gland packing to be added behind the oval flange to cure the leak shown below flange


9351 being weighed on equipment provided by the South Devon Railway. This allows the whole engine to be “floated” on hydraulic load cells that are bearing on the rail head and lifting the wheels clear of the rail head (just). At this point reading the pressure gauges on pump units provides a pressure reading that as the bore of the load cells is known, the weight of each wheel on the rail head can be calculated. Thus the engine can be weighed, the spring bolts adjusted balance the weight across the locomotive on each axle as well as bringing axle loads for each wheel set to the required weight front to back.


Application of clear coat prior to delivery

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust are to host a railway themed Retrospective Exhibition of the work of the late Peter Barnfield,  in the Gauge Museum on platform 1 at Bishops Lydeard.  The exhibition will run from 13th to 28th July and will feature over 50 artworks as well as models, books and greeting cards.  The exhibition will launch with a private view on 13th July at 2:00pm.

For more information about Peter Barnfield and his work please visit the website

Peter Barnfield’s books will also be on sale in the WSRA station shop on platform 2 where you can also relax with a tea or coffee or if the weather is favourable why not treat yourself to an ice cream.


Fire well alight over the grate, to bring 9351 to test pressure. Welsh steam coal giving a clean, bright smokeless fire.


Pressure climbing to the red line to provide steam for the boiler inspector’s safety valve accumulation test which checks that the safety valves lift at the correct pressure and will discharge excess steam effectively.


Ryan Pope adjusts the piston rod gland while his brother Liam takes a break from tending the fire prior to the initial test runs.


9351 waiting in Williton south yard for another short run inside station limits to check that everything is correct.


9351 running onto Williton down platform as part of the early proving tests.


Inspector Henderson checking all is shipshape with the valves and motion approaching Williton down platform during the station limits test run.

 

What comes next?
The next part of the testing program will be weighting the locomotive and tender to set the springs to provide correct loadings on all wheels.
Then some light engine runs Williton to Crowcombe and return will be undertaken between the service trains to prove the bearings, valves and lubrication are all doing what is expected. The firebox and tubes will be kept under close observation for any emerging leaks or fizzes.
Once 9351 has had a couple of days running with no issues, the brick arch will be installed and some further loaded ECS test runs will be conducted. Then if all is well, 9351 will be handed over to the Minehead loco and be back into front line service as part of the WSR home fleet, just in time for the peak summer season.


Outside in ex-showroom condition, awaiting the first steaming of 9351’s 2nd decade of preservation operation. WSR Inspector Colin Henderson has checked the boiler for plugs and fittings being all present and correct plus the oil boxes and pots have the correct trimmings in place.


Tender for 9351 on jacks, the old wheel sets have been removed. The underside of the tank has received patches. The main draw bar clevis with new pin and very large nut can be seen on the set of steps.


Tender wheel sets with axle boxes being prepared to be run under
the jacked up tender.


Tender being lowered onto the axle boxes.


WSR fireman Liam Pope has the honour of lighting the first fire.


The first fire takes hold.


Smoke from the chimney.


9351 with express headlamp code displayed.


9531’s completed front end, new chimney casting now with copper cap, old chimney casting in foreground acting as a donations box. The BR style cast smoke box door number plate provide a clue as to the finial livery 9351 will carry for the next 10 years.


An overview of 9351 ready to receive visitors over the 40th Anniversary celebrations weekend with viewing platform strapped to the rear of the locomotive, note the tender behind.
The boiler cladding is now with a flattened gloss coat to provide depth of colour when the final gloss coat is applied. Copper injector feed pipes to be fitted to the top feed/safety valve casting, then the covers can be fitted to allow for the final gloss coat to be applied. Brass bonnet under repair. Expansion link assembly on the bench to the rear of the locomotive to show visitors this normally hidden key item of steam locomotive engineering.


9351’s current tender being prepared to receive the overhauled wheel sets “donated” from the WSR plc spare tender chassis that was moved to Williton in January. The tender wheel sets on 9351 were at the end of their service life hence being swapped with those from the WSR plc spare tender. Tender brake rigging and pipework on floor as part of the preparation to lift the tender off it wheel sets.


Another view of the new tender wheel sets that are part of the final push to complete 9351. The collared ends to the axle journals are shown, as well as the large root radii where the journal meets the wheel. This arrangement reduces the stress raising aspect of the change in section of the axle but allowing the replaceable bearing bronzes (white metalled) to provide side control on the wheel sets via the axle box castings when installed in the frame.


9351’s footplate, new hardwood floor now fitted with just the boiler pressure gauge to fit. The displacement lubricator (bronze casting behind regulator handle) shown clearly. Sanding controls are below the reverser handle. Fire-hole “flap” and chain to flick it open or closed shown. With the tender attached, this wide view would not be so easy to obtain.

Over the weekend of 8th and 9th June, the West Somerset Railway (WSR) will be holding a special 40th anniversary event to mark it becoming England’s longest heritage railway forty years ago in 1979.

As Quantock Brewery is one of the closest businesses to Bishops Lydeard station,  Quantock have brewed an exclusive new beer to mark this special occasion.

The new beer is called ‘QUANTOCK STEAMER’ which is a light amber ale at 3.8% ABV, brewed with light roasted malts and two great English hops. These combined give fantastic notes of orange and citrus, plus a hint of spice.

This new brew will only be available via the WSR’s train buffet cars, the Turntable cafe on Minehead station and the Quantock Brewery Shop & Taproom at Bishops Lydeard. The ‘Quantock Steamer’ will sit well alongside ‘Gold ’76’, another beer brewed by Quantock just for the WSR to mark the line’s initial 1976 reopening.

“Tales of the West Somerset Railway”

When the former British Rail closed the once-bustling former Great Western Railway 25-mile branch line to Minehead from Taunton in 1971, a local businessman and railway enthusiasts simply refused to let it die.

They all thought the railway was well worth saving, as did many in the local community, and so they battled with both the National Union of Railwaymen and British Rail to be allowed to run their own trains again as a private line to be called the West Somerset Railway (WSR).

Crucially, the WSR lobbyists gained the support of Somerset County Council which bought the track bed from British Rail with a view to perhaps turning much of it into new roads if the embryonic line failed.

The WSR company and support organisations were set up and steam locos, coaches and diesel multiple units were gradually acquired to use on the nascent line’s planned services; staff were trained and recruited; skilled volunteers and railwaymen and women came to help from all over the country; funds were raised by whatever means possible; and the track work and signalling was slowly reinstated, often using recovered, redundant items from around the rail network. A lot of work was done in a fairly short time to get the line ready for business again.

After five years, their persistence finally succeeded and, in April 1976, the new West Somerset Railway was born and it reopened initially on just the three miles from Minehead to Blue Anchor. But it was an auspicious start!

Over the next three years, the line was steadily reopened in stages. First to Washford, Watchet and Williton, and then to Stogumber, and finally to Crowcombe and Bishops Lydeard as the line’s new southern terminus which was reached in 1979 making it the country’s longest heritage line at some 20 miles.

Now, the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust (WSSRT) is set to publish a new 40th anniversary book chronicling some personal memories and momentous events of the last four decades years on Friday 7 June 2019 compiled by three long-serving supporters who produced it.

West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Chairman Chris Austin OBE comments:

“Sadly, WSR trains could not run on to Taunton as was originally hoped for by the line’s founding pioneers. However, the two-mile line close to the former mainline junction at Norton Fitzwarren was retained as a tantalising glimpse of what might yet come to pass in years to come.

“And I’m pleased to say there is now a mainline rail connection there again and trial GWR shuttle services from Taunton to Bishops Lydeard are starting this summer!

“The last 40 years have seen the West Somerset line largely go from strength to strength, and through some rocky times too, but it is now one of the top heritage steam and diesel railways in Britain, and a powerhouse in the Somerset tourism economy.

“It’s fitting that, four decades on, three of our WSR volunteers and stalwarts for most of that whole period have joined forces to edit a lavishly illustrated historical book of ‘Personal Reminiscences’ of the railway entitled ‘Tales of the West Somerset Railway’.

“The new book is jointly authored and edited by Ian Coleby, Allan Stanistreet and Ian Tabrett who all have strong, long-standing connections to the WSR and over 111 years of experiences on the line!

“This new book, launched to coincide with the 40th anniversary of trains returning to Bishops Lydeard on the weekend of 8th & 9th June and a special event on the railway, fondly recalls the efforts and memories of a few of those who worked so hard to rebuild the railway in that time and help achieve some great things which were once pipe dreams.

“All funds raised by the book sales will go towards supporting the railway which is now making rapid progress on a recovery plan to ensure the line has a sound future for the next 40 years too.

“The new book forms part of the Trust’s outreach work to encourage interest in the railway and its history, and the line’s social and economic significance.”

 

NOTE: The book is due to be launched at a special private evening event by invitation only on Friday 7 June in the WSSRT’s Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard.

Published by the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, the 130-page book is illustrated in colour throughout, and very reasonably priced at £8.99.

It has a personal Foreword from former Bridgwater MP Tom King, now Lord King, who took a keen interest in the line.

Copies will be available from the WSRA shop on Bishops Lydeard station.

 

ABOUT THE THREE EDITORS

ALLAN STANISTREET

Allan was born in 1940 and had a career as a soldier and civil servant.

He joined the WSRA in July 1974 and has been a shareholder since 1976.

He volunteered prior to reopening on Permanent Way and subsequently as booking clerk and TTI.  He now assists in the WSR Association office at Bishops Lydeard and as a ‘PIC’ at Norton Fitzwarren during the annual rally. He wrote the first four editions of the guide book and, with Steve Edge, the first stations and buildings book. He is the founder editor of the Journal and now on the editorial team. He compiled “Portrait of the West Somerset Railway” (Ian Allan, 1996) and has written or co-written seven other books.  It is understood that “Portrait” was the first book to describe a railway in the preservation era.

 

IAN COLEBY

Ian is a life-long railway enthusiast and has been a volunteer on the West Somerset since 1983 as a signalman and a director (at various times) of the WSSRT, the WSRA and the WSR PLC. During 2018, he served briefly as plc Chairman. Having taken a keen interest in railway history, Ian wrote the definitive history of the Minehead line in 2006 and has continued to study the history of the line. Ian has been the editor of the WSR Journal since 2017.

 

IAN TABRETT

Like most small boys in the 1950s, Ian became interested in railways in general and steam in particular while travelling on the Cheddar Valley branch to and from school for seven years. He has been a member of the WSRA and a shareholder of the WSR for three decades, and is on the editorial team of the Journal and a regular contributor. Now retired, he worked as a journalist for 50 years on regional papers, BBC Points West in Bristol and finally for HTV as senior news producer.

 

ENDS