Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
can we recreate the past - and should we?
Part of what we're doing at Midsomer Norton is recreating the past, specifically the late 1950s. Look at the shot above - not only is it possible to recreate this scene, but we've almost done it. The main missing element is the greenhouse, but rebuilding it is going to be far easier than the signalbox - and that of course is nearly complete. This photo also conveniently ends just at the beginning of the slope of the up platform. Our line of course currently stops here! We have a mineral wagon and of course a Jinty visited us in 2005. The driver could almost be Geoff Akers leaning out!
But if the platform had had passengers on then we couldn't recreate them - the clothing, the stances, the attitude. And the new S&D will be nothing if not busy with passengers! And of course the 'train' here is doing a real job, it's not there just to be photographed.
For me the real authenticity of the new S&D will come when we're actually doing a real job of work and not just giving tourists and rail enthusiasts a three or four mile round trip into (delightful) countryside. When we're back at Radstock I can see Radstock people coming to the better range of shops in Midsomer Norton, and perhaps there'll be traffic going in the other direction - to Radco perhaps, or the Mining Museum. But look beyond Radstock towards Bath and suddenly whole new purposes for the line open up. We'll be taking people from Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Shoscombe, Wellow, Midford, perhaps even from a new station at Writhlington, to Bath - for work, shopping etc, not because they want to ride on the train but because we'll get them there far quicker than a car or bus would. And after Peak Oil the S&D will be the only way to get into town. And as we head southwards as well people from Shepton, Masbury, Binegar and Chilcompton will also have the option of getting to Bath quickly and efficiently - and stress-free. At the same time the tourists in Bath will have an excellent way of getting out to the hinterland - to the Mining Museum, to the Midford Valley, to the S&D Museum at Midsomer Norton, to Shepton. And there's freight as well, in both directions. And with wood-burning steam from managed forests being a genuinely sustainable system, because after Peak Oil there will soon come Peak Coal, it'll all be behind steam! Ironically Peak Coal and rising demand for lower-quality fuels once oil vanishes may even give us outward coal freight flows from a revived Somerset Coalfield!
So at the same time as we recreate the past - at least in part - we'll be building a modern (in the true sense of the word - sustainable and locally based) transport system.