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!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

coincidence - piggy style

It was only reading the piece in the current S&D Telegraph that I realised the Bath pigs were actually being auctioned to preserve part of the S&D! The money raised has gone to the Two Tunnels scheme, which will preserve our entry into Bath.

We managed to pose with the things back in June when we got married, photos reproduced above! So as well as getting married in Bath and visiting Bournemouth on our honeymoon, we also managed to ride some S&D fundraising!
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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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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New S&D update

As you can imagine my email box is full of enquiries, ideas etc pertaining to the new S&D.

The first outcome of this is that I will be dropping 'Trust' from the title of the group. This is to avoid any confusion with the existing three trusts! New Somerset and Dorset Railway says it all really, adding 'Trust' looked to some as if this would be a successor (or 'rival') to one or all of the existing trusts. This is not the intention at all. The New Railway will be first and foremost a company dedicated to rebuilding the S&D as a working steam railway, providing all the services currently provided by our dying road system. The existence of operating railways on parts of the route will be seen as a benefit, and we will work very closely with them right from the start. We'll also support any schemes for cycleways on the route, providing that they are prepared to relocate when the trains return. This is exactly what is allowed for, in example, Sustrans' constitution.

We will be offering membership, probably on a minimum donation basis at first. We will also raise funds through the normal charity channels, as well as operating retail businesses.

The primary rail-based aim will be to provide a real rail service at some point on the route, to generate additional funds for expansion and to allow company employees to gain valuable experience, as well as provide a very public focus for our activities.

Another important aspect of the New S&D will be promotion and marketing of the whole route, maing strong contacts with local, regional and national media for example. As well as pushing the S&D onto the agenda, it will also push Peak Oil, which about 90% of the population are still unaware of.

I've seen a figure of £2 billion to restore the whole route. Whilst this is a very high figure there may well be substantial funds available as central government desperately seeks ways of keeping the country moving! Think of it as a challenge rather than a brick wall! See my earlier post re inspiration ...
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Swanage station. A line that almost never happened but is now one of the leading heritage lines, which also operates 'real' trains to take visitors from Norden to Swanage, leaving their cars behind.

Wulfric. Born four months early, we were told that he had 0% chance of surviving by the doctors.

The signalbox at Midsomer Norton. Rebuilt from a pile of rubble, now an absolute gem and a credit to the whole heritage movement.

The Rhatische Bahn in Switzerland. A huge network of metre gauge lines running through spectacular scenery, using engineering on an epic scale - and profitable!

A1 Pacific 'Tornado', built 2008. 18 years and £3 million - and many said it would never happen!

The above are some of my own inspirations which keep me working towards reinstatement of the S&D. Let me know yours!

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new telegraph

An excellent early Christmas present today was the latest copy of the Telegraph from MN. As always this is an absolute credit to the Trust at Midsomer Norton and, unlike many 'society' magazines, is a superb and informative read.

The magazine is FREE to members and is worth the membership fee alone.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

yuletide greetings

I'd like to wish all readers of this blog a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 2009 is going to be a FANTASTIC year for the S&D, regardless of all the dire forecasts for everything else. The S&D abides!
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our presents to the MN track gang

These are the presents for the Midsomer Norton Track Gang - enjoy!
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S&D becomes fashionable

Spotted on the catwalk in London yesterday - S&D chic!
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Monday, December 22, 2008

mark 1 progress

As well as the mark one brake coach currently at Midsomer Norton (shown above), a further mark one which will form the second coach of the operating train is currently at Oakamoor on the North Staffordshire Railway.

The coach is owned by the Midlands Mark One Group (MMOG). Dave Turnock up at Oakamoor will be doing the work to bring it up to operating condition, and at the moment it's due to arrive at Midsomer Norton by May 31 2009.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

'new' update

The emails etc are now flying with plenty of you asking stuff about the new Trust, also a few reporting that the Midsomer Norton Trust has now erased any reference to this blog on their website - despite it being the 'best bit' (according to you, not me!)

No problem! The new trust will fully support ALL the groups restoring parts of the S&D - there will be no need to reciprocate! We've no intention of opening parts of the line for playing trains, though we will be purchasing sections of the trackbed as they become available, to protect them until the trains return. Any sections we own that adjoin sections of restored line will be happily handed over for tracklaying!

The window of opportunity is closing. We need to get OUR line to the forefront as the reopening of lines accelerate. Resources will tighten as more and more lines are rebuilt - we need to stake our claim now.

Extract from one email reply I sent today -

The main thing is to start planning and networking now, rather than waiting for ten years when it's obvious to everybody that we need to rebuild our railways just to keep functioning.
I've always said the S&D will be reopened, but I'm worried it will be as a basic, electrified line with little or no concessions to its uniqueness/history.
One of the biggest problems we have is that most Peak Oil types expect us to be thrown back into the Dark Ages within 10 to 20 years. There's a risk that we will, but I believe that if we start reallocating resources now, then we have a chance to retain at least a degree of mobility and civilization, even if it's at a lower level than what we have today. But I've always been something of an optimist!
The key is to start rebuilding our rail network now, whilst we have the resources. 20 years in the future is too late. That's the challenge.
In a way this will be a rebirth of the original SDRHT, which has got somewhat bogged down with the minutae of setting up a tiny heritage station/line, which is really not what the Trust was set up for. It was supposed to be project-based, with MN just being one project amongst many.
The new Trust will work closely and fully support all the current groups (and cycleways) on the S&D.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

countdown to 6 March 2009

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed the change to this blog's name.

This is the first visible sign of the countdown to launching the New Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust, scheduled for 6 March 2009. The Trust will exist solely for promoting the rebuilding of the new S&D, from Bristol/Bath to Bournemouth, to Glastonbury and Ringwood/Brockenhurst.

I've always believed that the S&D will be reopened, but to me the S&D needs to be a real railway, not a basic, government funded, excuse of a railway, which is what we'll get if we don't FIGHT for a new S&D.

As the oil runs out the need for a new line linking Britain's only World Heritage city with its premier seaside resort, through stunning scenery and through towns currently (unbelievably!) non-rail served, will become clear to all. Unfortunately around the same time the need for new railways will be clear throughout the country - so it will be a struggle for scarce resources, especially manpower. By launching the new Trust now we should hopefully have a head start!

Keep checking this site for more information. If you would like to join the Trust then please let me know!

The New Trust will obviously support ALL schemes that help maintain and preserve the route, whether they are heritage railways, footpaths or cycleways. The new railway will hopefully have a heritage aspect, providing that doesn't clash with providing a real service. It's my firm belief that the railways of the future will have far more in common with real railways - manned stations, sustainable power supplies, locomotives etc - than they will have with the jokes that pass for railways today.

The line will carry freight, post, animals, tourists, commuters and shoppers and will genuinely serve every community it passes through. It will help the communities survive the huge problems caused by Climate Change, Peak Oil and Economic Meltdown.

This is the future, and it starts on 6 March!
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

a few more metres of the route relaid

Photo courtesy John Penny

A few more metres of previously empty S&D trackbed now carry rails again!

The headshunt at Park Lane on the Gartell Light Railway has been extended, bringing Bournemouth that little bit closer ...
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

more from switzerland

As promised a few shots from yesterday's epic avalanche-threatened journey across Switzerland. These are all from Landquart on the metre-gauge Rhatische Bahn.Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 01, 2008

report from st moritz

Well, it looks like this will work!
Oddly the Swiss Railway network has been really inefficient today. Our first train was delayed and was making some horrible and scary braking noises.
The second train was delayed by about 25 minutes. But the real problem was the Albula line south of Preda was CLOSED due to the avalanche risk. I've been travelling 30 years over here and I've never known a late train, let alone a line closure.
Luckily in the last few years a 19km metre gauge tunnel has been opened linking Klosters with the Engadine valley, so we used this line. Even this had been stopped for a while today due to a tree on the track, but that had been sorted by the time we reached there.
So we're now ensconsed in the fabulous Waldhaus hotel overlooking the lake. We've had three feet of fresh snow so the village looks amazing! We're doing the Bernina line on Thursday, then travelling back to Geneva on Friday.
It's amazing how busy the railways here are, at Landquart there seemed to be a train every few minutes, for a town smaller than Midsomer Norton!
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