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!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

al's fresco

This patio has appeared in front of the buffet coach over the last few days. We've also taken delivery of six sets of chairs and tables so very soon (if the weather holds) we'll be dining al fresco at Midsomer Norton. Rumour is that the first gourmet-style Sunday event will happen towards the end of September! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

fresh tracks

View to the south of Midsomer Norton soon to be visible from the train.

View over Midsomer Norton.

The infill before Chilcompton Tunnel.

Trackbed looking towards Midsomer Norton.

I took what is probably going to be my last ever opportunity to see the undisturbed trackbed to the south of the station - the railway presence should begin to make itself known within a few days as track materials etc begin to find themselves on the new section of line. It's a very pleasant if a little overgrown walk through clasic S&D countryside, with blackberries growing both sides! We met a family blackberry picking - wonder if they realise that within a few years trains will be running along this track?

We had a very successful weekend with Driver for a Fiver plus shop and catering sales - a real eye opener to the potential that's out there! Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 28, 2006

limited horizons

Heritage Railway leads with a rather downbeat editorial this month, concluding 'Many marvels have been accomplished by the heritage movement. Maybe it is time to take a breather, rest on our laurels and reinforce what has been achieved by a period of consolidation and contemplation.' This is reaction to the reopening of the Weardale Railway.

Sorry, but the time will NEVER come when we can rest on our laurels. There are still huge swathes of the country that are devoid of real railways, that is forward-looking private lines that are looking to the future - a car-less future - as a challenge to start meeting NOW. At no point does the editorial mention Peak Oil or climate change, as if heritage railways exist purely to transport tourists from one tourist spot to another! True, for most of us, that is our function today, but does anyone with a brain in the heritage movement think that that is the be-all and end-all of what we're doing? I certainly hope not!

Surely we restore railways because first and foremost we regard them as a superior form of transport, efficient, environment-friendly, human sized and atmospheric? The world is now changing so that our agenda will soon become that of everybody, or at least everybody that wants some semblance of civilization to continue into the solar future.

Not only should we not rest on our laurels, but we should be constantly pushing our agenda to give as many people as possible the right to a functioning railway when the oil runs out. We should be doubling our efforts and restoring hundreds of miles of track each year. We'll regret it if we don't! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 24, 2006

red letter day!

The current end of the line ...

The first few metres of the extension - peaceful now ...

Out into the S&D countryside on the new extension. (pic Pete Russell)

Beyond the tunnels, one of the few obstacles on the Radstock-Shepton section. Can't wait to start digging into this! (pic Pete Russell)

Today is a red letter day for the 21st century restoration of the Somerset and Dorset Railway!

Today we’ve completed the lease for the next section of trackbed, which will bring us away from the station environs at last and take us out into the countryside for which the S&D was so famous. We’re no longer just a restored station but an embryo railway, an embryo that will develop into the premier heritage/community railway in the country!

The lease covers the next quarter mile of trackbed and negotiations for the section beyond it are already underway. The timing is perfect - we’ve just taken delivery of a quarter mile of track materials and also the bird nesting season ends on 31 August so we can actually begin clearing the route.

This would indeed be a very interesting time to join the S&D if you’re not already a member! As well as restoring this quarter mile there is also work to be done at the Silver Street end to allow us to run public trains in 2007, as well as all the usual range of jobs that a heritage railway offers.

Our short-term aim is to restore public trains back to just north of Chilcompton Tunnel, before considering whether a Radstock restoration or extension south of the tunnels should get priority. Both are expensive options but keep watching this site for ways you can help - or take a visit to the sidebar now! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 20, 2006

buses? you've got to be joking

About a year ago a few backwards-looking deadbeats in Bristol decided that to save a penny a year each on the council tax they’d like the excellent Supertram scheme postponed. These idiots seem to think that cars (LOL!) and, extraordinarily, buses!! (double LOL!!) can carry the traffic ...

And this is before Peak Oil hits. When we can perhaps for a few more years expect road traffic to actually INCREASE.

Over the long term buses have an even darker future than cars. At least a few rich people will have a private road and a preserved car and some black market biofuel to play with a few times a year, but I can’t see how buses have any future. Even today most bus journeys are bleak and slow affairs, as they compete with road traffic - lorries, tractors, cyclists, horseriders, dithering eighty year olds driving Morris Minors - slowing everyone down. The Supertram in Bristol would have avoided all of this, and be useable for freight traffic as well in the future.

As prices rise petrol and diesel will begin to be rationed in favour of the military, essential workers, the government etc. Black market petrol and ethanol will soar in price so a few rich people could continue driving. But the majority of people - that’s you and me - will be left without any. Railways will of course be expanding rapidly, but the limited skill base and economic resources will mean that this doesn’t happen as quickly as it should. Many will be stranded, miles from a railway, and be left to fall back on their own resources. There’ll be a huge increase in cycling and horse riding, but many will still only have the option of walking. Buses won’t be there because they will not be able to get fuel, or if they can it will be so expensive that nobody will be able to find the fares. Railways, being electric or steam worked, will have little or no fuel problems. There will be sidings full of decaying diesel locomotives of course!

Roads will become less and less useable as repairs are no longer undertaken. Some cities will retain their road networks for a while, but they’ll be fighting a losing battle. Eventually most if not all roads will be abandoned altogether, leaving rail, bicycle, horse or foot as the only way of getting around. Buses will be as obsolete and unuseable as those decaying lines of diesel locomotives. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

random musings

Wells is England's smallest city and once boasted three stations, including of course an S&D one, on the branch from Glastonbury. A Wells to Glastonbury heritage line would be a surefire money spinner linking two very different but equally popular tourist destinations. Eventually of course Wells will need a ‘real' railway as the oil vanishes. The logical route would be Wells to Bristol, which would be a wholly new route.

I've always felt that this place (above) would make an excellent station, especially considering its situation in the heart of the city!

The signalbox continues to surprise with its newly-acquired fancy fretwork at the bottom of the side-panelling! This appeared over the weekend.

Massey Wilcox at Chilcompton have certainly got their heads screwed on with their rail-served warehouse, but unfortunately it's not at Chilcompton - yet. I was stuck behind this thing up the hill from Radstock to Writhlington. Ironically at the point in the photo there was until the sixties (and in reality even later) railways either side of the road. It's nice to think that eventually all of this traffic currently blocking our roads will switch to rail! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

surmountable difficulties

Now and then we get the odd visitor stating (and they always start with ‘Of course you’ll never ...’) ‘Of course you’ll never get back to Bath,’ or ‘Of course you’ll never get through the infill at Chilcompton,’ or even ‘Of course you’ll never get back to Radstock,’ (my personal favourite!) I’ve never quite understood how seemingly everyone agrees that the S&D should never have closed, but then do everything they can to build (internal) barriers to us doing the obvious and that’s bring it back!

So there’s a big pile of dirt blocking the line south of Chilcompton ... the Bluebell are currently removing a much bigger pile from Imberhorne. But then I remember reading a letter in the Railway Magazine back in the 80s which began (inevitably) with ‘Of course they’ll never restore trains north of Horsted Keynes’.

Look at Swanage, Llangollen and the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire. All started with no track, an industrial loco or two and some big ‘problems’ for the future. Swanage was threatened with the Corfe Castle by-pass - just imagine if that had been built!! The GWR has been rebuilding their line steadily at the rate of a half mile a year - and have now just reopened a viaduct that’s just as big as Midford and a lot bigger than Tuckingmill. The Llangollen have been steadily rebuilding back towards Corwen and now have a magnificent line through scenery almost as good as ours!

All ‘difficulties’ are surmountable providing the will, the skills and the money are available. We have to always bear in mind that we’re restoring the S&D, and that there are more supporters per mile of track for us than just about any other line!

This is all without Peak Oil and Climate Change, which will work together to elevate rail to the primary (and in many cases ONLY mechanised) transport mode worldwide.

The hardest part was winning the site at Midsomer Norton, restoring the track and getting people to take us seriously. It’s all downhill from here - except for the trains tackling the Mendip gradients! Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 14, 2006

reorientating towns as our trains return

As Peak Oil and post-Peak Oil effects take hold, towns are going to have to be radically redesigned. The centrepoint of towns in the future will be the railway station, with most businesses, factories and shopping areas receiving goods by rail. Most larger towns with have a conventional or ultra-light tramway, with lines carrying freight as well as passengers. There are also likely to be many cross-country or urban light railways connecting with smaller junctions, giving a much busier general atmosphere to railways in the future.

The post Peak Oil railway station will be a fascinating place, with cafes and shops either on the platform or close by, and a lot of people passing on foot or bike.

Some of the S&D stations were fairly central, Radstock probably being the best example, certainly on the Mendip section of the line. In the post Peak Oil world any development will obviously happen in rail connected areas, and the nearer to a station the better. As always the future S&D will be a balance between respect for the past and awareness of new business opportunities in a world that’s going to be radically different from today. Posted by Picasa

family history weekend

A new venture for us was the Family History Weekend at Midsomer Norton. Unfortunately Lady Angela was out of action on the Saturday due to the driver attending a funeral, but everything else was up and running. There was a nice steady stream of visitors and we were kept busy as usual!

The down platform was the ideal spot for the stalls.

Wulfric holds up the bottle of champagne that his dad just won on the tombola. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 11, 2006

the other end of the line

This is the current end of the line in the Chilcompton direction, sleeper pile on the right ready for the extension.

The very end of the existing line, with the woods beyond!

The view just beyond the barrier, the old double track main line now a lovely shaded walk through new woodland. The line will be reinstated sympathetically, the only trees removed being those that block the route. This should be a hive of activity in just a few weeks time. Watch this blog to see the changes as they happen!

The new quarter mile of track will transform the set-up at Midsomer Norton from a restored station to a real running railway. We expect a huge increase in membership over the next year with the new track and trains running public services in 2008. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

by train to stonehenge

This neat 0-6-0 'Doll' was the train engine today on the trip from Pages Park to Stonehenge on the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway.

The pleasant station platform at Pages Park just before departure.

On the 'roadside' section near Stonehenge Works.

Replenishing 'Doll' at Stonehenge.

This was my first visit to this unusual line, which takes a very urban route past back gardens and over numerous ungated crossings through Leighton Buzzard (reminiscent of the lost section of the Welshpool and Llanfair in Welshpool), then heads into the countryside on almost roadside track to Stonehenge, where there is a very interesting narrow gauge museum.

The line is 2 foot gauge and was first opened in 1919.

The station building at Pages Park is made from corrugated iron, but is a nice roomy building with a large well-stocked shop. The Dobbers' cafe has a fairly unadventurous menu (if you're vegetarian!) but has a very fast and friendly service.

The trains ran on time, were well filled and seemed very popular with the locals as we passed them. The staff throughout were friendly and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing.

The destination station, Stonehenge, had a small well-stocked takeaway and a very good craft shop. The museum is very laid-back and interesting.

All-in-all a very nice day out with plenty to see and some pretty unique experiences on a fascinating line. But don't expect spectacular scenery!

For more shots of the line see the tracks and tracks blogsite at http://tracksandtracks.blogspot.com/ Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 07, 2006

rail expansion - signs in unusual places!

When an investment newsletter includes the following item you just know we're in the right game!

'"Since I've been retired, I have focused on investments," he began. "I don't believe in any of the theories I read. They're worthless, in my opinion. I'm a stock-picker. That's the only way to do it. And you have to do it yourself. You can't trust what you read in the paper. I used to study US companies, but now I look only at French firms."I've made a lot of money at it. It's not that difficult really. The secret is to find companies that make things. You find a company that makes a profit by making things that people want; you're not going to go too far wrong."And right now, I'm concentrating on one sector that I am sure is going to make a lot of money – railroads.

It's obvious. Fuel is so expensive. The trucking firms have to increase prices. And the roads are clogged up anyway. But the railroads have completely different economics. The real cost is the capital it takes to build the things. Then, after the first investors go broke, they're very good businesses. And getting better all the time. Once you've paid off the capital costs and reached a certain level of volume, everything else goes right to the bottom line. "Of course, in France you can't buy the railroads; they're owned by the government. But there are a couple of railroad suppliers – companies that make parts for the trains – that are very profitable."'

[The Daily Reckoning London, England Monday, 7 August 2006}

Or Railstaff (issue 104, July 2006) reports that the rail industry in the UK has added 315 trains a day and passenger numbers are up 3.6% over the past year.

Or from The Times 27 July 2006

"China starts the biggest rail expansion in history"

'China has launched the biggest railway expansion the world has ever seen.
China already has 46,600 miles of track...but that is far from enough to
meet demand for passengers and freight. The Ministry of Railways has set out
ambitious plans to end bottlenecks, with about 6,000 miles of track added by
2010 (equivalent to about 60% of the existing British network) and the rail
network will extended a total of 60,000 miles by 2020.

'A senior transport specialist at the World Bank in Beijing said
"Historically, this is the only country that has ever attempted such an
increase. This has never occurred before in history"

But funding is a headache - China needs £143 BILLION by 2020, but only has
enough to fund half of that.

(Article by Jane Macartney in Beijing, P42 The Times, 27-7-06).

The Chinese are not stupid - they know that their future economic success will owe nothing to dying oil-based technology. It's just a shame that they were precipitate in scrapping their steam engines and industry, as with oil vanishing they'll need to either electrify that huge network or convert at least part of it to wood-burning steam if they want to stay ahead of the West.

Back in the UK in the 70s we almost had to apologise for being rail enthusiasts. Thirty years on it seems the world has finally caught up with us, with Peak Oil and Climate Change snapping at our heels. Suddenly it's fashionable and cool to be a railway enthusiast. It's quite heartwarming!

Reinstatement from Bournemouth to Bath suddenly seems like a mainstream idea! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 05, 2006

getting it right

The canopy supports on the down platform building have received a new coat of paint this week. Although there's been a natural tendency to try to paint them dark Southern green, local knowledge meant that we got the colour exactly right - grass green! This was the precise colour used at the station in the fifties. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 04, 2006

highly recommended blogsite!

If you find the S&D blogsite a bit too, well, S&D, why not bookmark my other site, Tracks and Tracks, where I visit other lines, delve through my highly original and esoteric photo collection and, with DJ Trin, bring you the latest reviews and articles on music?

Site address is http://tracksandtracks.blogspot.com/ which also appears on the sidebar. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

fresh tracks at shepton mallet

Another railway close to the S&D is the Bath and West Railway, at the showground near Prestleigh. This has been developed over the last few years by a small team from ESSMEE (East Somerset Society of Model and Experimental Engineers). The line runs during several shows each year, and will in fact be operating today between 4 and 6.30pm. This is an overall view of the workshops, with the signal box (an ex-customs building) in the foreground.

This is the current end of the line which will soon circle the lake and include a 100 foot long viaduct over a stream and waterfall!

This is the attractive run alongside an avenue of trees and a stream.

Work has already started on preparing the groundworks for the extension along the other side of the stream and back to the station and workshop area. When completed the line will be over a half mile long. Posted by Picasa