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, February 04, 2009

to infinity - and beyond!

(Medstead and Four Marks 24.6.76)

Another one of those excellent posts that lie hidden on the message board and which I felt deserved a bigger audience!

I wish a new front would be opened up at Chilcompton and then you could work back the other way to join up. Then at least you have "somewhere to go". The problem is a "new front" dilutes the effort a Midsomer Norton, and is the push for Radstock a more viable - more popular, or even more commercially sensible (from a potential passenger revenue point of view) option? I think the outside world still views Midsomer Norton as a line that will never go anywhere other than towards a filled-in cutting, get the railhead there and people can see what your next objectives are... and therein lies a problem. If people see you at Chilcompton you'll have a list of people who don't want steam engines near their back garden... and maybe there was an element of that which happened from what I've read with the clearing of Midford station that stalled...

Hmmm! This is a very good post. It's going to take some care to answer carefully enough to do it justice.

Part of the problem lies with the history of the MN project. It was a local initiative which then attracted S&D fans from further afield. A few years ago when we discussed rebranding the project (to get the message out there that we WEREN'T a 'steam museum with a short demonstration line') at first the vote on the Board went against it! I was ill and couldn't make it, but considered that this vote was so important that it needed to be properly discussed. Luckily commonsense won the day, I did a lot of canvassing and the second vote passed. But there was still a lot of opposition from within the Board.

One of the advantages of no longer having a link to this blog from the SDRHT website (and certainly an unintended consequence!) is that I can actually now say things as they are! The votes against this were from Midsomer Norton based board members ... turns out they only ever really wanted a low key set up so all the advantages would only go to MN and not the wider area. (At the moment Midsomer Norton and Radstock are facing off each other in an attempt to split their mini unitary authority of Norton-Radstock - local feelings run high!)

Point is of course the Mendip Mainline Project 'faction' won, and that is still the case. The old Midsomer Norton South Station Project has been rebranded, but it seems to me the message hasn't really got out there. The Trust really needs to be churning out press releases every week or so.

The SDRHT itself shouldn't have problems with beginning a second base at Chilcompton (or Emborough Sidings even), as the Trust is constitutionally designed to create projects at many points along the route. Nick Howes has suggested that securing the Chilcompton station site should be a priority - I agree with him 100%. The Trust has a trackbed purchase fund, funded by direct debits each month, and this is charged with securing trackbed AND buildings as appropriate.

Now for Radstock! Nothwithstanding the current falling out between the two towns, the Radstock option has huge advantages over the trek southwards, at least for now. There is a superb station site on the MN side of town, with car parking for around 50 cars and a children's play area. A link back to the network for occasional through trains via the old GWR line is perfectly practical as well. This would give the MN set up a genuine passenger and freight purpose. The towns have a population of over 20,000, far too large to be trainless even now, let alone in a post Peak Oil future. Of course there are bridges to replace, but scrap bridges can be sourced and possibly a high media profile for the construction company needed to drop the bridges in place would gain the Trust a HUGE discount!

It really is a no-brainer to get the MN line extended back to Radstock and the Network, hopefully the Board is discussing this at every meeting.

From my own experience I know the seemingly minor job of getting track relaid at MN could be very time consuming and it was easy to get bogged down in the small rather than the large picture.

Let's face it - Nick was right and there is something wrong. This is the bloody S&D! Where is the overwhelming support from railway enthusiasts to get this line back ASAP? What's wrong with 'em? Is it because the Trust has still not laid out its table properly, and do a lot of rail buff types still think it's the Midsomer Norton South Station Project - a Project that if it did stick at that ridiculous 'ambition' of being a 'steam museum with short demonstration line' would NEVER succeed? Or is it due to the inertia of those enthusiasts who knew the line when it was open and are rather jealous of the younger ones of us who also want to travel on it?

The Trust needs to keep telling EVERYBODY that its first aim is to restore Radstock to Shepton Mallet. This, although still a minor section of the S&D, would at least be a start and pull not only thousands of enthusiasts out of the woodwork, but would have big S&D engine owners slavering at the thought of getting their engines over the Mendip gradients with 12 on!

And as for those mythical NIMBYs at Chilcompton? Don't worry. As the cheap oil starts to run out they will be clamouring louder than anyone for their trains to be brought back, as will those chumps at Midford! Rail is the future, and that's another thing the MN Trust need to keep telling everyone. And perhaps also mention that having a steam line (or any line) at the bottom of your garden pushes your house's value up!
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WestfieldWanderers said...

...And as for those mythical NIMBYS...

Don't underestimate the potential opposition.

Remember the vociferous opposition in Midsomer Norton against something as innocuous as a cycle path along the bottom of their gardens.

Don't drop your guard for one minute!

Anonymous said...

the opposition at westfield is well known, just look at the objectors to the cyclepath, and to our project with the multiple photocopied anti rail petition from the people in parkway against our extension. the chilcompton opposition will be huge as well, and lets make no mistake, massey willcox are not going to give back the east half of the platforms beyond creep 53. we down to lease the west half of chilcompton station now from mendip, buy the 40000 ton field infill and rock cutting, secure bridges 51 and 52 from BR and worry about the bakers lane back garden extended over the infill later. yes, a chilcompton group may slightly dilute the msn section but it will invigorate new younger members like me and give everyone a common goal of linking the 2 miles 2 chains of double track together. and no steve, the board are not discussing going back to radstock at every meeting. msn has no clout whatsoever to stop development of radstock, or piecemeal encroachment at westfield etc etc. thats down to banes, but their track record, pardon the pun, at giving in to developers £££££ is well known.

Sunshiner said...

Which is precisely why the Trust need to make it clear to the non rail minded MN and Radstock residents that it is essential for the survival of their communities that the railway is restored ASAP. They have to shed the 'puffer lover' stereotypical nonsense that seems to effect most of our less intelligent fellow citizens. Get a Parry People Mover up to MN to show these people what modern transport can be like. It doesn't mean the Trust have to give up steam - steam will play an important role in future railway development - but you need to show people that you are serious about bringing modern transport back to Norton-Radstock and beyond.

At the same time this should increase the Trust's kudos amongst the railway and heritage railway communities. Lead the field rather than tag along behind it. It's the S&D!!!

Playing trains days are really over and all heritage railways need to understand this. There can be a heritage aspect in future local railways but there will also have to be a great deal of serious transport use if these lines are going to flourish. Resources will be scarce and we need to claim our pitch NOW, not in ten or twenty year's time. It'll be too late then.

Anonymous said...

yes, it will be too late in 10 or 20 years. the s&d is 33% obliteratd now. leave it 10 or 20 years, and that will be 66%. there are a lot of anti rail morons out there who say that the railways should never have closed but dont want them back if it means losing their bat roosting trees and red deer, no matter how clogged the roads get. we have to break this mindset, otherwise there will be civil riots when the oil prices go back through the roof with no alternative to the car. off topic slightly, but some prat was on about wanting to blow up pensford viaduct on the radio at lunchtime, total madness!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

August 2007 anonymous objector to our chilcompton extension: "How can the council allow this to happen when they have a nature reserve next door to this. Any
benefits of a nature reserve in the little wood are pointless i have seen more widlife along the old
railway line including deer, barn owls , sparrowhawks and many smaller british birds that are
declining year by year. Alot of trees will be taken down and already have by these railwaymen and
the wildlife will disappear. I think that any further construction of railway should be stopped. If i
was to cut down lots of ash , sycamore, beech and hawthorn trees down in a garden people
would be up in arms. The noise also disturbs the wildlife. Have the rspb been informed of the
plans. Also we are suppose to reduce pollution and recycle and you are going to have a dirty old
steam train going up and down. I suggest you keep everybodies recycling bins as if you allow
things like this to happen whats the point in having all of these green bins".........just what planet are these types of people on? they have no idea that the loss of the railways has caused this car culture mania and that it is the only answer to get us out of this "road to destruction" we are treading. I think they really do want to sit in their jams whilst sensible people let the train take the strain and are whisked through the countryside in peace and relaxation in their carriages!

David B said...

Lots of people are confused by the misinformation out there about how green trains are, compared to cars. If you burn fossil fuel (petrol, diesel and coal), you are putting carbon into the atmosphere that was taken out of it millions of years ago. If you burn wood (many steam trains can burn wood will only minor modification), you are only putting carbon into the atmosphere that was removed from it 20 years ago. Grow new trees to replace the ones you cut down, and you create a closed carbon-cycle that has little-to-no effect on global temperatures. Coincidently, this is also the reason I don't recycle paper... I send it to be turned to garden mulch... then buy new stock from sustainable cropped woodland.

Sunshiner said...

Wood burning steam will be an essential feature of the New S&D, and even a few at Midsomer Norton are not totally against the concept!

MarkW said...

Yes there would no doubt be plenty of initial opposition in Chilcompton to extending the Railway through the village but this can hopefully be overcome by pointing to two facts:
1. Railway lines act as mini nature reserves and help to protect rare species - particularly if a wildlife management plan is put in place.
2. Close proximity to a heritage railway line does NOT devalue your property - more the opposite. Just ask the residents of Corfe Castle, Grosmont, Bewdley, and Haworth (to name but a few).