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, March 18, 2009

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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old hack said...

Headcorn???? lets not get caried away, they've got to cross the A21 first and can you see the Department for Transport not trying to stop that?

Sunshiner said...


mark toynbee said...

Progress at Robertsbridge is truly inspirational to any group attempting to rebuild a railway from the bare earth upwards. They are fortunate in having some backers with deep pockets but it's the volunteers who make it happen. Wonderful to see.