Friday, 22 July 2011

WsrInfoLive gets the thumbs down from WSR

A proposal to trial a live information system at a special event has been rejected by the WSR.

The system
WsrInfoLive enables trusted contributors to send messages about late running trains or loco swops. The messages or tweets are then broadcast to websites via RSS feeds, to mobile phones as text, and by email, and can be read by anyone with access to the web and/or mobile phone.

It was proposed the Special Events Planning Team allow the event controller to join the ranks of the trusted contributors and broadcast train running information, including of course, railway staff along the line and on trains, but the Team declined the proposal, preferring to remain with the method of communication which they recognise, and admit, is not effective.

The decision is disappointing in the extreme as the prospect of an effective method of informing railway staff at no cost might be considered by many as very appealing. We can only hope SEPT reconsider at some stage.

Meanwhile useful and instant information about train running during special events will remain contained within the event control office and a very few select folks beyond.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

It's "diesel gala" really...

Next weekend is the WSR's so-called "Mixed Traction" event, dominated by diesel haulage and diesel enthusiasts.

The general public need to be warned against travelling on anything but the lone steam train.

The WSR need to be more honest and call it a "Diesel Gala" - and if you don't believe me here is the link to the official WSR website page for this event so you can have a look at the pictures and words.

The only mention of steam on that page is "Saturday & Sunday one steam round trip each day"

And also move the event to the Spring or Autumn when steam trains don't usually run.

Pity the poor steam train seeking family who board the first few coaches of a diesel-headed train during this event...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Solar farm going ahead...

I have written before about the solar array (or whatever it is called) that was proposed for the field to the west of Whiskey Trail Crossing (aka Sandy Lane Crossing).

I hear it is going ahead and the field is pegged out. Construction should be well underway through the summer months.

According to Mike Rigby's Blog the 1.8m perimeter security fence will be placed behind a screen of greenery.

I still prefer a nice meadow behind a nice heritage post and wire fence.

It's a good job there's still going to be a lot of nice countryside either side of the West Somerset Railway between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead.


Monday, 9 May 2011


The gates at Govier's Lane Crossing have been mentioned before on this blog. In March this year we had the opportunity to try the gates for ourselves. Thus it was that Matt in his wheelchair, pushed by me, made our way up the steep ramp from Harbour Road towards the first gate.

I opened the gate towards me without any difficulty, made a gap and pushed Matt through. But I didn't expect the gate, a heavy one, to close on me quite as quickly as it did. I'd normally leave a foot or my rear end to catch the gate and thus manage the collision with me. This time the gate caught me out and caught my calf. A mere bump for me. But for someone with ailing legs it could have hurt.

We found plenty of room to stop and check each way before crossing the track and likewise plenty of room to stop, well clear of the track, to size up how to negotiate the far gate. This one opened away from us and proved tame. Once through, we did rather wonder what the fuss is all about.

The gates can be opened; there is plenty of "refuge room" before and after crossing the track; and the trains are required to slow to 10mph well before the crossing so if there was an obstruction on the crossing the train could be brought to a stop safely.

In fact the crossing is rather better in many respects to many others around the country.

We understand the Railway has applied for permission to replace the current setup with a chicane shaped, gateless design.

Earlier in the day during our walk from Washford to Watchet along the Mineral Line path we did encounter a new gate that gave us concern.

The new gate stands across the much improved surface of the path at the east end of the Washford Playing Field. It is a "kissing gate". You know, you push the gate slightly, step into a refuge area, swing the gate behind you and step out the other side. If the gate is wide enough and the refuge large enough, a wheelchair can get through. Not easy but possible. But this one has a very limited refuge space. We got round it on the day because the fence on one side had not been completed so a slight diversion over some rough ground and we were away...

I have, eventually, contacted the Mineral Line Project people who tell me the gate can be opened right back, revealing a wide gap right through with no need to use the refuge. We may not have looked carefully but it did not seem to work like that at the time. I have asked a few chums to go and check it for me.

If the MLP folks are right, it then begs the question why have a gate at all? Exactly who or what is the gate meant to halt progress along this lovely walk?

Update: Now checked and the gate does open wide (towards Watchet). It rises to enable it to close by gravity and is not easy to hold back whilst the wheelchair is moved through. Indeed a lone wheelchair user going towards Watchet may find nigh impossible to both hold the gate AND wheel himself through. Going towards Washford the gate becomes a barrier. The wheelchair user must get right next to the gate in order to pull it towards him, assuming he can reach that far forward. Then, whilst holding the gate, somehow reverse, then hold the gate to the left before moving forward through the gap, with the gate closing rapidly behind (it's sure to crash into the wheelchair). I have asked for the gate to be removed as, since the gate can be opened wide, there seems no point whatsoever in the gate being there. [13 May 2011]

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Strange things afoot

One or two disturbing events have rattled the normally workaday-confident air around the Railway. Sure, there are always comings and goings and there are always rumours and mutterings. However, something is bubbling away under the surface, a bit like a bulge of lava, and if/when it breaks through, which seems imminent, there could well be considerable changes. Changes that'll be either proposed and discussed or simply pushed through. I am not privvy to the detail but I have heard about "one railway" which sounds grand. But. What it means for the constituent bodies that make up the West Somerset Railway, I know not. The art and application of communication has rarely been more than scratchy around the WSR so I'm not expecting the rest of us will be told, consulted or otherwise involved. Which is a pity given the Railway can't exist without huge, positive, unrelently support from the masses. For those with long memories, I am happy to resume my "gang of four" role...

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Not keen on the likely destruction of a rather pleasant meadow next to the Railway at Sandy Lane (aka Whiskey Trail) Crossing near Bishops Lydeard. It seem permission has been granted to build a whopping great solar panel "farm" in the field, complete with CCTV-topped eight-foot high black metal fence.

The original planning application seem to suggest WSR's "Chief Executive" (don't think WSR has one?) is happy with the proposals. And I thought the WSR was all about providing the heritage experience?

The heritage ambience offered by the rather photogenic post and wire fence on the west side of the line from Whiskey Trail Crossing to Greenway Wood, will be destroyed when replaced by a 2m high black metal security fence. Yuk! It'll seem like a prison boundary fence. Not what is wanted next to a heritage railway.

Furthermore, although I cannot see a reference in the planning docs, I reckon the superb heritage GWR kissing gate (and the adjacent and larger crossing gate) on the down side of Whiskey Trail Crossing would be swept away and replaced by some modern 2m high gateway.

These historic artefacts provide the perfect and appropriate backdrop to the railway.

Please leave the fence and crossing as it is and build your prison-like fence within your own land.

(top picture is a mock-up of what it could look like; compare with as-is picture underneath it)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

More about Watchet crossings

A report in the West Somerset Free Press suggests the owners of the footbridge at Watchet, the local district council, may have agreed to demolish the structure. It was the council who declared it unsafe and closed the bridge in 2009. The report goes on to suggest the council are to be asked to fund the demolition and the provision of a brand new footbridge. Well, that took a bit of time for that requirement to sink in, eh?

If the OK is given it seems the footbridge - dating from the 1880s will be taken down before trains start running again on 19 February but I guess there are later gaps in rail traffic for that work; and to procure from a specialist company in Wolverhampton a new footbridge made of modern materials but to a "heritage" style. Installation would have to wait until November when the trains stop running for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, just to the east, the issue of the gates at Govier's Lane Crossing continues to exercise minds. Late last year, a meeting was held at Watchet between local people and the Railway. Representatives from the Railway Inspectorate (who lay down guidelines and approve railway works such as Govier's Lane Crossing) also attended. Some of the discussions can be seen on Admiralscorner's channel on YouTube. The outcomes are yet to be announced but the gates have been officially chained open (to pedestrians) during the current "no trains" period. What happens from 19 February when trains restart for the 2011 season has yet to be seen.

In the other direction, the Railway have embarked on a major renovation exercise on the Mineral Line Bridge. This skew bridge spans the trackbed of the erstwhile West Somerset Mineral Railway, the trackbed now forming the popular Mineral Line Walk to Washford. As far as I can tell, the Mineral Line Bridge works have not generated local comment. Good.

Going back to the footbridge, it is said the new structure will look much like the existing one, Which is good as the heritage ambience of that part of Watchet will be unaffected. Or will the design require modification to allow wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs to cross, for the first time at this point, the Railway? There is sure to be an Equality Assessment. And will the Equality Assessment require ramps as well as steps? There seems to be room for ramps but at what detriment to the view on the road approach to the town from the south and to what extra cost to the council taxpayers?

The saga of the Watchet crossings seems likely to continue for some time yet...