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, May 31, 2007

more expansion

Keep this under your hat but very soon another classic S&D location will have track relaid with the help of the Trust! That will make 3 places on the line with standard gauge track relaid. More news when it's ready ...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

volunteer weekend

This year's Midsummer Event (23 and 24 June) is going to be focussing on volunteering as well as offering all our usual attractions. We've just completed a new leaflet dedicated to volunteering opportunities on the line which will be launched over the weekend. There will also be displays on a voluteering theme. Saturday evening we'll be having our first barbecue on the patio from 6pm. There will of course be music!

looking back

I just won this on eBay - the SLS photographic souvenir of the last day of the (old) S&D. No doubt it will eventually find its way into the museum but until then it's all mine!
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Monday, May 28, 2007


Bank holiday Mondays can always be a bit of an anomaly at the S&D - often we have plenty of visitors but the volunteers also understandably take the day off - which can leave us a bit stretched!

So hearty thanks to Hermione and Dave L-G, and John B for opening the catering coach and shop today!
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

bank holiday weekend

Apologies to all our visitors today for the awful weather! It was still a pretty busy day with quite a few visitors dodging the rain and cold. A total contrast from the Easter weekend when everyone was too hot!
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

responsibilities again

As an increasingly visible part of the community in Midsomer Norton we're very aware that we have a responsibility to make the place look as nice as possible. This is work last year on the astronomical garden, very visible from Silver Street. This work is now taking place again, putting in bedding plants for a blaze of colour.

Soon the up platform will be resurfaced and will show off the signalbox to perfection. Once the greenhouse is rebuilt the whole site will almost be back to 1950s condition, a real asset for the town and the railway heritage community. Railway enthusiasts who have kept the memory of the line alive throughout the closure years deserve nothing but the best - the new S&D will lovingly recreate the old and consistently reflect the line in its heyday, the 1950s.

In a few years time track will once again grace this attractive unofficial footpath. We've worked closely with local people to ensure that where footpaths, even unofficial ones, have come into use along the trackbed that we put in a new right of way as close as possible to the original. We want people to enjoy the magnificent countryside that the S&D runs through on foot, bike and eventually by train. We also value the wildlife and wild flowers along the route, they are as much part of the scene as steam trains will be in the future. Our aim is to tread as lightly as possible on the land.

But our biggest responsibility is to future generations who will have to live in a rather harsher (if warmer!) world than us. Once road traffic vanishes the S&D, and many other lines throughout the country, will become essential traffic arteries, keeping the economy going (if no longer growing!) and protecting the environment by using sustainable fuel (wood and solar/wind/water generated electricity).
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Friday, May 25, 2007

secondhand expansion

The '50p for everything' promotion in the secondhand shop has exceeded all expectations and has raised almost £300 in the last few weeks! It's also allowed us to put loads of fresh stock on the shelves and clear the new marketing office in the process. Everyone wins, especially the customers who are getting excellent books, CDs and railway videos at just 50p a time.

Last Monday we even took the books to the public by putting up a table outside the entrance, which drew a few more people in. Word's getting round and now most of the sales through the shop these days are secondhand.

Thanks in particular to Steve C who's breathed fresh life into the secondhand department and is a great addition to the volunteer team.
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

flowery MN

Midsomer Norton was always famous for its plants. The gazebo now has potted climbers in each corner - thanks to Amanda Mayes who can often be spotted with a watering can!

Whilst up in the meadow above the catering coach the wildflowers are starting to bloom. Midsomer Norton should be a blaze of colour over the next couple of months. Expect bees!
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

little do we know

1989, West Somerset Railway. Ex-brother in law and none other than Evening Star! Now all has changed - Tere's remarried and Evening Star is stuffed and mounted in York and no longer running. In 1989 the S&D was totally closed and bereft of track.

18 years later and this is the S&D back with a vengeance. And who's that walking along the track? None other than Aubrey Punter, fireman on Evening Star's last up Pines Express through Midsomer Norton in September 1962!

the future's bright, the future's wood ...

Yes! At last the wider movement is beginning to appreciate the value of wood as a fuel source for locomotives in an oil-less and coal-less future. This month's Steam Railway (June 2007) carries a five page article on wood burning, looking at the Kielder Railway and the wider picture. Good news is that some types of wood have almost as high a calorific value as coal, bad news is that locomotives that were built for coal don't take to wood - but that doesn't rule out some sort of reasonably cheap conversion - we did it with leaded to unleaded petrol.

The simple fact is that in a warming world burning coal for what's seen essentially as 'pleasure' will become frowned upon. Coal will also become very expensive as the last mines are emptied at a rapid pace to keep up with the demand for energy generation. Everyone will be looking to wood.

Wood has huge advantages - it can yield a very good harvest in a relatively small area as it grows upwards, it can be grown locally to the railway (very cheap transport costs), it is carbon-neutral provided enough is planted to cover burnt stocks and it can grow very quickly - up to 9 feet a year for eucalyptus.

The downside is that land values will probably rise as more and more is needed for harvested forests - so heritage lines should be building land purchase for forests in their business plans now, not in 20 years time!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

titfield thunderbolt

The classic opening scene of the film with an S&D local train passing over Midford viaduct. An absolute classic I can't wait for us to recreate! The film incidentally is available from the station shop!

shillingstone's step up ...

Some more shots of Shillingstone.

Great news is that they will shortly begin tracklaying in earnest once their diesel loco is delivered. Initial plans are for a half mile of track, hopefully it will not be too long before passenger services are introduced. Hopefully their initial rather cautious plans for trains to head towards Blandford are added to as the years pass!
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Monday, May 21, 2007

double track

The sleeper pile has finally been moved after a Herculean effort by some of the track team over the previous week. And suddenly double track is on the cards again as the ballast reappears! Even on the extension the trackbed is beginning to look ready for double track!

The S&D will be one of only two double track heritage lines in the country (the other of course being the Great Central). The line back to Radstock will be single however as the route will be shared with cycles, but hopefully the whole Midsomer Norton to Shepton section will be double ...
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Sunday, May 20, 2007

bath and west

If you're in the area towards the end of this month and looking at items of railway interest along the S&D try to pop in to the Bath and West Show as the delightful 7 1/4" gauge Bath and West Railway will be running a full service. This is situated between Prestleigh and Evercreech and is less than a mile from the trackbed of the S&D. In fact if one of the East Somerset Railway's expansion plans comes to fruition the Bath and West and East Somerset (and eventually of course the new S&D) will meet somewhere in the area and provide a proper transport facility into the Showground once the roads have gone.
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Saturday, May 19, 2007

the atmosphere thing

I hope the above four shots have a certain timeless feel about them. As the line extends I think there will be endless opportunities to capture the incredible variety of atmospheres that we can get on the S&D. What helps in these shots are the lack of people and, in all but one, the lack of cars. This makes it harder to pin down the year they were taken. They were of course all taken in the last year, and there are clues in all of them.

The first shot is ideal except for the state of the mark one coach, which hasn't yet been fully restored. The second is almost there, perhaps a wrong line engineers' working? Shot three has a tell tale car and buffer stops where the bridge should be. And I should kick myself for not moving the 'customers [sic] parking' sign from in front of the station and the boards off the window. Otherwise the illusion would have been complete!
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radstock track

Track still exists at Radstock although you have to look hard for it! There is still track under the grass in the 'redevelopment' area near the old wagon works (and of course on the line back to Frome) but that is likely to be lifted soon (partly by the Trust!)

But the above bit will probably last much longer as it's set into the concrete tramway style. You can see this just before you get to the roundabout in front of Radco from the Frome direction - it's on the left hand side.

Depending on developments at Radstock and whether the Trust go for a straight run to Bath or connect (probably temporarily) with the Frome line this section may even see the occasional train again as it links the old S&D and GWR routes.

Although the North Somerset scheme appears moribund at the moment the underlying reasons for the reinstatement of the Frome-Radstock line are, if anything, getting stronger every day. In fact if things pan out as I expect them to one day Radstock may once again see lines to Frome, Bournemouth, Bath and Bristol.
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Friday, May 18, 2007


The Southwold Railway are having a few problems from the locals. They don't want Southwold turned into 'Toy Town'.

They obviously have a 70s idea of preservationists - as knuckle dragging Asperger's Displaying NHS-wearing train buffs. And a 70s idea of what the Southwold Railway will be - a plaything for the socially inept and wealthy.

Perhaps the Southwold Railway need to be proactive and explain that all communities will need railways in the future as Peak Oil hits. That what they are planning is first and foremost a transport link that will keep them attached to the wider world once their cars splutter to a stop. That a railway will be able to carry freight in and out, that unless they stake their claim now and start building their line before the rush they'll be left behind as the skills of railway workers and builders become a fought over commodity.

Fortunately at Midsomer Norton we seem to be bereft of the Learning Difficulties Community, and that we are welcomed with open arms. We have the advantage of having many members in the community who remember the line running up to 1966. The Southwold of course closed in 1929, few locals there will remember it.

The Southwold Railway WILL be rebuilt, it's just such a shame that a few locals can't understand what's going on ...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

more fiddleford!

Another shot from Pete Russell of the new S&D bridge in Dorset.
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fiddleford bridge - just in!

No sooner do I do a post on Fiddleford Bridge than Pete Russell comes up with some photos! There were none on a web search. A nice elegant design but one which will have to be replaced when the trains return!
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new S&D bridge - 2007!

Midford 1980 - original S&D architecture

The first bridge to be opened on the S&D for over 100 years - the Fiddleford Trailway has built a new 75 metre bridge over the River Stour in Dorset. Yet again part of the S&D is put back!

My only issue is that in the report (hyperlinked above) there is an amazing quote - 'The Somerset and Dorset Railway line was closed to railway traffic in 1966 and has mostly been forgotten since then'!! I think a lot of us here at Midsomer Norton plus our friends at Washford, Gartell and Shillingstone, plus the dozens of heritage lines that have S&D special events and the tens of thousands of railway fans and local people deserve an apology for that!
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

the other midsomer norton

A few of our visitors are led astray by 'Station Road' in Midsomer Norton. This was of course the road that led to the GW station in Midsomer Norton. The above shot is of the bridge just before the station - the abutments remain but the bridge now carries a footpath and cycleway. The station is gone.

From next year there should be brown signs in place to point the hugely increased number of passengers waiting to ride on the trains to the right station!
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