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!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

surfing the third wave of rail preservation

Rail preservation has happened in three distinct stages.

In the early days (1950-1965) there was still steam on the national network, so the first schemes had to be quite original to get visitors. The Talyllyn was narrow gauge as was the Festiniog. The Middleton Railway claimed to be the world's first line, the Bluebell grabbed historic locos and vehicles to give it its unique selling point (USP).

As we reached the end of BR steam lines no longer needed the same sort of USP - a commitment to restoring a closed line and running it with steam was enough. The second wave lines (1965-1980) were usually branch lines or sections of main line bought from BR, track intact.

The third wave of preservation is very different from the first two. Most lines are being rebuilt on empty track beds, stations being rebuilt from rubble, and the lines themselves are usually lines of particular interest to the enthusiast (but with tourist potential). Had the preservation movement been more mature at the start it is these third generation lines that would have been the first wave - Welsh Highland, Ashover, Lynton & Barnstaple, Glos & Warks, Southwold, WCPR, Glyn Valley Tramway and, of course, the S&D.

The first wave was distinctly amateur, I can imagine the first preservationists being brought up on Boys' Own, Meccano Magazine and classical music. The second wave were more Railway Magazine, flares and disco music. The third wave are professional, internet-savvy and into Indie and hip-hop.

The first wave created the idea of rail preservation and probably had the hardest job of all. But once established they opened the door to the second wave, still with plenty of choice thanks to Beeching and Castle, and latching on to the tourist industry. The third wave are more visionary, using clever marketing and modern communication technology to spread the idea, to make once 'impossible' schemes quickly become viable. They are uniting heritage and real transport needs as the world runs out of cheap energy. Most third generation lines are promoted as 'real' transport links, often using exotic fuel, echoing the novelty approach of the first wave lines. Many second wave lines are also morphing into real transport links, especially those on lines that should never have closed (Swanage, Alresford, Minehead etc)

There will be a fourth wave as we approach climate breakdown and the end of oil; new lines with little or no heritage input, filling primarily a transport need as cars, buses and lorries vanish from our crumbling roads. They will still have railway 'enthusiasts' as their promoters in many cases, but they'll be hard-headed businesspeople first and foremost. Many lines will be rebuilds of former routes, but others will be completely new, using heavy and light rail technology to keep the country moving.

The S&D will bridge the third and fourth waves, starting as a small heritage set up and finishing as a large multi-modal transport corridor carrying freight, passengers and tourists in the post-road world, using fuels no more exotic than wood and sunlight/wind power, employing hundreds and serving the community again after what will, in a historic perspective, seem like a small rail-less break when the world went mad for a generation or two.


Colin Lea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Lea said...

"Had the preservation movement been more mature at the start it is these third generation lines that would have been the first wave - Welsh Highland, Ashover, Lynton & Barnstaple, Glos & Warks, Southwold, WCPR, Glyn Valley Tramway and, of course, the S&D."

This shows an almost total lack of knowledge of these projects: the Welsh highland was stuck in complex legal receivership and took many many years to overcome that whatever anyone actually wanted to do, the GWR hadn't even closed and was, unlike some other sleepy branches a MAIN LINE so was a bit of a different beast to BR! (it closed in 1979 following a derailment, the society started in 1976!!)

As to the L+B, ashover, GVT etc these lines closed ages ago and the track bed is in private hands (very expensive to buy up without compulsory powers), good job the WHR track bed was still in the hands of that receiver!

As ever, there is usually a lot more to the story than simple 'evolution of skills' as the author seems to wish to demonstrate.

Peak Oil Dreams said...

Agree entirely, but not sure where you get the 'evolution of skills' idea from - my point was that it is an evolution of confidence that's grown out of the incredible success of the heritage movement that has made it possible for the new batch of schemes to get off the ground - and that most of the new lines are ones that enthusuiasts would have perhaps preferred to preserve decades ago, but the confidence wasn't there. I didn't bring skills into it at all, though I take the point - and it may make an interesting angle for a future post! The GWR crept in as I was trying to make general points, onbviously I was aware of its closure date - I was alluding more to its position as an 'empty trackbed' route that has made enormous strides - and if you can get a copy of Michael Draper's 1980s article on the future of the preservation movement you will see how the GWR was once vilified yet is now an example to us all! I've studied these lines thoroughly, together with the various schemes mooted (since 1929 in the Southwold's case!), also very aware of the complex legal position with the WHR, the 1964 company and the original Festiniog ownership. Remember also that the WHR has used compulsory purchase (as has the Eden Valley) so the land ownership issue can be simplified in many cases, though obviously consent is a far better solution, and definitely the method we'll use at ther S&D unless there's no other way!

danZ said...

Indie & Hip-Hop?? My two least favourite music genres. Id rather wear flares and listen to disco lol

Agree with the rest tho.

Trinity said...

how can you diss indie? best music ever.

danZ said...

lol cos, its not even music! just some floppy-fringed girly looking guys who are trying to be wierd for the sake of being wierd, write non sensical lyrics, boring songs, and dont offer anything inspiring in terms of live performances. Spoilt little rich kids with very little talent on their respective instruments.

Toddingtonted said...

I cannot comment on what is after all one person's view of the development of heritage railways in the UK but I'll happily agree with the positive comments made by Peak Oil Dreams as regards the GWR (albeit such 3 letters must be held with a little disdain on the website of one of its troublesome competitors - the S&D!). I joined the GWRS as it then was in 1977, just after the line closed. BR wanted £1 million for the line from Cheltenham to Stratford but I have been told (not confirmed) that the track went for scrap for around £1/4 million. (Thats peanuts now so I'm told). We have had to put every sleeper and rail back ourselves (10 miles and counting so far) and, since the 1980s, part of the line has already been lost (especially at the Northern end) to road "improvements" and development. Basically, if you don't go in and run trains asap you will lose the line! I'm just grateful that we saved as much as we could and we did it with volunteers. Full marks to getting as much as you can of the S&D up and running again - what a pity you weren't there to do it in the 60s!