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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 :

https://m.youtube.co./watch?v=hzSdurHDFoo

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: www.wsra.org.uk

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 https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/railrenewal2020
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: https://www.wsra.org.uk/ 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

robin.white@wsra.org.uk

07710336807

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.”

 

It is with deep regret that the Trustees have to announce that Paul Whitehouse has resigned as Trustee and Chairman, with immediate effect. Paul Writes “I have decided that the calls on my time elsewhere, particularly from my family, are too great for me to continue” Paul has been a Trustee and Chairman since the 2016 AGM and has led the organisation through the changes needed to implement the recommendations of the Coombes Report, so that we no longer carry out commercial activities, but concentrate instead on fundraising. Paul has been instrumental in bringing the various organisations on the railway into a closer working relationship, driving the movement towards ‘One Railway’.

Paul will be very much missed and we wish him all the very best for the future. Mike Sherwood has agreed to be ‘Acting Chairman’ until the AGM on 10th July.

The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust have received a large donation towards the 2019 Rail Renewal appeal, that takes the total over the half way point.  Together we have so far raised 51% of the targeted £250,000 for this winter’s track works.  Work has already begun on the Doniford section of the track and will continue over the winter period.

Working together to secure the future of  the West Somerset Railway.

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/railrenewal2019