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!

Friday, January 30, 2009

midsomer norton extension

Thanks to Nick Howes for this.

Planning permission to extend the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, south up the 1 in 53 grade, from Midsomer Norton towards Chilcompton is expected to be granted next month by Bath and North East Somerset Council, following an 18 month long planning submission by dedicated trustee Peter Russell.

It is hoped that doubling the current route mileage from 1000 to 2000 feet will enable the commencement of passenger steam trains and attract owners of BR engines to have a thrash at the formidable and legendary Southbound Mendip Mainline incline.
The double trackbed will once again by available to receive rail, although initially only the down main will be laid. The current "jungle" walkway, currently used by a few locals will be accommodated outside the up BR fence boundary with permission from 2 farmers to fence in a new path hugging their field boundary which parallels the line.

Careful selected tree removal will take place where the vegetation hinders trackbed grading, drainage, track reinstatement, the loading gauge envelope and safety lines of sight, but nearly all of the 43 year down side boundary growth will remain. The up valley side, offering the views across the Somer valley, to Midsomer Norton, Ston Easton country park and Chilcompton will be carefully thinned out. New trees will be planted elsewhere along the down side boundary to compensate, including a thick section of hedge to protect a house owner.

The current 990 foot double track works its way through the platforms at 1 in 300 on a slight reverse curve, then climbs hard left at 1 in 53. At the end of this left curve, phase 1 of the new extension will begin.

Phase 1 of the planning permission is expected next month, taking in the next 1047 feet dead straight at 1 in 53. This incorporates rebuilding the permanent way hut made of bolted sleepers and beyond this, a non original 430 foot down engineers siding will be laid on the 1 in 53 verge with trailing connection into the down main.

Before any track laying can be done, the concrete and wire fencing must be repaired, the down cess drainage pipe checked out, roots removed and levelling of the trackbed. 440 feet beyond the railhead, 500 tons of the up main trackbed has been dug out. This eats across the "6 foot" to nearly the outer down ballast shoulder in one place and is 300 feet long by 3 feet deep maximum. Along with outer up shoulder gabians, this can be filled back in at no cost by "top skimming" 6 inches off of the old weed choked BR ballast right the way up the extension.

Following the civil works, track laying on concrete sleepers and flat bottom rail can begin. A runaway trap point will be laid at the current down railhead, to protect the station limits, followed by a left hand c switch, linking the up main as the second, southernmost crossover. 10 panels of plain line take us to the right hand trailing c switch into the 7 panel down engineers siding. A further 5 panels takes us from Farmer Shearn’s trackbed to the Stage 2 boundary and Mrs Well’s trackbed and another planning application!
Phase 2 takes in a slight right hand curve, followed by another straight to the BANES/Somerset administrative county boundary, another 1037 feet.

Phase 3 takes the line slightly left over the old Mendip hunt occupation crossing then another very long straight, including bridge 48a, up to the in-filled Chilcompton Tunnel cutting, another 1918 feet.

Total line length will a little over 5000 feet. When Chilcompton tunnel infill is reached the down main will burrow left off the original formation into the hillside on the level, for 300 feet only, enough to build a medium term 3 coach halt (Somervale halt) on the level, due to health and safety regulations governing brand new stations. The 4000 feet of up main will then be laid to "catch up" with the down, enabling the spectacle of any combination of visiting engines to pass on the S&D mainline, a truly mouth watering prospect!

Total extension, 4022 feet of double track =
268 lengths of 60 foot flat bottom rail,
3216 concrete sleepers,
3216 tons of ballast.

Following consolidation, a huge fundraising drive will then strive to re-bridge silver street or dig out the quarter mile, 44 feet deep cutting of its clay capping and 170,000 tons of household and builders rubbish.

Since 1995, Midsomer Norton South has been restored to its former glory from an overgrown ruin, with a 6 figure sum being spent on the project, including 300o feet of quality permanent way, station, platforms, rolling stock and up and coming stable museum, not to mention the fabulous working replica signal box by Graeme Mayes and John Rideout. Over 800 members support a core of 30 volunteers. Please join us today and help us extend the Somerset and Dorset Mendip Mainline Project!
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Anonymous said...

Exciting. Do you have any plans on the design of 'Somervale Halt?'

Anonymous said...

I would imagine a lightweight affair, made out of concrete or wooden sleepers with name board and waiting shelter/lamps. seats flower pots and lineside phone at the ground fame. But this is 5 years away at least. Regards Nick.

David B said...

I believe this is application 07/02516/FUL, but could someone confirm this, as the dates listed in it are expired. Is there a more recent application on the BaNES planning website?

Anonymous said...

The above application is still held up - several signings-off of applications by senior Banes managers had to be held up due to a lost legal case over one that involved an Environmental Impact Assessment. All undecided applications that were 'screened' as to whether they needed an EIA (including ours, which didn't) were caught by this so hopefuly, we WILL get a decision soon. I check the website every day and it always says "pending consideration" I hope that when it is approved, the details are made available and any conditions are also made available

Anonymous said...

If we are trying to restore the SDJR surley we don't want to waste time building a halt which wasn't part of the SDJR. I suppose it would give us somewhere to run in the short term but really that money could be put towards restoring the SDJR. Whats the Point?

Sunshiner said...

We don't really have any alternative!

To increase income we need to operate trains and there will have to be a platform at the temporary terminus, partly to allow the engine crew to change ends, also to let passengers stretch their legs. The trick is to keep it very simple and cheap!

Once the Chilcompton station site is secured and track laid then the halt can be abandoned (and the materials recovered).

This is pretty much standard practice on heritage lines where progress is made in stages.

Freddie said...

May I suggest that the Lynton & Barnstable provides us a good example here? They only have 1 mile of track, running pretty much from nowhere to nowhere, yet traffic has boomed in the last few years. This has put them in a credible psoition to consider the re-opening of the whole line. Even though they didn't get their £30 million for a "big bang" reopening, it has become a matter of "when", not "if" it happens.

So the first task for the S&D is to get to the same position as the L&B. In my view there's no point in the early days worrying about things 95% of punters won't notice the difference about (such as whether the coaches are Mark I or Mark III): such authenticity discussions are only a distraction. Give the average punter a good time and the money will come in.

The next task will be to get policitcal support, most obviosuly for the Silver Street bridge. If there was a political will for the highway to be regraded, then one would have a prospect of being able to raise the moeny for the bridge.

So, the future's looking up. 20 years ago the S&D, L&B, Welsh Highland and Waverley route all looked irretrievably dead - I'm sure the revival in the next 20 years will be even greater than the last 20.

Keep up the good work Steve - the blog is an inspration to us all!

Anonymous said...

The mark 3 buffet, off loading road, down engineers siding and somervale sidings were'nt part of the S&D, nor will be the signals that will go up in non-original positions but we have to live with it all. Lets be thankful that the southbound vista when one steps through the booking hall door on the platform will be 90% original and hope that one day we have a regular 4F and Jinty there, with occasional guest large engine, eg 7f black 5 and west country, something that i'm sure all S&D fans long for. I know thats what I dreamt of, on september 3rd 1995 with my lone machete

Kieran said...

Here are a few thoughts on the 'Mendip main line project',and the new S&D:
(a)- MSN station and its environs.

Great work has been done at MSN station over the past 13 years, not least in 2001 when the station came under threat of redevelopment for housing; securing its future was not easy!
More recently, we have seen the signal box brilliantly rebuilt, the platforms resurfaced, gardens re-established, double track restored etc. However, if the late '50s atmosphere is to be recreated, many small tasks (which are seldom, if ever mentioned by the trust) need to be completed. These include: replacment finials on the signalbox + guttering leading down to a replacement water barrel on its Shepton side; reinstated lamps (to look like the original ones, but don't have to be gas); small metal posts with wires through them along the length of the garden by the up platform (look closely at Ivo's photos if you don't believe me- the small rudimentary fence can be seen behind the running board). Finally, proper replica 'running in' boards need to be made. The present ones look amateurish and are the wrong size (the originals were about a foot tall and probably consisted of a metal name plate attached to a larger piece of wood).
More major projects include the rebuilding of the greenhouse; the lean-to against the signalbox; the small sheds next to the toilet block and the associated platform gate, and finally, the lamp hut. Although the present loo block is 70s, this does't really matter, as the original was about the same size. Perhaps it will be replaced in a few years.
All of the above are just things which I (and probably other S&D fans) have noticed, and are by no means a slur on the marvellous work which has already been achieved. It would just be good to know that these things pipeline! Can anybody with inside knowledge let me know, please?
Of all the reconstruction taking place, the only disappointing part is the decision to put the down starter at the end of the platform instead of where it should be on the bank. Perhaps it will be restored to its original position (for sighting reasons, at least) when trains come into the station from Radstock, and eventually, Bath.

(b)-Civil engineering projects on the 'new S&D'.

The track length is constrained by two things- the infilled cutting and the missing Silver street bridge. As for the cutting, instead of spending millions digging it out, they could pay an expert a few hundred pounds to take a deep sample including the waste building materials. If toxins were found in the sample (as is likely) the government would be obliged to give substantial funds towards its excavation (if not pay for the whole thing!).
Fairly recently, there has been much speculation about the design for the replacement bridge over Silver street. A lifting bridge has been declared unnecessary, so we can have a conventional one. Why not aim for something resembling the original-i.e. a girder bridge with masonry abutments? These abutments could be incorporated into a high, new limestone wall along the edge pavement which would suport, and allow for the enlargement of the astronomical garden. The only difference from the scene of the 50s should be that the bridge is longer. The trust have stated that they intend to build a single track bridge, but if a double track one becomes availiable, surely they will take this. If one does not come up, funding will have to be raised to double it ourselves. The new bridge over somervale road should be built to accomodate double track (although for a while a cyclepath will share it).
Unfortunately, Sustrans plan to put a cycle track on the routh between Radstock and MSN. This will mean that the extension to Radstock will be single track. However, when it is proved that we are serving a genuine transport need, Sustrans will have to put their path elsewhere as we double the line. Thed trust should have emphisised this from the begining- before Sustrans poked their nose in!!
The trust should act now to safe guard the future of Redan bridge, Baker Robinson's bridge and the Chilcompton station site.
There are eight missing bridges between MSN station and Masbury, and (I think) a further five to Shepton. Almost all of these will be easy to rebuild as most were girder bridges, but what about burnthouse and Coalpit lane bridges? Will these both be rebuilt as twin brick arches on masonry abutments? I hope so!! It will make the 'new S&D' authentic, and allow for the recreation of all those famous shots!
At Binegar station site, the bungalow across the platforms will have to be purchased and demolished, as deviation of the route here would be VERY difficult.

(c)-The image of 'The mendip mainline project'.

The trust needs to be more clear about its objectives. Restoration of the route between Radstock and Shepton is a good medium term goal. This needs to be mentioned on the trust's website. We need to be ambitious if we are going to attract investment. Upon reaching Radstock, hopefully the council will support us in reaching Bath Green Park again. This reopenrd stretch will be well used! Making a connection at Templecombe will be the next big step.
All the volunteers at MSN have done great work to date. Keep it up, and thanks for making a start on what is going to be a major project-rebuilding the whole S&D.

Anonymous said...

I have fond memories as a child playing around on the section between Chilcompton and Midsomer Norton after it was closed and before the track was removed. We made a "truck" from old bicycles that fitted on to the track and went all the way from Frys Well Bridge to Midsomer Norton Station. The signal box at Midsomer Norton was open and we could operate the signals. Happy days.


Anonymous said...

Such a well written post.. Thnkx for sharing this post!

Anonymous said...

I think that the Somerset and Dorset could be one of the best,and if not, the best railway in the country once they get to Chilcompton. However, I am not too clued up on it so please answer a few questions of mine:
- What is the plans with the Midsommer Norton Shed and sidings as there isn't much information on them.
- Is the trackbed double the whole way to Chilcompton because on one of the pictures it only looks single.
- From what I've heard the only way that they can run round trains at Midsommer Norton is if they install the Silver Street Bridge which will cost thousands and will not be do-able in the near future due to lack of funding.

Anonymous said...

Whilst admire the enthusiasm and what you've all acheived thus far, I am a little confused regarding your plans to return to Bath. Again, I'd like to emphasise that I admire what you've acheived and your determination, but surely returning to Green Park itself isn't viable? I can't imagine for one second that either Sainsbury's OR Bath Council would support such an initative.

Sunshiner said...

The first thing to bear in mind that a return to Bath may be 10 or even 20 years away. The world will be a very different place then with huge energy constraints and very different priorities.

We have three options for the return to Bath

1) To connect with the GWR main line near Bath, running into Bath Spa station.

2) To connect just north of Midford to the former Camerton line making a junction with the Bath-Salisbury line at Limpley Stoke

3) To return to Bath Green Park.

Whilst option 3 is not discounted, for operational and financial reasons it will probably make more sense to connect with the network and share facilities at an expanded Bath Spa.

Bear in mind that we also plan to reopen the Midsomer Norton-Bristol via Pensford route which will give us another network connection to the north. This is partly to address capacity restraints at Bath, as well as restraints on the mainly single line section north of Midford.

However Sainsbury's and Bath Council will probably at some point in the future BEG us to rebuild to Bath Green Park, Sainsbury's in particular will need a way to bring produce and customers in once cars are no longer viable for most of us. So far from being a barrier they are likely to become prime supporters for obvious reasons!

But we will always make the decision which is best for us!

Geoff said...

Whilst all the efforts to restore various bits of the S & D are absolutely admirable I don't believe they will make much difference in achieving the final objective of reopening the line. Such activity of itself is immensely labour and time consuming and a very inefficient way to reopen the line. All we will create are little disparate museum pieces which would take decades to join up. The only practical answer is to persuade government of the need for the line to be reopened as compared with building a motor-way the cost involved would be chicken feed. If the Highways Agency want to build a road project the money is there. We need to persuade government that they need to be reopening railways rather than building roads and the money will be found. If the government wanted to reopen the S & D they could do it in a couple of years.

Sunshiner said...

Part of the New S&D's remit is to do exactly this although we don't as yet have a person in place who can concentrate on this one thing. But this is also where things get complex because ONE of the New S&D's income flows will be from railway enthusiasts and tourists who will hardly want to travel on - to paraphrase Mick Knox - a boring long siding hemmed in by palisade fencing. In other words we want an S&D in OUR image, not theirs. We are only concerned with reopening the S&D whilst the government will have a hundred or thousand rebuilds and new builds to consider. Each mile reopened by a heritage group is a mile less we have to worry about, each section of trackbed acquired is one less section to have to buy at a later date. It may be incremental but at least we are getting the ball rolling.
My own belief is that national government as we have today will collapse as Peak Oil hits hard and that things will happen at a regional level. Railways built at regional level primarily for people living in the area through which it runs.
It's no surprise that the Wessex Regionalists fully support what we are doing and mention us specifically in much of their election and political material!

alan alan hay day hayday said...

Ii. Feel. That. A. Private. Railway. Company.
Armed. With. An. Act. Of. Parliament. To. Enable. Compulsory. Purchase. Of. Private. Land. Would. Be. The. Best. Way. Forward. This. Way. We. Have. Total. Control. Of. Track. Signals. And. Trains.

We. Could. Implement. Radical. New. Operating. Methods. In. Order. To. Cut. Costs, which. Network. Rail is. Unlikely. To. Implement. Because. They. Are. Too. Hidebound. And. Blinkered.

Examples. I. Can reel. Off. For. Instance. Are
Single. Track. Main. Line. With. Long. Loops. Controlled. By. CTC. Cab. Signalling. By. Microwave. Radio. Data. Links. From. A. Dispatcher. In. A. Central. Office..........safety. ensured. By. Local. Relay. Interlocking. And. Track. Circuits.
3000v. DC. Overhead. Electrification. On. Wood. Poles...............this. would. Need. Only. 50mm

Bridge. And. Tunnel. Clearance. Not. 200mm. Needed. For. 25kv. Ac.

Articulated. Trams. For. Branch. Services to. Large. Towns. Like. Wells. Glastonbury. And. Burnham. And Possibly. Weston. S. Made.

Other. Innovative. Ideas. Would. Also. Be. Possible. Under. Private. Ownership

Just. A. Few. Suggestions. Which. Would. Be. Practical. On. Our new. Railway.

alan alan hay day hayday said...

I. Agree. With. Geoff, in. That. While. The. Current. Incremental. Approach. To. Restoring. The. Line. Is. Achieving. Good. Results, it. Will. Not. Get. The. Whole. Line. Operational. Within. Our. Lifetimes. The. Government. Will. Not. Do. It. Either.........they. are. Concentrating. On. Hs2.
So. That. Means. A. Railway. Company. Would. Have. To. Do. It........... to. Raise. Capital. And. Get. An. Act. Of. Parliament. Passed. This. Would. Need. Considerable. Organising. The. Line. Would. Have to. Be. Run. For. Profit, that. Means. Considerable. Freight. Traffic......possibly. from. Southampton. Docks. Docks. To. Bristol. And. The. Midlands.

Costs. Would. Have. To. Be. Paired. Down. Considerably, and. This. Means. Too. That. Cheaper. Electrification. Systems. Must. Be. Used.

It. Has. Been. Proved. In. The. USA. That. Single. Track. With. CTC. Signalling. Has. 75. Per. Cent. Of. The. Capacity. Of. Double. Track. At. Much. Less. Cost. Much. Of. The. Old. S. And. D. Was. Single. Track. Anyway.......so. let's. Go. For. It

Nowadays. Signals. Can. Be. In. Cab........saving. maintenance. Costs. And. Preventing. Spad.

Trams. Can. Be. Used. On. Branch. Lines. Serving. Large. Towns. Like. Wells. And. Burnham. For. Instance. I. Am. Proposing. We. Use. The. 3000v DC. Overhead. System. On. Wooden. Utility. Poles like. The. Electric. Industry. Uses.
Not. Expensive. Steel. Masts.

I. Agree. These. Ideas. Are radical. For. UK, but. All. Have. Been. Successful. Elsewhere, and. Have. Been. Tried. And. Tested.

Thank. You. For. Allowing. Me. To. Put. This. Across. For. Wider. Discussion.