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!

Monday, April 30, 2007


The wild flowers planted last year are beginning to appear on the meadow in front of the pillbox. Another hot working day on the S&D today as this hottest and driest April on record slips into May.
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Sunday, April 29, 2007


A view through the signalbox window this afternoon. No 10 on a works train pushes towards Chilcompton. The signalbox now has a floor and visitors can look around the inside. The chimney is now being rebuilt and some of the levers are now connected. Another buzzing Sunday at Midsomer Norton today, with rumours of a steam loco soon appearing on site ready for the reopening.
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

a view down the line

This is a shot from inside the signalbox looking down the line towards Chilcompton. The frame is in but there is still work to do inside - spot the bricks and a bargeboard! I love the look of the down line disappearing round the corner. In just a year's time this box will be fully functional and signalling real passengers trains in and out of the station!
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environmental responsibilities

We've always taken our responsibilities towards the environment seriously at the S&D. From protection of the animals and plants that share our site through to caring for the woodland alongside the station in cooperation with Wildspace, and trying to recycle and use kinder methods of controlling weeds and pests. Soon we'll be growing some of our own catering coach food in the greenhouse (organically of course!) and we've always used free range eggs in the food we sell.

Ten years ago few of course took much of this into account, but the environment - particularly climate change and peak oil - are rapidly taking over as our principle causes for concern over and above the old issues such as unemployment, education and defence. As we run out of oil and the world continues to heat up will the big guns of big brother turn towards the wider railway heritage movement? As we turn from oil to coal for our fossil fuels will heritage railways even be allowed to buy coal? How will we run our diesels and steam engines?

Diesel has no future, very soon the costs of fuelling a diesel loco will make them uneconomic on all lines. Steam will struggle on but soon everyone will be after coal and the price will skyrocket. There is an option of course, and I've touched on it before. Steam engines being simple and sturdy constructions can run on anything that will burn, and the obvious solution is to burn wood. It's renewable (if not over-exploited), can be grown on our doorstep and if planned well costs very little. Growing new trees to replace those burned for fuel keeps the carbon-cycle pretty much neutral.

But another aspect is that we need our passengers to come to us - today many use cars but few if any will have this option in the medium-term. Only lines with a connection to a much expanded rail network will be able to survive and flourish. But they will also need to serve a real transport need - and this should be part of any line's strategy. Most of today's heritage lines would serve a real transport need, whether for freight, passengers or both. Whether a real 'heritage' aspect will survive in this new world remains to be seen, but then today's heritage lines are very different from the enthusiast-targeted 'preserved' lines of the 1950s and 60s. We shouldn't be frightened of change, in fact we should embrace it. Careful planning is the secret, and we engage in plenty of that at the S&D!

Thursday, April 26, 2007


With reopening of the S&D only just over a year away now really is the time to discard your shyness and come and volunteer at the S&D! There are loads of jobs to be done, from cutting brambles to painting fences to working in the shop. If you've any skills, or would like to learn new ones, why not email for more information? Working parties operate every Sunday and Monday, also soon on Saturdays. Benefits include cheap food and drink in the catering coach, abundant sunshine and sparkling conversation.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

broadband heaven

The S&D has always been in the forefront of innovation (witness this blogsite!) but we were remiss on just one thing - no broadband (or indeed even Internet connection) at the station. This has now been corrected! Thanks to the efforts of Debs putting in an application and chair John Baxter in getting the middle office (the future marketing suite) tidied up we're now signed up to BT Broadband. This is at no cost to the Trust for the next seven months - BT very kindly donated a new computer plus Broadband connection as part of their programme to help charities get on line.

Hopefully the whole kit will be set up over the next week or so - expect photos very soon!
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Monday, April 23, 2007

out on a limb

We found ourselves in Burnham on Saturday. What a surprise! It's a delightful seaside town but it is missing a very important element - a railway station. We soon found where the line had run, and stumbled upon the delighful Somerset and Dorset pub!

But what a destination Burnham would be for a heritage line! Like Swanage but more compact. Imagine if the line were reopened at first from Highbridge, giving Burnham modern transport again, taking traffic off the roads and bringing in many more tourists combining a trip behind a steam train with a trip to the seaside. And at under two miles long the line would be a pretty cheap way to set up an attraction.

Perhaps when the Trust has completed the Mendip Main Line Project (or even before) it might look at something a little easier - the reopening of the first section of the S&D branch!
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probably the ideal spot for the new Radstock station

This is a scene from David Fisher's painting of Radstock 1960. Imagine 'Radstock Market' being replaced with 'Radstock Museum', today's mining museum in the town, and you can see the excellent opportunity for visiting both the new S&D and the museum on the same day! What could be easier? With regular trains south from Bath and north from Midsomer Norton and Shepton just imagine the high profile this fascinating museum will have in the future.

In the shorter term the new station at Radstock is likely to be situated to the right of the level crossing, and it may be that the new line will eventually cross the road on a bridge, but possibly by the time the line crosses the road cars and lorries will be a thing of the past.
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greenhouse - stage one

The site of Midsomer Norton's famous greenhouse has been cleared, the first step in its rebuilding. The original foundations are still there but will need levelling off as there's been some slipping. And we already have a member willing to take on the task of restoring this iconic part of the station. Once rebuilt it will supply flowers for the gardens and hanging baskets and, hopefully, organic vegetables for the catering coach.
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a couple of centuries

I don't know - a couple of days away and when I come back we've passed two big hundred landmarks! Over 100 people have now signed the petition and we're now averaging over 100 hits a day on this blogsite! Thank you all for your support in both endeavours.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

petition progress

Well we've certainly started something with the petition! Even before I'd had a chance to refresh the page at the start there were 5 signatures! Now, just 3 days in, we have 77 signatures. Once we have 250 the government have to reply - and with 362 days left we should quickly break through that particular glass ceiling.

Wording is - The Somerset and Dorset Railway was, and will be again after Peak Oil, a vital sustainable transport link across Wessex. The government should release funds and simplify the planning and construction process to allow local people to build, own and operate the line in preparation for when our oil runs out.

To sign up simply click here - and tell your friends!
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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.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

single to radstock

Just bought this ticket, a single from Midsomer Norton South to Radstock North, issued 31 October 1964. It will be nice to think that in 10 years time we'll be issuing tickets to Radstock again!
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Monday, April 16, 2007

templecombe 1966

Another shot from Keith Harwood, this time Templecombe shed shortly before closure of the line. This one includes some nice classic cars of the period!

We may not reach Templecombe for 30 or even 40 years, but this will become an important interchange again in the future, with redoubling of the Salisbury-Exeter line now a priority. It's amazing to think that the Salisbury-Exeter line was once under threat of closure, and that Templecombe station was once closed! The shed still exists.

petition to reopen the S&D

Please add your name to the petition currently lodged at 10 Downing Street to release money to rebuild the S&D. You can sign it here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

party time

A first for the S&D at Midsomer Norton was our kids' party today in the coach and on the patio. If you want to give your children a unique birthday experience why not book the coach? Prices start from just £30 for 2 hours. Contact Debs for details.

Everyone today was out on the patio as it was so hot!

Birthday boy Wulfric rips into a present.

A real treat for the children was the disco equipment which they all had a go on, including Sam, 5.
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Friday, April 13, 2007

neighbours and a new site ...

Popped over to the Avon Valley Railway today just to see what they're about. This was partly for my new blogsite, which covers all the heritage, tourist and miniature railways in the British Isles.

Later I popped along to the Clutton set-up. It was a real job to find it! This also appears on the Heritage Railways UK blogsite.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

how much? You must be kidding ...

45p for a cup of tea! That's outrageous! How do you make any money?

Simple, as a charity we don't pay tax, we don't pay our staff and all our overheads (although tracked of course) are subsumed in the general costs of running the site.

For just 45p - 9/- in old money - you get the cheapest tea, the nicest location and the friendliest staff in town.

And no, despite the average cup of tea costing 83.756p in Britain, we're not planning to raise the price any time soon. We want visitors to remember the catering coach at Midsomer Norton as being somewhere that has atmosphere, character and charm in equal quantities, as well as being a cheap day out for all the family.
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Monday, April 09, 2007

easter monday

Some of the ingredients in today's special - S&D ploughmans lunch ...

A surprise visit from the King and Queen of Thailand - we needed to find our best crockery to keep them docile.
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Sunday, April 08, 2007

midsomer miscellany

The brake coach is now fully converted for push-pull working.

A 'special' for our easter weekend event - an S&D ploughmans lunch for just £4!

The tombola was a huge success with an empty table by 2pm - except for a forlorn copy of 'Jinty'.

Our first disco - though due to the time and occasion it was more like background music. Catering manager Debs slips into her more usual role as a top DJ.

All photos taken today, 8 April 2007.
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