Saturday, 19 May 2018

Country Railways

I live by the main line just outside Taunton, near Cogload Junction. It is nicely busy and I enjoy watching 125s pound up and down. Not for much longer though as the IEPs have started to appear.
Today we were out in the WSR and the difference struck me. Not sure why it's taken me all these years, but there we are. Settled into a comfy corner seat in a compartment, the gentle steam engine motion soon had my head lolling.
I found I was remembering Sassoon's poem:

 A Local Train of Thought

Alone, in silence, at a certain time of night,
Listening, and looking up from what I'm trying to write,
I hear a local train along the Valley.  And "There
Goes the one-fifty," think I to myself; aware
That somehow its habitual travelling comforts me,
Making my world seem safer, homelier, sure to be
The same to-morrow; and the same, one hopes, next year.
"There's peacetime in that train."  One hears it disappear
With needless warning whistle and rail-resounding wheels.
"That train's quite like an old familiar friend," one feels.

I was also reminded of John Betjeman's journey from Evercreech Jct to Burnham. I am sure most of you have seen it, but if not, please do follow the link and enjoy the next 26 mins. It is recommended.

Link to YouTube video

Friday, 11 May 2018

Best Kept Station Competition

We used to hold this competition several years ago but for reasons I don't understand we haven't run it for a while. Time to change that!

A brief conversation with Geoff Cross revealed his enthusiasm and we were off. In the past the competition has been done by a 'mystery shopper' but this time there is a set day, July 15th, when the judges will visit. I have secured the services of Richard Fox of Taunton Flower Show and Peter Tinckner of Wellington Camera Club to act as judges. Both Richard and Peter are railway enthusiasts and regular visitors to the railway.

I am pleased that the station staff have keenly taken to the idea and already the stations are looking fantastic. 

Of course, this is not a new idea. The GWR used to run a station gardens competition which sometimes was judged by George Luttrels wife. George not only lived in dunster castle but was also a director of the GWR. Blue anchor museum has a copy of the winners certificate from the 1930s when stogumber won it. We have designed a new certificate based on this which will be awarded in July. Below you can see both the GWR original and the modern version.

I sincerely hope this will please the heritage committee!

Somerset Day

Somerset Day is a new event chosen after a public vote in 2015. May 11 was chosen in honour of Alfred the Great, though it isn't clear to me exactly how Alfred relates to the date. Anyway, for reasons that are not entirely clear, there was a gap in the timetable for today with no trains scheduled. This always looked a little odd and so we have taken the opportunity to plug the gap and run the Somerset Day Express.

I arrived at Bishops lydeard in good time to find the platform comfortably packed with prospective passengers. In fact, as the tickets had been mostly sold on line, all were actual passengers. Raveningham Hall was at the head of the train and we left at 1030. 

The train was non stop through crowcombe and stogumber and paused at williton just long enough to pick up three visitors from North America. More at Watchet then non stop to Minehead with just a stop at Blue Anchor. Arrival at Minehead was ahead of time and it was refreshing to avoid the lengthy pauses at the loops that seems to characterise the standard timetable.

Plenty of time to chat to visitors, run the dogs on the beach and have a snack in the dog friendly Apple Tree restaurant before we rejoined the train for the 1415 return trip.

Another 'express' run saw us return to BL time enough for a cup of tea before spending a couple of hours preparing for next month's AGM. The service was only finalised recently and I should thank all those who turned out at short notice to make this service possible. We couldn't do it without you.

Talking about the current timetable... It is obvious this has a number of shortcomings. Long pauses at crossing loops is one issue. Short turnaround times at the terminals mean visitors either don't have long enough or far too long and train crews get little time to rest. There isn't a lot we can do for this year, but we realise the issues and will make sure next year's timetable is better. 

Parked up at Minehead was the S160. It's fair to say this locomotive has had a disappointing start with continual air pump issues. As can be seen in this photo, the air pump has been removed and and sent away for repair. Let's hope it is fixed soon!

Monday, 7 May 2018

Board Update April 2018

Here is the board newsletter for April 2018. Please click on the image below to see the full newsletter.

Monday, 23 April 2018

SDRT AGM and a prize

I was a special guest at the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust AGM on Saturday. Held in Edington village hall, the meeting was pretty much not far from the railway itself. I was born in Templecombe, probably to the sound of steam engines clanking in the lower yard, but my earliest memory is being sat in my father's car at Evercreech Junction crossing gates as a steam train rumbled past. Railways have been in my blood ever since....

The SDRT are based at Washford and have made great progress over many years. Track has been laid, engine shed built, signalbox and museum established and there is more to come. A lottery bid could see more developments. The main reason for me being at the meeting was to sign a new 50 year lease which gives the trust security of tenure for its funding bid.

An annual model railway competition was held and I took along my model of SDJR 4-4-0 No 55 which I scratchbuilt in 7mm scale several years ago. The model was entered in the competition and I won the coveted Mike Palmer trophy. 

A great afternoon, good company and fantastic tea and cake. 

Signing the new lease

My model of SDJR locomotive

The Mike Palmer trophy.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Slip Coaches in Action

Something now totally missing from today's world either on the main line or on private railways is the slip coach. And no real prospect of it reappearing again.
The vision that a portion of the train could just be uncoupled and then run of its own accord into the station is today unparalleled. Here is a great period video explaining the whole operation at Bicester. My favourite moment? It's the cheery wave from the train guard out of the window as the slip coach is detached and slows.
So how did the passengers know to get into the right portion? And if they wandered off or went to the buffet, how were they all gathered up before the guard pulled the lever. And to someone like me who enjoys fiddling, how did you prevent small boys playing with the lever?
How is this relevant to the WSR? Slip portions were dropped at Taunton and hauled to Minehead. There is a picture somewhere. I'll try and find it!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

PLC Board Update March 2018

The board met this month in the midst of the successful spring steam gala.
We have just issued this update. Please click here for the full document:  Board Update March 2018