If you register, you can do a lot more. And become an active part of our growing community. You'll have access to hidden forums, and enjoy the ability of replying and starting conversations.

West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,498
    Likes Received:
    6,843
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Except before you get too smug, what Martin is suggesting is similar to the service pattern in the late 1980s/early 1990s, from memory where there was one steam trip that did the whole line but the rest of the time just ran MN-WN, while BL was serviced by DMUs. If travelling from BL you could only do BL-MN-WN by steam but then you had to get DMU back to BL.

    I think it was the pattern for longer - certainly into the late 80s maybe up to 88-89? I think it might have changed around 89 because I 'think' I can remember doing a round trip from BL behind Evening Star.

    My memory is that the train out of BL was fairly heavily loaded as it was the only steam departure of the day. It tended to concentrate the passengers who wanted a long steam ride at BL. DMU back from WN was generally a lot quieter.

    I think it worked well but I do remember that compared to other lines where the service was 'busy' ie SVR, PDR, FR, TR, MHR etc the line seemed quiet and gave off a bit of a backwater vibe - it felt like a longer version of the SDR which was always just one engine in steam.

    Do you think those passengers for whom the railway is a middle of week activity are so bothered about the length of the line or is it 'it is a steam railway, it is within budget'? In your experience do the wednesday/thursday passengers tend do the whole line or just to say Watchet? Because I do wonder if timetabled shorter trips might not be more appealing to a more casual non-enthusiast audience than a full length round trip which is the best part of 3 1/2 - 4 hours. Just thinking about people with young families etc - I think if it were me I would shy away from anything that long without something worthwhile to break the trip. It makes sense from the BL end because you break your trip in MN, but from MN there is no real obvious place to take a break and wait for the next train (plus the gaps are long as well even on the Yellow timetable).

    Long version short - would shorter trips with higher frequency be more attractive to the MN end mid week passenger than infrequent long trips and might that be a way of increasing passenger numbers from the MN end?
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2022
  2. Ian Monkton

    Ian Monkton Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2011
    Messages:
    928
    Likes Received:
    972
    Location:
    South Somerset
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer

    In the 80s and 90s, BL was not signalled, and WN - BL was worked as either a 'one-engine-in-steam' section or 'staff and ticket'. CH had not had its loop instated so was also unsignalled. This meant that at best a 2-hourly service was run so a DMU to WN after the first departure was more acceptable.

    As to passengers from MD, they don't have to take a BL train all the way - they can alight at any station. This is an example of a conversation I had on the platform at MD many times with people who had just happened to wander onto the platform out of curiosity while turning my train round to return to BL:

    Potential passenger: 'Where does the train go?'

    Me: (rather than reel off the list of stations) 'There are quite a few stations, the final one is Bishops Lydeard'

    PP: 'How long does it take?'

    Me: 'About 3 1/2 hours'

    At this point their face would show disappointment, so I would add: 'If you don't have the time, you could go to a closer station like Blue Anchor or Watchet'

    They would then go off and purchase said tickets.

    I would be interested in what you mean by 'higher frequency' - a MD - WT - WN service could only be hourly at best because of the constraint of the length of the BA - WN section.
     
    JBTEvans likes this.
  3. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    May 30, 2009
    Messages:
    18,983
    Likes Received:
    18,064
    Location:
    1016
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    To my mind, if the WSR hasn't worked out exactly what kind of service to run along the line by now then what on earth have they been doing in the past twenty years, say?

    I've always been of the view that it hinges on Watchet - a destination from either end of the line. You do whatever you can to maximise the number of trains to and from Watchet primarily from Minehead. If it works, then turn trains from Minehead around at Williton.

    Running trains from Minehead to Williton and and back is probably limited by the section lengths. No problem. Put a passing loop in at Washford and you can increase the intensity of trains on the key Minehead to Watchet section.

    I don't have passenger data to know what's best but of course, with the investment at Washford plus the signalling you will have to spend to get the return.
     
    green five likes this.
  4. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Messages:
    23,223
    Likes Received:
    45,792
    Location:
    LBSC 215
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    If you wanted to run a really limited service, my view ages ago was a morning BL - Minehead departure; same train then does a Minehead - Williton return (to cater for those wanting a late morning run out to Watchet, essentially: Williton being the first point after Watchet where the train can turn back); then finally a Minehead to BL return at the end of the day. 60 loco miles, one steaming cycle, one carriage duty, but two bites at the cherry, ie a train load of those coming via the M5 wanting a day on the beach; and a trainload of those staying in Minehead wanting a shorter trip for something to do.

    You then expand from there. The key though is not everything has to be “full round trip or nothing”.

    The idea of a DMU to Williton and change for steam seems mad in my eyes. Firstly you make what is already a long journey for those whose primary motivation is the beach just that much longer with all the hassle of swapping trains. Then you dilute the message of “take a steam train to the sea”. Meanwhile, you still steam an engine (which is the expensive bit) so the marginal cost saving is pretty small. Plus how do you fit six coaches of passengers you are taking onwards from Williton onto a three car DMU at Bishops lydeard? You’ve just turned an attractive 90 minute steam hauled trip to the seaside into a two hour marathon with an awkward change and a standing room-only journey for the first half, plus cut down the time available on the beach by an hour … Coming from east of BL, if that was offered I’d just bite the bullet and drive on to Williton and start there - or, more likely, go to Swanage instead.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2022
    Fish Plate, Poolbrook, Paul42 and 7 others like this.
  5. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    May 30, 2009
    Messages:
    18,983
    Likes Received:
    18,064
    Location:
    1016
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    So Tom and myself are saying different but related things. Stop running trains the full length of the line all day and combine with shuttles. Let's face it, if you want to go to Minehead for the day and include a steam trip as well, why on earth leave the car at Bishops Lydeard and take the train to Minehead? Drive to Minehead, maximise your time there and fit your steam trip in from that end.

    Take my pattern if I go to the WSR with a charter for example. Change at BL for a trip to Watchet or go to MH on the charter and fit in a trip back to Watchet.
     
  6. Bayard

    Bayard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,670
    Likes Received:
    3,541
    Gender:
    Male
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Well, of course, at Washford, most of the trackwork for a passing loop is already there, just needs to be bought off its present owners. Handy they are leaving, isn't it?
     
  7. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2006
    Messages:
    11,004
    Likes Received:
    8,261
    Occupation:
    Gentleman of leisure, nowadays
    Location:
    Near Leeds
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I don't presume enough about the WSR to come up with a T/T for the railway but, from many posts on here, it appears that the principle traffic flow on the WSR is BL-MH in the morning followed by a reverse flow in the afternoon, which makes sense, given that, for the vast majority of the population, BL is the nearest station. In many ways it is similar to the situation on the NYMR with Pickering- Whitby in the morning and reverse in the afternoon. The vast majority of people travelling want a day at the seaside with a ride on a steam train as part of that day and, for those travelling from the south (i.e. York, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, etc) it makes no sense both timewise and financially to drive to Whitby to essentially retrace their journey by train. Another thing the NYMR has learned is that, if there is a diesel on the front, people will see this and not travel so getting them to start their journey on a DMU has a negative effect. Joe Public also doesn't want the hassle of changing trains part way through the journey so, to me, starting the trip with a DMU and changing trains, as suggested by Martin, is a double negative. Others have said that this was the way the railway operated in the 80's and it may have done but I suspect that this was more due to the circumstances of the time than catering for the likely traffic flow. For example, when did the steam loco servicing facilities at BL get installed? There's also the fact that, with most heritage railways it was originally perceived that the reason for travelling was simply to have a trip on the railway and most railways had a one-ended operation, in which case Minehead would be perceived as the starting point.
    The NYMR' experience is that people travelling from Whitby are staying in the area and tend to go to Goathland as a destination with something for them to do, a bit like others have suggested with a Minehead - Watchet service. the NYMR has a slight advantage over the WSR in that Pickering is also a reasonable destination, which BL certainly isn't.
    I might be wrong and would be happy to be proved so but I don't think I am.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2022
    Fish Plate, JBTEvans, Paul42 and 4 others like this.
  8. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2011
    Messages:
    19,835
    Likes Received:
    15,939
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Grantham
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    In answer to your opening question, if I want to get the steam in with a day at the sea, I need to have the steam before I get to the sea, not once I get there. Coming off the M5 (like the vast majority of people accessing West Somerset), Bishops Lydeard is perfectly placed as a park and ride station. Stop me there, and the WSR has captured my income; make me drive the extra 18 miles to Minehead, and I may well not return as the alternative attractions of Minehead will compete for my attention. The same is true of my visits to NYMR - if I drive past Pickering to get to Whitby, NYMR is unlikely to get my business.

    The issue, by the way, is the family. Their tolerance for the time it takes on the train (at least an extra hour each way*) is based on it being part of the journey, not an extra attraction.

    * - an anecdote. We were driving back from Cornwall a few years ago, and I persuaded my wife to allow a ride on the WSR. The way the timetable worked, she dropped me with the kids at Blue Anchor rather than go into Minehead, then drove on to BL to pick us up. She was very unimpressed to find herself parked at BL before the train had reached Washford. She has since refused pointblank to consider fitting in the WSR when doing similar journeys.
     
  9. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,498
    Likes Received:
    6,843
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Thanks. Yes, I think hourly is about right. If the weather changes you aren't stuck somewhere, if you want to stay longer then you aren't locked into a specific return trips. For example, at the SVR I normally reckon about an hour at Highley, or two hours for lunch at Bridgnorth.

    I recall reading Gordon Rushton's comments about running shuttle services on the Ffestiniog, his view was that they were successful, popular and made money, but some opposed it because they felt that it was that it should be the whole line or not at all. (The FR is another line that I think has suffered from being a bit too end to end, but post covid it is realising that shorter trips are more appealing to people).

    Talking about customers, something that struck me about the WSR website and the 'our stations' bit is actually how little there is that flags up stations that are good for families. Pretty much all of them mention a pub, or a walk, but nothing that screamed 'this is a good place for a family on a budget'.

    Except that isn't how it worked.

    The major flow used to be the one BL steam departure which was timed around lunchtime. Eat lunch on the train - afternoon in Minehead on the beach. There was then a fairly regular (can't remember if it was just the steam train or the DMU as well) service between MN and WN in the afternoon. On the steam train between MN and WN it was either people doing an out and back, or people doing a trip from MN in the afternoon, so the return traffic was spread.

    So you didn't actually get a 3 car DMU feeding into a 6 car steam or vice versa.

    I don't remember ever changing at WN to go to MN, only ever on the way back and it was never a hassle.

    The 'problem' to my mind is not attracting passengers at BL but attracting passengers at MN. I don't think a 3 1/2 hour trip or a shorter trip with infrequent return trips (ie MN to Blue Anchor or Watchet) is particularly appealing.
     
  10. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Messages:
    23,223
    Likes Received:
    45,792
    Location:
    LBSC 215
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I was responding to @martin1656 suggestion about starting with a DMU at BL and changing to steam at Williton, not commenting on what was done in the 1980s.

    Tom
     
  11. brennan

    brennan New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2016
    Messages:
    131
    Likes Received:
    132
    Location:
    Gloucester
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    when was the last time you went to Minehead?
     
    D7076, granmaree and johnofwessex like this.
  12. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2011
    Messages:
    19,835
    Likes Received:
    15,939
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Grantham
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    A while ago - I tend to pass through these days, and I suspect I’m not seen by Butlins marketers as a hot prospect!

    But my point stands. If Minehead is the destination, rather than Minehead station, then it follows that there must be attractions there to draw me. And if that’s true, then the railway is competing for my attention.

    If it’s not, I’m in the car, and the attractions run dry, then there are alternatives a short drive away - again, competition for the railway.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  13. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,498
    Likes Received:
    6,843
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    But changing to steam from a DMU to steam at WN was done in the 1980s. Afternoon departures from BL were DMU to WN and there you could change onto the steam service to MN. My impression is that those who were keen for steam simply went for the lunchtime steam departure. So you never had 6 into 3.

    Whether it would work again depends on whether passenger numbers at BL have significantly increased from the 1980s and that the line would lose more than gain by limiting the number of steam hauled services that travel the whole line.

    I don't think it is unreasonable to ask if the mid afternoon ex-BL departures have to be steam hauled or to ask if the lunchtime and mid afternoon MN departures have to be the full length of the line and if better use of the stock could be made by running split shuttles.

    Bottomline, I don't think that the underlying argument that Martin has made is wrong. It's been done before, it worked then, there is no reason why some form of more frequent shuttle type services from either end of the line might not be part of a solution to improving passenger numbers and attracting passengers who are currently put off by the service pattern and journey length.
     
    JBTEvans likes this.
  14. used2be

    used2be New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2021
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    8
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    u.k.
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Well with all those non-running days on the timetable
    They will be able to fit in more main line charters ............
     
  15. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2015
    Messages:
    7,876
    Likes Received:
    5,960
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Thorn in my managers side
    Location:
    72
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    I have in the past changed at Williton from a steam train to a DMU

    I cant say that it added anything to the experience, it did however take a lot away.
     
  16. nanstallon

    nanstallon Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2005
    Messages:
    4,325
    Likes Received:
    2,385
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Westcountry
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I remember in the early days, a change at Williton from steam (from Minehead) to diesel (to BL) being normal, and as far as I was concerned, perfectly acceptable. Frankly, I'm glad to see the Railway getting back into full running again. I aim to ride again in March, and look forward to the gala in May. I do hope that the plc puts as much effort into Washford station as the unfairly evicted S&DRT did.
     
    Dennis John Brooks likes this.
  17. Another Yorkshireman

    Another Yorkshireman Member Friend

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2014
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    685
    Gender:
    Male
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I am not privy to actual numbers but my perception was always that ticket sales from Minehead, regardless of which day of the week, fell into three roughly equal parts, one part whole line, one part Watchet returns, one part 'other' tickets, [particularly Dunster and Blue Anchor. Rarely stations beyond Watchet.]
    The longer journeys were discounted - the further you went the less it cost per mile, which encouraged many passengers to go for many the full round trip as the add-on was not significant for their budget. And they could still do the journey break at Watchet and have a nice pub lunch!
    I lost count of the number turning up after lunch for 'a ride on a steam train'. That was what had attracted them.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2022
    JBTEvans, Ian Monkton, 35B and 2 others like this.
  18. Windsor branch line

    Windsor branch line New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2020
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    6
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Berkshire
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    The Dmu , was under repair at Williton , Then it was moved to Minehead , there was supposed to be A update on the work undertaken on it but I don’t think there was any news .There was also stock movement just before Xmas with another Dmu moved from Bl to minehead, No news on this one Either or the one In stone sidings which Is opposite the signal box in mindhead Scrap or repair or spares , As the 3 car Dmu was not used last year , Will it be used this year .
     
  19. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2008
    Messages:
    1,921
    Likes Received:
    480
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Newport (South Wales)
    The WSR length is the WSR's length.
     
  20. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2006
    Messages:
    11,143
    Likes Received:
    4,791
    It is also it's weakness
     
    Greenway, 242A1 and Matt37401 like this.

Share This Page