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, December 30, 2008

the paradox of steam

It's pretty clear that steam power (and the burning of coal and wood) will become much more commonplace as the oil starts to vanish.

Steam was not replaced by diesel for inefficiency reasons, but for financial reasons. When cheap oil was available then it made sense to switch over to it (though perhaps not at the politically-inspired pace we saw in the UK!)

It's pretty certain that as the oil pinch really kicks in then railway companies will increasingly look at steam as an option where electrification is too expensive. How to square this with the need to reduce carbon emissions will be the big problem. There will also need to be huge infrastructure investment as most steam facilities have been, rather hastily, removed. This is where the wood burning option needs to come in. Wood will be sustainable, and infrastructure replacement will be more attractive for this reason. Forests lining our railway will provide almost free fuel, and will fix more carbon dioxide than is generated by our trains. Narrow gauge logging lines (permanent and/or temporary) can bring the logs to the railhead. No doubt coal will also be used during the transition from oil to wood, perhaps taken from pits in Somerset or South Wales to reduce transport costs.

Steam isn't quaint or nostalgic. Our nuclear reactors are just big steam engines.

Steam is certainly the future for the S&D, though smaller sections may be amenable to, for example, flywheel sustainable electric power (ie the Parry People Movers). But for the big heavy freights and through passenger workings, steam will again be king.

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Derek Andrews said...

Has anyone done the arithmetic to figure out how much landmass will need to be converted to forest to power these trains? If not you had better do it soon as it will be decades before you have trees ready for harvest, assuming of course that there is sufficient space in Britain to do this.

Sunshiner said...

As with all future energy requirements, the probable answer is that in the medium term a variety of power sources will be needed, including coal.

Certainly we'd welcome somebody who could do the sums, though there are many variables and technology will no doubt make wood burning more economic as the years go by.

In the shorter term no doubt the line would source wood from elsewhere, I wouldn't expect us to be producing all of our own timber for 50 to 100 years. But the fact that timber is sustainable would allow us to think long term, rather than have to constantly be on our toes to source power at economic rates!

The New S&D will be a dynamic and developing line. Much of what is stated here will be an ideal or ambition, rather than something that is practical and attainable from day one.

If someone out there does have the skills to make calculations like this then they are more than welcome to join the New S&D from 6/3/09!