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!

Friday, August 31, 2007

back to bournemouth

This Midland Railway map is an eye-opener. With its major routes in bold it gives a clear picture of the MR's priority routes. London up to Manchester and Liverpool then up to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The bottom left limb of course goes through Birmingham to Bath and Bournemouth. It is ridiculous that in 2007 Bournemouth is still deprived of its natural outlet to the Midlands and the North, particularly bearing in mind the huge increase in population in the Bournemouth/Poole conurbation. It can't be that many years now before this is corrected!
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

telegraph 30

Telegraph 30 is now out - and better than ever! The theme is volunteering and includes a four page full colour feature. Members get three copies of the Telegraph each year included in their subscription. Lesser mortals have to pay £2.95 for a copy (available by mail order post free or via the eBay shop). This is the sixth issue in the new format - the first two are now completely sold out.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

heritage open days

We're opening for the Heritage Open Days again this year. The site will be fully open on Saturday 8 September (shops, catering coach etc), and on the Sunday - except for the catering coach. This is a great shame as the catering coach is still struggling to open Sundays. Although we have a team of about 8 none can make regular Sundays for various reasons. If you're keen to get involved in catering and really want to make a difference at the S&D please email us and let us know! You'll get full training, a free food hygiene certificate and the privilege of working in the most fun and socialable department on the S&D. Our aim is to open EVERY Saturday and Sunday in the New Year, particularly as we reach the reopening date!

Monday, August 27, 2007

paint frenzy

Two of the wagons getting the paint spray treatment this afternoon.

Dave and Glyn getting ready to spray.

Another recent paint job. The 'LMS' is a temporary addition! This is the new mess van for the volunteers and will be used further up the line as it extends.

Even the catering coach has received a first coat of cream on the roof. The coach will be finished in Southern Region green.
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

SR quiz - win a calendar

A nice quiz for you - not S&D I'm afraid as it was before my time! - can you name the above 4 Southern Region locations? Winner gets the brand new S&D Ivo Peters calendar. Winner is the first person to email me the correct answers. Please email to SDRHTSales@aol.com.
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The chimney is now finished, and looks great.

Looking through the box and down the line.

The view from the top of the stairs, turn left.

It now looks, to me, complete ...
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Saturday, August 25, 2007

set fair for the bank holiday

At last a run of good weather - so take the chance to come down to Midsomer Norton this Sunday and/or Monday.

The catering coach will be open Monday, together with the shops and signalbox. There's probably nothing better than lazing around in the sun at the station when the weather's like this! Except for enjoying a meal on the station patio of course!

The new menu at the coach was a resounding success last Sunday when we reopened after a 7 week break. The catering coach is currently being painted in Southern Region green.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


There are quite a lot of new faces around Midsomer Norton these days - partly as a response to our higher profile (website, magazine articles, local papers, perhaps even this blog) and also to our volunteer drive, which is bringing in several new people every week, at least at the enquiry level!

So why give up your precious time to help restore the S&D? My reason is that I'm desperate to see the line back, both as a major tourist attraction but, more importantly, because it should never have closed and will be an essential transport asset in a car, lorry and plane-free future. But it's only going to happen if WE make it happen. We don't want a 'basic' railway foisted on us by a scared distant government, we want the new S&D to be as similar to the old S&D as possible, run and owned by local people. Most volunteers do live locally of course, but we have several who regularly travel 200 miles or more to visit us and do their bit.

The new Telegraph should be out any day now, and there will be a major article on volunteering in it. Please read it carefully and give it some thought ...
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Sunday, August 19, 2007

sunday best

The catering coach is open again! With a new menu, new ethos and even a new volunteer signing up ...

It will be a month or so before we're open every Sunday, and it's all dependent on a lot more volunteers signing up for induction - but if you live locally why not think about it? You'll get full training and a food hygiene certificate, free of charge.

At the moment the following dates are definite for catering coach opening -

Monday 27 August (Bank Holiday)
Saturday 8 September (Heritage Open Day)
Sunday 23 September
Sunday 7 October
Saturday 13 October (Railway Ramblers & AGM)
Sunday 4 November
Sunday 18 November
Saturday 8 December (Santa)

The new menu moves us well away from the old 'greasy spoon' fry ups and into more select food, but still at our remarkably reasonable prices!

Opening times are generally 11am till 2.30pm, later closing on event days.

The site was busy today as was the coach and shop. Main work focus is the Silver Street safety works.
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Friday, August 17, 2007

signalbox reflections

Couldn't resist this - one of those serendipitous shots that come along occasionally. No camera trickery I promise - just the reflection of what's outside the signalbox overlaid on what's inside - thanks to the window just in front of me!
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

autumn plans

It'll soon be time to turn our attentions to the extension again - the hope is to have 2/3rds mile of track operational for the reopening. The above is a winter shot - it certainly isn't as clear as this at the moment! However there'd been a fair amount of preparation last winter and the new track should be far easier to put back in than the complex pointwork around the station area was!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

greenhouse effect


The greenhouse will be the next building project at Midsomer Norton, the foundations have been dug out a little and a pallet of bricks has arrived on site. This will be Robin Whitlock's baby, but as always help is welcome!

The glass will be laminated so should provide a challenge to our very own group of S&D vandals - as will the elaborate security system that's now being installed throughout the site!

Monday, August 13, 2007


The shark is said to have stopped evolving about 100 million years ago. The violin assumed its current form around 400 years ago. They have both reached their peak of perfection - there's no need to evolve any further.

I'm beginning to think that the S&D circa 1955 is the same. That it fulfilled many different roles and needs - local transport provider, a cheap efficient and effective way of moving thousands of holidaymakers hundreds of miles, secure employment for whole generations of Somerset and Dorset folk, a mouthwatering vista for lovers of railways, steam and the countryside, a place of peace and contentment occasionally interrupted by extraordinary power and spectacle.

So when people question what we're about, how we're going to square the circle, how we're going to cater for the supposedly contrary requirements of railway enthusiasts and 'real' passengers and freight suppliers, as well as tourists, I just think 'shark'! The S&D did all this in 1955, why try to reinvent the wheel? The new S&D will have manned stations, manual signalling, steam engines, compartment coaches and all the other paraphenalia of a working 1950s steam railway because that's what's best for all of the above. We may need to 'tweak' the fuel (from coal to wood) due to the new realities of Climate Change and Peak Oil, but otherwise it will be just as it was - only even more profitable! So don't worry - the new S&D is in very caring and responsible hands, it's our baby as much as yours!
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Friday, August 10, 2007


Photos courtesy Mike Couchman - http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkinmycat/ and thanks to David Bailey for finding them!

A couple of lovely evocative shots of the station after tracklifting but before demolition of the Silver Street bridge, probably around 1969.
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Thursday, August 09, 2007

that time already?

Julian Peters delivered the 2008 calendar to the station today - it looks very smart in maroon. We have only 347 of these available. You can buy them from the shop, by mail order (£5.50 each) or, soon, through the eBay shop etc. I really would recommend you buy yours ASAP as we've deliberately kept the print run low this year to add rarity value - this is a very collectable series! We still have a few 2006 and 2007 calendars, available from the station only.

Cover shot is Midsomer Norton in 1958 - the signalbox today has been almost totally recreated, inside and out.
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

coal revival

The following piece is from today's Moneyweek.

Although applying to Wales we may well see that the same economic pressures may lead to some of the Somerset mines reopening - there is still plenty of coal under our feet. So the new S&D may well be hauling coal on to the network in the future.

Another aspect of course is that good steam coal will become even more expensive and that wood burning will become an increasingly attractive option for the steam railways of the future - especially when home grown by the line using it.

It's funny but just a year ago ideas like this were seen as fringe, but now seem to become increasingly part of the mainstream - and are business-led. Economics is a funny old thing - who would have thought a few years ago that economists and businesspeople would become the leading forces for change towards a sustainable society?

It seems that becoming a coal miner may once again become a viable career ambition for the young of Wales. Two mines that have been shut since the mass closures of the 1980s are set to reopen shortly.

The restarting of the Aberpergym and Treforgan mines in South Wales will be funded by the flotation of Energybuild on Aim, which listed yesterday. The mining group is already producing coal from an opencast mine, supplying an RWE-owned power station in the Vale of Glamorgan.

It’s becoming economical again to supply power stations with home-hewed coal, because of a strong surge in coal prices. According to the McCloskey coal consultancy, the price for world coal delivered to the UK was $102 per tonne last month, compared to $74 last July.

Now coal’s always been important. It accounts for a quarter of global energy consumption, compared to nearly 40% for oil. More than half of America’s electricity comes from coal, while a full 80% of China’s does.

But what’s driving the current revival? One factor behind the recent strength in the price has of course been high oil prices - the drive to find cheaper sources of power has been a boon to alternative fuels across the board. And it’s not just about burning coal in power stations. Coal can also be converted into liquid fuel – this technology was used by South Africa under apartheid-era sanctions, but it is now becoming of wider interest. Coal to diesel technology is thought to be cost-competitive at oil prices of around $35 to $40 a barrel. China is pumping $15bn into the industry and aims to replace 10% of its oil imports with coal-liquefied oil by 2013.

There’s also the question of energy security. At the moment, much of our oil comes from parts of the world that are volatile, to put it politely, and in many cases downright hostile. This wouldn’t be a problem if we could somehow replace oil with coal. America has such abundant reserves of the black rock that some have described it as "the Saudi Arabia of coal".

And of course, there’s the huge economic boom in the east, and particularly China, which has driven the price of almost all raw materials higher. Even though China is the world’s biggest coal producer, it is likely to become a net importer within the next couple of years, the government reckons. And India’s government reckons it will be consuming four times as much coal as it does currently by 2031.

Original article by John Stepek at Moneyweek.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

now and then

I remember this book from a few years ago when the whole S&D was quiet. It was inspiring in as much as it showed that much of the S&D was still there, just waiting for the track and trains to return. And already some of the 'now' scenes are reverting to the 'then' scenes, reversing history or, more precisely, righting the wrongs of 1966!

As time goes by more and more of the S&D will be restored, the restored pieces will link together and books like this - that almost perversely celebrated the destruction of the original S&D - will become quaint period pieces, reminding us of those few brief decades when the line was almost lost ...
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Sunday, August 05, 2007

the new network

With oil prices staying high and clear signs that air travel will soon become a thing of the past - at least for the average person - it really is time to start developing the rail network properly. This means new routes, not just improvements to the existing ones. There are a few obvious candidates for early reopening - Okehampton-Plymouth, Lewes-Uckfield, Ripon, Keswick, Oxford-Cambridge, Bodmin-Wadebridge-Padstow, Buxton-Matlock, Cheltenham-Stratford, Bideford-Barnstaple, Woodhead ... and plenty more I've missed. There are still large towns not on the network - Gosport, Mold, Devizes, Tiverton for example. We need to ensure that the case for the S&D is also constantly made - particularly Templecombe-Bath, Blandford-Bournemouth and Evercreech (or Highbridge)-Glastonbury. The Somerset and Dorset Railway Heritage Trust is in a unique position as we are both a 'heritage' line and committed (through our Constitution) to seek ways to restore REAL trains to as much of the S&D as possible. You can help by joining the Trust or signing the petition (or both!)
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Saturday, August 04, 2007

back ...

(Mevagissey, 1.8.07)

Had a fantastic week in Cornwall - and didn't see a single train! Did see the trackbed of the Pentewan Railway on a run down to Mevagissey, but that was it ...

Will have more S&D news from tomorrow - but there's a buzz about new carriages and
some stock changes ... and a reopening date for the catering coach.
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