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!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

MSN news

This is the quiet month or two after Xmas, but it seems to be busy this year! Shop takings are rising again after the post-Xmas blues, six volunteers did a Food Hygeine course at the weekend to increase the catering coach staff, new S&D products are on order for the shop, donations of goods for the second hand shop have been phenomenal, track is extending (see previous post) and bank clearance is proceeding well, though the lure of warmth from the bonfires may be the main reason for this! The signalbox is now about to be glazed, barge-boarded and finialed, which will mean external completion.
And in the last couple of weeks we've received four grants - £49,500 HLF money for the museum, £1000 from British Airways for up platform work, £2000 from the local council for Sentinel restoration and a free computer, software and year's broadband connection from BT.
Visitor numbers and membership are also rising as we begin to push the line more aggressively with public trains now just over a year away!

step by step

Temporary track continues to appear on the new extension to allow the Trackworks team to prepare the trackbed. There are now 3 panels past the old red barrier and track is now really beginning to enter S&D countryside! There are also rumours of a resident steam locomotive in the offing (NOT a Bulleid!!) - watch this space!

Friday, January 26, 2007

imposing ...

I rarely approach the station from Charlton Road on foot, but I did today to save opening the gate.

This is today's view of the station from this angle. It really is beginning to look like a functioning station again, particularly with the cosmetically-almost-complete signalbox back!

Imagine if the early founders of the S&D Trackbed Trust had failed and that this site had become yet another faceless and boring housing estate? That was the point when the future of the S&D started again, just a couple of years after the demolition of the Berlin Wall marked a new era in Europe, signalling the empowering of local people over state bureaucracy.

Monday, January 22, 2007

fresh fields ...

Incredibly 'track' has already started to appear on the new extension! This is the very first panel to cross the former red barrier onto the new piece of trackbed. It is of course only temporary and will be used to access the new works with tool trolleys etc!

Hearty thanks to the Access and Grounds and Trackworks teams who have made this happen so quickly. The scene here has transformed over the last few months with what was a small wood now looking so much more like a potential railway again.

Welcome to all you new visitors who have arrived via the Railway Modelling site. I absolutely promise that I didn't post the comment about this site being suicide-inducing though it proves the old adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity! Hopefully many of you will become regular visitors both to the blog and the line!

We're not pie-in-the-sky optimists but hard-headed businesspeople building the railway a little at a time for future generations who will need to find new ways to get around. The general consensus is that Shepton to Bath will become a premier league line over the next 20 to 30 years, and every day more people join up to help us achieve it. At the moment it's still real fun and small enough for everyone to make a real difference to what we're doing. There's no room for flights of fancy at the new S&D, it's a mix of hard graft, original ideas and - sadly for some - extreme realism. Dreamers need not apply!
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

contrarian views

I must be a glutton for punishment! I'm going to actually claim that the closure of the S&D was the best thing that happened to us. Before the more rabid of you start sending me unpleasant 'comments' just give me a chance to explain!
Had the S&D survived closure it would have been rationalised, the Midford-Bath section would have been replaced by a diversionary route via Limpley Stoke, diesels would now reign supreme, the stations would have been replaced by bus shelters with many closed completely, today's S&D would have resembled the Castle Cary-Dorchester route.
Think about it - how many fans does that line have today? Yet in many ways it resembles the S&D, running through similar countryside. No, it wasn't just the scenery, the heavy expresses, the charm of the branches, the stations with their classic Wessex names and the family atmosphere that brought the S&D its thousands of fans, it was its run-down and closure that gave it a poignancy and regret that lines which survived have never garnered. And it is that that has allowed the S&D to be reborn. Had the line survived, preservation and reopening couldn't have happened - the S&D would now be an integral, characterless part of the network, to be operated in perpetuity. That of course will still happen if we don't preserve enough of the route before the oil runs out. We have a unique window of opportunity.
This is why we are still the Somerset and Dorset Railway Heritage Trust, rather than just the Somerset and Dorset Railway. 'Heritage' allows us to get our foot in the door. For years yet, possibly even a decade or two, it is the heritage aspect that will be paramount. But at the same time we're rebuilding a railway, and that railway is growing almost on a weekly basis. Membership is steadily rising, more and more working members are now coming to Midsomer Norton every week. The buzz locally now is that we're serious about getting back to Radstock. Radstock is such a key location, because once we are there reopening to Bath will look more and more like an inevitability rather than a dream. And all the time we'll be pressing southwards towards Shepton and Templecombe.
Also there is now far more interest in sustainability, with new steam design entering the agenda. Steam will survive once the oil runs out, the technology is simple (although it is also of course used in nuclear generation), there is still plenty of coal, though as a finite resource even coal will run out eventually, wood is totally sustainable and it won't be long before 'sustainable, steam and wood' enter the agenda collectively.
The post-oil world may be a dangerous place, but it doesn't have to be. Preparation is the key, getting ahead of the pack the secret. We're planting those seeds in several ways. Firstly by carefully restoring a real transport link, secondly by looking at genuine replacements for oil, thirdly by investing strategically now - in forestry, trackbed, new technology etc.
So the closure of the S&D, tragic though it was, has allowed us to do what we're doing now. We're not dancing on its grave, far from it, we're digging it up and resurrecting it, warts and all. And that is the best tribute this unique and wonderful line could have. Bringing Back Our Trains is only part of it!

Monday, January 15, 2007

premier league website now on line!

Just gone live today - the all new S&D website! Thanks to Julian for his really hard work on this. Over the next few months the site will be developed to make it one of the best on the web, with superb functionality, loads of information, extensive sales pages, news features etc etc. In tandem with the S&D Telegraph this should give us one of the highest profiles amongst heritage and community railways in the future, bringing the new S&D to the attention of thousands.

slash and burn

More bonfires as clearance of the extension progresses before all goes quiet again on 1 March (bird nesting begins). The track gang were also working on the extension on Sunday, so it's many hands making light work - it looks great fun too!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

go north!

More stirrings on the S&D - it's a job keeping on top of them all! The Six Arches project aims to finally build the cycleway between Radstock and Midsomer Norton, which will involve reinstatement of the Somervale Road bridge. Obviously it wll be easiest for us to make this a rail bridge (with space for a cycleway) right from the start, so we're working closely with the group. It will mean a large financial input from the Trust to cover the marginal additional cost of a larger rail/cycle bridge over an exclusively cycle bridge.

There is also now talk of building a second bridge over the Bath road at Radstock to counter any possible objections to reinstatement of the notorious level crossing. This will leave us poised in Radstock to begin reconstructing the unobstructed (and transport-corridor protected) route back to Bath which is the real key to S&D success over the next 20 to 30 years, as well as giving us a possible link back to the Frome line. Radstock is going to be transformed over the coming decades into a real railway town again, possibly with the Bristol line reinstated as well.

The sustainable transport system of the future in a post-oil world will depend on two principle forms of transport - rail (including tramways, ultra-light rail, light rail) and cycling (with walking and horseriding complementing this). So all transport planning from now on will need to prioritise these modes, roads will fall into disuse (for energy requiring vehicles) in tandem with this shift. Inevitably more production will become localised as globalisation falters with the end of the oil age, requiring efficient transport systems serving local communities. The S&D and cycleways close to the route will provide this, giving us a head start over areas that still nostalgically cling to the road system. We'll be working very closely with cycling organisations to ensure this happens.

Reinstatement of the Radstock-Bath route will be the single biggest adventure the Trust undertakes in the 21st century, providing a classic commuter route into Bath as well as tapping into the tourist traffic in Bath and bringing them out into the hinterland. Bath Green Park will become the head office of the route as well as a showpiece Georgian style station, giving us an unbeatable presence in the city. The route will also allow visitors to see the classic S&D countryside through Midford and Wellow in the best way possible - through the windows of a train!

Friday, January 12, 2007

signalbox completion heating up!

We're getting closer to recreating this scene as each day passes - though it's unlikely the signalbox nameplate will ever be in chocolate and cream again!

As well as the exterior works the inside is starting to shape up as well. Today we took delivery of a wood-burning stove to keep the box warm. It'll use wood cut on the site, so will be free to run! Hopefully this principle will gradually extend to the locos as well!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

2007 - the last easy year!

2007 is likely to be the last easy year at Midsomer Norton -not that we mind! At the moment everything is development, from 2008 and the opening to the public it will be development and operation.

Operating a working line will need a whole new tranche of volunteers - guards, station masters and mistresses, signalmen and women, engine drivers etc.

There will also be the need to open on extra days - to this end the shop is likely to be open 4 or 5 days a week from this month, we'll also be opening the catering coach on more days each week as the year passes. We're also planning occasional evening openings of the catering coach with special meals and patio discos. This will all give us a higher presence locally and, importantly, increased revenue.

With the receipt of the HLF funds for the museum there will be the need for museum staff, this will also bring many more visitors to the site.

Other developments in 2007 will include the launch of our new website, a glossy sales list and, of course, extension of the line southwards towards Chilcompton.