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West Somerset Railway Operations

Discussion in 'Heritage railways & Centres in the Uk' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    Indeed - perhaps it needs to be a bit less plc and a bit more heritage railway.
     
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  2. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    I doubt that Mike's grasp on reality is any more secure than mine.

    A reality he appears to ignore is the fact that without the buy-in of the many volunteers who make all aspects of the Railway work, including but not limited to Infrastructure, there would be no Railway.

    Any one Department / function thinking or being the dominant focus always leads to trouble.

    And to pour cold water on enthusiasm gets very old, very quickly.

    Robin
     
  3. gwilialan

    gwilialan Active Member

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    If the mess is a result of the actions of employed staff then why is no one asking the question "Where is the supervision?" Are there supervisors, works foremen or gang leaders? I'd be amazed if there weren't so why have they allowed this situation to develop? Perhaps a few quiet words in certain ears such as "act, get, together, your" might help.

    As far as the clean-up is concerned I'd imagine (and I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong) that there are certain times of the day or certain jobs where the gangs have to wait for access to the track or finish early if there is insufficient time to complete the next long(ish) job so they don't start it that day, so what are they doing during that time?

    At least someone in that department could designate an area for stacking sleepers (neatly) or getting the ballast piles in proper piles- Dirty ballast to Norton? Spoil to a designated dump? Wood to a designated burning area? (I'm sure the volunteers could help with the burning bit ;)) and all out of public sight.

    Even non-heritage skips, neatly aligned, would look better than the general dumping ground that there is now. :Yuck:
     
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  4. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Part of the furniture

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    Agreed, it looks to me like a lot could be done to improve Dunster without relocating P'way at all (although it would be nice in the long term).

    Sent from my Moto G (4) using Tapatalk
     
  5. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    West Somerset Railway - Then and Now #125

    Washford 1991 / 2017

    So here we go with our tour of Washford. Let's start as arriving passengers do- from the road. We previously looked at this view for Coronation Day 1937. Little has changed here throughout the life of the station. The station has its back to intending travellers and the local topography means that a substantial set of stone steps are provided. The unusual signal box is a fortunate survivor, having closed in the 1920's economies, but survived to closure and beyond.

    The Commer van is well known to me, as the only WSR plc conveyance at the time. It wasn't in the best of condition, being very second hand. I remember learning about its brakes by approaching a field Gate at Bishops Lydeard intending to brake before it but coming to rest having 'opened' the gate with the van. (!). The metal gate was taken off its hinges and sent to Minehead loco for straightening and was back in position before anyone was the wiser. Happy Days!

    Incidentally, I appreciate that the 'angle' on the now shot is a little wrong. The original photographer appears to have stood in the middle of the road to take his picture. He must have visited at a quieter time of day than I did!

    Copyright V Michell / Robin White

    1991
    IMG_1571.JPG

    2017
    IMG_1721.JPG
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 9:11 AM
  6. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    Exactly! Interesting and desirable as it may theoretically be to enthsiasts, it will take a lot more than what has been proposed to keep parents and kiddies amused for an hour let alone two. Good toilet and baby changing facilites come first. I wonder what the advocates think their propsals would cost? Let us have some realiistic costings rather than just the mantra that we need vision.
     
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  7. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    Rome wasn't built in a day.

    Not much point building expensive toilets and changing facilities with no attraction to bring folks in. Dunster station provides 'facilities' already.

    As Judi Hall has eloquently explained in the parallel discussion on Facebook, the facilities for p.Way staff are poor at the moment. So they need to be provided in any event, likely on a new site (I favour Norton as it has open spaces and is much less 'public').

    Clearing the site of the ' stored' materials could occur over a season through voluntary effort and the initial layout of goods vehicles for display from the existing fleet would also be of nominal cost.

    You would then have a series of smaller projects: individual wagon, cattle dock, goods office, Shed crane, cattle dock, restoration shed etc etc that could be picked off as funding / grant applications and the like could be made.

    Not hard to put a project together if the will exists.

    Enough reality?

    Robin
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 8:54 AM
  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Resident of Nat Pres

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    The cattle dock at Kingscote was restored by a local housing provider, with all labour and materials provided free, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme - there are ways to be creative over funding.

    As Robin says, provided there is agreement about the long term objective, a project such as Dunster could be done in a series of discrete manageable chunks, with overall governance to ensure they are done in the best order logistically.

    Tom
     
  9. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    It's the old adage about how you eat an elephant.

    One bite at a time.

    Robin
     
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  10. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    Sorry to say that comparing what might be achieved at Dunster, even with unlimited funds, with a world class facility like CERN is preposterous.
     
  11. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    Why?

    The scale might be different, but the principle of producing something interesting to see and do from a subject that without thought might be thought impenetrable or dull to younger visitors is eminently transferable.

    Robin
     
  12. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    In his salvos yesterday, Mike Rowe @Maunsell907 raised a point which set me thinking overnight. It was the comment about a call to arms amongst the volunteers to tidy up behind the company gang.

    This shows a considerable danger which has crept into WSR thinking in the past 10 years and is equally a danger elsewhere.

    Heritage Railways exist, essentially, on the free volunteer labour that we sell to the public. The true function, therefore, of the employed staff of a heritage railway, is to be the organisers and encouragers of that voluntary workforce. If we reach a point where the employed staff provide the bulk of services, then the model fails.

    Weak management, and forgetting the essential truth set out above, leads to failure. It is so much easier to employ another member of staff than it is to recruit, select, train and encourage volunteer staff. The 'we can't get volunteers' mantra is too often a cover for 'we didn't try very hard if at all.'

    Unfortunately, the metrics here is Somerset are not presently encouraging. Setting aside special factors such as Flying Scotsman, the results - receipts / passenger numbers have been largely flat for over a decade and staff numbers have climbed slowly but inexorably. That combination is not sustainable in the long term.

    I am sure this is a truth known to those at the helm. Assuming the binoculars were not left behind in Southampton...

    Robin
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 9:12 AM
  13. Bill Drewett

    Bill Drewett New Member

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    Spot on. Identifying, recruiting, training, deploying and motivating volunteers must be one of the key competencies to be a successful heritage railway. And there's a lot of wisdom & knowledge out there, in part because the very best businesses know they need to treat their people as if they were volunteers, in order to get the most from them.

    The way the leaders act will tell you whether a railway understands this truth. How much time and energy do they spend articulating a vision, listening to volunteers and seeking to understand them, involving them in decisions, recognising and thanking them for their efforts?

    The less of this stuff you do, the more existing volunteers drift away and the harder it is to recruit new ones.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 9:19 AM
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  14. West Somerset Wizard

    West Somerset Wizard Part of the furniture

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    I think the desire to present to our visitors a tidy - and if possible a timewarp - Dunster Yard is a fine vision to have. What I don't think is necessary is a staffed interpretative centre - at least not to start with. It's not my decision by a long chalk nor do I have the time or money to give but I'd urge the "railway" to agree to improving Dunster Yard over a period of time by finding a good spot for the Infrastructure folks that is away from the public gaze (if possible) and then begin to restore the yard at Dunster to represent a typical GWR country goods yard. As noted recently, the "elephant chunk" approach tends to work well especially under a well-formed, properly resourced and well-managed plan that works towards an agreed vision. These things can be done along with ensuring the toilet facilities are good. Yes there is a cost. What doesn't. The Plc is more likely to find folks willing to contribute to restoring Dunster Yard than improving the loos. Of course the Plc's priorities are with the latter. And in turn this explains why much of the lineside - once the envy of many other heritage railways - has reverted to its one-time overgrown state. A tidy railway impresses visitors and greatly enhances the feeling of value-for-money. The Plc rightly prioritise safe working and continuity of service. Which brings me back to my concerns over how this railway is structured and funded and, ultimately, managed.

    Steve
     
  15. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    Well said.

    We had a perfect example here where the 'Southern Gateway' plan for Bishops Lydeard was developed over many months by a small group of officers / Directors, effectively in secret.

    When it emerged into the daylight there was some that was sensible (e.g., car park, museum etc) but much that was diabolical (e.g., slices through the sides of the Station Master's House and Goods Shed).

    I trust that the same mistaken approach will not be taken over Williton. This really has an obvious place as our engineering centre of excellence, for which the site is admirable (on the edge of town, some way from the centre, hard by an industrial estate, no significant public parking.) For that same combination of reasons, some of the suggestions that have been floating around for Williton Goods Shed - café and restaurant - really don't make sense, given that the site will never be a significant passenger draw and there are no other attractions nearby. Williton is a market town, not a tourist trap. I can't see visitors walking the three quarters of a mile to the town centre for the supermarkets and the hardware shop. Lets hope we don't get a fanfare announcement of a scheme for Williton before it has had a chance for friendly critical scrutiny.

    The Railway is right to be thinking of broadening the offer of destinations. Dunster could undoubtedly be one, offering the Castle, Dunster Goods etc. If a further café is being considered, a far better option than Williton would be Watchet, where there are two museums, a harbour and a range of pubs and shops within easy walk (starting over the footbridge) and coastal walks to Blue Anchor when the tide is right. Watchet station makes the best of its facilities to offer limited refreshments at the moment - worth visiting for the wonderful mini-tables alone, but a proper refreshment facility, probably developed in the under-exploited mini station car park (there is ample public parking adjacent to the station) would build on Watchet's success.

    And the Goods Shed at Williton? Well, a conference centre style makeover would preserve its heritage and offer (1) the training base the Railway desperately needs and (2) a facility in which to base school visits, another woefully under exploited connection for the WSR with rubies in the saddlebag,

    Vision chaps, but with a practical eye...

    Robin
     
  16. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    And to lighten the tone, try this shot from yesterday at Stogumber just before sunset. Never been certain about 'contra-jour' but this seemed to work out OK.

    Robin

    09 propelling Atlas wagon
    IMG_1828.JPG
     
  17. Dave Stapleton

    Dave Stapleton Member

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    Slightly off topic, but I have a renewed interest in Dunster and the station. As part of my family history research I discovered yersterday that I have an ancestor (great-great Aunt Elizabeth Annette Jacob) who lived in West Street, Dunster in the early 1900s (1911 Census).
     
  18. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    Decades ago as a young trainee civil engineer I was taught that keeping a site neat and tidy was essential to maintain good efficiency. Is the modern view different?
     
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  19. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    If you thought the MH to TA commuter proposals were far fetched take a look at this site.

    www.parknglide.org.

    Quite hilarious:D:D:D
     
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  20. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    This practical eye, having walked the beach from Watchet to Blue Anchor several times, and the hill up from Watchet more times than he cares to remember, also thinks that the ideas suggested need to consider the relationship between station and attraction. In the above, I fear that the mote in the eye that is a Williton cafe may obscure the beam that is the 3/4 mile walk from Dunster station to the centre of the village.
     

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