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!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

signalbox evolves ...

Four shots taken over the last 15 months or so, as the signalbox rises from the rubble. Final shot shows Graeme Mayes, the signalbox king, doing some finishing work in the rain today.
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an a-lister in the box!

(Photo courtesy John Rideout)

A valued visitor at the Midsummer weekend was Mike Arlett who is seen here pulling off a lever in the box. The frame and levers have been painted in the last few weeks. The box is looking fantastic!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Combe Down Tunnel Walk Friday 6 July 2007

Wow! I know it's short notice but I've just learned from the Two Tunnels Group that they're doing a Combe Down Tunnel walk next Friday (6.7.07). This is a fantastic experience, not to be missed!

There will be guided walks for up to 30 people every half an hour with the first walk at 12.00 and the last at 17.00.

To take part you need to sign on to their website and book a place.
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

a different angle

I saw the station from a different angle today - from the window of a Frome to Midsomer Norton bus! The car's surprisingly in for repairs so I needed to reluctantly sample the alternative - and it was a mixed experience. Very nice to sit back and let someone else drive, but two and a half hours for the 25 miles from Frome to Brislington? Ridiculous. Had the Frome-Bristol line still been open it would have taken less than an hour to get to Whitchurch. More on the Looking Ahead blogsite.

And the big transport story today is Iran introducing petrol rationing - a taste of post Peak Oil! More on the Future Economics blogsite.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007


We've had Myspace, we've had Bebo (before most lines even have a Blog!) but the real networking buzz is Facebook. Obviously we now have a facebook site and are busy networking to a whole new audience. Facebook is a lot more adult-orientated than other networking sites, so you shouldn't have to wade through thousands of thirteen year olds telling us who's a minger and who isn't, or having to sigh at their dreadful music taste (Atomic Kitten and Pink Floyd usually ...)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

final destination

Some views from last Sunday on the second day of the open weekend. A big feature was the brake van rides and for Sunday people were actually using the train to get from A to B. Not Midsomer Norton to Chilcompton (or Bath to Bournemouth) but for the short trip from the down platform via the end of the line and back to the up platform signalbox.

The signalbox is now the real star of the station, having risen from a hole in the ground just 18 months ago. It's now almost complete externally and the inside is looking very good too with the frame and levers now painted and the woodstove in place. It was very busy at the weekend with almost every visitor ascending the stairs and having a go on the levers!
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Sunday, June 24, 2007


Phil Jones (No 10 driver) and Julian Jefferson (Telegraph Editor) are press ganged into making the new barbecue - just an hour before opening Saturday evening!

A view from behind the DJ decks and into the new gazebo - Wulfric on iPod.

Not so quiet evening as the first bars of Enter Shikari's 'Sorry You're Not a Winner' reverberate around the patio.

The gathering around the barbecue.

All in all the Midsummer at Midsomer weekend was a resounding success, with many new members joining and a few more volunteers. Brake van rides were extremely popular, as were the cream teas up in the catering coach. Special thanks to Ann Cook and Debs Hitchins (catering), Dave and Hermione (barbecue), Phil Jones (brake van rides), John Rideout (signalbox), Paul Mitchell (shop) and John Bridges (tombola), plus many others who gave up part of all of the weekend to introduce our lovely line to the wider public.
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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Midsummer day one

The scene at about 11.30 - heavy rain and the beginnings of the big gazebo.

The scene at 18.30 - bright sunshine! Superb day on the site with plenty of cash coming in through the shop and catering coach tills, and loads of people on site. The signalbox was the star attraction.

A surprise was members-only brake van trips!

The scene from the brake van. There will be more members' brake van rides tomorrow!
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Friday, June 22, 2007

mixed signals

Here's the problem. The main event over the weekend is the disco and barbecue on the catering coach patio. Both need good weather to work. Being conscientious we've been trying to find out what the weather's going to be like. Problem is nowhere is saying the same thing - we've had everything from dry and sunny through light rain to heavy rain - and Torro have a convective discussion with a threat of light tornadoes. So which is it to be?

We've had some weather this week - the shot above is of Bristol on Tuesday evening. This was the tail end of a storm that hit Portishead flooding the High Street. It missed us but just minutes later a separate storm lashed south Bristol, drenching us in about 2 inches of rain in 15 minutes with constant lightning.

Good news is that the Meteorological Office site shows it as being sunny at 18.00 hours tomorrow, just as the disco begins.
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

midsummer and midsomer

Just five hours to the solstice. If any railway is Pagan then it has to be the S&D, running through the heart of mystical Wessex and serving the classic Pagan location of Glastonbury. So it's quite appropriate that we've always had a Midsummer at Midsomer event even if in the past it's been held in July! This year we're almost spot on with the festivities starting in just 36 hours time.

I spent today traipsing around Midsomer Norton getting posters up in the shops. We've always made it low-key in the past, but we've had a bit of a media push this year with press releases going to local and regional papers. This will probably be the last Midsummer event we have without running trains.

So do try to turn up! There will be plenty going on around the volunteering theme. And don't forget the Saturday evening disco and barbecue on the catering coach patio - hopefully the evening won't be too light and the patio and disco lights can be seen to their full effect! The barbecue starts at six pm. We'll be serving cream teas in the afternoons and the normal menu between 11 and 3 on Saturday and Sunday. The bar will be running throughout.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

that threat again ...

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway is yet another line that has to consider the vague ‘threat’ of reinstatement as part of the network in the future. This may be something we will have to face at the S&D in about twenty years time, but I’m sure by then multi-use lines will be commonplace and there’ll be no real problems. Look at the Rail Revival site for more information.

petition in perspective

The petition is still getting signatures every day - let’s hope it actually pricks a few consciences up in Downing Street and makes them realise that we are serious about bringing back trains to the Somerset and Dorset! Add yours today!

Every day congestion increases, the price of petrol rises month on month, the climate continues to unravel (did you see the storm in Bristol last night?!) and railways go up and up the agenda. We need to stake our claim now, not wait another five or ten years. The S&D has been stupidly closed for 41 years now, do we really want to wait another 41 before it’s fully reopened?
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The museum should be open within a year, the first few tenders are now going in for the work. We received just short of £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for this work.

Once it's built the museum will become a focal point for both local and railway historians. It will be state-of-the-art, not some musty old collection of relics. It will hopefully become the primary resource for all S&D historians.

Remember that the history of the S&D did not end in 1966! The above shot is of Wellow in 1980. The 'closed' period of the S&D will become a fascinating idiosyncracy for historians in 50 years time, when trains are again steaming from Bath to Bournemouth. Please consider donating pictures you have of the line, both before and after 1966, for use in the museum archive - the more unusual the better! The success of Jeffery Grayer's book 'Sabotaged and Defeated' proves that the 'closed' period has a fascination of its own, as does volume 3 of the TVP series on the S&D, which concentrates on the dismantling of the route. For every classic Ivo Peters' shot, there must be a thousand other shots of the line from a different perspective. Let's flush them all out!

Donations of photos/negatives/film etc can be made at the station on any Sunday or Monday. We will take the utmost care of them and ensure that they reach a wider public over the coming years.
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Monday, June 18, 2007

new bits

In readiness for the weekend event the track gang have put in this impressive barrow crossing.

The bargeboards go up on the box through the nasturtiums.

Another track panel on the up line gives the impression of double track. Derrick looks forlorn after being naughty yesterday ...
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

pressing ahead

With reopening next year and a growing number of members and events it's time to increase our profile locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. To this end we've reorganised the publicity side of the Trust with a new marketing and press office coming into existence in the middle office in the station. We were lucky enough to get a free computer and Broadband package via BT's Community Connections initiative, and this will form the core of the operation. We're building a database of media contacts and also a large archive and picture library, which will also be accessible from the museum research area from 2008. There is now also a press page set up on the website, so that editors can easily access selected S&D photos to llustrate articles with. Our aim as always is to be the best in our field and use new technology to forward the new S&D! And, as with this blogsite, innovate, innovate, innovate ...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

53809 in action

Almost Midford in the late 1950s, but it isn't!

53808 in action

A nice video of 53808 working on the West Somerset Railway with an almost S&D feel to it.

from nsw to msn

A little favour for a fellow heritage group on the other side of the world - I only wish we had the patience and volunteers to do the same with our second hand shop stock!

I am writing to you on behalf of the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum, which is a volunteer run organisation entrusted with, predominantly, the custodianship of the moveable heritage items of the former New South Wales Government Railways (Australia).The Museum is regularly the benefactor of donations of railway themed books. A significant number of these donated books, we call them pre-loved, are of British origin and subject. Over the past couple of years the number of British titles donated to us has increased substantially and we are now seeking additional disposal channels and good homes for these publications (some of which were printed in excess of 50 years ago and may now be collector’s items).In this respect we are hoping that you may be able to either distribute the attached listing to your members or to publicise a link to it in a member’s/supporters newsletter (http://www.nswrtm.org/museum_shop/publications.html). We believe that the publications listed are very fairly priced, especially when exchange rates are taken into account. Please note that all proceeds from sales are used to further the aims of the Museum and its preservation activities.


The Sentinel's hidden away in the goods shed at the moment whilst restoration work is being undertaken. It is gradually taking shape and should emerge like a butterfly some time in 2008, ready to work demonstration trains.
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Thursday, June 14, 2007

peak oil makes the headlines

So Peak Oil is finally newsorthy! Today's Independent had it as its COVER story - oil will probably start to become scarce in just four year's time. This is going to change the whole transport (and energy) balance throughout the globe. We of course are only concerned about how it will affect the new S&D!
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land purchase

We've had a low-key Land Purchase Fund set up for over a year now, and it's just passed £3000. People often see us as just a heritage railway set up based around Midsomer Norton, but of course our remit covers the whole route, and the LPF is there for use when sections of land come onto the open market, anywhere on the S&D. So keep your eyes open on your local press etc and let us know if anything is up for grabs. Think of the S&D as a big jigsaw puzzle, we're here to help put it together again!

The LPF will now be pushed a lot harder, so if you want to help preserve and reopen the S&D why not make a donation today (see sidebar for details) or write to us at the station for a regular direct debit mandate.

The fund is ONLY for purchase of trackbed and associated land and buildings, not for track materials, rolling stock etc! All sections of land acquired will be preserved in perpetuity for use by the new S&D, and will have a plaque (and possibly donation box) on every section.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

catering supernova

The catering coach is entering its final stage of development! After the Midsummer at Midsomer Event (23/24 June) the coach will be closed for a few weeks whilst the coach is stripped internally, the kitchen floor relaid, the seating area carpets replaced, our new 8 ring oven connected in a totally redesigned kitchen area and the outside painted in Southern green. At the same time our volunteers will be getting a new mobile mess van so they can work remotely from the site and still get food and drink!

Expect a big relaunch some time at the end of August (bank holiday weekend?) with special guest and naming ceremony - and probably a bar and disco! There will be an expanded menu at our usual unbeatable prices.

In the meantime visitors will be able to get basic cold drinks etc from the station shop. Please be patient - the wait will be worth it!
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Monday, June 11, 2007

box of delights

The signalbox is now an attraction by itself with many visitors taking a look inside - and pulling off a lever or two if lucky!

Mike Ford brings 'Derrick' up past the signalbx yesterday.

At the foot of the steps the greenhouse base is beginning to take shape. This is going to be a lovely spot to while away an hour or two once trains are running in 2008!
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