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!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

more thinking of the future

Last night there was an excellent episode of Railway Walks in which Julia Bradbury ambles along various currently closed sections of railways in the UK.
Yesterday she was walking a twelve mile stretch of the Spey Valley railway. The line seemed wonderfully well preserved, it used to serve a number of distilleries. It made me think about how these distilleries plan to send their products in the future. This line seemed an excellent cndidate for reopening.
A bit of searching on line found this website. So Scotland is again leading the way with modern transport - there is even a prescient quote from an MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) which goes -
Wish you all the best in campaigning for more rail connections, and for steam to remain as the principal motive power for as long as we have enough of the wonderful old Leviathans in working order. It may well be that wood or other bio fuel could be used in future in new, advanced steam engines.

Green mean steam!!

—Robin Harper MSP, Scottish Green Party
Sound familiar?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

quality track

(Photos courtesy John Penny)

Excellent pics of newly laid track on the Gartell Light Railway. Further to the stats given in an earlier post, there are nine lengths laid. It just requires a bit of time to settle in but it was laid with a laser level so it's all a lot better than was there before, which had merely spot resleepering and the occasional tweak over the last 20 years or so.

Gartell's first 2009 open day is 13th April - try to get along! This is still the only part of the S&D currently operating regular trains.
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

job opportunity!

One thing the New S&D needs to do is create a register of land ownership for our entire route, making keeping an eye on developments and purchasing trackbed much easier. If there is anyone out there who would like to take on this challenge please let us know! This would become a committee post.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

innsbruck - the future of transport

Four shots from this week's trip to Innsbruck - urban and mountain transport at its best! More - but not too much - to follow!
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fools step in ...

Apparently there is a proposal to build 14 houses on S&D trackbed north of Sturminster Newton. There is still time to put in objections to this here.

More details here.

This has caught us rather on the back foot as there are only a few days to get objections in. HOWEVER this does underline why a strong group representing the WHOLE S&D needs to be up and running as quickly as possible. The houses, if ever built, will of course need to be demolished, tunneled under or diverted around when the line is reinstated, probably at a greater cost than rebuilding on the original site (as it is now).

We need to identify these possible trouble spots and BUY the land over the next few years. We need to rapidly increase our membership and get maximum publicity, funds and contacts to stop this anachronistic stupidity reoccuring.

But this is hardly the time to be building houses with falling prices and massive availability, and what idiot would seriously buy in a town ten miles or so distant from modern transport? So perhaps it's a hollow threat?

We do need to ensure that our views are widely known and understood through the towns and villages on our route. But it's going to take time and a good deal of hard work. We need to start making the connections locally with people that hold power. It's easier than many think. Most of all people need to take us seriously and realise that we are going to be around for a very, very long time! That the temporary closure of the S&D was an aberration and that the world has changed.

So come on board and get actively involved!

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your railway needs you!

Paypal buttons are now set up enabling you to easily join the New S&D. Please see below - they will also appear on the side bar.

Basic membership is just £5, but the buttons give you options to pay extra in the form of donations. ALL money will be used to further the rebuilding of the S&D.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

final destination

Sadly these are the last instalments from my February trip with Mick Knox along the southern section of the line.

With the light fading we wanted to get these last shots of the bridge over the Stour just to the north of Sturminster Newton. It wasn't easy to find the bridge, but after a few false starts and a very long trip along a narrow road, we finally spotted it across the fields. The ground was still soaked from the previous week's snowfall and it was nearly half a mile from the road, but we finally managed to get some atmospheric shots of this classic S&D bridge. We met another S&D fan near the bridge, plus two women who asked us, when they spotted Mick's Network Rail jacket, whether we were there to assess it for demolition. Quite the opposite, we said!

There is so much of the S&D route remaining and a really strong desire from people living along the line to see it back we really are pushing against an open door.

When I get back from Innsbruck hopefully the bank account details will have arrived and I can set up Paypal, both for membership and for products in the New S&D shop. We owe it to all the people living along the line, to all railway enthusiasts and to all lovers of the English countryside to get this line back as quickly as possible - we've all waited far too long for this to happen ...
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Friday, March 20, 2009


We are having a little trip to Innsbruck next week, so expect intermittent (and very Austrian-flavoured) posts!

I was last there in 1977 when I took the above photos. Hopefully my photography skills and the quality of the trams have improved since then! They have had some new 2008 trams and are building many new lines over the next few years - in contrast with our own joke country!
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

sturminster newton - not as bad as expected

Before getting to Sturminster Newton I was worried. I'd read that the station had been demolished and as we got there the whole rea looked unrecognisable.

True, the station has gone, but stations can be easily rebuilt. I was worried that there had been considerable development on the site and all around. But no, the whole site is clear, as are the approaches (apart from a little spoil now an S&D park).

The site of the station is now a car park, which is doing an excellent job of holding the site ready for the trains to return!

Just south of the station the line is, yet again, a trailway - preserving the trackbed superbly!
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

stourpaine and durweston

After 43 years most of the halt remains.

The main way of getting there from Stourpaine and Durweston.

Rural main line bliss!

The other way of getting to the halt - imagine this on a cold winter's night ...

We took quite a while finding Stourpaine and Durweston. We finally asked someone in one of the villages where it was and they directed us across the fields. The light was fading and it was quite a trek from the road. But it was worth it. The halt still stands with just minor damage. The trackbed is still very clear and well defined. This will be a lovely spot when the trains return - it is about two miles from Shillingstone so that day may not be that far off!
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rother valley progress

Track preparation and tracklaying westwards from Bodiam - another thing they told us we'd never see! (Courtesy Rother Valley website)

Bodiam station (18.4.1976), before regular services reached the station. It was amazing the way this bit of the KESR retained its Colonel Stephens atmosphere.

An excellent post to the message board - yet more trackbed is turning into a railway again. This is on the 'lost' section of the Kent and East Sussex Railway, the section westwards from Bodiam to the network junction at Robertsbridge.

The KESR was the jewel in the crown of the Colonel Stephens railway empire, which included lines like the East Kent Railway, the Selsey Tramway, the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Railway and, closer to home, the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway.

It opened in 1900 and closed to passengers in 1954. Freight traffic remained on the Robertsbridge-Tenterden section until 1961. A preservation society was quickly set up and the track remained in place. Tenterden is a reasonably sized town so does really require a railway.

Right from the start there was typical 1960s opposition to the line returning, most of which hinged on the railway's numerous ungated level crossings but mainly on the level crossing of the A21 trunk road at Robertsbridge. After court battles the KESR finally won the right to survive, but did have to abandon the link with the network. Over the years the line has gradually extended westwards in stages, and now reaches the honeypot of Bodiam with its castle.

But many supporters of the route never gave up on the 21st century idea of linking the line back to the network and at last the first bit of tracklaying has now happened on the section westwards from Bodiam. This part of the route is being restored by the separate Rother Valley Railway.

Even the most blinkered petrolhead will concede that in the future any heritage railway that wants to survive in an energy-poor future will need to offer both real train services and a link to the main rail network. I'll even forecast that some time in the next 20 to 30 years the KESR will look again to restoring the genuinely lost section of its route, the section northwards to Headcorn and a main commuter route into London, and beyond that to build the sections planned but never constructed, to Rye and Maidstone.

The light railway was an idea ahead of its time. Cheap oil killed many of them off, the end of cheap oil will signal a huge increase in light railway construction. They may not have the dubious 'charm' of the originals, but they will do what light railways were conceived for, providing cheap and modern transport to rural areas.
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