West Somerset Steam Railway Trust
The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust is a group based on the preserved West Somerset Railway, Somerset, England. It a registered charity and one of the oldest institutions on the line, being formed in November 1972 with the intention of running summer steam services alongside the year-round commercial WSR company operations.
The Trust became moribund and in the mid-1980s was revitalized to coincide with the GW150 celebrations. It is now concerned with the historical and educational aspects of railway preservation in West Somerset and since 1984, has made financial contributions to the restoration of GWR steam locomotives 4561 and 4160, rescued the unique GWR sleeping car, established a GWR museum, registering system and archive; published information leaflets and advised on historical matters. The Trust is one of the largest shareholders in the current WSR Plc.
The Trust is administered by five voluntary directors and cannot dispose of items it owns, so gifts and bequests remain safe for the future. In the unlikely event of the Trust being wound up, its property could only be passed to another similar trust. Because of this, people who have collected railway items, rolling stock or shares etc. which they wish to remain safe for the future may feel that a charitable body such as the Trust is the best organisation to which to bequeath them.
Among the Trust's current aims are:
- To restore the 1897 GWR sleeping car 9038 and GW Toplight coach 3639.
- To administer the museum at Blue Anchor railway station
- To assist with other projects such as the restoration of steam locomotives and other historic railway items to be used or displayed in West Somerset
- To act as a repository for the safekeeping of items of railway interest which may be donated, loaned or bequeathed.
- To research the history of the Minehead branch. The Trust has recently published an extensive history of the railway.
In early 2007, the Trust embarked on an ambitious project to restore two rakes of GWR coaches for use on the West Somerset Railway. Some of these are already on the railway, but others will be brought from abroad. The first of these, No 6705, has been acquired from Steamtown USA, part of the National Park Service, based in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
BCK 6705 was refurbished at Swindon and taken to the USA by a private enthusiast, F Nelson Blount in 1967. After his death in the same year it was managed by a museum called Steamtown USA. In the 1980s this became Steamtown Historic Site. The mission of Steamtown is to interpret the impact of steam railroading on the USA, so 6705 was out of place with the rest of the collection and not high on the list for preservation. The coach was moved to Halifax in early February 2007, and shipped to Newport on the mv Fairlift. The vehicle underwent restoration at Crewe and in early 2011 was moved to Williton for finishing off. Currently the target for completion is 2014 subject to the raising of a final target of £10,000 for the completion of the work which is being done partially by contractors and partially by Trust volunteers. <Trust website>
Meanwhile, the Trust has begun the process of acquiring other coaches for restoration.
The Trust's office is at Williton Station, Station Road, Williton, Somerset, TA4 4RJ