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!