Tag Archives: West Somerset Railway

Chillin’ with Thomas?

A ‘Jinty’ with express lamps – it could almost be a Thomas the Tank Engine story –  Gordon throws a wobbler and Thomas comes to the rescue. One thing is certain, over the years, Thomas the Tank has helped to fill the coffers of many a heritage railway and possibly encouraged a few new enthusiasts and volunteers along the way. In recent days however, there have been one of two little snippets which could be a cause for concern.

First came the news that the West Somerset Railway had ‘appointed a trouble shooter’ and that there had been a decline in passenger numbers; which was followed days later by the rather sad news that the line would close from January to April and that the popular Spring Gala had been axed too. Even more worrying was the news that the Office of the Rail Regulator had expressed concerns over record keeping and other issues. The odd thing was that it was only a few days earlier I had been reading something about the WSR running a service in and out of Taunton. I’m sure it must be a worrying time for those folk who are full time employees on the WSR.

The photo is of  ‘Jinty’ No.47406 when she made her first gala appearance, after overhaul, at the GCR, where is a resident.

The WSR isn’t the only thing shutting down, in just over two weeks Steam Age Daydreams will cease. On the website there is an archive of over 600 articles, and even more photographs in them – you might want to check out befor they go too.

I will still be passing my time photographing steam locomotives and for those of you who have enjoyed reading the Blog – I will be continuing to write, Part II of ‘In Memory’ will be available before the end of the month with parts III, IV and V to follow at intervals in the New Year. If you’ve enjoyed my photographs the Steam Age Daydreams 2019 Calendar is now on sale on eBay – here’s the link: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/302936132284

Above is the link to Part I of my memories of footplate life in the 1960s. The book about my lifetime of involvement with matters railway is still  available on Amazon – Below, is the link to that work. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

 

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Heritage Railways – ‘The Next Generation’

5553headongdsadd

One of the more pleasing aspects of heritage railway galas is the willingness of the organisers to run non-revenue earning services, such as freight, minerals, or parcels/TPOs. In this photograph, No.5553 is at the head of a short ‘express freight’, approaching Crowcombe Heathfield on the West Somerset Railway.

No.5553 was one of, if not the last, locomotive(s) to leave the famous Woodham’s scrap yard in Barry, South Wales. Like many other railway enthusiasts I made a pilgrimage to Woodhams, 1965, in my case, and Dai Woodham has, quite rightly, been held in some degree of affection by many a railway fan. Without the Woodham’s legacy our current enjoyment of heritage railways would have been a very different affair.

Thirteen years after steam finished on BR, in 1981 / 2, sixty six engines were still in Woodhams yard – many of that number are, currently, or have, until recently, been running around. Here is a short list of some of the more notable ones No. 6023 King Edward II, 4953 Pitchford Hall, 34046 Braunton, 34070 Manston, 35006 Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, 45337, 47406, 48305, 73096, 76084. Yes I know some of these engines are either out of ticket or not yet actually running, but we still have them and they have run, or will run, now or at some not too distant date.

Over the 50 years I have been visiting heritage lines, I have met railway enthusiasts from all over the world, Australia, Canada, the USA, and many from European countries, especially France, Holland, and Germany. A common theme in our conversations is how lucky we are, here in Britain, to have such a wide selection of engines, and the lines to run them on. I think it is equally important that our hobby is drawing in younger enthusiasts and volunteers, for without them and their enthusiasm, no matter how many engines we have or how many miles of track we have to run them on, us old timers are slowly running out of puff to do the hard work, track laying, lifting a piece of motion, and the dozens of other jobs requiring a fair degree of physical stamina to achieve. Well done you young guys & gals – as an old timer I salute you for your efforts and enthusiasm, to keep my hobby alive in the 21st Century.

The printed edition of “Gricing: The Real Story of the Railway Children” – is now on sale.

Below, is the link to it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751

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Once a Knight

30777leighlane

The disc being carried by No.30777 Sir Lamiel, is probably meant to signify that she is hauling a stopping passenger service. In her Southern days it would have indicated something rather different. It could have indicated that No.30777 Sir Lamiel, was working Victoria – Dover via Chatham, a turn she would no doubt have been familiar with, or Woking – Reading via Virginia Water west curve, a route she might have taken less often, or even Exeter Central – Ilfracombe, amongst several other possible routes. The essential thing, I suppose, is that the disc gives the signalman important information about the train, just as the tail lamp, or lack of one, does.

No. 30777 Sir Lamiel is part of the National Collection and is, as a result, in the custody of the National Railway Museum. In practice however, she is cared for, on a day to day basis, by the 5305 Locomotive Association at Loughborough. No.30777 Sir Lamiel is also part of the pool of engines certified for use on the main line and has, over many years, put in some fine performances, particularly on the Settle – Carlisle route and her old stamping grounds on the LSWR routes from London Waterloo to Weymouth via Southampton or Waterloo to Exeter via Salisbury, both routes I know from my own footplate days.

For most of their independent existence the Great Western and the London South Western / Southern Railway were bitter rivals in almost everything from the carriage of Atlantic Mails, to milk traffic and summer specials full of holiday makers. Having worked for BR Southern region I know a little about this rivalry at ground level,  so there’s always this little frisson when I see sights like one in the photograph, Southern engine, chocolate and cream rolling stock, and on GW metals. However, Sir Lamiel, or to give him his full title Sir Lamiel of Cardiff, obviously had some GWR in his veins, as he  does look quite at home with the rake of GWR stock, approaching Leigh Lane crossing on the West Somerset Railway between Williton and Crowcombe Heathfield.

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Fixed distant

5542-Norton

Unlike the engine and coach combination, the fixed distant for Bishops Lydeard, is hardly a classic of its type, in an odd way it seems to be pointing to the train. The piles of wood, from a recently cut down tree, and a testament to the efforts of the track side maintenance gang, seem to accent the rural nature of the photograph. A bucolic past of chocolate and cream, village cricket, a morning and afternoon post, milk delivered to your door, by a milk man – eyes fixed on a distant past.

Naturally, in this ‘fixed’ and distant past, bad things didn’t happen, Aunty baked the most wonderful cakes, and Uncle, was a kindly curmudgeon who built model ships and bought you Meccano for Christmas. In the real world, of course, things were a little less – well the postie with his trusty bike, he died early from a serious lung complaint, brought on by the regular soakings he suffered during the average British winter and summer too – it’s Britain.

Built in 1928 No.5542 spent quite a bit of her working life in the Taunton area and was a regular performer on the Taunton – Minehead branch, which now forms the West Somerset Railway. In the photograph, No. 5542 is seen just west of Norton, between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard, with an Auto-train working. No.5542 is a kind of ‘peoples prairie’ having been purchased from the WSR and rebuilt by a band of dedicated, share owning, members/ volunteers who keep her wheels turning and shiny!!

 

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The Ghost in the Machine

odbox

Imagine, if you will, my surprise when I viewed the shot from which this crop is taken and saw what you see now, the almost ghostly figure of the Washford Box bobby with the seemingly more substantial engine about to pass through his ghostly arm. Everything,  you see, isn’t always everything there is to be seen. The mirror image of No.7828 Odney Manor, despite our knowing it is the mirror image, is, in the photograph, more oddly real than the reality of the bobby.

Washford has a dual personality too, part of the West Somerset Railway on the one hand, homage to the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway on the other. A torch bearer for the long lamented S&D, Ivo Peters, Masbury summit, Evercreech Junction and the Pines Express, Washford Station is pink tinted specs turned up to the max a piece of the  S&D in time warp. Occasionally, the West Somerset Railway hold Somerset & Dorset themed galas with station names changed to those of the S&D – and they’ve even got one of the two remaining Fowler 7F 2-8-0s, which ran over the Somerset & Dorset for much of their working lives, to complete the montage. Oh! I forgot to mention, the locomotive in question is in her S&D livery of lined Prussian Blue and numbered 88.

The mirror locomotive in the photograph, No.7828 Odney Manor, is another case of not seeing everything too. In this instance what you cannot see is that she is carrying the name Norton Manor. There never was a Norton Manor, this name is being carried because of the WSR’s tie-up with 40 Commando, whose barracks at Norton, adjoin the railway, surprisingly at Norton, between Bishops Lydeard and Taunton.

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