Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Thursday, July 05, 2007
(Photo - 1986)
We should never take what we've achieved at Midsomer Norton for granted. Britain is littered with failed preservation schemes, from the Westerham Valley Railway sacrificed for a motorway(!) to the above (Shoreham-Beeding), a line that should have been preserved as it would have tapped into a huge tourist trade. And of course schemes closer to home including Radstock to Writhlington and the Midford set-up.
The interesting thing is that many of these schemes seemed straightforward - track still down in many places, or short routes with little obvious obstructions.
Other lines that looked doomed from the start - Kent and East Sussex, Swanage, even Minehead - have really flourished. And did any of us really see the Welsh Highland reopening throughout?
It seems to me that the lesson to be learnt is - be ambitious! It's mainly the smaller schemes that have failed - they probably just did not ignite real enthusiasm, did not build up a head of steam and did not attract the real players.
The scheme at Midsomer Norton seemed to take ages to take off - the original plan to just restore the station and - perhaps - a small 'demonstration' length of track would never have worked. The S&D deserves a REAL preservation attempt - miles of track, big engines, plenty of stations, all the grandeur and iconography of the original line. This is what we're now working for - the Mendip Main Line. Midsomer Norton to Shepton at the very least, with the line to Bath happening at the same time or very soon after. And Shepton to Templecombe isn't really that far ...
Midsomer Norton is secure, but it's taken us fifteen years to get as far as we have. Over the next fifteen years progress will be a lot faster as we move into the post Peak Oil world, and as the new S&D becomes more widely known. Even now we still rather hide our light under a bushel, but this blog, the website, the superb Telegraph Magazine and an increased media presence shows our determination to change that!