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!

Monday, September 21, 2009

ten days of profound silence

Everything done and packed - we're away to Majorca for ten days from tomorrow! It's been a very busy year what with setting up the New S&D and business being busier than ever!

Hopefully I'll get to see some modern transport when I'm out there - there are loads of rail and tram developments happening over there, the local government of the Balearics are well aware that cars and roads aren't the answer to transport problems and new lines are springing up all over the place!

I may be online over there but can never be sure. SWT Slave - I will answer your comment (and have a couple of blog posts lined up inspired by what you've said) but please be patient!
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no alternative - yet!

Midsomer Norton.

A350 towards Shaftesbury.

Some of the bends just before Stourpaine.

Picture the scene. A main line railway with regular trains to both Bath and Bournemouth, as well as local trains stopping along the route, expresses to cities and towns in the Midlands and North and heavy freight trains keeping lorries off the road. Roads almost empty thanks to the parallel railway.

A road (no railway) winding its way through villages, cars having to compete with lorries, tractors, cyclists and even horses for the same narrow winding stretch of tarmac.

Which is the most recent, the most modern, the most sensible of these two options?

You've guessed it! The latter ...

The New S&D is about switching these two scenarios, bringing modern transport back to the towns and villages between Bristol/Bath and Bournemouth/Brockenhurst.
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shillingstone fleeting visit

I managed to quickly visit Shillingstone on the way back from the New S&D meeting as the evening cast long shadows over the site. I'd always wanted to catch it in this light! Developments since I was last there in February included track now appearing between the platforms and the loco being moved to this (eventual) up running line.

There is loads of support for the New S&D at Shillingstone and we hope to soon be working very closely with them on the reinstatement of this most attractive section of line southwards to Blandford and northwards towards Templecombe.
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history in the making

The meeting gets under way.

Carefully studying the detail of the constitution, now adopted.

The venue - a real treat and only feet from the original line!

Just up the road - the route northwards towards Shillingstone and Templecombe, just waiting for the track to be relaid!

The New S&D passed a very special milestone on Saturday at the meeting at Blandford. We adopted a constitution and also put in process our plans to become the premier S&D organisation within a year or so with responsibility for restoring the whole route. The meeting was very well attended with 11 present. The venue was excellent with very strong links to the original S&D, and we were given a function room free of charge.

Within a couple of months we will become a very familiar presence up and down the route with our 2 display/information/sales stands. We'll principally be attending local shows and events on the route, with a northern and southern team, the border being Templecombe. So if you want a railway presence at your town/village event from November onwards please contact us.

About 70% of our current membership live in the Blandford/Poole/Bournemouth triangle and it's becoming clear that much of our early efforts will be in pushing for early restoration of Blandford to Poole, probably using third rail electric. This doesn't prejudice purchasing Midford on the northern section which will be a totally different project.

The demand and support is out there and we are pushing against an open door. It is scandalous that in almost the second decade of the 21st century a large and busy town like Blandford is STILL off the network. This is ridiculous and we aim to correct this idiocy as quickly as possible! The whole Blandford/Ringwood/Wimborne area is crying out for modern transport and at last there is a serious organisation on the scene eager to make things happen as quickly as possible. It seems amazing that this didn't happen years ago ...

From now on after every meeting there will be a newsletter outlining the various issues brought up at the meeting which will be sent, as hard copy, to all members. Hopefully this will quickly develop into a glossy magazine, further raising our profile.

So if you've held off joining us up to now please consider joining or giving a donation. Things are getting more exciting every day!
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Friday, September 18, 2009

last easy day ...

Tomorrow is the very important second meeting of the New S&D, down in Blandford. I've a feeling that Blandford is going to become a very active centre for us, with a lot of pent-up demand for the railway already existing. A town of almost 10,000 people being without trains in the 21st century is an absolute scandal. I suspect that tomorrow we'll be making some bold plans for the rest of 2009 and into 2010, particularly setting up our retail business, getting the sales and info stand up and running and starting work on 'The Case for the S&D'. We'll also be looking at land ownership along this stretch (and north to Templecombe) with the aim of buying up strategic stretches ready for the return of our trains. It's going to be very busy from now on, after the initial 6 months of getting set up, getting a committee formed and beginning to harden up our ideas and focus.

Please try to come along if you can - meeting details are on the sidebar.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

new s&d meeting this Saturday

Apologies to you all but our meeting this Saturday has had a change of venue thanks to Shillingstone being no longer able to offer us suitable meeting facilities (don't ask!!)

So we've switched it, very appropriately, to the RAILWAY HOTEL at Blandford, who have offered us the facilities for FREE! The landlord is very angry that Blandford is currently rail-less, a ridiculous situation that needs to change quickly. We all know that there is loads of pent up support for the trains returning, and the pub were only too keen to have us come along. The full address details are

Railway Hotel
Oakfield Street
DT11 7EX
Tel: 01258-456374

The meeting will be between 4pm and 6pm.

It's important that we all show that the return of the S&D will mean more money being spent along the route so please try to get to the pub/hotel a bit early so you can buy a drink or two!

This has definitive echoes of the first S&D pioneers and their inaugural meeting in a Blandford hotel that led to the construction of the Somerset Central - history repeating itself!
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

midsomer norton developments

These are now historical shots! Work is now truly under way on rebuilding Midsomer Norton's iconic greenhouse, the back and front brickwork is now just about finished, the remainder is woodwork and glazing. Not quite sure if the local vandals are going to give the restored greenhouse the respect it deserves, but no doubt there's a hi-def video camera or two pointing at it! I had hoped myself to get involved in this rebuilding but events (particularly the New S&D) sadly overtook me. I'd even taken a bricklaying course to give me the skills but if the partially rebuilt garden wall at home is anything to go by MN probably had a lucky escape!

The other big development is that the museum was officially opened today, at 11am. I had hoped to put an announcement on the blog in advance but was snowed under with other work.

Is there anyone out there who is able to supply copy and photos from Midsomer Norton - I'd be most grateful for a regular contributor as I can't get down there very often these days. The shots above were from my last trip there nearly a year ago! There are excellent shots of the greenhouse rebuilding here.
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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

back to the future

This is an advert from the early 20th century - for an electric car. We all know that the internal combustion engine won the battle. Why? Simple - it is far cheaper to use petrol and diesel than electricity.

So why is the electric car about to replace internal combustion? It's nothing to do with global warming, but everything to do with economics. Governments, oil professionals and even some car manufacturers know that the game's up. The trumpeting of a tiny oil find last week in the press, an oil find described as 'giant' yet only big enough to supply the world for eleven DAYS, is a clue as to how bad things are getting. These are desperate times, only delayed slightly by the recession. Oil is once again heading upwards. Forecasts of $200-$500 a barrel are beginning to be made again. At these prices, even the bottom end, all civilian air traffic and most road traffic will vanish.

The average economist claims that as the price of oil rises more exploration will kick in alleviating any shortages. This may be true, but the important thing to bear in mind is that this oil will be more expensive. Peak oil effects will still happen because many drivers will be priced out of the market.

So this last final gasp of personal private transport seems to be heading for - electric cars. This week's Economist (5.9.09 vol 392 number 8647 pp79-81) had an interesting article on this coming transport revolution. The whole article seemed to pivot around whether the cars would be recharged at home, or simply change batteries at service stations. But at no point is it discussed as to where all this extra energy is going to come from, which grated somewhat with an article in the same magazine a few weeks earlier that forecast regular power cuts in the UK from 2013 onwards, because current capacity is being CUT as nuclear power stations are being decommissioned without being replaced. And this is before all the extra demand from electric cars!

Face it, nobody wants electric cars out of choice. They are going to be expensive, have limited range and still use loads of conventional energy in their construction - and will need oil for their tyres and, of course, for all that asphalt in the road services. All it will do is delay the inevitable switch to rail by a few years.

What really needs to happen, in the UK, is for the government to actually admit that road transport has no future. They need to get cross party support for this admission so that no other party benefits in an election from the truth being announced. They then need to selectively close roads, switch all freight to rail, abandon all new road developments and begin to build at least 200-300 miles of new railways EVERY year. Reversing the Beeching cuts will only be the start. They also need to speed up the planning process so that local initiatives can cheaply introduce light rail to link small towns and villages, factories and trading areas, to the main network. Urban trams need to be introduced to ALL cities and towns of 30,000 population and more.

The future is rail, electrically powered from sustainable sources (including nuclear) or steam powered from wood burning. All communities need to have either heavy or light railways, locally owned and operated, feeding into a nationally or internationally owned high speed trans-European rail network which is already beginning to replace doomed air travel.

This is the future into which the New S&D is boldly leading the way - pushing against the biggest open door in history even if sometimes it doesn't seem that way.

Join and/or donate!
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Thursday, September 03, 2009

gartell impressions

Some fantastic shots from the Gartell Railway taken in July and August 2009 - on a camera phone! (By Adam).

This is becoming a real treat for steam fans and is currently the only section of the S&D which sees regular trains. Notice the S&D touches such as the crest and Pines headboard. I suspect, though stand to be corrected, that the trains sport the unique S&D headcode.

The Gartell is open twice more this year (apart from Santa Specials) on Sunday 27 September and Sunday 25 October. I'm in Majorca for the September day but will try to make the October opening.
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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

more from Shepton

Four shots of Charlton Road viaduct in the wonderful setting of Kilver Court Gardens. Everywhere should be like this! As John Baxter said on Monday, all it needs is a 7F crossing it! As I replied 'that's what we're all about!'

But the fact that steam WAS working across the viaduct again shouldn't be forgotten. It was all set up by Andy Lunness of Recreation Railways, the inspiration and genius behind the whole idea. More on Andy's excellent set up at Recreation Railways.

I haven't contacted Andy yet, but with a New S&D committee member owning the trackbed at Midford, perhaps we could do something similar there? Or indeed at other points on the line? It would raise our profile, particularly if we offered sales stands to the public, run
by us and the other S&D groups.
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