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, October 29, 2006

threats and opportunities ...

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Isfield station on the Lavender line is under threat after years of careful restoration. The threat is the potential reopening of the Uckfield-Lewes line, which closed in 1969 in a crazy bout of pointless vandalism which cut the only real alternative route from Brighton to London and robbed Uckfield of its natural route to the county town of East Sussex. Reopening and electrification is now a real possibility. The Lavender line will be compulsory purchased and will need to relocate if this happens.

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A similar situation may well arise on the Matlock-Buxton line, currently being restored by Peak Rail from the Matlock end. How this line ever closed is a mystery to me, depriving the large town of Bakewell of its link to the outside world, and cutting the direct Manchester-Derby link through an area often made impassable (to cars of course) by heavy snow.

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Meanwhile the Lynton and Barnstaple is looking at restoring eight miles of track over the next decade. Being narrow gauge and through a rural area they are hardly likely to be kicked off by the Network!

(All above info from current Heritage Railway magazine).

We fall somewhere in between. I suspect that providing we have restored Midsomer Norton to either Shepton or Bath (or preferably both!) within 30 to 50 years we may be safe and allowed to continue to operate both 'real' and heritage trains, particularly if we commit to restoring the rest of the line as quickly as possible. There's a window of opportunity which we need to utilise through very hard work, fundraising and proving ourselves before it is closed by harder heads than ours! Of course, whatever happens, the S&D will be fully restored within 50 years, but the question is what sort of S&D? One run by distant green bureacrats in London or one run by local people with an instinctive love for the real S&D ...

Over to you!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

bridges and viaducts ...

Some views further along the line taken on 6 March 2006. Many bridges and viaducts survive on the line, just waiting for the trains to come back. Typically we're stuck with a couple that have been demolished which will need to be restored before we get back to Radstock! But it's good to see that the physical infrastructure of the line is still present over much of the route which will make restoration so much easier. Recent developments with cycle routes etc help to both ensure that the route is not breached and also keep the actual trackbed clear and level which will make reinstatement so much easier. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

gazebos and sliding buffers

The first part of the safety works at the Radstock end were completed in the rain on Sunday. This is the down line sliding buffers, a feature unique on Britain's railways. This is designed to take the impact of a runaway on the 1 in 53 (flattening to 1 in 330) grade through the station. Further work will include a shingle trap and bund, giving 100% protection to Silver Street. This will serve until the bridge is replaced.

The gazebo is missing in the final shot because it blew away! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

remember, remember .... when the catering coach was cold and empty!

The catering coach is taking on a distinctly spooky aura as we approach Hallowe'en/Samhain, the most British of celebrations. There are cobwebs at the windows, bats hanging from the window frames and spiders everywhere!

The celebrations will climax in a November 5th event in the catering coach - no fireworks or bonfire as it's an afternoon thing, but hot dogs and soup and jacket potatoes available all afternoon from the coach.

No need to book for this one, but please turn up with your friends. Next catering coach events will be two Yuletide meals - one in the day and one in the evening, dates to be announced!

Another new addition in the coach is the model railway, which is likley to grow enormously over the next few months if everybody keeps their promises to bring in tracks, engines etc! Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

in the woods something stirs ...

The extension is now well and truly underway with the raggle taggle Monday gang now gently massaging the undergrowth of the last 40 years! This is just over the previous boundary (note red barrier disassembled at last!) and the work is mainly clearing the smaller trees. Larger trees will need to be passed for removal. Within a few months tracklaying will begin. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 19, 2006

midstormer norton

Some shots taken on Tuesday when we had a violent rainstorm at the station! Midsomer Norton is evocative whatever the weather ... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

railway view place

Railway View Place is an unassuming street in Midsomer Norton, and it's currently a misnomer.

But what you can see from Railway View Place is the huge embankment that will carry the line back to Radstock.

This is a pretty good symbol of what the S&D was and will be again - a line engineered on a magnificent scale. Of course on the old S&D this was almost totally a negative, pushing up costs. But on the new S&D it is the scale of the earthworks, bridges and viaducts, as well as double-heading of the longer trains that will bring great benefits (as well as costs!) as hundreds of thousands flock to the line every year! Just imagine the view across Radstock and Midsomer Norton when perched fifty feet above the ground! And just imagine the sheer joy for the residents of Railway View Place when the trains are back and they can look out over their breakfasts on a frosty morning as an early train heads south against the grade. Imagine what it will do for their property prices as every enthusiast in the land competes with each other for the view! Just one more intangible benefit that the restoration of the S&D will bring to residents all along its route. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 16, 2006

bridges and cameras

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(Demolishing a bridge on the Bridgwater branch, 1957)

Apologies for not posting for a few days - thanks to glandular fever and a short holiday.

Back to the station today - buzzing as usual! Julian Peters and Wally Moon were being filmed for a Channel 4 programme, which ended up being done in the shop as the weather was vile. Julian brought in a couple of Ivo's old photo albums, from 1950 and 1965, these were the famous ones which used to travel up and down the line being passed from employee to employee.

Apparently bridge renewal over Silver Street may not be quite as difficult as we originally thought, though still very expensive. The road may only need a small amount of trimming although the services will need to be relocated - but the bridge itself will only need small ramps at the station and Radstock end so the need for a lifting bridge or other esoteric devices will not be needed!

The time isn't that far off when we'll need to make the decision Radstock first or Chilcompton infill first! My vote's with Radstock, as a station at Radstock will be a superb advert for us, right by the main roads. With the thousands of extra visitors this'll bring in we should quickly raise the necessary funds for removing the infill, and have an excellent transhipment point from rail to road or even rail throughout via the Frome line.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

remember this?

I just found this whilst looking for some photos for Wulfric's homework.

It's summer 2005 with the Jinty pulling a single coach south to Chilcompton. I had a real piece of luck in that the platforms are empty, and to me this really captures the atmosphere of the original S&D. Hopefully in a few years this will become a regular feature, rather than a special event, though the platforms will probably never be so empty again! Posted by Picasa


You sometimes wonder how it ever got to this - that a railway that will HAVE to be rebuilt can have houses built on or near its trackbed! This is the scene at Cole, 40 years to the day after closure.

It's clear from the picture that a diversionary route could easily be built here, but even with that in place these houses would be very close to the track. Obviously at some point trains WILL pass through Cole again, so a solution will need to be found.

The solution is not only simple but also elegant. With the housing market still quite bouyant most of these houses will be for sale at some point. So all we need to do is buy them as they become available, rent them out, then put the line back in place when needed. Rental agreements would clearly state that the line will be rebuilt and that the tenant would have to agree to this as a condition of taking on the lease.

Given 15 to 20 years before reinstatement as the ideal set up, the property would actually cost us nothing once the rental income is taken into account. Even where a house would need to be demolished there would be various cash inflows from salvageable materials.

Harsher folk may say 'Forget such subtle schemes, as a public railway we'll be free to use compulsory purchase'. True enough, but what legacy would that leave us in relation to the local communities we'll be serving? We need to work with them, not against them, and what is worse than turning somebody out of their house?

No, we'll do it in a gentler way, an S&D way as always ... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

S&D eBay shop opens

We've just opened an eBay shop. At the moment there's not a lot of items on, but we should be putting our whole range of shop stock on line over the next few months! Posted by Picasa

mexican success

The Mexican Food Day in the catering coach at Midsomer Norton was a resounding success and speciality food days will now become a regular feature at the coach. Switzerland, Finland and Austria have already been suggested as our next ports of call - not bad for a static coach! We're also planning Yuletide meals in December, one in the day and one in the evening. Booking as always is recommended! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 08, 2006

second helping

The final three shots of Midsomer Norton taken in late 1966 by a supporter in Canada. The real difference is the absence of trees in the photos. The station itself looks pretty similar to the scene now!

Today's AGM was a success, we easily reached the quorum required. Only one member fell asleep during the meeting! Posted by Picasa

40 years ago

These are some excellent shots sent to us by an S&D fan in Vancouver, Canada. They were taken shortly after the closure of the line, before the demolition contractors had moved in, but after the first attentions of the vandals.

Remember that the museum/archive should be opening within a year or so, and that there will be no better home for historic photos of the S&D in the future! Posted by Picasa