Chairman’s Update – 12-Jan-21

Chairman’s Update – 12-Jan-21

Yesterday, DEPG Chairman Martin Howard provided an update message that went out to those members and supporters who have signed up to the weekly roundup email service. As Martin’s message contained information that could also be of interest to our wider readership, we are releasing his statement in its entirety.

Update from the DEPG Chairman – 11th January 2021

Since the imposition of the current Lockdown measures, there has been a considerable amount of adverse comment about various activities taking place on the WSR. Some of this comment is implicating the DEPG in a negative way and I wish to counter this with an explanation of what is actually taking place.

The WSR Board has had a close look at how the latest lockdown measures affect them and were quick to issue guidance for their own staff and volunteers. The DEPG Board has decided to follow suit and adopt the spirit of this guidance. In brief, this means the Railway is closed to the public, many paid staff are working from home and volunteer attendance is discouraged – but it does not mean the Railway is completely closed, far from it.

You will recall that the WSR was fortunate to receive a large Heritage Culture Recovery Fund grant which is aimed at keeping the business afloat and paying for works that are either necessary due to the coronavirus or have been delayed because of it. It is important to remember that this money has to be spent by 31st March 2021. There is much work to be done on the Railway that cannot be done from home and so the WSR has decided that certain activities must therefore continue where it is safe to do so and provided appropriate Covid-secure measures are implemented.

The DEPG Board has decided to take a similar stance and not to allow our volunteers to attend at Williton Depot unless the task to be undertaken is either essential to WSR or DEPG operations or urgently required to secure our assets or make something safe. This allows us to authorise and undertake such work as may be necessary on a case-by-case basis.

As you know, we have had to vacate the Goods Shed because of the poor state of the roof and so since the end of November and throughout December, several DEPG volunteers were engaged in removing and securely stowing our assets from within it. It was important for us to get this done quickly to minimise any risk to our staff and so this job was clearly an urgent one. I am pleased to report that this task has now been completed.

Inside the Old Goods Shed at Williton facing south – showing the railway and roadway either side of the central platform. The loading gauge still hangs in position (below the light fitting), to warn the staff against over-height loads on wagons. Photo by Martin Howard (c) CC BY-NC 3.0

During this process we discovered that the container housing Class 33 spares had developed a leak and water was now threatening the spares inside. Last weekend was the first opportunity we had to cover the container with a tarpaulin to prevent the rain getting in.

Class 33 spares container at Williton Depot showing signs of water ingress on 27th December 2020. Photo by Ian Robins c) CC BY-NC 3.0

Throughout January, February and March, the WSR Permanent Way Gang will be engaged in various tasks to help bring the railway itself back up to scratch. There is still trackwork to be completed at Doniford from when it was interrupted by the first lockdown in March. There is also urgent work at Blue Anchor and of course there are the new barriers to be installed at Seaward Way in Minehead. There are also many other jobs to be done along the whole line that can still be done in a Covid-secure way. In support of these activities, engineering trains may run at any time to transport materials and equipment to where it is needed.

The WSR RRV moving sets of pressed steel sleepers in the north yard at Williton on 24th November 2020. Photo by Chris Lawton c) CC BY-NC 3.0

On Monday 11th Jan, Class 33 D6575 will be started up and moved to the Down platform at Williton. This will free up space in our yard for the two RRVs to manoeuvre as they need to in support of the work at Doniford to complete the track repairs that were interrupted by Lockdown 1. Both Class 33s will be started up on a regular basis to maintain them in a serviceable condition and ensure they are ready for use at short notice. This is being done by WSR staff on our behalf.

Commercial deliveries are still being made to the Restorations workshop at Williton which is continuing with contract work to bring funds into the WSR. As far as we are aware there are no rail vehicles being moved in or out by road, but some vehicles in the North Yard are likely to be moved to suit the workshop plans. There are likely to be further deliveries of Permanent Way materials to the South Yard from time to time. Forklift training is planned to be taking place in and around Sherring’s Yard on 21st January. This is to re-certify operators on the new 8-ton forklift.

Some of you are frequent watchers of the Williton Station webcam and it is reassuring to know that your interest is helping to keep an eye on our heritage diesel fleet. You are not slow to let us know when things are happening! By the same token, those of you that have access to HOPS should be aware of planned movements through the publication there of the Weekly Engineering Notices. Please do not be surprised or alarmed when these or any unplanned movements are taking place.

Martin Howard

DEPG Chairman

11th January 2021

Martin makes reference to a loco re-positioning movement that was planned for Monday 11th Jan 2021. It did take place and Class 33 ‘Crompton’ D6575 (33 057) is now stabled at the north end of Platform 1 at Williton station. This ensures that the loco remains available to the WSR even when the yard itself is blocked by materials for the permanent way projects.

Class 33 D6575 (33 057) now stabled at Platform 1 at Williton on 11th January 2021. The WSR RRV and the infrastructure team are at work in the south yard. Webcam capture by Railcam UK and the WSR (c)

This capture from the Williton webcam shows the loco in her new position. The Road-Rail Vehicle (RRV) can be seen at work, moving heavy loads in the south yard, just to the left of the loco.

Many thanks to Railcam UK and the WSR for the major benefit provided by these webcams.

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