West Somerset Railway Association
The West Somerset Railway Association has been an association of volunteers supporting the West Somerset Railway company since the early 1970s when it was managed by a committee elected by the membership. In 1994 the membership voted to become an incorporated charity with up to ten Trustees.
How it all began....
The West Somerset Railway Association was founded by a group of volunteers on 7th May, 1971, with the principal aim of supporting the West Somerset Railway Company Limited in its efforts to reopen the Minehead Branch line, which had been closed by British Railways (Western Region) from the 4th January of that year. Two years later the company was still dealing with the inevitable bureaucracy entailed with the reopening of a railway, while members of the Association were busy organising trips to Woodham Bros scrapyard in Barry to rescue various essential items of equipment which would be needed in the future. The first two items of motive power – Victor and Vulcan – arrived in Taunton south yard on 23rd November, 1973 and Harry Lee and his gang set to work to put Victor into working order in time for the reopening, which it was confidently expected would be in the near future.
By May of 1974, BR had granted access to the infrastructure for the purposes of weeding and general “tidying up” and on 18th of that month, the first working party, set to work to begin clearing the result of three years of neglect at Bishops Lydeard. There were further working parties along the line until reopening. On 28th March 1976 the line re-opened from Minehead to Blue Anchor and over 2000 passengers took the round trip. This was soon extended to Williton on 28th August 1976 and then to Stogumber on 7th May 1978 and finally to Bishops Lydeard on 9th June 1979.
The company ran into severe financial difficulties not long after reopening and the Association injected substantial sums of money to keep the company afloat. The Association was also instrumental in providing a good deal of the early publicity, in the shape of the Guide Book, the Stations and Buildings Book, the Stock Book and not least, the Journal (from January, 1978). The majority of the labour on the line in the various departments was provided by Association members and still is.
The Association became a Charity and a Company limited by Guarantee on 23rd September, 1994
Where we are now
The WSRA concentrates on providing rolling stock (carriages and locomotives) and other items of historical importance to support and enhance the heritage experience of the West Somerset Railway.
The WSRA continues to provide information and publicity with its WSR TV channel and the members Journal, and to reach out to the local community.
WSRA funds come from membership fees, donations, legacies and fundraising events.
Reassembling Locomotive 9351 in 2019
GWR locomotive 9351 came out of traffic in 2015 on the expiry of the 10 year boiler certificate, for a heavy overhaul. By early 2019 it was clear that the resource did not exist to get 9351 back into traffic by the 2019 Summer season for which she was sorely needed. The WSRA fundraised for the cost of the work and also underwrote it, so the work could continue alongside the fundraising effort. As hoped, the locomotive was back in traffic for the main 2019 season.
Watch the video to see Ryan Pope explain how the loco was re-assembled.
Over £550,000 spent on Railway Heritage in the 2019-2020 financial year
The WSRA raised over £513,000 from donations and legacies and spent over £558,000 on charitable activites in the 15 months to 31st March 2020.
Download and read the WSRA Annual Report 2020
The WSRA Team – Trustees
The WSRA Team – Staff