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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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WSRA Life Member 2221

I am a regular volunteer as signalman, guard and Responsible Officer on the WSR, where I first volunteered (at Washford) 41 years ago now.

I now hold the fundraising brief amongst the Trustees.  I have contributed to the fundraising effort to return 9351, to traffic, the £187,000 raised by the WSRA towards 2019/2020 winter works and the effort now gathering pace to complete 4561.  I now chair the Joint Fundraising Group for the whole Railway, which recently submitted a substantial bid to the DCMS heritage recovery fund.  I have a view of fundraising from the ‘other side’ as an independent member on the grant-making committee which manages the community fund associated with Hinkley ‘C’ power station.

In the past I have worked for the WSR plc as its Operations Manager, and served as WSRA Trustee and Chairman, WSSRT Trustee and WSR plc Director.

I worked as an Operations Manager for British Railways (last post Traffic Manager Bristol).  I retain my connection with the national network as a committee member of the south-west region of the Institution of Railway Operators.  Since 1995 I have been an employment and discrimination barrister, practising from chambers in London.  I often provide legal assistance to heritage railways and heritage railwaymen and women across the country.

I live alongside the Railway in the Station Master’s house at Stogumber.

I enthusiastically support the ‘Bailey’ reform proposals.

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I joined WSRA in 1992 while attending the Taunton 150 event and volunteered aboard Quantock Belle from 1994-2017, culminating as dining train manager for the final two years.  Now a member of the WSRA Rally committee, responsible for the beer tent, having been a Rally volunteer since 1995.  I worked at all 18 WSR Beer Festivals, having proposed the original festival in partnership with CAMRA and am currently chairman of CAMRA Somerset Branch.

A keen supporter of the WSR in all its various guises, a PLC shareholder, and member of WSSRT, SDRT and DEPG.  Previously served as a WSRA trustee during 2015 and 2016.  My decision to stand down followed a key recommendation of the Coombes Report, the independent committee of the time suggesting an entire new trustee board be appointed.  I have avidly followed the Association’s steady recovery and firm progress since and consider that we are now entering another most critical period in WSR’s development, something I very much wish to be involved with and contribute to, namely structural change.  I agree wholeheartedly with WSRA’s stance and stated aspirations for long-overdue reform of WSR’s existing arrangements.  I believe the Railway’s ability to survive and thrive now depends on such reform, sooner rather than later.

My career began as computer operator, then programmer for a life assurance company.  I left in 1982 to develop my own successful business dealing in personalised car number plates.  I am now close to retirement and hopefully more time to devote to my hobbies.

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The West Somerset Railway Joint Fundraising Group is pleased to announce that it has been able to support the PLC in submitting, on behalf of the whole railway, a substantial 6-figure bid to the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage established by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The bid focuses on winter infrastructure work for 2020/21, Covid-19 preparations for re-opening the Railway in 2021 and skills retention.
The Fundraising Group would like to thank all of those organisations and individuals on the WSR who contributed to development of the application.
The WSR also received a significant number of letters of support from MPs, local authorities and stakeholder organisations across West Somerset. Copies of their letters of support can be read HERE.
The result of the bid is expected to be known by the end of September but the Railway has found the process of making the bid has been of great value in defining priorities, formulating plans, and strengthening channels of co-operative working.

For Further details please contact either Robin White, Chair Fundraising Group or Steve Williams, PLC Bid lead Director

Following the success of the progress blog on the completion of 9351 last year, the WSRA has now started a progress blog on the work on Small Prairie 4561 as it moves towards a rolling chassis.  The blog will be updated approximately weekly, whenever there is good progress to report and it can be read HERE

Welcome to our restoring 4561 blog, which in the first instance will document the progress to rolling chassis.  The majority of the work is being done at Williton under the management of Ryan Pope, with external contractors engaged as necessary. The blog is written by Mike Johns, who also lends his valuable experience to the work as it progresses.

200811 4561 Frame assembly

This photo shows the new main frames when work stopped on the locomotive's overhaul. At that time the main section behind the cylinders had been renewed and given a preliminary coat of paint for protection. The parts for the forward section had been trial fitted but awaited completion of the two new cylinders. These had been cast but were stored in Williton yard to weather pending machining in due course.

When work resumed late in 2018 the immediate need was to confirm that the firebox repairs done to the boiler at Buckfastleigh, SDR, were satisfactory prior to completing the remaining work. Sadly some issues were found and some protracted discussions have been necessary to agree a way forward.  The SDR will now provide some replacement parts which will be fitted at Williton who will also complete all outstanding work. This has become possible as a consequence of developing the necessary skills carrying out some boiler contract work for outside parties.

4561 cylinder machining 4

During 2019 arrangements were made to get the new cylinder castings machined by Roach Engineering who had the necessary skills and machinery and recently carried out similar work for other railways. This photo (courtesy Roach Eng.) shows the two freshly machined cylinders as seen when Ryan Pope and Don Wood visited Roach and expressed themselves well satisfied with the quality of the work that had been done. Arrangements were also made to have the new valve liners made and fitted into the cylinder blocks which now await transport back to Williton.

200811 4561 Horn block detail

Owing to the poor condition of the originals it was necessary to renew all the coupled axle horn block castings (12) which are the guides within which the axleboxes are contained in the frames. These have involved initial machining of the basic castings followed by final finishing to size ready for bolting into position. This photo shows one pair of new horn blocks temporarily bolted into position in the LH frame plate. They must be closely fitted to the frameplates, hence the jacks in position in the photo., before the bolt holes can be reamed to final size preparatory to 'fitted' bolts being driven into the holes. The fitting of these bolts is critical as it is important to minimise any possibility of the horn blocks becoming loose once the locomotive re-enters service. Work has just started on making the 84 fitted bolts that are required.

200811 4561 Leading pony truck

This Photo shows the leading pony truck frame which has been thoroughly cleaned ready for a detailed inspection to determine what remedial work may be necessary.

We still need more funds to help with the restoration so please give what you can.

aviva campaign

An Aviva Community Campaign has  successfully raised £1,100 with 23 supporters in 41 days, towards the restoration of Small Prairie 4561

Thank you very much to everyone who supported this campaign.

We still need more funds to help with this work so please give what you can