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  • Minehaed Rail Link Group: October 30, 2018
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Author Topic: Minehead Rail Link Group  (Read 14560 times)
grahame
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« Reply #75 on: February 21, 2020, 09:50:01 am »

Three comments added to the article by members of the public illustrate the differing views, and just how hard it is to knit heritage and national rail services.

Quote
Fireboxchaser

This Taunton-Minehead shuttle is a pipe dream. Firstly there have not nor will there ever be the numbers to support it financially, plus IF it did EVER happen it would be in direct competition with the bus service which actually does call at all the villages, whereas most if not all the stations are nowhere near thevillages at all

Getting back to reality, if this was to happen the WSR as a Heritage Railway and very large tourist attraction would cease to exist as track would need to be brought up to Network standards. all the current heritage semaphore signals and boxes would be ripped out to make way for modern coloured light signalling. That would be the death knell for the steam and Heritage experience altogether. The WSR as the Chairman says has come through a difficult period in its history and everyone who volunteers and works on the railway is right behind the board as it moves forward into the start of this year and beyond. WSR is a HERITAGE railway with all that means.We don;t want nor will we have modern trains running through to Minhead for which there is no requirement. The shuttles last summer were a great success and this year will see them utilised again to bring people from all over the country to Bishops Lydeard where they will board Mk1 coaches with steam on the front for their journey to Minehead and that is how it should stay!

Quote
TheSomersetExile

Absolute tosh. Xenophobic clap trap.

All you want is to have the line all to yourself, you'd be quiet happy if the link to the mainline didn't exist.

Just remember that Mk1 stock is not in great condition and it will inevitably need to be replaced like it or not. You may have to fit it with tanks for toilet waste too.

Signalling can stay as it is, semaphores inclusive just like certain enclaves in Cornwall, full AWS maybe required if you ever wanted to increase the line speed from the LRO 25mph limit to a more realistic 50 for mainline trains with superior braking capabilities it can also be done by using differential speed limits just as there are on the mainline and the WSR already has several AWS magnets on it.

The WSR used to be the best heritage line, but that status has long since gone, by a country mile. Personally I think that the WSR is dying a slow and lingering death, I'll be coming down a couple of times this year for events, but this will probably be my last as other heritage lines are more welcoming and better in many ways including the variety of traction and they don't try being something that they're not, like the S&D (pathetic that was).

Over the past few years, there has been a bad atmosphere on the line, a real air of malaise, probably down to the infighting of several factions within the railway itself.

All I can say is thank goodness for the good folk of DEPG at Williton who seem to raise the spirits of diesel engine enthusiasts. Still if it goes out of business at least NR won't have too much work to do, to bring it up to scratch and West Somerset can have a commuter service and there can be extra services for some of the music and sports events at Minehead and Watchet.

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Just One

I believe the chairman is absolutely correct. If the Taunton to Minehead line is to be resurrected from the Beeching cuts then it will have to be run as part of the National Rail Network with infrastructure and timetables to suit. That will leave little or no provision for continuing heritage railway practices and restrictions. That is not to say that the WSR should not be extended with a permanent link to Taunton station, but this will need to be set up and operated by the WSR - difficult but not unachievable if minds are really put to resolving problems and potential conflicts. Despite its current difficulties, the WSR has proved to be a successful and beneficial attraction and can continue to do so. A WSR link to Taunton station can only serve to enhance and improve the line and its services with direct links from the National Rail Network and a wide variety of bus services. Passenger who wish to travel through to Minehead can have the choice between a bus service or the WSR as best suits their needs.

If I were the one responsible for allocating the 500 million - and noting that much of it is to be used to develop business cases - the significant difference of (local (?)) views would make me very wary of a lot of funding for Minehead. Mind you, I would like to see a professional expert outside view of the case so that we know if there are real issues that rule out an everyday train service from Minehead to Taunton (and beyond?) - that tells us if the case against is correct and insoluble, or if it is based on fear of change and what that change might bring.  It would also need to look at the business case for that everyday service in various guises.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #76 on: February 21, 2020, 12:04:02 pm »

My 2nd and 3rd posts on this forum:

[...]

Yes, I'd like to see the West Somerset running through to Taunton, but I was talking about fully re-incorporating heritage lines into the national network.

Potentially this could be a legal and organisational minefield, but perhaps it need only be a variation on the sort of operation that Northern Rail and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway have between Grosmont and Whitby. I am sure there are huge holes in this theory, but here's an example based on the WSR:

1. NR takes ownership of the track and (heritage) signalling between Norton Fitzwarren and Minehead and upgrades it to allow (say) 50mph running of modern trains;
2. WSR continue to maintain other heritage assets (stations, signal boxes, vintage rolling stock etc);
3. Most trains operated by FGW (or successor) DMUs, with WSR 'heritage' trains working special turns (with potential for 'plandampf' events and galas).

I do wonder what other future there is for these lines - the average age of volunteers is trending northwards.

Maybe you could call it a 'conservation railway'...

I wouldn't dream of floating this suggestion anywhere near Bishop's Lydeard, swrural; to be honest I think it's pretty amazing that the various bodies that make up or contribute to the WSR (WSR Co, WSRA, WSSRT, D&EG, S&DRT, Somerset CC etc) manage to pull together and put on such a good show.

But isn't the operating model of these railways going to have to change, as the supply of volunteers dries up and the kit gets older?

I'm just playing with ideas here, trying to imagine what a 'conservation railway' (akin to a 'conservation area' in planning terms) might look like and how it might be organised and run.

I still think there is mileage in the concept of a conserved (rather than preserved) railway.

How much heritage would you have to alter to make the WSR into an efficient 80km/h railway? The stations could stay pretty much as they are, and the scenery won't change that much.

One by one the heritage railways are swapping out bullhead rail on wooden sleepers for flat-bottomed CWR on concrete.

How much difference would it make to the average punter if the semaphore signals were kept for decoration only? Is there a safe way to do this?

Would it be possible to keep the old level crossing gates, locked open, for decoration? Is it really necessary to rip all the old stuff out and salt the ground it stood on when installing half-barriers?

There are safety issues here, of course, which is why I pose these ideas as questions...
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« Reply #77 on: February 21, 2020, 12:20:31 pm »

There is a huge difference in the ORR requirements between a Heritage Railway and a Main Line Railway.  You would end up with nothing like exists today (level crossings being one of the more significant issues).
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TonyK
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« Reply #78 on: February 21, 2020, 01:36:37 pm »

Three comments added to the article by members of the public illustrate the differing views, and just how hard it is to knit heritage and national rail services.

I read the various comments in Another Place, and came to the same conclusions, grahame. The aims of the two groups seem similar at first glance, but are mutually exclusive in large parts.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2020, 03:08:20 pm by TonyK » Logged

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« Reply #79 on: February 21, 2020, 01:44:43 pm »

The present management and directors of the WSR seem to be asserting their authority now in a way not seen before.  I'm not convinced this is for the better.  But they do have the laws of finance to contend with, and this may have concentrated their minds somewhat.  The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust, who have been sub-leesees of the site at Washford Station since the 1970's, have been given a year's notice to quit very recently

From Rail Advent posted earlier today

Quote
The Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust (S&DRT) have posted the sad news they have been asked to leave the Washford site.

The S&DRT received a letter from solicitors on behalf of the West Somerset Railway PLC, owners of the Washford site, with a Notice to Terminate on the agreement allowing S&DRT to use the Washford site, giving the S&DRT a years notice.

The one reason the WSR PLC have stated so far for asking the S&DRT to leave is to allow the WSR PLC to use the site for its own purposes, but no further details have been added. The S&DRT have sent a response and are now seeking legal advice.
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broadgage
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« Reply #80 on: February 21, 2020, 04:20:24 pm »

My 2nd and 3rd posts on this forum:

[...]

Yes, I'd like to see the West Somerset running through to Taunton, but I was talking about fully re-incorporating heritage lines into the national network.

Potentially this could be a legal and organisational minefield, but perhaps it need only be a variation on the sort of operation that Northern Rail and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway have between Grosmont and Whitby. I am sure there are huge holes in this theory, but here's an example based on the WSR:

1. NR takes ownership of the track and (heritage) signalling between Norton Fitzwarren and Minehead and upgrades it to allow (say) 50mph running of modern trains;
2. WSR continue to maintain other heritage assets (stations, signal boxes, vintage rolling stock etc);
3. Most trains operated by FGW (or successor) DMUs, with WSR 'heritage' trains working special turns (with potential for 'plandampf' events and galas).

I do wonder what other future there is for these lines - the average age of volunteers is trending northwards.

Maybe you could call it a 'conservation railway'...

I wouldn't dream of floating this suggestion anywhere near Bishop's Lydeard, swrural; to be honest I think it's pretty amazing that the various bodies that make up or contribute to the WSR (WSR Co, WSRA, WSSRT, D&EG, S&DRT, Somerset CC etc) manage to pull together and put on such a good show.

But isn't the operating model of these railways going to have to change, as the supply of volunteers dries up and the kit gets older?

I'm just playing with ideas here, trying to imagine what a 'conservation railway' (akin to a 'conservation area' in planning terms) might look like and how it might be organised and run.

I still think there is mileage in the concept of a conserved (rather than preserved) railway.

How much heritage would you have to alter to make the WSR into an efficient 80km/h railway? The stations could stay pretty much as they are, and the scenery won't change that much.

One by one the heritage railways are swapping out bullhead rail on wooden sleepers for flat-bottomed CWR on concrete.

How much difference would it make to the average punter if the semaphore signals were kept for decoration only? Is there a safe way to do this?

Would it be possible to keep the old level crossing gates, locked open, for decoration? Is it really necessary to rip all the old stuff out and salt the ground it stood on when installing half-barriers?

There are safety issues here, of course, which is why I pose these ideas as questions...

I don't see how the old level crossing gates could be retained "locked open" When the gates are open to rail traffic they block the road. If half way they block the road AND the railway line.
Semaphore signals retained for decoration might be misleading. I see no reason why semaphores cant be kept in working order and used to control the trains. There are still a few semaphores on the national network.

The curves and gradients would rule out high speeds, but I don't see why the Minehead Branch if re-instated as part of the national network, could not have line speeds similar to those in force in BR days.
It might be possible to slightly increase speed limits.
Doubling the track between Minehead and Dunster would improve capacity and flexibility. In particular by allowing an up and a down train to pass just outside the terminus.

The tourist and enthusiast markets expect steam or heritage diesel services. Battery trains sound a good idea for non heritage services.
HST trailers hauled by a battery loco ?
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A 5 car DMU is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
Red Squirrel
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« Reply #81 on: February 21, 2020, 04:47:19 pm »

I don't see how the old level crossing gates could be retained "locked open" When the gates are open to rail traffic they block the road. If half way they block the road AND the railway line.

I wasn't very clear. A typical conservation solution might be to re-hang the gates 'backwards' so that they block neither road nor rail. Basically you'd be propping them up near the crossing as an ornament.

There are a couple of crossings - Blue Anchor being the main one - where you'd really want to retain what was there in working order. There would be a cost associated with this, but probably one worth paying.

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« Reply #82 on: February 21, 2020, 09:37:46 pm »

Apologies in advance for any ignorance and/or naivety on my part but why aren't these two groups working together? Aren't there ways in which better connectivity between the WSR and the Big Railway for residents and visitors alike could be achieved without compromising the existing set-up? Charters/specials already run through to Minehead and a shuttle to BL. has already been trialled. WSR operations are from 10-5.30pm, mainly. Could a 'chartered' service out and back for morning/evening commuters/day trippers/shoppers work alongside a daytime Taunton-BL shuttle in the summer months? Might a summer timetable experiment along those lines la Okehampton be a first step? I see that this is not achieving a 365-day railway connection for the townsfolk of Minehead, of course.

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« Reply #83 on: February 21, 2020, 10:13:08 pm »

I still think there is mileage in the concept of a conserved (rather than preserved) railway.

How much heritage would you have to alter to make the WSR into an efficient 80km/h railway? The stations could stay pretty much as they are, and the scenery won't change that much.

One by one the heritage railways are swapping out bullhead rail on wooden sleepers for flat-bottomed CWR on concrete.

How much difference would it make to the average punter if the semaphore signals were kept for decoration only? Is there a safe way to do this?

Would it be possible to keep the old level crossing gates, locked open, for decoration? Is it really necessary to rip all the old stuff out and salt the ground it stood on when installing half-barriers?
Semaphore signals are still in use on the national network, Shrewsbury for example, and I seem to recall that not all that many years ago brand new semaphore signals were installed somewhere (Banbury perhaps) to facilitate diversions of passenger services over a little used freight connection. The only reason I can think of for wanting to replace semaphore signals with colour lights is to reduce staffing costs by allowing signal box closures. Other lines still use tokens (eg. Pembroke Dock and Heart Of Wales) and have very few signals, so if you want to close signal boxes without making the route look modern by putting in colour lights you could remove the signals and rely on tokens. As for level crossings, on holiday a few years ago I discovered that at least one on the line between Oakham and Melton Mowbray (Wyfordby I think) had a manual gate with a red circle on it much the same as heritage ones.

What is the current legal situation regarding the line? Assuming funding were forthcoming, could the WSR be forced to accept these plans, or do they have an effective veto?
Bearing in mind that Somerset has declared a 'Climate Emergency', this is the sort of thing that should go ahead getting people out of cars and onto rail to get from Taunton to Minehead. No point in declaring such a thing and not putting into place 'easy wins'. Oooooozzzzz gonna pay for it can no longer be used as an excuse if you've declared an emergency.
I wouldn't expect too much; the Welsh government and (I think) Pembrokeshire County Council have both declared a 'Climate Emergency', yet both support 'improvements' to the A40 which the Welsh government freely admits will increase greenhouse gas emmissions!
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« Reply #84 on: February 21, 2020, 10:39:02 pm »

The only reason I can think of for wanting to replace semaphore signals with colour lights is to reduce staffing costs by allowing signal box closures.

That was the reason I had in mind.
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« Reply #85 on: February 22, 2020, 09:34:38 pm »

Semaphore signals are normally operated by rodding from the signal box, which must be within a reasonable distance.
Remote operation is however possible, and has been done in the past.
With a semaphore signal out of sight of the signaller, then some means is required to prove correct operation and to prove that the lamp is lit.

An oil lamp can be remotely proved to be lit, by means of a temperature sensor, this was done decades ago.
An incandescent lamp can be remotely proved to be lit by a current sensor, also a mature technology.
LEDs are more difficult, but might be judged reliable enough that no remote proving is needed.

Out of sight from stations, colour light signals would IMO be acceptable.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
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« Reply #86 on: February 22, 2020, 11:50:08 pm »

...I wouldn't expect too much; the Welsh government and (I think) Pembrokeshire County Council have both declared a 'Climate Emergency', yet both support 'improvements' to the A40 which the Welsh government freely admits will increase greenhouse gas emmissions!

This is the same throughout England. Road schemes just have to connect up to the Highways England funding firehose, whilst sustainable transport has to scrat around like Bear Grylls looking for patches off moss to wring a few drops from. Something has to change!
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« Reply #87 on: February 23, 2020, 12:29:30 am »

Bearing in mind that Somerset has declared a 'Climate Emergency', this is the sort of thing that should go ahead getting people out of cars and onto rail to get from Taunton to Minehead. No point in declaring such a thing and not putting into place 'easy wins'. Oooooozzzzz gonna pay for it can no longer be used as an excuse if you've declared an emergency.
Quote
I wouldn't expect too much; the Welsh government and (I think) Pembrokeshire County Council have both declared a 'Climate Emergency', yet both support 'improvements' to the A40 which the Welsh government freely admits will increase greenhouse gas emmissions!

It would seem from these, and other, examples that we are missing the point about councils declaring climate emergencies. Bristol did likewise, then carried on with the delivery of new diesel vehicles for their fleet. One could be excused that it is the latest box-ticking thing, and that some councils will do it just to get the hordes of protesters away from their meetings so that they can get on with some business, and without added pressure on their prospects of re-election. I think even my local parish council may have said something about it, but not too loudly in case nothing changed, although with unfilled vacancies for a few years, the fear of the ballot box is not with them. Others want something done, but not by them. A few still hold out to the notion that all is well with our climate, but not so many these days.

It would be nice if someone actually got around to doing something positive, but I hold out little hope.
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« Reply #88 on: February 23, 2020, 06:13:48 am »

Semaphore signals are normally operated by rodding from the signal box, which must be within a reasonable distance.
Remote operation is however possible, and has been done in the past.

Pedant mode - wires for signals, rods for points as I recall. The weight of signals returns them to danger when the pull on the wire is released or if the wire breaks.

This thread has set me thinking - putting myself in the shoes of the General Manager of a "heritage" railway, and with it the various decisions about what to keep the old way, and what to modernise.   I came up with a long list to consider - perhaps members would like to have a go - poll at http://www.passenger.chat/22949 .  Open until 1st March 2020; if you're not a member here yet, please register to take part via http://www.passenger.chat/register
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« Reply #89 on: February 23, 2020, 08:24:25 am »

Must be a bit dim this morning.  What does the * mean in the poll and how do you choose between the two options in each question in the poll?
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