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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    You are, no doubt, referring to the 'opportunity' for some vintage transport for those who regard that as a challenging transit, or who don't want to drive down to the station after visiting the village or vice versa.

    Not sure what the overlap with Williton is? Perhaps you intended to equate a similar length of walk. Depends, I suppose, what is at the end of it, on tourist terms. Not sure Williton 'chippy' and hairdressers are ever going to compare with the Yarn Market and Castle but it does depend on taste...

    Robin
     
  2. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    More that the distance is liable to be an issue in either place, however desirable Dunster is.

    Suffice to say that when staying in the area and visiting Dunster on a day off, using the train to get there from Watchet did not cross my mind, but the bus did.
     
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  3. Paul Kibbey

    Paul Kibbey Active Member

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    Only guessing now but I think they maybe having a laugh . I don't know a picture of Anderton Boat Lift is relevant , now that would be a dream .
     
  4. Jim O'Brien

    Jim O'Brien New Member

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    Well, in Scotland they laughed at the Falkirk Wheel design plans too, for several reasons which included the basic fact that it was not a plan to reinstate the traditional flight of locks, but to creare something that might be at home in an entertainment park. I visited it shortly after opening day, and was mightily impressed by the concept and execution. It is a tourist attraction in it's own right now - not a failure.

    It was built, I believe, with much grant aid from many sources. I doubt the same funds would have been there to restore the original locks. The Anderton Boat lift performs a similar function between the Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Weaver Navigation, but is not so spectacular to watch in operation. It doesn't draw the same crowds.

    Would the restored GW canal lift bring in the finance and be as popular? I've seen less realistic proposals. Now, to restore the West Somerset Mineral Railway and the Incline, with good views from the top? Just a wild thought.
     
  5. jnc

    jnc Member

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    Definitely. We're currently seeing a number of different downsides of having a PLC at the head of the train (so to speak).

    Which is why, back when, I was originally supportive of the concept of the WSRA owning the trackbed (think of it as the first step to a better overall organizational structure) - before I learned what the then-WSRA Board was like!

    Noel
     
  6. Paul Kibbey

    Paul Kibbey Active Member

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    I've just come back in to correct my post , I meant the Falkirk Wheel not Anderton Boat Lift , whoops sorry .

    Paul .K.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 3:40 PM
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  7. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Part of the furniture

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    A PLC was seen as a fine tool for raising funds by way of share issues, but the reality is that the set up and professional costs of these are much higher than the comparative costs of Appeals, whilst what people get is perhaps effectively the same - although the costs of 'servicing' shareholdings - both in terms of admin. and perhaps even more so'shareholder benefits' - can be much greater.

    This brings us back to the issue that the present West Somerset Railway structure is not well suited to fund raising other than by share issues and smaller, specific appeals. The fact that the charity arm was distant enough for the problems of a short while ago makes them leading a major appeal, with all the Gift Aid benefits, or encouraging bequests (where the 2 organisations compete against each other, whilst only one offers relief from Inheritance Tax to the donor) seem difficult.

    Unpicking the structure also seems far from simple, not lease due to obvious continued mistrust and division - from postings on here, there are clearly 'the plc can do no wrong' and 'don't trust the plc' factions, both of which are quite possibly both mistaken and based on some degree of real life experience at the same time!

    How 'appealing' would an appeal for track work be? What about a big package of improvements, including specific trackwork/infrastructure projects but also 'WIBN' and other more 'visionary' elements? How about external funders, such as the National Lottery? Such approaches can and have/are working elsewhere. Projects like Dunster could be the key to unlocking funding to deal with the infrastructure problems as well.

    And please, people who want to ride on a steam train ENJOY A HERITAGE EXPERIENCE AND AMBIENCE, even if they don't know (unless it is explained to them) exactly what they are looking at. Over 350,000 people a year visit Beamish, which is entirely a recreation of past times - that is the attraction! That is why they visit! To dismiss the 'general public ' as having no interest in heritage is both insulting and inaccurate and suggests that those who do so don't understand the very product a preserved railway is selling - packaged (and sanitised!) nostalgia!

    Finally, below is what happens when vision, heritage and commercial sense combine - Goathland Goods Shed and Tea Room.

    DSC_0303_4.JPG

    Steven
     
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  8. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Well-Known Member

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    Hardware shops are pretty rare these days, if its good then I and others might take a walk..........................

    What about the Bakelite museum?
     
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  9. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    I think they are quite serious but have not done their homework even at the most basic level. For example AIUI part of the canal no longer exists having been filled in and built over. Whenever such a grandiose scheme is proposed they never mention cost because they imagine the money tree will provide. Just like the MH-TA commuter link.
    And certain other things I could mention.
     
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  10. Colin Allcars

    Colin Allcars New Member

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    Goathland Goods Shed Tea Rooms. I went there last year with my steam railway neutral wife who really enjoyed the ambience, so much so that a second leisurely visit was needed. We sat in restored railway wagons, with genuine artefacts like the crane, barrels, sacks etc. The range of merchandise and food was excellent and the staff and other passengers were very friendly. There were other wagons in the adjacent coal drops and a line of restored goods wagons close by. We also sat out on the platform and watched trains.

    Imagine that in Dunster Shed!
     
  11. frazoulaswak

    frazoulaswak Member

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    Could have saved a lot of angst over on the Broadway thread if the GWSR had hung on to the goods shed there...
     
  12. 1472

    1472 Active Member

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    "Elsewhere" at least one major railway is owned and operated by a PLC but the support organisation (not dissimilar to the WSRA) ensures that it always owns sufficient shares in the PLC to be able to both repel hostile share acquisition by those with purposes other than "heritage railway" and exert some influence over the direction taken by the PLC. There is a weakness in that should the PLC become insolvent putting the freehold of the railway and other PLC owned assets at risk.

    Does the WSRA currently own any shares in the WSR PLC?
     
  13. 1472

    1472 Active Member

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    A desperate act in desperate times IIRC?
     
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  14. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    The WRSA does have a minority shareholding in the PLC but not enough to have any significant influence. The PLC does NOT own the freehold of the railway which is owned by Somerset County Council.
     
  15. Forestpines

    Forestpines Member

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    Wasn't the Bakelite Museum having problems with its tenancy of their building a few months ago? Has that all been resolved now?

    It is an excellent collection but also not exactly in the centre of the village.
     
  16. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Member

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    I had not intended commenting further, however.

    I empathise with Steven's comments re structure on the WSR, ( however it is somewhat akin to the "Which way to Dublin?" scenario ie "I wouldn't start from here". But we are where we are.

    The relationship between the Plc and the WSRA is now good and developing. The joint three locomotive fund ie 4561 & 7821 owned by the WSRA and 4110 by the Plc is I suggest an earnest.

    There is a growing recognition that the charitable status of the WSRA should be embraced, particularly wrt fund raising. There is still some way to go but I submit progress is being made.

    Whether by soliciting funds through a charity or the issuance of further shares there is current activity; reading this forum one could at times consider total inactivity reigns. I think however we all agree there needs to be far more. Steven is absolutely correct, share holders cost money, (as one I am very aware) eg calling to AGMs, maintenance of a share register let alone travel passes for a given number of shares etc but the WSR Shareholders I submit as a body have been good to the Railway and I am sure will continue to be so as long as they are recognised and looked after.

    As an aside, whilst the WSRA share holding is only c.9% it does represent I think the largest single share holding.

    There is much to be done, both the Plc and WSRA need to improve in all spheres, not just in fund raising; a viewpoint I believe both Directors and Trustees recognise. The WSR (both Plc and WSRA) , as with any small to medium sized organisation, that has existed for upwards of 40 years, has witnessed peaks and troughs (as I said of the Bluebell, 'I have witnessed the worst of times and the best of times'). It is the natural way of organisations.

    Yes of course we need to recognise our volunteers, there are two things that can bring the Railway to instant closure, the Volunteers are one. I volunteer to have an enjoyable, and hopefully for the Railway, a beneficial and safe day. ( joy is in the eyes of the beholder perhaps ?). I by the way have no problem on occasion clearing up after a paid member of staff, or hopefully the other way round.

    Of course Heritage projects have their place, and naturally many volunteers prefer the new and the interesting (rather than the boring, repetitive and absolutely essential) but many of us are also thankfully pragmatists.

    The pressing need on the WSR is our operational infrastructure (I deduce from the public pronouncements things are not so different on the NYMR). Point scoring here on Nat Pres will not alter that. At 77 years of age I want to know, that assuming the demand is there, trains can be run over the full length of rhe WSR in 20 years time, not for myself but for the current young generation, even for those still to be born..

    Michael Rowe
     
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  17. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    and essential for safe working
     
  18. aldfort

    aldfort Well-Known Member

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    Might I draw your attention to the Dunster Castle Express with connects with a Coach Service run in partnership with the NT twice a week for most of the tourist season. The Coach transporting people from the station at Dunster to the heart of Dunster village and back to the railway at time convenient to meet the trains. Not a vintage bus, but we can dare to dream. Or is that too WIBN?
     
  19. aldfort

    aldfort Well-Known Member

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    At the risk of being pilloried by all I think that we can do more than one thing at a time. Projects that have a need for high capital expenditure are limited by the rate at which funds can be generated. Also practically by track access time unless we stop running trains. (I understand that borrowing is a potential answer but a massively risky one IMHO so my assumption is that it's not worthy of serious consideration and that projects must be funded out of revenue or donation.) Projects that simply need will and organisation but for which the costs are relatively low or indeed negligible can therefore be undertaken in parallel, particularly if unskilled but willing labour can be deployed.
     
  20. Robin White

    Robin White Resident of Nat Pres

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    Fine words (and lots of them) but little Anchor on the parsnips.

    Give me a moment to eat my tea and satisfy my Star Trek Voyager obsession and I will set out how we can have better P.Way facilities and 'Dunster Goods' open as an addition revenue generating destination by the start of the 2019 season.

    The Railway is an holistic whole. It is the trading activities and commitment by enthusiast shareholders which generate the cash for desirable Infrastructure work. To say that Infrastructure is a unique priority is foolishly simplistic. Without track to run on, locos and coaches to run on that track, stations to provide facilities, signalling to handle the train etc etc and, above all a core of staff and a panoply of volunteers, we would be nothing.

    Robin
     
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