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Dear Members

At this difficult time, your Trustees thought it was important to write to you to explain what we are doing to support our Railway.

At the moment the Railway is in the ‘deep freeze’ of Covid-19 lockdown with no trains running, virtually all staff on furlough and no activities being carried out apart from essential security patrols. This puts the Railway (like many other businesses, especially in the tourism sector) under considerable financial strain as this is the time of year when the Railway would expect to be open and welcoming our early season visitors.

Your Association stands ready to help. Your Trustees have been meeting (by internet conferencing) more regularly than normal. We are ready to help with as many projects on the Railway as possible. In particular maintaining volunteer competency, which we know is a matter of concern for a lot of you. Also areas such as infrastructure repair, maintenance of rolling stock, buildings maintenance and anywhere else we can assist consistent with our charitable objects. We have asked the WSR plc for their plans and look forward to working together to implement them.  Your donations at this difficult time will be vital in sustaining the Railway and ensuring that it re-opens in full health.

Any donations to the WSRA will be held securely and only spent in accordance with charitable objects or your own directions to support the Railway. We will claim gift aid where we are able to boost the value of your donations by 25%.

You can also donate directly to the WSR plc to support day-to-day operations and we are seeking to understand how we can assist the WSR plc with that effort which has raised over £30,000 so far.

All organizations that make up the wider WSR family need your support and we are working to encourage co-operation and engagement between all parts of the railway family.

We have been and continue taking the first two practical steps.

Firstly, we continue to lead the effort to have robust volunteer recruitment processes in place to support the Railway when it re-opens, including keeping the contact system going.

Secondly, to provide a focus for the Railway’s volunteers, staff, supporters and wider community, we have established a YouTube Channel called ‘West Somerset Railway Television’ to carry short video programmes on aspects of the Railway. This has received a warm welcome already. To access it, search in YouTube for West Somerset Railway Television or click HERE.  Do you have a WSR story to tell?  It’s easier than you think and we would be pleased to hear from you. Please contact Diana at

We are also preparing for the 2020 WSRA AGM. That may require altered arrangement to cope with the present restrictions. We will write to you again about that.
Our Railway has faced difficult times in the past, not least in 1971 and 1980 and come through. We are sure that it will do again with your help.

Stay safe, follow the government guidelines and we look forward to seeing you on the West Somerset Railway again shortly.

Mike Sherwood
Chairman, WSRA

To support the PLC day-to-day operations


After the West Somerset Railway plc (WSR) was forced to suspend operations and shut down on 17 March –  before the 2020 running season even got underway planned for Saturday 21 March –  an urgent appeal was launched on the company’s website for desperately-needed funds to help the 22-mile line heritage line get through the Coronavirus crisis.

And, in just two weeks since then, the WSR has received over £30,000 in donations and share purchases to help keep the railway’s wheels turning in the future!

This remarkable, strong show of support for the WSR has come from its many friends, supporters, stakeholders, shareholders, staff, volunteers and people across Somerset and the entire country, all of whom clearly want to see the railway survive and get through the second crisis to envelop the line in the last two years.

And the WSR website funding appeal has come at the same time as a number of other national appeals for emergency funds, including other heritage railways who are now all in the same boat as the WSR in having zero revenue and now facing considerable uncertainty over their futures, so its rapid success  in raising so much money is even more remarkable.

The money, which totals £30,140 to date (1 April), has come in the form of: website donations (£15,990); cheque donations (£100); WSR plc share purchases (£3,050), and WSR station group donations (£11,000), and it is going up day-by-day probably making it the most successful appeal for funds in the railway’s 44-year history.

And, it’s not just only been one-way traffic either as the WSR plc has itself given food from its now-closed Turntable Café in Minehead to the community via the ‘West Somerset Food Cupboard’, and also sourcing and donating suitable rubber gloves from its workshop as PPE to the local hospital too in a show of solidarity and support for both the area and the NHS.

The railway’s principal support organisation, the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA), has also appealed for funds for locomotive restoration work and infrastructure works on the line.  These funds enable the WSRA, which is a registered charity, to fund work carried out by the operating company’s workshops and technical staff. This will have two benefits: it will fund employment for paid staff, whose jobs may otherwise be at risk, and it will allow us to use the enforced closure of services to accelerate our restoration works.

WSRA members and supporters have been generous in the past in funding other railway projects, such as the return to traffic of steam locomotive No. 9351 and the rail renewal projects last winter, and supporters are being asked if they can support the Railway’s restoration and renewal again at this difficult time and so help turn a negative into a positive.

UK tax payers can also give more money because a ‘Gift Aid’ donation to a registered charity such as the WSRA is boosted by a 25% uplift from the UK Government, so a donation of £100 is then worth £125.

Commenting on the success of the WSR fund-raising appeal to date, WSR plc Chairman Jon Jones-Pratt said: “I’ve been both humbled and pleasantly surprised by this great show of financial support for the West Somerset Railway, especially when the minds of many people will naturally be on just getting themselves and their families through the Covid 19 pandemic crisis safely. It shows just how much people care about the WSR and what it means to so many of our friends.

“And I’m also very pleased that we have also been able to give something back to the local community too with our donations of food to the local ‘Food Cupboard’ and some rubber gloves for the NHS – whilst we know it’s only something fairly small in the scheme of things at present, we felt we had to do something positive to show solidarity with the community and every little helps at present.

”Our own WSR family has once again stepped forward to help us too with shareholders and our station groups contributing significant money to our cause, plus the WSRA infrastructure appeal as well. The more money that we can raise now will all help our lovely railway line to continue steaming through the West Somerset  countryside, and so help to prevent the WSR from becoming a Coronavirus casualty.”

WSRA Chairman Mike Sherwood said:  “As a registered charity and the Railway’s key support body the WSRA is pleased to be able to provide essential WSR project funding and to claim an additional 25% on tax payer’s donations to support the railway at this difficult time.”

Or send your donations to:   WSRA, The railway station, Bishops Lydeard, TAUNTON, TA4 3BX.  Gift Aid declarations can be downloaded HERE


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the railway is currently closed and likely to remain so until at least June. That means that at the moment we are not able to respond to new volunteer enquiries.  We are sorry about this. When the railway reopens volunteers will be needed so please bookmark this page and come back soon to check for updates .  Thank you so much for your interest in the West Somerset Railway.

The organising committee are continuing to plan for the rally to take place as normal and urge all exhibitors to book their places in the normal way. Based on current information, there is no reason to believe that current restrictions will remain in place in August.
Of course, we cannot offer a 100% guarantee that the event will take place, any more that we can guarantee that the sun will shine during the weekend. We will keep the situation under review and provide updates when appropriate.

We hope to see you at another enjoyable Rally in August

To assist our railway community, the WSRA has today launched ‘WSRA TV’ a you tube channel.

This intention is to publish short videos dealing with WSR subjects of interest to supporters, which could include the work of departments on the Railway, Railway Groups and individuals. Forthcoming videos will deal with the line’s history, locomotives track rolling stock and the like.

The channel can be found by watching the introductory video on our website or by seeking it out directly at :

It is expected that new material will be loaded over the coming days as it becomes available.

Social distancing will be respected, and much (perhaps most) of the work to produce content will be done electronically.

WSRA Trustee, Robin White said:

‘The WSRA Trustees have thought hard about how we can support our Railway community through the difficult weeks ahead until normality returns. This initiative will hopefully produce a body of material useful to the Railway for the future. If our first efforts are a bit amateurish, please forgive us as we learn but its been a steep learning curve. What we would most like to hear now is what content supporters would like to see. We are working on things like logos and format but thought it was important to get things going.’

The WSR Trustees have been pleased to welcome WSR plc Director Martin Brown to the Advisory group overseeing this work, along with Trustees Diana Ricketts-Tanner and Robin Moira White.

They can be contacted via the WSRA website:

The West Somerset Railway Association held its monthly Trustees’ meeting last Tuesday evening, this was a telephone conference call to take account of current concerns.

West Somerset Railway plc Director Martin Brown attended the meeting by invitation, and informed the Trustees of the understandable decision that the Railway would now not open on 21 March as expected. That closure is expected to last for some weeks.

The WSR plc is now considering how it can make best use of the period of enforced closure, perhaps by tackling some further infrastructure projects and transferring staff to work on those. The WSRA Trustees considered how they might support that effort as the WSR body with the lead responsibility for fundraising.

The WSRA has already opened a fund for infrastructure works, intended for use in the winter of 2020 / 2021. We have decided to promote that fund now and be prepared to fund infrastructure works in the coming weeks if suitable projects can be identified by the WSR plc.

WSRA members and supporters of the WSR have been generous in past months in funding the return to traffic of locomotive 9351 and the rail renewal projects last winter. We ask those supporters now to consider if they can again support the Railway’s improvement at this difficult time and turn a negative into a positive.

Supporters who are UK tax payers will know that a donation to a charity such as the WSRA is boosted by a 25% uplift from the UK Government, so a donation of £100 is worth £125.

We expect to be working closely with the WSR plc to be able to photograph works as they progress so that supporters can remain close to our Railway through this difficult period.

Donations can be made in the following ways:

By online giving at
By Direct bank transfer to WSRA at 30-97-00 account no 00443258 using reference “rail2020”
By card over the phone on Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 – 16:00 – 01823 433856
By cheque mailed to Rail Renewal 2020, WSRA, The Railway station, Bishops Lydeard, Taunton, TA4 3BX
News and updates can be found on our website: or join the WSRA to receive our regular email newsletter and quarterly journal.

The West Somerset Railway PLC, has stated:
“It is with real regret that West Somerset Railway has decided it has to postpone the first running services of the season.

Our staff and volunteers were really looking forward to welcoming visitors back to the railway, and did want to open, but following the most recent Government advice, we have concluded we cannot operate the service.

We will open as soon as the present health concerns are sufficiently under control, and this will be under consistent review.

We will be offering a refund for cancelled services or transferring to a new booking for when we are running again.

We will be putting out an update every fortnight at least, so watch for further news.”

Additionally, we can confirm that the Spring Steam Gala has been cancelled and the Quantock Belle dining train is cancelled until further notice.  The situation is being constantly monitored and further updates will appear as and when possible.  In the meantime we urge everyone to take care and stay safe.

The images below were taken during a visit to Roach Engineering earlier this week and show the progress being made on machining the cylinder blocks for Small Prairie 4561. We are expecting them back in around 6 weeks time, when the liners will also have been inserted.

As a result of an initiative on which the West Somerset Railway Association has been working for some time with Network Rail, 12 NR staff from Swindon and Birmingham came to work on the West Somerset Railway today (Monday 2nd March), assisting with the winter works programme.

One group worked to lay out sleepers on the track relay at Alcombe and the other group moved and filled Gabion baskets as part of ground stabilisation works in Washford cutting. Network Rail staff can be paid to volunteer for charities for 5 working days a year.

WSRA Trustee Robin Moira White said: ‘We are delighted with the first steps in this collaboration with Network Rail.  We hope this can grow significantly in future years.  We would be pleased to welcome NR staff from all over the U.K.  We are particularly grateful to the NR Western Route Director and local Asset Manager Matt Redstone for help to get this off the ground.’

The work carried out by NR staff is worth several thousand pounds which adds to the £187,149 invested in the railway this winter by the WSRA.


Photos (Credit WSRA)

(1) NR staff place new sleepers under the watchful eye of WSR Infrastructure Manager Andrew Young.

(2) NR staff loading a track trolley with stone to fill ground stabilisation Gabion baskets shown in the foreground.


Further comment:

Robin White, WSRA Trustee


The Board of the West Somerset Railway plc conducted an extensive search recently for a new General Manager to take over the reins for the 22-mile railway following the departure of previous GM Paul Conibeare last year. With some 22 quality applications submitted, detailed interviews and aptitude tests were then held in January by the WSR plc Board – along with representatives of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust and the West Somerset Railway Association — for the five short-listed candidates before the final appointment was made and confirmed.

The new General Manager is local Taunton railway-man and active WSR volunteer Justin Kerr-Peterson (36) who has worked for Great Western Railway as Senior Possession Strategy Manager at Swindon coordinating important track repair works since 2017, and previously as a senior manager for Network Rail from 2013.

But Mr. Kerr-Peterson has also had a 22-year parallel heritage railway career too since 1998 when he first joined the West Somerset Railway’s youth organisation as a keen teenage ‘Tracker’. He then rose through the WSR ranks to become a Travelling Ticket Inspector when still at school; then becoming a Guard whilst studying Archaeology at Southampton University; then joining the WSR’s commercial dept full-time and also acting as Assistant to the General Manager before becoming Deputy Operating Superintendent, and then a move to the big railway seven years ago.

West Somerset Railway plc Chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt commented: “We are very pleased to announce some excellent news about our new GM appointment and we welcome Justin back to the WSR team as one of our own home-grown talent. The Board and I are sure he will show the strength, expertise, knowledge, values and commitment to the WSR that are required to take us forward for the next part of our railway journey together.

“Justin proved himself more than capably through our tough interview process and, whilst challenged by some other excellent applicants, the Board of directors and key stakeholders all felt strongly that we had the right candidate in front of us. Clearly Justin has the relevant railway experience and competence to operate as a professional General Manager, and these attributes supported our decision. Personally, I am looking forward to working with him closely, and I know our staff are also very pleased that we have appointed ‘one of our own’ too. This is another key mile stone for the WSR as we rebuild our wonderful railway, and I’m sure that our ‘Wizzer’ will now be now safe hands as we hand over the day to day custody to him.”

Incoming new WSR General Manager Justin Kerr-Peterson comments: “I am absolutely thrilled and proud to be re-joining the West Somerset Railway ‘family’ on a full-time basis as the line’s new General Manager and look forward to working hard with Jonathan, the plc Board, our stakeholders, staff and supporters. The WSR holds a very special place in my heart having first starting volunteering back in 1998 as one of the first members of the Trackers Youth Group.

“I started off my railway career on the trains as a WSR Ticket Inspector, before becoming a Guard, and following University, I took up a full-time role within the Commercial Team progressing on to General Manager’s Assistant and finally Deputy Operating Superintendent before leaving to join the national network. I have remained as a volunteer throughout that time.

“Working for both Network Rail and Great Western Railway has also given me a much wider appreciation of railways as a whole and the importance of having clear goals and how to achieve them. I’m looking forward to continuing the work of not only strengthening and re-building the railway’s family using my knowledge and skills, but also re-establishing the West Somerset Railway’s position in the premier league of UK heritage railways.”

Mike Sherwood – Acting chair of the WSR comments: ” it was good to see the support charities being asked to participate in the recruitment process for the new General Manager. The WSRA welcomes Justin (back) to a management position on the railway and looks forward to working closely and co-operatively with him to help progress the WSR and secure its Heritage future.”