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!

Friday, September 29, 2006


A totem station sign from Evercreech Junction has just broken the all-time record for a totem when it sold at auction for £9200 Again this just shows the enormous importance of our line!

You can buy much cheaper (if smaller) totems from the shop at Midsomer Norton, including Evercreech Junction, for just £2.50 each! These are also available mail order from the usual address (but please include 50p post and packing per order). Stations currently available are Bath Green Park, Midford, Wellow, Radstock North, Midsomer Norton South, Chilcompton, Shepton Mallet Charlton Road, Evercreech Junction and Glastonbury. All are in SR green except Bath Green Park which is in LMR maroon. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 28, 2006

just waiting for the trains ...

A series of photos taken by Mike on the 6 March 2006, 40 years to the day since the S&D was closed.

He gave me elaborate location details, but what really strikes me about these shots is the clarity and atmosphere that what I call S&D weather gives to the locations. Anyone that says we can't restore these stretches better think again - I personally won't rest until we relay every inch of the line, so that these gorgeous country views can once more be complete with the final touch of a long steam train running through the very best countryside in England! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

the future and the past

Striding ahead with the trackworks and safety features at the Silver Street end of the station which will allow us to start running the first public standard gauge passenger trains on the revived S&D for over forty years. This is the future for transport.

Meanwhile the archaic 'transport' system that still 'serves' Midsomer Norton struggles through its final years of decline.

This fossil fossil fuelled vehicle broke down at about the most sensitive point on Midsomer Norton's creaking road system, causing traffic chaos for ages. The sooner the railway is back the better! Posted by Picasa

that sentinel again

More shots of the Sentinel with paintwork progressing. Norman is watching Dave Two Dogs brandishing the paintbrush. The first top coat is now going on, prussian blue for the first year before switching to BR black.

Donations for the Sentinel are always welcome - either by cheque to the station at Silver Street or via Paypal on the sidebar. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 24, 2006

managing success

Looking forward a couple of decades the biggest problem facing the S&D will be managing the amount of custom that we'll be getting. Everything from heavy tourist traffic, freight movements and commuter services will need to be accomodated, in places on single track. If you look at the road traffic flows today on the Radstock-Frome, Radstock-Bath and Radstock-Bristol routes it's clear that after Peak Oil hits it is going to be a major job keeping things moving. As always the worry is that the government of the day will not take us seriously as operators of a real railway unless we can show right from the start that we know what we're doing. A priority now is that we acquire as much track (and trackbed) as possible. You can always support us by making a cheque out for our trackbed fund, or even pledge a certain amount each month via direct debit. Please contact SDRHTSales@aol.com for more information, send cheques to SDRHT, Midsomer Norton South Station, Silver Street, Midsomer Norton, RADSTOCK, BA3 2EY, or make a donation via the donation button on the blog sidebar (noting that it's for 'Trackbed').

It's interesting to speculate on future train services over the next twenty or thirty years. Heritage trains will always run, though these will tend to be primarily at weekends and in the summer. A lot depends on how much line is reinstated, I'd certainly expect Shepton Mallet to Bath to be restored, hopefully with trackworks extending southwards towards Templecombe. Commuter services from Shepton to Bath would be heavily patronised, particularly from Midsomer Norton northwards. There should be some freight flows as road freight begins to become totally uneconomic. There should be large tourist flows out of Bath connecting with tourist facilities to the south. There would be heavy use into Bath by shoppers, particularly at the weekend.

We're certainly not discounting restoring the line back to Bristol from Radstock, or using the old Limpley Stoke to Midford line as a second route between Midford and Bath.

And although the line south of Templecombe often seems very distant to us it will certainly not be written off - holiday passenger flows from Bath/Bristol to Bournemouth, particular in a much warmer world without civilian air traffic, could be enormous, far surpassing the line's previous holiday heyday in the 1950s. It may well be that Shillingstone expands over the coming decades to provide a southern version of the SDRHT!

We also shouldn't ignore the potential of the branches. Wells and Glastonbury are both major tourist attractions, a restored branch back to Evercreech Junction would not be a major engineering task. And further south there is huge potential in the Ringwood/Wimborne/Blandford area, which will certainly need commuter services into Bournemouth once the roads have gone!

Friday, September 22, 2006

working steam and the future

It's funny to think that if we really want to record the past we should be pointing our cameras at diesels, not steam locomotives. Whilst diesel fuel prices relentlessly rise as oil runs out leading to the eventual disappearance of the diesel locomotive (as well as the car) steam will have no problem securing fuel - coal initially but as coal prices rise due to increasing demand then wood will become more and more the fuel of choice, not only for heritage railways but for the non-electrified Network lines.

Wood is an ideal fuel - it is sustainable and if well-managed very productive, both in its growing and burning stages.

There's likely to be a huge increase in the number of wood-burning steam locomotives built in the future, a move we're likely to see first in the developing world (particularly India and China), then increasingly in the US and Europe.

Certainly the S&D should be looking to secure additional land at the side of its route as we expand, to allow us to grow our own fuel for the future. There is little likelihood of a 21st century S&D being electrified, so steam will be the only realistic option.

Rumblings that a good marketing description for the route, once we have a few miles of track, would be 'Britain's first WORKING steam railway of the 21st century' are likely to become louder as we press ahead. Steam won't be just for the tourists and enthusiasts, but a practical and economic way of running the line as we begin to turn into a transport service.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

box of delights

Looking great!! We're just getting the slates delivered so that the inside can stay dry through the winter. We are offering tiles with your name on (the inside!) at just £1 each. You can send a cheque (to the usual address made payable to SDRHT), buy them at the station or make a donation via the Paypal button on the sidebar! Immortalise yourself on the S&D for a quid! The more you buy the more immortal you'll be .... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

mexican food day!

We are having our first themed food day in the catering coach at Midsomer Norton on 8 October 2006 from 12 till 4. Fajitas and nachos are on the menu, with vegetarian options. We expect heavy demand so please reserve your seat by emailing SDRHTSales@aol.com, although there should be some free seats on a just turn up basis.

Monday, September 18, 2006

cool runnings ...

At last the Midsomer Norton South running boards have reappeared after nearly 40 years! This was all Bob M's work. Now one for the down platform ... Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 17, 2006

the ghost of beeching

What's this? Tracklifting on the S&D in 1968? Beeching come back to haunt us?

No. Tracklifting is a thing of the past and Doctor Beeching is where he belongs - fossilised in a past that's now as alien as his ideas on transport!

No, this is preparation work for the safety works at the Silver Street end of the station. The track gang doesn't know whether it's coming or going these days with major works at both ends of the line.

Good to see that the local authorities are finally getting their Peak Oil hats on and realising the value of the Midsomer Norton to Bath Green Park section of the route. Restoration may be many years away yet, but at least we can be assured that the job will not be made harder by idiotic development along the route!

Nice also to see that the Bristol-Frome line is coming to life again at Clutton. This is another route (particularly between Radstock and Bristol) that will HAVE to be restored in a post Peak Oil world. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 14, 2006

sentinel progress

The Sentinel is now proudly displaying her second layer of undercoat, this time in grey.

Full restoration should be complete within two years. The plan is to paint her in prussian blue for the first year, then in BR black, bringing memories of the Radstock locos, now extinct. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 11, 2006

just 5000 shopping days to xmas ...

JUST IN - the 2007 SDRHT calendar, with classic photos by Ivo Peters, taken in 1957.

Includes shots at Midsomer Norton (of course!), Bath Green Park, Shepton Mallet, Lyncombe Vale, Binegar, Cannard's Grave, Evercreech Junction, Cole, Highbridge shed, Templecombe shed, Lower Twinhoe, Wyke Champflower and Chilcompton.

To my mind this is the best yet, with superb atmospheric views throughout. This is a LIMITED EDITION and we've already sold 100 of the 700!

Price is just £4.95 plus 50p post and packing (any quantity).

To order please send a cheque payable to 'SDRHT' to

107 Anchor Barton
BA12 7LR

or click on the Paypal button below for immediate despatch

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 10, 2006

lights, camera, arson ...

We were dealt a cosmetic blow a few months ago when this anachronism appeared outside the station. But on Friday night some character with an old tyre and a spare litre of petrol decided to give it the Winnie Mandela treatment, the result was a blackened mess.

Apparently some of the car anoraks don't like these things because they cut down their speed. Rather than argue their case they resort to random acts of terrorism-lite. They'd better just mind they don't set OUR site on fire in the process, or three points on their license will be the least of their worries! Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 08, 2006

media frenzy!

Everybody descended on Midsomer Norton station today! We received a visit from Hugo Swire MP, the Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport plus the Wansdyke PPC Jacob Rees-Mogg, plus a television crew and a host of reporters from the local papers.

A great time was had by all, posing on the engines, enjoying free cake and coffee and chatting about the future of the line.

Ostensibly the visit was to express support for our Heritage Lottery Bid for the museum, due to open in 2007. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

all done ...

Two views of the completed patio by the buffet coach at Midsomer Norton. This was an excellent job done by local builders in just a few days. Tables and chairs have also arrived - very soon this will be an excellent place to have food and drink, especially in summer when it is a veritable sun trap! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

the silver street works begin

These are the first visible signs of the works needed to protect Silver Street from a runaway train. There will be a bund at the end of the track and a sliding buffer set up to take the impact of any runaway vehicles. There are also new catch points beyond the station to reduce the amount of run available, which would derail any loose vehicles well before they reach the station area.

These works are needed to allow public passenger trains to commence in 2008.

Originally of course the line continued down the bank to Radstock and will eventually run again across a new bridge, but this is still a few years away. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 04, 2006

scottish lessons

The Waverley route is on its way back after 37 years. The line originally ran from Carlisle to Edinburgh through the wild and bleak border country, but was controversially closed in 1969, the last major rail closure in the UK. Now 35 miles between Edinburgh and Tweedbank are about to be rebuilt, thanks to the Scottish parliament. Sixty houses are to be compulsorily purchased and demolished.

The S&D and Waverley routes had a lot in common – heavily engineered main lines serving a few major towns and many villages, lifelines for the communities through which they ran, especially in winter, both with a very loyal enthusiast and local support base and both essential routes in the future.

I’ve reproduced below a recent article. Wonder how long it will take us to get our first 35 miles open?

Green light for Borders Rail
25 July 2006

The Waverley Railway (Scotland) Bill has received Royal Assent.
This represents the last milestone on the legislative process for the Borders Rail Line and the project, which will be delivered by Transport Scotland, is now cleared to progress.
Welcoming the news, Transport Minister Tavish Scott said:
“I am delighted that this important rail project has now been given the green light.
“This rail line will increase the economic opportunities and improve quality of life for communities in Midlothian and the Borders – connecting them not only to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland, but through the Edinburgh airport rail link to truly global markets
“Faster journey times, greater accessibility for passengers with disabilities, improved opportunities for education, employment and leisure, reduced emissions from road traffic, safer travel – these are the tangible transport and economic benefits that the railway will bring.
Transport Scotland, the transport delivery agency answerable to Scottish Ministers, is committed to providing in principle £115 million funding in 2002 prices towards the project with the rest to be funded by the councils and other interests.

quiet evening

A couple of views of the station yesterday evening in rain and poor light. Our visiting steam engine, Lady Angela, was due to go back to Buckfastleigh a few hours ago. Now all will be quiet on the events front until the Santa weekend in December. This will give us time to get the really important work done - sorting out the protective works at the Silver Street end, extending the line towards Chilcompton, finishing the signal box externally, (possibly) resurfacing the up platform and building up the marketing effort (publicity and website) ready for the grand opening to public passenger trains in 2008. Now really is the time to join the Trust! Posted by Picasa