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, June 30, 2009

glastonbury solution

(Glastonbury ca 1970 courtesy Jeffery Grayer)

No doubt you've all been watching the Glastonbury Festival over the last few years. Too mainstream by half for me, though a few acts were okay.

My point is that every year the festival causes traffic chaos around Pilton. Many festival goers do come in by train, but they have to be bussed from Castle Cary, making the road congestion even worse.

There is of course an ideal solution. Our trackbed actually currently serves as an internal road within the festival site! When the rails return - for Glastonbury is FAR too large a town to be left without trains - I'm sure the S&D will be more than happy to ferry passengers directly into the festival site, serving a special station. Not to mention bringing in much of the equipment etc in special freight trains. This is the future.
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yet another S&D site - this time from Belgium ...

Just started yesterday this S&D site is within the Steamtube site, which with its associated sites has loads of interest.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

brand new key

Yes, this is it - the key to Midford! It's totemic of course, as anyone can access Midford, but it does mean a lot.

We had an interesting first meeting with everybody attending coming at least 80 miles each way! We've now formed a committee of five with all the officer positions being filled enthusiastically.

All felt that we were far too early in the journey to take on the huge responsibility of ownership of the site at Midford. Realistically this should become a short-term aim (1 to 3 years). In the meantime we'll work very closely with the current owner who has taken on an executive committee role within the New S&D. Hopefully we'll establish some presence on the ground very shortly, so that visitors to Midford will know we exist and what we're all about. The intention is of course still to purchase Midford, so keep sending in those cheques!!

Although I'll retain the acting Chair role for the time being most of my energies will now be devoted to development of the New S&D. This will be a mixed finance/marketing role. The first ecommerce items have now been added, the website is days away from going live and I'm continuing the membership push. We'll also be churning out press releases, both to the railway/transport press and to the local press along the line. At last my writing MA will come in useful!
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

now available

I've just finished listing all the currently available 1/6th scale peelable totems - most S&D stations are covered.

To view and buy please click here.
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Friday, June 26, 2009

treat yourself

to a full size BR S&D repro totem!

Now listed on our ecommerce site we can supply ALL S&D stations either in the very posh vitreous enamel finish or the cheaper paint and lacquer version. Cheaper than buying from the manufacturers, and every one sold raises around £25 for the New S&D!

(We can also supply ANY station - real or imaginary - in these formats).
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just keeps getting better

The latest S&D Telegraph, from the Midsomer Norton group, has just arrived. As always it's a fantastic read and a credit not just to MN and the S&D but to the whole heritage movement.

It's nice to see in this issue that not only are they breaking out of MN physically but there are numerous references to the larger picture, ie the whole S&D. This is really heartening to see as MN really is the lynchpin in the whole S&D revival and a superb base for all S&D fans to gravitate towards. I could almost have written the editorial myself!

Remember that we have our first meeting tomorrow evening (details on the sidebar). Please try to attend - I promise that the second meeting will be down at the Bournemouth end of the line so it's not such a trek for our southern members. I'm both nervous and excited about this! Hopefully the weather will be sunny and we can do a lot of it outside. Pimms on the patio sounds great to me!

I'm getting a lot of correspondence from members and supporters, many with a very feisty attitude to getting the S&D rebuilt! Just a few years ago I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness, but more people are coming over to our way of thinking every day ...
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

totem storm

Within a few days I'll be putting a huge range of totems on the e-commerce site. These will be both full size (repros of course!) and peel off 1/6th size - with every station on the line covered. I've managed to negotiate really good discounts on these so not only will you be able to get them cheaper than elsewhere, but every penny of profit will go directly to rebuilding the S&D. I'm also looking into introducing the 'missing' stations in the fridge magnet series.
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help wanted

Can anyone help Mick Knox with this one?

Any idea what bridge number this one is?

Between Ham Wood Viaduct – and Masbury.

Doesn’t appear the be on the bridge list, as Ham Wood is No75 & Someville’s bridge is No74?

So what am I stood on, anyone know?
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

shillingstone progress

(Photos Feb 2009 - more recent ones would be most appreciated!)

With the two panels of track laid on Sunday 21 June there are now six panels of flatbottom rail in the station at Shillingstone. There is now track between the platforms for the first time in over 40 years!

It is fantastic that there are now two bases on the route both with track in place. With Midford joining them very soon (fingers crossed!) there is now a genuine feeling that the S&D is coming back big time. Hopefully within a few years the next logical step - that the groups (including Washford) will combine - will happen. By sharing knowledge, staff, equipment and vision the S&D will quickly establish itself as the UK's premier private railway offering real passenger and freight services, unmatchable steam experiences and an ambience and atmosphere unrivalled elsewhere.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

twister over London

We were in London over the weekend celebrating our first wedding anniversary. We were offered an upgrade when we arrived at the hotel to a £1000 a night penthouse suite for £80 extra a night, so took it happily! The suite was amazing and one of the best features was a balcony overlooking the approaches to Waterloo station.

When I was a kid in the early 60s I used to visit my Nan up in Battersea. Her flat overlooked railway lines, but unfortunately all that ever used them were boring Southern green emus. But over in the distance you could see plumes of smoke - loads of them. For some reason my dad thought they were from Paddington but of course a little research revealed they were coming from Waterloo. Obviously they were coming from the Southampton and Bournemouth trains (and, right at the start, Salisbury and Plymouth trains). Steam lasted at Waterloo until 9 July 1967 on Britain's last steam main line.

Did I ever talk Dad in taking me to see them close up? No, I tried ...

But I'm sure it's those distant plumes that first got me interested in railways.

But on Sunday morning, 42 years on from the end of steam at Waterloo I finally DID get to see a steam train (fairly close up). After nearly two days of just 4 sorts of emus, on Sunday morning, just as we were about to leave there it was! And, amazingly, it was Tornado, the first main line steam loco to be built in the UK since 1960 (the S&D's Evening Star!)

It brought a lot of things together. Close up steam at Waterloo at last, a brand new steam locomotive which will, with a bit of tweaking to let them burn wood, doubtless be the first of 1000s in the 21st century, and even the 'old' Eurostar terminal at Waterloo in the foreground, showing that railways are always evolving!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

bournemouth in the future

DORSET and the New Forest could be in for an environmental lashing over the coming years if emissions are not cut, a report has warned.

Summers could be up to six degrees hotter and 49 per cent drier, winters 54 per cent wetter and four degrees warmer, with sea levels rising, according to the UK Climate Projections 09 study.

Let's look at this purely from the angle of tourism. Summers are going to get hotter and drier. Remind you of anywhere? The Med perhaps?

In thirty years time summers will be around 2 degrees C hotter. And if scientists have yet again veered on the side of caution then that's probably at the bottom end of the range.

In thirty years time air travel will have all but ended. Cheap flights will be just a memory and most airport runways will have grassed over through disuse.

In thirty years time almost all overland travel will be by rail. A few roads may struggle on in some urban areas with the odd electric or fuel cell car, and millions of bikes, but all mass transit will be rail based.

In thirty years time Bournemouth will be a sun-soaked seaside resort par excellence, with a nine month summer season and mild winters.

Sounds like a good place to have a terminus for the New S&D!
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

new arrival at Midsomer Norton

(Oakamoor 15.6.2009 - courtesy Jeremy Woodrow)

A new arrival at Midsomer Norton hopefully tomorrow (17 June) will be 'Midland Mark One' coach SK26049.

She will be loaded onto Heanor Haulage’s lorry tomorrow AM and should arrive at MSN station by 6pm the same day. She will then be exhibited at the Midsummer at Midsomer Weekend on 20/21 June – with ‘proving runs’ for members only on both days. Don’t forget the ‘official unveiling’ on Saturday (11am) followed by a trip up & down [travel AT OWN RISK].

There are still several jobs to be completed (internal varnishing, flooring, possibly exterior roundel, second toilet and some other bits & bobs) but these will be done by Dave in August. He has worked night & day all last week to get her ready for shipping to MSN.

I'm a part owner of this coach but unfortunately will be in London over the Midsummer weekend (1st wedding anniversary!) but with good weather forecast the event should be fantastic.

Midsummer at Midsomer is always a very special time on the S&D and I hope you'll all get the chance to pop down there and see the progress that's been made at this classic S&D location.

(This coach will be the second in the rake that will be used on passenger trains when regular services begin shortly).
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this week's helping

of James Howard Kunstler!

He seems to be becoming fixated on rail ...

Too Stupid to Survive

Coming home from the annual meet-up of the New Urbanists, I was already agitated from the shenanigans of United Airlines — two-hour delay, blown connection — when I waded into this week’s New York Times Sunday Magazine for further evidence that our ruling elites are too stupid to survive (and perhaps the US with them). Exhibit A was the magazine’s lead article about California’s proposed high-speed rail project by Jon Gertner.

The article began with a description of California’s current rail service between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. A commission of nine-year-olds in a place like Germany could run a better system, of course. It’s never on schedule. The equipment breaks down incessantly. A substantial leg of the trip requires a transfer to a bus (along with everybody’s luggage) with no working toilet. You get the picture: Kazakhstan without the basic competence.

The proposed solution to this is the most expensive public works program in the history of the world, at a time when both the state of California and the US federal government are effectively bankrupt. By the way, I wouldn’t argue that California shouldn’t have high-speed rail. It might have been nice if, say, in the late 20th century, some far-seeing governor had noticed what was going on in France, Germany, and Spain but, alas.... It would have been nice, too, if the doltish George W. Bush, when addressing extreme airport congestion in 2003, had considered serious upgrades in normal train service between the many US cities 500 miles or so apart. The idea never entered his walnut brain.

The sad truth is it’s too late now. But the additional sad truth, at this point, is that Californians (and US public in general) would benefit tremendously from normal rail service on a par with the standards of 1927, when speeds of 100 miles-per-hour were common and the trains ran absolutely on time (and frequently, too) without computers (imagine that!). The tracks are still there, waiting to be fixed. In our current condition of psychotic techno-grandiosity, this is all too hopelessly quaint, not cutting edge enough, pathetically un-"hot." The fact that it is not even considered by the editors of The New York Times, not to mention the governor of California, the President of the United States, and all the agency heads and departmental chiefs and think tank gurus and university engineering professors, is something that will have historians of the future rolling their ey es. But for the moment all it shows is that we are collectively too stupid to survive as an advanced society.

Ironically (if you go for gallows irony) a sidebar in the same issue of The NY Times Sunday Magazine featured the latest architect’s wet dream of an airport-of-the-future (p.35). Note to the editors and architects: commercial aviation is toast (we just don’t know it yet). We’re back in the $70-plus a barrel-of-oil aviation death-zone for airlines.

Also ironically proving that America is not alone in techno-triumphalist mental illness was another big article in the same magazine featuring French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s neo-Modernist fantasies for vast new construction projects in Paris. Note to Sarko: the developed world’s metroplexes are headed for shocking contraction, not further expansion. I know this is counter-intuitive, but a little applied prayerful research will bear it out. And, by the way, the last thing any city on earth needs is more skyscrapers — i.e. buildings that have no chance of ever being renovated when they reach the senility stage of their design-life. For really mind-blowing statements, this one from that article is a standout: "Paris’s current problems as a city can be traced to the very thing that makes it most delightful — its beauty." Right. So, the solution will be to make it more like Houston.

Actually, I doubt the French people consider these schemes anymore plausible than ur-Modernist Le Corbusier’s 1924 proposal to bulldoze half of the Right Bank and replace it with dozens of identical skyscrapers. The French people laughed at Corbu, and put their vertical slums outside the city center, but notice that we Americans actually did it, replacing our old human-scaled center cities with priapic arrays of glass-and-steel tubes surrounded by parking lagoons. Anyway, nobody in the OECD world will have the energy to carry out anything like this again, not even France with its nuke plants.

Which brings me back to the New Urbanist annual meet-up last week in Denver. Given the gathering conditions of what I variously call The Long Emergency or the economic clusterf**k, they have had to shift their focus starkly. For years, their stock-in-trade was the greenfield New Town or Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), a severe reform of conventional suburban development. That sort of reform work was only possible when 1.) the continued expansion of suburbia seemed utterly inevitable, requiring heroic mitigation and 2.) when they could team up with the production home-builders to get their TND projects built. To the group’s credit, they realize that these conditions are no more. Suburbia is now craterin g, both as a re pository of wealth in real estate and as a practical matter of everyday existence. They get that the energy crisis and all its implications are real and that our response to it had better be deft. They understand that the capital resources we thought we had for Big Projects are flying into a black hole at the speed of light. Mostly they see that he time for "cutting edge" fashionista techno-triumphalist grandiosity is over.

To put it bluntly, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is perhaps the only surviving collective intelligence left in the United States that is producing ideas consistent with the reality. They recognize that our survival depends on downscaling and re-localization. They recognize the crisis we will soon face in food production, and the desperate need to reactivate the relationship between the way we inhabit the landscape and the way we feed ourselves. They recognize that the solution to the liquid fuels crisis is not cars that can run by other means but walkable towns and cities connected by public transit.

This is exactly what you will not find in the pages of The New York Times or the political corridors of power. Oh, by the way, the Obama administration contacted one of the leading lights of the New Urbanism in the weeks after the inauguration. He never heard back from the White House. I guess they’re not interested.
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read all about it!

A sample page of our website that will be going on line within days! We're hoping to make this the best and most useful website in the railway world! You'll get the web address and link here first!
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ecommerce at last

As promised the beginnings of New S&D e-commerce has commenced!

Unusually the first items are going to be non-S&D, being a range of DVDs covering Europe's industrial narrow gauge railways. These are just £14 each with cheap post and packing. Each one sold will raise £5 for the New S&D!

We will be adding a range of S&D miniature totems, full size repro totems, books, DVDs etc etc in time but please be patient!

The eventual aim is to sell just about anything rail, transport, model, peak oil or climate change related, all on-line, with the potential to raise many thousands of pounds each year for the New S&D. Please support us whenever you can!

Click here to see our e-commerce site.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

great news

Excellent news. We will be getting the key to Midford in just under two weeks' time. It will be ceremoniously handed over at the June meeting by the current owner. We do still have to raise the money though! Expect a much bigger push in both the railway media and the local press over the next few months. Once a server problem has been sorted out our brand new website should be up and running within days - this should also help considerably with the Midford push.
It's amazing the progress that the New S&D has made in just a few months - hopefully this dynamic process will continue as we grow!
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everything's coming our way ...

Move to reinstate lost rail lines

Train operators are calling for widespread expansion of the existing rail network, with 14 extra lines and about 40 new stations proposed.

The Association of Train Operating Companies said there was a need for expansion to cope with rising demand.

It said the expansion, which would cost £500m and possibly reuse lines closed under the 1960s Beeching cuts, could serve more than 1m extra passengers.

Any decisions on future expansion rest with government and Network Rail.

Atoc chief executive Michael Roberts said: "Record passenger numbers and rising demand require us to plan for the long term, while climate change and population growth make it vital that in doing so, we adapt the rail network to meet tomorrow's needs.
"Providing attractive new services and easier access to the rail network will encourage passengers to switch to rail from other, less green, modes of transport.
"We have established that there is a strong business case for investment to bring a number of towns back on to the rail network.
"Now we need to safeguard these routes and develop the detailed case for investment."

The Beeching report by Dr Richard Beeching in the 1960s resulted in the railway network being cut by a third, closing 2,000 stations and 5,000 miles of track.

The Atoc report says 40 towns not currently on the rail network could benefit from the 14 new lines.

Freight potential

It says the new stations could be operational within five to 10 years.

Any decision on whether any of the plans get the go-ahead would be taken by local and regional government, Network Rail and the Department for Transport.

Atoc argues infrastructure from some of the old lines closed in the 1960s could be refurbished to form part of the new network.
Freight lines could also be adapted to serve commercial routes, it said.

Transport Minister Chris Mole said the government would consider the findings of Atoc's report.

"The government's priority is to bring about changes, such as capacity improvements, which will deliver benefits for rail passengers now," he said.

"For the longer term, we will work with local authorities who want to improve links to the rail network, and will plan to make funding available from 2014 for successful schemes which demonstrate value for money."

Financial constraints

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said the research was "interesting" and made "an impressive case" for reopening disused rail lines.

She added: "Conservatives recognise the value of these transport corridors, which is why we have called for a moratorium on building on any disused rail lines still in public ownership.

"Certainly, housing growth and the need to cut emissions from transport and tackle road congestion means that all political parties should look seriously at the ideas put forward in this report, though it is clear that the state of the public finances will put constraints on what is possible over the next few years."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said: "RMT has repeatedly called for an expansion of rail services to create green jobs and green transport options as part of our campaign for a people's railways.

"However, any expansion should be publicly-owned and free from the chaos and profiteering of the privatised franchise system."

The areas which would be served by the 14 possible new lines identified in the report are:

• Cranleigh in Surrey
• Bordon, Hythe and Ringwood in Hampshire
• Brixham in Devon
• Aldridge and Brownhills in the West Midlands
• Wisbech in Cambridgeshire
• Leicester to Burton in the East Midlands
• Fleetwood, Rawtenstall and Skelmersdale in Lancashire
• Washington in Tyne and Wear
• Ashington and Blyth in Northumberland

Thanks to all of you who brought this to my attention. It has also been on the News24 Channel all day, though sadly accompanied by imagwes from the 50s and 60s, which rather misses the point!

Note that Ringwood is included - though not Wimborne! Of course we want this section restored to give us a second outlet in the south eastwards towards Southampton, we already have a line monitor for this section.

This is still only a tiny step in the right direction, and most of these routes have had agitation for restoration for years, which shows how important it is to get organised - notice the S&D ISN'T on this list! Note also the surprising omissions of Bere Alston-Tavistock and Lewes-Uckfiled - perhaps these are already considered 'in the bag'.

Things are clearly moving our way - remember that this is a response to capacity restraints, Peak Oil and - except for one tiny quote - even Climate Change are not mentioned.

The problem with the Beeching Report was that it was totally inflexible. It assumed that - for some peculiar reason - rail traffic would continue to decrease and that - somehow - roads would be able to cope. We all now know that isn't true at all, and that the roads are beginning their slow decline into history whilst rail can only get stronger and stronger as it ticks all the boxes - fast, clean, puctual, efficient, flexible, sustainable, cool, profitable. It's amazing how quickly things have changed in just a few short years. People used to think I was mad proposing a rebuilt S&D just five years ago - now I'm having a job keeping up with you lot!
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two tunnels

The Two Tunnels project is having an open day on the 27th June 2009 - there are guided walks through the 1 mile tunnels to show the condition before any work is done. There is also a bigger 4 mile walk talking in other parts of the route. See the attached link - http://www.twotunnels.org.uk/27-6.html

This group will soon be our closest S&D neighbour - great news on Midford later today!
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

two miles apart

Chilcompton station 17 February 2009. Buried deep in a small wood the platform of Chilcompton station can be seen on the right hand side. (photo courtesy Mick Knox).

Just two miles to the north Midsomer Norton South is full of life and colour and contributing to the local economy as well as providing the first green shoots of a sustainable transport system that will see us through the 21st century.

Chilcompton need not worry, its time is coming too. As the New S&D expands, and as the Midsomer Norton group heads south the only question is who will reach Chilcompton first to start the restoration!
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