Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Monday, January 26, 2009
Nick Howes asked, via the message board -
The S&D was the best most legendary line in the land and I often wonder why we are still struggling after 13 years as a very minor heritage set up, when we occupy a slice of the famous S&D. Just where are all the enthusiasts and supporters? and why are so many other "new generation" projects up and down the country overtaking us? we have to ask, is there severe apathy in the wider bristol region, do we portray our aims as too fantastic, do we look like a no-hoper project ? hemmed in by a missing 5 million pound bridge and 5 million pound filled cutting? what do you all think?
I quickly knocked out the following reply -
I think the problem is that quite early on we got the reputation of only being interested in setting up a 'steam museum with a short demonstration track'. This was such a throwback to the 60s when preservation was only just taking off.
I did a lot of shows a few years ago and although we got a lot of interest I was amazed by the number of people who thought the MN setup was a bit of an insult to the S&D. This was at least some of the impetus behind the rebranding to 'Mendip Main Line Project'. The problem now of course is that we are going nowhere fast, and that main line seems just as distant now as it was five years ago.
Also the original Midsomer Norton Station Project was exactly that, one project within a far more all-encompassing SDRHT which, constitutionally, claims the whole route and the eventual setting up of 'projects' at various places. That seems to have been forgotten now. Where are the trackbed stewards and the lobbying for preservation of the trackbed throughout?
There's still a tragic loss of focus. There is no way that Midsomer Norton to Chilcompton, or even Radstock to Shepton, is anything like ambitious enough to pull the real support for the S&D out into the open. The S&D was the finest line in the UK. It had unbelievable goodwill from enthusiasts and country lovers alike. A restored S&D will be a fantastic asset to Somerset and Dorset, whatever happens in the future.
That's really why I'm helping to set up the New S&D, because it will first and foremost be a lobbying organisation pushing for at first protection then rebuilding of the route, for real passenger and freight trains. Existing heritage set ups on the S&D need to fully engage in this process as well.
We won't get those big engines to MN until we have at least 4 or 5 miles of decent running line, and even then it will be a compromise. There's a huge amount of work to do and that's why we have to appeal to railway enthusiasts, local people along the route, Peak Oil types and country lovers. We need to build on the 'brand' serendipitously created by the likes of Ivo Peters, Mike Arlett and others who were lucky enough to know the line first time round.
We can do it.