Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'

The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. We now have many councillors, MPs, businesses and individuals living along the line supporting us. Even the Ministry of Transport supports our general aim. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change, road congestion, capacity constraints on the railways and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door. We already own Midford just south of Bath, and are restoring Spetisbury under license from DCC, but this is just the start. There are other established groups restoring stations and line at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone, and the fabulous narrow gauge line near Templevcombe, the Gartell Railway.

There are now FIVE sites being actively restored on the S&D and this blog will follow what goes on at all of them!
Midford - Midsomer Norton - Gartell - Shillingstone - Spetisbury

Our Aim:

Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) To restore sections of the route as they become viable.
Whilst the New S&D will primarily be a modern passenger and freight railway offering state of the art trains and services, we will also restore the infrastructure to the highest standards and encourage steam working and steam specials over all sections of the route, as well as work very closely with existing heritage lines established on the route.

This blog contains my personal views. Anything said here does not necessarily represent the aims or views of any of the groups currently restoring, preserving or operating trains over the Somerset and Dorset Railway!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

first class dining

This is the interior of our dining coach, which is stabled in the old cattle dock road at Midsomer Norton South.

Note the Southern style seat headrests, and John colouring in a picture.

The kitchen. A place for everything and everything in its place! Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 22, 2006

astronomical garden 2006

Midsomer Norton South 22 May 2006

Bedding plants have arrived so the astronomical garden can get a touch of colour again. Dave, George, Doug and John stand around waiting for the plants to plant themselves. Although not as big as the original garden thanks to the 'modern' road works since closure, the shape is retained, giving a nice Pagan touch to the station area. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 21, 2006

kicking heels waiting for the railtour that never came ...

John and Paul put on a brave face waiting for the Kingfisher railtour coaches that never came, thanks to the failure of 'Tangmere' a few days earlier. Amazingly this is not a posed photo, despite its very false appearance!

Paul drags himself to the doorway to entice potential customers coming down the hill.

Wulfric however stays busy at the photocopier, his work not depending on the presence (or absence) of visitors! Posted by Picasa

derrick gets his name at last!

Our roadrailer Derrick has been incredibly useful as track pushes towards Chilcompton. We purchased him outright last year.

He's now been rewarded with his own 'official' nameplates! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sprucing up the Sentinel!

Midsomer Norton South 15/05/06

The Sentinel is now resplendent in (very expensive!) undercoat. The former Croydon Gasworks loco 101 'Joyce' is very similar to the Sentinels which worked at Radstock. She is owned by a syndicate and should be fully restored to working order by 2008. For the first year she'll be turned out in Prussian Blue, but will then be repainted in BR black to match the 1950s styling and liveries of the station area. Posted by Picasa

Midsomer Norton Restaurant Coach

15/05/06 Midsomer Norton South

The restaurant coach has now been fully rewired for 240 volts. When running on the East Coast Main Line she drew her power from the overhead catenary!

Already serving hot and cold drinks and snacks, the coach will soon offer hot food to members of the public, Sunday lunches, special event meals and kids' birthday party bashes.

If you want to volunteer to help out please don't be shy! Posted by Picasa

Scene at Midsomer Norton 15/05/06

The down road is empty for a change, ready for No 10 to back down for a school visit.

Looking towards Chilcompton - No 10 switches from the up line to the down.

The outside of the station building. Note soon to be obsolete form of transport cluttering up the yard! Posted by Picasa

Diesel 10 at work and play.

15/05/06 Midsomer Norton South.

Diesel 10 David J Cook backs a few wagons onto the line to allow herself to set back into the platform. After this serious bit of work she was visited by 41 schoolchildren almost all of whom had a go on the whistle! Educational visits are becoming a lot more common on the S&D as kids reconnect with their heritage. Posted by Picasa

Museum Building at Midsomer Norton

The former stable block at Midsomer Norton is to be developed as a museum and archive of the S&D, once Lottery funding is obtained. As well as a range of relics and models, there will be a state of the art facility for writers and researchers of both the railway and local history. There will also be a small meeting area for local community groups. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The End of the Line?

Hardly! Although at the moment the plan is to head south, we are well aware that to have a viable railway (and to bring us closer to the real honeypot of Bath) restoration towards Radstock is a high priority. This is the view over Silver Street, where a bridge will need to be replaced. A further replacement bridge will be needed closer to Radstock, where the Midsomer Norton-Radstock road runs beneath the line. Radstock is desperate for the line to return ASAP, well aware that there is no better tool of regeneration than a working steam railway. And when that railway is the world famous S&D who knows how many millions of pounds will be injected into the local economy of Norton-Radstock over the coming decades once the trains return? Posted by Picasa

The Viewing Platform at Midsomer Norton

Obviously not present in the line's heyday, volunteers recently undertook the task of building a viewing platform at the end of the up platform. This gives an excellent view over the station and also provides a prime vantage point for watching diesel and steam specials, works trains and the track gang skiving. To the forefront in the down platform line is 'Derrick', the incredibly useful Road-Railer, which has made tracklaying about a hundred times easier than it was in the old days (before 2005) when all tracklaying was by hand. Posted by Picasa

9F at Shillingstone!

Okay, at the moment it looks more like an old boiler on wheels but rest assured that in the coming years this will become a fully-restored 2-10-0 9F, the most powerful and iconic locomotive that worked on the S&D. It is stored on a couple of track panels just outside of Shillingstone station - the eventual intention is that as a working loco she will visit other lines and also other operating sections of the S&D.

Shillingstone station is being restored by the North Dorset Railway Trust. Their website is www.shillingstonestationproj.fsnet.co.uk.

Posted by Picasa

Shillingstone Views

More shots of the progress being made at Shillingstone! Posted by Picasa


This is an overview of Shillingstone, on the Dorset section of the line. Restoration of the station is now quite advanced. This was taken on the 2006 open day, 14 May. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Overview of Midsomer Norton

Four years ago this was empty trackbed and the loading gauge was almost buried in rubble. The track gang at Midsomer Norton have worked amazingly over the last few years, restoring the complex pointwork to a very high standard. Works trains now run regularly over the track, preparing the line for reopening in 2007. Sunday is the best day for seeing trains in action. We have a diesel locomotive, No 10, also a railroader nicknamed 'Derrick'.

In September 2006 work should begin on extending the track southwards well away from the station site.

Outline approval has now been given to operation of public trains in 2007, once protective works are completed at the Silver Street end, where the bridge was demolished. The Board has decided to rename this part of the S&D revival 'The S&D Mendip Main Line Project', to reflect our longer term ambitions of rebuilding the line between Radstock and Shepton Mallet. On completion of this part of the project the hope is that Radstock to Bath will follow quickly, as within ten to twenty years private personal transport will become the preserve of the very rich, the rest of us will need to rely on public transport! There is already considerable support for a restoration from Radstock to Bath amongst local people, as well as a possible restoration from Radstock to Bristol via Pensford. Whilst Radstock to Shepton is seen primarily (at least in the short to medium term) as a tourist line, restoration to Bath will be primarily a public transport service, though still mainly using steam of course. Diesel is unlikely to be an economic option due to the exponential rise in oil prices as it becomes scarcer year by year. Posted by Picasa

Near Chilcompton

Near Chilcompton
Originally uploaded by Spring10.
This is the trackbed south of Midsomer Norton that should see trains again within the next five years.

Lord Fisher

Posted by Picasa
Lord Fisher visited Midsomer Norton at the end of November 2005 and stayed on site until 6 March 2006. She was used for Driver for a Fiver trips on occasional weekends, but on the 40th Anniversary of temporary closure she was given a real treat and allowed to pull a demonstration goods train, which she handled with ease!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

S&D Narrow Gauge Connections

The S&D has had a few narrow gauge connections. There was a 2' 6" gauge mainly roadside line linking Binegar with Oakhill Brewery, also a 2' (?) gauge peat line that crossed the branch and was involved in an accident in the 1950s when a branch train collided with a peat train in the fog. The flat crossing was apparently totally unprotected by signals! There was also the never-opened Tuckingmill Tramway at Midford, which was mooted in the 1980s.

Today we have the fantastic Gartell railway, just south of Templecombe, which although new build is very aware of the S&D connection. There is a small museum on site, also the three train sets are in the S&D colours of Prussian blue, Southern green and Midland maroon. Part of the Gartell Railway is laid on S&D trackbed, and is now being extended northwards closer to Templecombe. This is a gem of a line, fully signalled, very friendly and with a great family atmosphere - very S&D!

Operating days in 2006 are 25 June, 30 July, every Sunday in August, 28 August (Monday), 24 September and 29 October. Extensive train services are run, there are also excellent catering facilities on site.

There's another NG line quite close to the S&D, at the Bath and West Showground near Shepton. This is a superb 7 1/4" gauge line operated by East Somerset Model and Experimental Engineers, and will be running public trains at the Bath and West Show. Stage one was opened last year, the new extension along the stream towards the lake is now laid and should be operational this year.

As for the future it would be nice to see the Oakhill line relaid (possibly as a metre-gauge electric line?) connecting at Binegar, and eventually a link from Evercreech or nearby to the Bath and West Showground so that visitors can continue to enjoy the numerous shows there even after the end of road transport. And possibly the Bath Tramways, when rebuilt, will be narrow gauge including the link between Bath Spa and Bath Green Park.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Developments at Midford

To me Midford was always the most iconic point on the S&D, with the viaduct and the line on a ledge on the hillside. The opening scene in 'The Titfield Thunderbolt' captures this perfectly, as do many of the photos of the line.

There were earlier attempts to restore the line near Midford, first as a narrow gauge private line (The Tuckingmill Tramway) and later in the 90s as a standard gauge line running from Midford station to Tuckingmill viaduct. The latter failed due to access problems, also because the preservation group were seen as outsiders. The platform was resurfaced and ballast laid. Trains will return to Midford eventually, but only as part of a much longer route, coming up from Radstock and Shepton to the south, and providing a proper commuter link into Bath, as well as a huge tourist and community resource.

In the meantime the line has been nicely restored as a cycleway, the viaduct has been reopened giving excellent views across the valley and work has begun on the stretch north of Midford towards Tuckingmill.

The S&D continues to burst into life all along the route, its integrity and right-of-way is being restored, and these new uses will bring ever more people to the S&D, adding to the clamour for its return, sooner rather than later. Once the line is relaid through the Midford valley the cycleway will hopefully continue to share the route, providing an easy and level journey through some of the finest countryside in southern England and allowing interchange between cycles and trains at the stations along the line.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Peak Into the Future - Peak Oil and the 21st Century S&D

Peak Oil isn’t the residue left between the sleepers where a class 45 has been idling, but the point where the amount of recoverable oil still in the ground matches that which has already been burned up in our industrial civilisation. That point is about to be reached any time now, in fact may have already been passed. The very best estimate for the oil reserves that still exist is thirty seven years. After that the wells will be dry and we won’t have the choice any more - we’ll have to find ways of living without oil. Without oil for heating, plastics, fertilizers and, most importantly for the S&D, cars and lorries.

We’re told that a mix of exotic replacements will be available to power our cars - biofuel, hydrogen fuel cells, electric power - but all of these systems require huge amounts of fossil fuel to develop, service and produce, and in most cases the amount of energy needed for this exceeeds the amount of energy we’ll get out, so they are not viable economically, even if politically they may be talked about in the coming years as ‘the solution’. Biofuel needs huge amounts of land, refining space plus a transport and retailing infrastructure, as well as oil-based fertilizers to grow the crops. Competing with land for housing, railways, factory space, leisure and food means that often biofuel would be an extremely expensive option in any case. Fuel cells have existed since the 19th century, and still nobody has managed to get them to work properly! And we’ve all been stuck behind electric milk floats - electric vehicles have the problem of battery storage, range and the need to have electricity generated in the first place to charge batteries. In any case the road network will start to fall apart as only a few will be able to afford to drive any sort of car, the bulk of the population will not be happy to pay taxes for a dinosaur infrastructure used by a tiny minority.

So what will Peak Oil mean for the S&D? On the plus side there wiill be an inevitable return to rail as the primary mode of transport, and any town or village not connected by rail (or light rail) will wither and die as oil runs out. This means that at some time in the near future (15-25 years) the Somerset and Dorset will be reopened for passenger and freight traffic. Who will build and run the new S&D is of course another matter! If we have reinstated enough of the line (at least Radstock-Shepton) we may well be offered the franchise to operate the whole rebuilt line. Otherwise we may be compulsorily purchased and kicked off the site!

As oil gets scarcer and scarcer petrol prices will go through the roof. As most of our visitors (and workers!) arrive by car or bus this underlines the urgency of linking back to the network (initially at either Radstock or Shepton) as quickly as we can. It does mean that the new S&D will evolve from a heritage site to a working railway, but that’s happening in a way already. It may well be that by that stage we are given the powers plus a large government grant to rebuild back to Bath from Radstock.

Take a trip on a plane now, because within 15 years only the very rich will use a massively contracting air travel infrastructure - in fact probably the only planes flying in the not too distant future will be private jets belonging to the super rich. Everything will become much more locally based, and holidays will once again be taken at home - suggesting a huge increase in the potential visitors to seaside resorts in Britain, hopefully basking in Mediterranean temperatures as Global Heating kicks in. Bournemouth by train anyone?

The downside is that we are currently running a diesel loco, and that at some point it will no longer be economic to run it. It seems odd, but the future is steam (and electric elsewhere). The S&D at Midsomer Norton stands on a supply of home grown fuel - coal. Despite its dirty image and the dangers in mining it, coal will certainly become a fuel of last resort as the oil runs out. Of course it will still pollute, and perhaps the real future for the S&D is in using wood-burning steam locomotives. If we own large carbon-neutral forests alongside the line we could harvest a never-ending supply of cheap fuel. This is already being seriously considered as the option for the embryonic Bealieu Light Railway down in the New Forest.

Of course there will be a lot of disruption and hardship as we move from an oil-based economy to a post-oil based one, but the upside is that we’ll live in a world that’s quieter, slower and friendlier - qualities that are very Somerset and Dorset! I say bring it on!

Five Arches Article - Summer 2006

The Somerset and Dorset Railway was a unique institution in England - a cross-country main line railway that had the atmosphere of a family-run branch line. Winding its way through the beautiful countryside south of Bath, over spectacular viaducts and through gloomy tunnels, cutting across the coalfields around Radstock and Midsomer Norton, steaming over the fierce gradients to crest the Mendips at Masbury, sleepily coasting through Shepton and Evercreech Junction to make mysterious maneouvres at Templecombe, then down through the glorious Stour Valley and on to Bournemouth it was a line made to burn memories. It gained an iconic status amongst railway enthusiasts and lovers of the British countryside, through the superb photographs of people like Ivo Peters and Derek Cross, and the sheer eccentricities and variety of its operation. In the 1950s the line was incredibly busy, particularly on summer Saturdays with many expresses running from the north and Midlands to the seaside at Bournemouth.

In 1966, with the strange short-sightedness of distant governments - Tory and Labour - who could never have begun to understand its appeal or importance, especially for a future age where oil begins tto run out, it was closed amidst rumours of dodgy accounting, diverted traffic and underhand tactics.

Ten years later, with revival attempts at Radstock being killed stone-dead by the strange short-sightedness of local government, all was quiet on the S&D. The track had been torn up, stations and signalboxes knocked down and even the empty trackbed began to disappear under bushes and trees.

But amazingly Midsomer Norton South station survived through the dark days of the seventies, eighties and nineties. True, the signalbox and greenhouse had vanished, and the bridge over Silver Street removed, and a huge pile of debris blocked the line just south of the station. Rubble had also been used to fill the gap between the platforms, and the interior of the station was gutted, but it was still clearly a station. Even the signal on the up line to Bath remained for many years, though was taken by scrap metal enthusiasts some time in the 1980s, stolen in broad daylight.

Midsomer Norton station was always well-known and loved because of its setting and particularly its gardens. In fact plants from the original gardens reseeded throughout the years of closure and can now be seen in the new beds. Its neat station, signalbox and various buildings blended in very well with the lush countryside of the Mendip foothills, and it was one of the icons of the S&D.

Away from Norton Radstock the phenomena of rail revival was making incredible strides. Closed lines were being taken over by enthusiasts, lovingly restored and quickly establishing themselves as major tourist attractions in many areas. Towns and villages along these lines were seeing huge benefits to their local economies as tourists flocked to travel on the lines, come rain or shine, and spend money in local shops and businesses. Although normally opened using volunteers, many of the busier lines soon needed to employ people, especially in the peak summer months, further invigorating the local economy

Radstock must have been kicking itself as memories of what should have been its major tourist attraction - steam trains between Radstock and Writhington on the famous S&D - began to fade as quickly as the physical remains of the line.

But Midsomer Norton hung on. The crisis came in 1995 after a few years of complete disuse plans were lodged to build houses on the station site. This galvanised a few local people to begin to campaign to save the station for tourist use. Against the odds they succeeded and the S&D was about to get its second wind.

Eleven years on the station site is buzzing, especially on a Sunday when the track gang is busy. The station has been fully restored, the signalbox has been rebuilt up to the top of the windows with the roof to follow very soon, the tracks are back and now head tantalisingly round the corner towards Chilcompton. There are carriages and wagons, a diesel locomotive and a steam Sentinel loco being restored. Inside the station there is a very busy shop selling S&D and other railway items, and in another room there is a popular secondhand shop selling mainly books. On the cattle dock siding there sits a splendid first class buffet coach which will be selling food and drink from May. It’s been a very long haul from the beginnings in 1995 to today, and an awful lot of hard work from a small bunch of volunteers, but we’ve now firmly established ourselves nationally on the heritage railway map.

In July 2005 steam returned to the S&D in the shape of a ‘Jinty’ tank engine, a locomotive familar to anybody who knew the old S&D. The sight of a large engine running down Charlton Road on the back of a flatbed lorry was extraordinary. Although only with us for two weekends, the Jinty brought many new visitors to us (and to the shops in Midsomer Norton!) and our membership increased spectacularly. We featured on television, in the local press and the national railway press. The closure of the S&D, once thought permanent, was at last made temporary! In November a second steam engine, Lord Fisher from Cranmore, stayed with us for almost four months. A real treat for many was the ‘Driver for a Fiver’ experience, where for just five pounds anyone could drive the loco up to the end of the line and back. Santa visited in December, handing out presents to children whilst their mums and dads were busy driving Lord Fisher.

In March this year the fortieth anniversary of the temporary closure of the S&D was marked at Bath Green Park station, superbly restored by Sainsbury’s. One of the famous 7F locos, so emblematic of the S&D, was displayed on a short length of track under the roof of the old station. This brought thousands of visitors to Bath, many also visited us at Midsomer Norton over the long weekend.

What is happening is that events are beginning to take place at various points on the S&D, the whole line is stirring from its long sleep, and many new enthusiasts for the S&D are now emerging from the younger generation. In September we hope to repeat the Combe Down Tunnel walk with the cooperation of Wessex Water. Combe Down Tunnel, just south of Bath, is a mile long and was famous for being the longest tunnel in the UK with no ventilation shafts, a nightmare for steam train crews, but much more comfortable for walkers in the twenty first century!

In Dorset Shillingstone station is now being restored, track has been laid and a 9F locomotive has been brought to the site. And just south of Templecombe the charming Gartell Light railway runs trains on a narrow two foot gauge track partly on the route of the S&D. Far from being dead the S&D is now finding new life and activity bursting out all along the route.
Back at Midsomer Norton we are looking forward to the next few years. We expect to be running regular passenger trains by early 2007 at the latest. Negotiations with the owners of the next two sections of trackbed towards Chilcompton are now well advanced, with much of the track materials for the extension already sourced or on site. The signalbox roof should appear soon and more rolling stock will be coming to the site. The stable block above the station will become the S&D Museum, once funding is in place, and will not only be a showpiece for rare S&D artefacts, but will also contain a research library and photo archive and a meeting space for local groups and societies. The buffet coach will offer a greatly enhanced service, with kids’ birthday parties and dining opportunities on special occasions.

It is Trust policy to employ local businesses wherever possible, so our presence is already beginning to help the local economy. Once visitors flock to travel on the trains we should have even more money to spend locally!

For the next few years we will be concentrating on developing the Midsomer Norton site and building the line southwards to a temporary station at Chilcompton Tunnel. This will give a two mile return trip. We would hope to have a steam engine permanently on site.
The S&D was of course a long main line, and the constitution of the Trust charges us with preserving and restoring the line at all points where it is viable. Although the main thrust at the moment is at Midsomer Norton, we would always be interested in acquiring sections of trackbed along the route, and have a fund for this purpose. We also support any recreational use for any sections of the line, as cycle routes, footpaths and bridleways, particularly where their presence will not prejudice eventual restoration of the railway.

Over the medium term our intention is to rebuild the line back to Radstock, which will require the replacement of two bridges, with a new station in Radstock as close to the Mining Museum as possible, but on the opposite side of the Bath road. Southwards there are no insurmountable obstacles on the route to Shepton, so we would expect to gradually rebuild the line in that direction as well. But this is only the start.

For in the background is the spectre of Peak Oil, and the inevitable decline of the motor car and roads over the next few decades. Rail is already being revived all over the world, with new lines and stations opening even in backwards old Britain! At some time in the future the S&D will be rebuilt, and our hope is that we will be strong and established enough to be the people to do it. That brings a return to Bath into the picture, as well as developments on the line south of Shepton. Many heritage lines are already changing into multi-purpose lines, offering park-and-ride and commuter services. Imagine a commuter and shopping service from Midsomer Norton and Radstock into Bath! Irresistable ....

And who knows, by 2066, the hundredth anniversary of the temporary closure of the S&D, we may well see two woodburning steam locomotives leaving a restored Bath Green Park station with a packed trainload of passengers taking a trip to a sub-tropical Bournemouth through some of England’s finest scenery. On its way it’ll cross magnificently restored stations, pass through long tunnels and over magnificent viaducts and turn heads through the numerous villages and towns that now have a fully restored passenger and freight service after years of decline, closure and gradual rebuilding of the route. The very idea that a railway linking Britain’s only World Heritage city to its premier seaside resort was once closed would seem incredible to our descendants.

So how can you be part of the great S&D revival? Membership of the Trust is not expensive, and for your ten pounds or so a year you get 3 or 4 copies of our excellent award-winning magazine, a 10% discount in the shop and the chance to work on the line. Yes, you pay us to work! One of the nice things about the new S&D is that it has the same range of characters that the old S&D had - in fact, several of our working members are ex-S&D railwaymen, and many other volunteers knew the line well. Jobs include working on the engines and rolling stock, tracklaying, fencing and gardening, helping in the shop or the office. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, male or female, as strong as an ox or as feeble as Mr Bean, we’ll keep you fully occupied and you’ll make loads of new friends and learn a few new skills along the way. And you’ll get the satisfaction that you’ll be part of the most exciting rail restoration project in Europe, the return of the S&D.

A Look Ahead - article Spring 2006

The Trust has been quite cautious in the past in its presentation of its aims, as we were only too aware of the outcome of all previous attempts to preserve or rebuild even a small section of the line. However the Trust has been developing in leaps and bounds over the last few years with the return of steam last year and the start of train services for the public later this year or in early 2007. Midsomer Norton these days has an incredible buzz about it and we have an increasing number of visitors (and members). The continuing love and respect for the S&D is extraordinary and we owe a huge debt to people like Ivo Peters who recorded the line so brilliantly back in the 50s and 60s.

The S&D was a main line of considerable length, and the feeling is that any restoration has to take this into account, and that a small line of perhaps 3 or 4 miles simply wouldn’t do the route justice. To allow us to economically run the sort of trains for which the line was so famous we will need a considerable run, and the ideal start for this is Radstock to Shepton. Of course there are certain obstacles but we like to think of these as challenges, and certainly far more difficult barriers have been overcome by other railways. There are no insurmountable blockages between Radstock and Shepton, although in places minor diversions may be required. We tend to now describe the 1966 closure of the S&D as ‘temporary’!

We are also very aware that the world is changing rapidly, with climate change and particularly Peak Oil leading to an inevitable revitalisation of railways, it’s my belief that within 20 to 30 years rail will probably be the only economically viable form of transport able to handle large amounts of passenger and freight traffic. This does lead to a possible future problem for us - that the government of the day may well rebuild the S&D as they’ll have no alternative. If we are just running mainly tourist trains over a few miles we’ll be brushed aside - but if we’re running a proper railway with real traffic then we may well be trusted to run the whole route. Increasing petrol costs will also mean that reconnection with the network is a priority, either at Radstock, Shepton, Bath or Templecombe. As a long-term project we have to look well into the future and be aware of any dangers or opportunities for us.

The immediate plan of course is to run a regualr train service between Midsomer Norton and a temporary station just to the north of Chilcompton tunnels. We are in the process of signing the leases for the next two sections of trackbed, which will give us nearly a mile of running line. We’d consolidate this over a few years, but would of course be planning a southern extension to a new station at Chilcompton as resources become available. We are also very keen to get back to Radstock - this involves the replacement of two bridges which is why the current priority is southwards! South of Chilcompton we hope to acquire parcels of land etc as they become available - this is why the Track Fund has been set up. The Lynton and Barnstaple have been running a similar set up for some years. This is also in accordance with the Constitution of our Trust which charges us with looking at ways to preserve/utilise the whole route.
Although we look forwards we are all also enthusiasts for the S&D and value enormously the historical aspects of the route. No matter how busy and big the S&D becomes in the future we intend to always be the friendly, efficient and frankly rather eccentric line that made us so famous and popular in the first place! Many ex-S&D employees are members of the Trust of course.

The station is currently open every Sunday and Monday, 10 - 4. Sunday is the busiest day, with the locomotive normally operating works trains. There is a shop, secondhand shop and buffet on site. We are also normally open similar hours on a Saturday, but do not advertise this as we do not always have a full staff available. We are also looking to open on Wednesdays very soon. You’d be made very welcome if and when you visit!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Midsomer Norton Rises From the Ashes

Midsomer Norton station has now almost come back to life. The signal box is now just about back to roof level, all that's really left to do is the greenhouse. Then the S&D will really be back, after more than ten year's work.

We're open every Sunday and Monday between 10 and 4, and now some Saturdays. usually outside these times there is somebody on site. If not please feel free to look around. There's a shop, a secondhand shop and a restaurant car selling snacks, drinks and hot food.

We're expecting trains to begin running in 2008.