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, July 05, 2007

ever vigilant

(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!
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1 comment:

pjohn151 said...

Absolutely agree! A railway is of no use if it does not go anywhere. As you say, a short section of line for demonstrations is all well and good, but serves no purpose, as it will not be of anymore use to the wider communinity than a museum. As part of a transport system, a railway makes a far more compelling business case and economic sense. I appreciate that there are literally many bridges to cross (no pun intended!). Roll on Shepton and Bath!!