Welcome to the 'New 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!