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, January 10, 2008


I've been digitalizing more of my early photos (above are 1972).

These are two shots on the Winchester-Alton route. I feel these capture the day-to-day reality of a run down branch line (in horrible weather). Can today's Watercress Line even begin to compete with this for atmosphere? What is preservation actually about? Do any of today's lines recreate the past as it really was, or is there so much pressure (and vested special interest groups) that every 'heritage' railway resembles little more than a full size train set with bits and pieces from different eras forced together, everything bright and shiny with beaming staff? That's been my experience and that was something we really hoped to avoid at the S&D. It may be an impossible aim. I suspect however that the more today's heritage railways morph into genuine community railways in an oil-less future then the more the atmosphere will return. Authenticity is everything if you think about it ...
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As an active member of an heritage railway and having previously commented anonymously I would like to now comment here.
Try visiting any major heritage railway in the early mornings or late evenings when there are no crowds of passengers and really appreciate the atmosphere of a bygone age. If you want run-down stations with run-down staff then go to the smaller heritage railways which unsurprisingly do not attract many passengers.
Today would passengers expect to wait at a run-down unstaffed halt with boarded up windows and paint peeled walls. Maybe the public of 1972 excepted it but today an average of 95% of passengers to a heritage railway are the average families and expect high standards. If not then passengers do not come back.
Finally if long established heritage stations are not maintained then they will become like your photo of 1972.
Members of the S & D are on a long steep learning curve when you become an operating railway. It is easy to criticise..!
From a working member of a heritage railway.