Williton News Report up to 26th June 2013.
After months of preparation and hard work by our volunteers, we staged our premier heritage diesel event on the
West Somerset Railway, the Mixed Traction Weekend, on 7th, 8th and 9th of June. A great deal of effort is put in to
staging events such as these, and not just our own staff. The WSR permanent staff and their Special Events
Planning Team (SEPT) also burn much midnight oil to ensure all the preparations are made and that all the
volunteer staff are in the right place at the right time. Since the gala event template is used, this means that
volunteer staff are doubled up to make sure nobody is on duty for excessive periods. For example, normal running
on the WSR requires 5 signallers; for galas this means 10 are required. This extra manning can be extrapolated
across all areas, though is less essential for non safety-critical posts, so you can begin to understand the demands
on volunteer staff numbers. The DEPG is extremely grateful that these volunteers will freely give of their time to
ensure our gala weekend runs as smoothly as possible.
Considerable attention over the long winter months resulted in a full turnout from the DEPG home fleet of heritage
diesel locomotives. Given a few more fine days we might have been able to complete the washing and polishing of
our fleet to make them look a little smarter, but it was not to be. We did succeed however in having everything
running properly, which is of course the first priority before a wash and brush-up. It's no good having it looking
smart if it doesn't work!
We were fortunate to have two guest locos for this event. 24081 Locomotive Group sent their Class 24 locomotive,
running in BR blue with its pre-TOPS number 5081, and the Growler Group provided 37215, also in blue, but with
TOPS number displayed. Both locomotives were immaculately turned out and are a credit to their owners. All we
needed was some nice weather.
The weather gods seemed to be listening to our requests as, for most of the weekend, the sun shone and it was
comfortably warm. There was a passing rain shower on Friday afternoon, but by then everything was up and
running and it did little to dampen spirits. As in previous years, the Friday was exclusively diesel hauled and the
re-creation of railway travel in the late 60s/early 70s was pretty convincing! We had some tentative moments in
Friday morning as D1010 was prepared for her diagram. Despite a very successful test run the week before, the
locomotive was reluctant to change direction during pre-use checks on shed at Williton. A little careful coaxing and
gentle persuasion (without hammers!) overcame the difficulty and the old girl went on to take her place in the
line-up. The locomotive equivalent of old age and stiff joints gradually eased during the day and our Western went
on to complete her full weekend diagram without any further problems.
The highlights for Saturday were undoubtedly the two nominally non-stop runs over the whole line. The Up 'Express'
service, hauled by D832 and piloted by D1010 carrying the Bristolian headboard, was definitely non-stop between
Minehead and Bishops Lydeard. D1010 was doing most of the work; it sounded fantastic to the crew of 'Onslaught'
just behind. Driver Neil did a great job keeping the train moving and living up to the non-stop title, ably assisted by
the Secondman on D832 with some slick token exchanges. After a brief stop at Bishops Lydeard, the Bristolian went
on to Norton Fitzwarren platform, where the two hydraulic locomotives were swapped for the two 33's, working
double-headed back to Minehead as a 'Semi-Fast', stopping only at Crowcombe Heathfield and Blue Anchor to
cross Up services. Both trains appeared to be particularly popular with our enthusiast following. As is customary for
our main gala weekend, the day ended with a BBQ and social gathering at Williton Depot for all the DEPG working
staff, loco crews and key players from the WSR.
Sunday brought more fine, warm weather and another shuffle of the diagrams. Certainly there seemed to be plenty
of people about, looking for the more unusual loco and stock combinations. The one 'cloud' on the horizon was that
the visiting class 24 was reported as being low on fuel and therefore probably 'won't finish its diagram'. In the event,
and despite contingency plans being warmed up, it managed to complete its workings as planned. Our two visiting
locomotive's crews were observed grinning from ear to ear on many occasions over the weekend, so it's fair to
assume that they enjoyed themselves!
After the fun and enjoyment of the gala weekend, Monday morning brought the usual puzzle of getting the
out-stationed locos back to Williton in the smallest number of moves, and with the smallest number of crew
available. We only had two light engine moves to do, one from each end of the line, which was convenient as we
only had two crews we could call on to do them! Paul and Martin were dropped off in Minehead by Julie, to prepare
and bring back the Hymek. No sooner than she got back to Williton then Julie immediately took the Tooke (as in
Jon) and Mike to Bishops Lydeard to recover the 33. Martin soon had the Hymek engine room opened up beside
the platform while the preheating and preparation was going on and we were pleasantly surprised by the level of
interest in our activities by passengers waiting for the steam service that was to precede us. The light engine moves
were very uneventful really, and by lunchtime on another beautiful sunny day, all our loco fleet was back home at
The following weekend saw the radiator elements attached to D7018's cooler group in readiness for pressure
testing. If that is successful, which we are keeping our collective fingers crossed for, then we shall start preparing
the loco to receive it. Once back in, it is a significant obvious development towards having the loco running again.
Now where's that spare MD870 engine?
Well, there is actually a bit of news on that front. We are always on the lookout for Maybach engine spares and over
the years we have acquired three MD870 engines. None of them were in good health when we got them, but they
were still a useful source of things like cylinder heads and injectors. We have kept the stripped out cylinder blocks
while we waited for the perfect spare engine to turn up. It hasn't, so we are now looking very seriously at the assets
we have with a view to selecting one for repair. All of them have suffered to some degree with cavitation of cylinder
liners and water spaces, and all have crankshafts that, to put it politely, are somewhat less than perfect, which is
extremely expensive to put right. Doctor Maybach has now selected a crankshaft that has greater potential than the
others and he has set about polishing it back to life. Thanks to our friends at West Somerset Restorations for the
use of their biggest lathe while our resident engineer embarks on the long and lonely road that he must take in
order to restore the newness to this essential piece of Maybach machinery.