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!

Monday, July 31, 2006

summer spring clean

Doug and Dave Two Dogs start the job of painting the canopy support on the down platform at Midsomer Norton.

In an uncanny echo of post-Dubcek Czechoslovakia Dave Two Doctorates is sent to a far corner of the country to clean toilets - or did he just have a few too many the night before?

This is the result of the three return trips to Wootton Bassett earlier in the week - a quarter mile of excellent quality rail! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 30, 2006

the family silver

Some of the gems currently held by the SDRT at Washford.

Hopefully as and when new members join and become more active there can be a little more thought given to access and presentation! I was a little surprised to see rare archive photos not laminated and fixed to the side of the box van using rusty drawing pins!

At the same time the whole site has a rustic charm that shouldn't be lost in the future. I'd recommend a visit by anybody in the area and if you can join, please do! Posted by Picasa

off s&d wanderings ...

With a customary shudder common to all S&D fans, I bravely visited Washford on the GWR Minehead branch today. Alarmingly, as I stepped foot on the platform, this toy engine in a garish blue pulling horrible chocolate-and-cream coaches passed by. I thought for a minute I'd been transported to the island of Sodor!

It was the best medicine possible when I spied across the platform this vision of loveliness, the old box from Burnham-on-Sea on the immortal S&D!

This is the hub of the S&D museum at Washford.

Nicest touch was this small length of two-foot gauge track representing the old peat line that crossed the branch, complete with some excellent restored wagons and wagon turntables. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 27, 2006

working together

We’re very aware at the S&D that we will need to work closely with other groups in the future as the line is restored. There’s a natural tendency to think that we are always right and other groups with other interests are always wrong, or ignorant. I’ve heard some choice comments about Sustrans from some members for example, but to my mind both us and Sustrans have an identical agenda for now and the future - to anticipate future transport changes now and make provision for them. We can co-exist totally, as long as we respect each other. There is plenty of room for both rail and cycleway between Bath and Bournemouth, at places we can share the same trackbed, at other points we will be able to work closely with Sustrans and other cycling groups to plan exciting and practical routes as close to the railway as possible. We need to offer reduced fares for cyclists, out by train back by cycle tickets, special trains for cyclists etc In return they need to make sure that they use our catering and other facilities along the route.

We also need to cater for walkers with similar special tickets etc, signposted walks from stations and dedicated walkways such as at the Wildspace area next to Midsomer Norton station.

We also need to ensure that visitors are not held too long at the railway, but that they are encouraged to visit the towns and villages along the route to help support the local economy.

We also need to work closely with schools and colleges so that the educational aspects of the line are easily accessed. It would be nice to offer skills training along the line, both practically-based and experience-based.

We also need to engage very closely with the local communities along the route and never be seen as outsiders, often a problem on other lines.

Most of all we need to listen! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

medals all round!

The rail has now all arrived - about 1/4 mile of single track for the new extension.

Everyone involved deserves a medal for working so well in the heat - from the Trackworks Team up at Wootton Bassett, the Monday Gang at Midsomer Norton and the lorry driver who did three return trips over the two days.

Once laid this will give us almost half a mile of run and will take us properly out into the countryside, opening up new photographic opportunities and giving the public a decent run once train services begin next year. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

like topsy ...

Whilst here at the S&D we are busy expanding our operations, the network outside has been doing the same. Over the last year the (non-heritage) sector has added 315 trains a day, and passenger numbers have increased by almost 3.6%. (source Railstaff, issue 104, July 2006). And this is before we see any real Peak Oil effects! It is also on a fairly static network, once lines are reopened on a regular basis then these figures will skyrocket. The real problem is going to be the ability to source trained staff, vehicles and materials (track etc).

It's impossible to over-emphasise the huge changes and expansion that will happen to the network in the coming decades. Almost all the Beeching cuts will be reversed, totally new lines will be built and there will be an enormous expansion in light and ultra-light rail.

I'm glad we just got our quarter mile plus of new track! Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 24, 2006

rail, rail everywhere ...

The first of three lorry loads of ‘new’ rail arrived today. Antell’s lorry is carefully and skilfully backed into the yard and on to the new scalpings surface in front of the loco/goods shed. It took about three hours to get all the rail off in the extreme heat.

Thanks to John B, Graham C, John P, Viv J and any I’ve forgotten for the hard work, and for Alan S and Gill B, Alan for directing the lorry in and Gill for making a wonderful vegetarian sausage sandwich after all the rail was safely off! Also thanks of course to the track gang and others at the other end preparing the rail for collection.Two more loads arrive tomorrow. Any member able to get to the station to help out will be made more than welcome!

This rail will be laid on the new extension to Chilcompton Tunnel, and should keep us busy for about a year! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 23, 2006

radstock revisited ...

Four more shots of the trackbed between Midsomer Norton and Radstock, likely to be part 2 of the reinstatement of the S&D in this area (after Midsomer Norton - Chilcompton Tunnel and before Chilcompton Tunnel - Chilcompton Station).

The trackbed is surprisingly clear and runs through attractive scenery the whole way with open views across the hills. Two bridges will need to be replaced.

Once Radstock is reached serious consideration can be given to the reinstatement of the line to Bath as both a public and tourist railway, which is likely to become one of the most important tourist attractions in the whole south west as well as a leading member of the 'premier league' of UK private railways. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 22, 2006

climate change

I bang on about Peak Oil regularly, and as a result climate change has taken something of a back seat. But this week's record heatwave reminds us all that global heating is happening, and a good deal faster than the government would like us to believe.

So what will climate change mean for the S&D? Obviously rail will be given absolute priority over road in the battle to contain emissions, because rail is so much more efficient in energy use than roads, partly because of the lack of friction between steel rail and wheel, and also because of the more efficient use of resources, both energy and material, that a train makes over the multitude of vehicles (many frivolous or terribly wasteful) that we still find on the roads. Rail vehicles last much longer than road vehicles, the recent EMU slam-door stock replaced on the Southern was anything up to 40 years or more old, whereas scrapyards are full of cars much younger than this.

Rail also copes far more efficiently in extreme weather. Snow blocks roads almost instantly, whereas with the right equipment (ploughs or blowers) railways can be kept open in falls of many feet. The dedicated right of way of the railway is far far easier to keep clear in snow than hundreds of minor roads. The sheer weight of a train can push through large quantities of snow, whereas cars and lorries become stuck fast. Remember the M11 a few years ago which became blocked for almost 24 hours after a ridiculous 2 inch snowfall? Snow may become a much bigger problem in the UK if the North Atlantic Current (Gulf Stream) slows or stops.

If the heat continues to build then roads will become unbearable, with melting surfaces and jams with cars breaking down as people try to escape the cities for the countryside and beaches to keep cool. Providing allowance for heat expansion is built into future rail construction then heat will be no problem at all for trains.

Britain's warming climate, together with the contraction of air travel (and the end of cheap air travel) will lead to hugely increased demand for holidays in the UK, particularly at the seaside resorts, long in decline and now already becoming one of the few winners thanks to climate change. The sooner we can take people to Bournemouth by train again the better! Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 21, 2006

car stickers arrive ...

Much-requested in the shop, our new car stickers have now finally arrived!

They are £1.25 each from the shop or £1.25 each plus 50p post and packing (any quantity) from our mail order department

107 Anchor Barton
BA12 7LR

Please make cheques etc payable to SDRHT.

Ignore the lines on the picture - these are my car's de-mister strips! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

yet another new arrival ....

It seems that every day brings a new piece of rolling stock to Midsomer Norton! This arrived yesterday, late in the day. It's a milk tanker - crazy that these are not still used in their thousands on the network rather than letting the roads get fouled up with milk and other tankers.

Like everything that comes to Midsomer Norton this will be a useful and used piece of equipment, it will act as a water tender for filling visiting steam locomotives. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 17, 2006

posers ...

Two shots of the Monday Gang enjoying the sunshine in front of the signal box today. An hour or two later all had fled for home and shade, leaving me to look after the entire railway on my own! Posted by Picasa

reaching radstock ...

In a few years time rails should reach this point as we extend northwards over two new bridges to the classic S&D location of Radstock. The track would probably follow the line of the pavement - there is alternative space to walk through the Memorial gardens on the left, which occupy the site of the S&D station.

The white car is exactly where the old (and future) S&D level crossing was/will be. A short section of the route here has been tarmaced over, but being double track width it should be no problem comfortably accomodating both a single track and a cycleway and footpath.

This is the route of the S&D over the Five Arches, hardly looking like it's been almost 40 years since the track was lifted!

A classic and typical S&D lineside view which will soon be visible from the trains again!

It is possible that Radstock will once again have two stations, but this time both on the S&D! It may well be that we build a basic station this side of the Bath road at first to avoid a level crossing, close to the Mining Museum. Later as we rebuild back to Bath a larger station could be accomodated beyond the Mining Museum, on a large area of grass just to the north of the original station. Being flat and surrounded by car parks and unrestricted roads (whilst cars survive!) Radstock could offer better opportunities to join the trains than Midsomer Norton or Chilcompton, although we hope that all stations on the new S&D will be both destinations and originating points for journeys.

It was interesting to walk along the old formation high above the road and imagine it in fifty years time, with the railway very busy with passengers and freight (and all behind wood-burning steam) whilst the road is quiet and overgrown with the occasional bike, horse or pedestrian enjoying the shade and peace of the crumbling asphalt! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 16, 2006

open day - part two

The signalbox is almost there!

Lady Angela makes her last trip of the day back down to the goods/engine shed.

Drivers etc mill around the engine.

Young Jeff, cosmetically blackened for the camera, makes his way to the engine after a call from Jeff Akers.

Despite the oppresive heat today was even more successful than yesterday, with loads of new members joining, plenty of cash through the tills and a wonderful atmosphere throughout. Posted by Picasa