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, September 30, 2008

midsomer norton double track!

A rare treat today - a trip to Midsomer Norton station! The most obvious change since my last visit several months ago was the extension of the up line which now gives a pretty good impression of double track. The S&D will be the only line other than the Great Central with this feature within the heritage scene, though it will be several years before appropriate length trains will be using it.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 29, 2008

more wasted main line infrastructure

(All Charwelton 20/9/08, courtesy Mick Knox)

There were many appalling main line closures in the UK thanks to dipstick Beeching. The S&D of course, the Waverley, Plymouth-Exeter via Tavistock, Dumfries to Stranraer, Woodhead and the Ripon line for example. But probably the maddest was the Great Central route, the UK's last main line, built to European loading gauge throughout and promoted way back in 1900 as a future link to the Channel Tunnel. This should be one of the first lines to be reinstated, but at the moment it's still in deep sleep apart from the Nottingham-Leicester section and Aylesbury-Marylebone. This is the sort of line that will compete with us for resources in the future!
Posted by Picasa

canada looks ahead

(Radstock, the old GW branch)

This has come via Derek Andrews, one of our Canadian readers.

It's not only in the UK that we're thinking seriously about restoring our railways by reversing stupid closures and developing the system to cope with 21st century needs.

In Canada they are currently in the midst of a federal election, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May has just completed a cross-country whistle-stop tour from Vancouver to Halifax. Part of the platform is to revitalise the railway system.

More here, here, here, here and here!

And before any of the usual suspects accuse me of being partisan then look at this!
Posted by Picasa

more from gartell

'GLR No6 'Mr.G' heads away from Common Lane with another train for Park Lane'

'GLR Class 33 look-a-like No.1 Amanda' leans to the curve on the approach to Common Lane Station, whilst the setting sun provides the back-lighting'

Thanks to John Penny for both of the above.

We mustn't forget that there are already regular steam services over part of the S&D, albeit only once a month and on the 2 foot gauge! The above are two excellent and atmospheric shots taken on the Gartell Railway.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 27, 2008

gartell open tomorrow

(Photos courtesy John Penny)

Wow, that was quick! Within an hour of posting my previous entry I had a response from John Penny who is a volunteer at the Gartell Light Railway. The line is open tomorrow, so try to get down if you're in the area. It runs in part on the old S&D main line trackbed, just south of Templecombe, and has lots of little S&D touches.
Posted by Picasa

spreading the word ...

These are exciting times for the S&D with several preservation groups flourishing, activity at many points along the line and interest greater than ever before. The launch of the New Somerset and Dorset Railway group any time now will be a momentous event in the history of the S&D.

I would love four or five more contributors to join me in producing this blog. Ideally you'd be based somewhere near the S&D, be a good photographer and have an interesting angle on the S&D (but none of these are essential requirements)! Most important is that you can produce two or three (at least) posts each month - they need only be a few lines or a couple of paragraphs. Please email me if you are interested or need more information. Progress reports from Shillingstone, Midsomer Norton, Gartell, Midford, Masbury and Washford will be particularly valued!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

turning the clock forwards ...

'Following the success of Ian Hislop's Scouting For Boys film last year on BBC Four, Ian is returning to the channel to front a new documentary.

In Ian Hislop Goes Off The Rails, he looks at the background to and impact of the notorious Beeching Report of 1963, which led to the closure of many of Britain's rural railway lines and stations.

Was Dr Richard Beeching a kind of Genghis Khan with a slide rule, ruthlessly axing any bits of our rail network he deemed unprofitable, or was he simply the fall guy for something that had to happen?

And what was lost to the British landscape, community and way of life when the railway map of Britain shrank?

With the help of rail experts, campaigners, government advisers, railwaymen and passengers, Ian brings his customary sharp eye and wit to the subject of the Beeching Report and the cuts that followed.

And he identifies the moment that the road lobby gained the upper hand, a time when cars meant modernity and freedom and trains were deemed old-fashioned.

Commissioned for the BBC by Mark Bell, the documentary is being made by Takeaway Media.

Mark Bell says: "Did Beeching bring the golden age of the British Railways to an end, or did he save a service from collapse?
"Ian Hislop is the ideal companion with whom to explore and understand this contentious moment in transport history. He doesn't shy away – his thoughts are trenchant and wise, his mood nostalgic."

Neil Cameron, Executive Producer, Takeaway Media, adds: "This is part homage to a Britain of seaside trips and branch lines we remember fondly, and part narrative of why it all changed in the 1960s, told as ever with Ian's masterful skill, humour and passion."
The film sees Ian team up again with producer/director Deborah Lee (Ian Hislop's Scouting For Boys) and the single 60-minute programme will be broadcast on BBC Four in Autumn 2008.'


Oh dear - that bloody nostalgia word again!! What we really need is a documentary that looks into the REAL reasons for the stupid reduction of our rail service when governments MUST have known that eventually the lines would be needed again. It's still not too late to deal with the people that did this and to bring them to account ...

Let's hope that the programme at least concludes with a look forward and perhaps identify the moment the rail lobby gained the upper hand - right about now!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the new S&D

It's been a while coming, but the launch of the New Somerset and Dorset Railway is now very close. The aim will be unequivocal - the rebuilding of the S&D (in its entirety) as a working (mainly) steam railway carrying passengers and freight, to provide a modern sustainable transport facility for the area once Peak Oil has hit. The initial work will involve setting up a management team to build an investment portfolio, to make a full survey of the route and to establish links with local authorities, local media and businesses. You'll hear the news as it happens first on this site!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 11, 2008

information, information, information

We visited Brittany in August and I managed a peek at the railway that served the area we were staying in. But what a job to find anything out about it! Finding its course was impossible in Josselin, despite it being a Route Vert. Maps didn't help and the Internet hardly helped at all. But in Ploermel there were plenty of railway remains including the magnificent station (above) complete with French 'Sturgeon' preserved on a piece of track.

How different from the Internet presence of the S&D, with dozens of websites and page after page of information. I fully expect both the S&D and the CF du Morbihan to be restored within the next 50 years, but which will be first?
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

upcoming event

Try to get along to Midsomer Norton South station on the 13th or 14th this month, as we will be joining the Heritage Open Days scheme yet again. With all facilities open and tours of the signalbox it will be well worth it.
Posted by Picasa

fame at last!

ITV Local Meridian have now featured mine and Debs' day at the Great Dorset Steam Fair last week. With links back to our blogs this should give the S&D plenty of extra exposure!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

not alone!

Thanks to Freddie for this!

We're not alone in trying to get our railway back before the real rush begins.

Over in the Irish Republic there are moves to restore the West Cork railway system. The main problem appears to be public apathy, but you don't need to be a genius to see how this will vanish over the coming decades!

I'll be keeping an eye on their progress. More here!
Posted by Picasa

more from the great dorset steam fair

Visitor from the Mid Hants Railway.

No rails but steam all the same!

Random steam shot.

Talk about diversification - but you won't catch me on it!!

It's nearly a week now since our incident-packed trip to the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

It's incredible that such a seemingly limited appeal event can attract over 200,000 people to a rural corner of Dorset. I think it says a lot for the potential of the future S&D. For every fan of static steam there must be 50 fans of the moving kind! Steam railways have a seemingly universal appeal, to young and old, rich and poor, male and (to a lesser extent!) female. Add in the need for all of us to gradually switch from road to rail as the oil runs out as well as the need to switch all freight to rail and once again the incredible potential of the new S&D becomes clear to all.

It's interesting that the people running the Fair are considering putting in a permanent (and doubtless steam) railway on the site. It's good that they are looking to the future! Eventually they will also need a rail connection to the network (inevitably along the new S&D) to ensure they will survive and flourish.

If you didn't get the chance to visit the Fair try to get there next year. We'll certainly be going again ...
Posted by Picasa