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, December 23, 2009

tornado cassandra!

I recently rather mischievously suggested that the Channel Tunnel trains that were broken down inside the tunnel should have been hauled out by diesel or steam locomotives.

In an amazing example of life imitating art this is what happened on Monday -

Passengers were rescued by a steam locomotive after modern rail services were brought to a halt by the snowy conditions in south-east England.

Trains between Ashford and Dover were suspended on Monday when cold weather disabled the electric rail.

Some commuters at London Victoria faced lengthy delays until Tornado - Britain's first mainline steam engine in 50 years - offered them a lift.

They were taken home "in style", said the Darlington-built engine's owners.

Train services in Kent were hit hard by the freezing conditions at the start of the week.
The weather-related disruption included three days of cancellations for Eurostar services through the Channel Tunnel.

Tornado, a £3m Peppercorn class A1 Pacific based at the National Railway Museum in York, was in the South East for one day, offering "Christmas meal" trips from London to Dover.

Its "Cathedrals Express" service, the last mainline journey in its first year of operations, was about to depart when staff heard about the stranded passengers.

About 100 people were offered free seats, according to Mark Allatt, chairman of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust - the charity which built Tornado.

He said: "It was a nice way to finish for Christmas, though I think some of the rescued passengers didn't realise they'd even been travelling on a steam train until they got off."

Mr Allatt, who was on the service at the time, said he only saw a handful of other trains between London and Dover throughout Monday.
He added: "If any of the train operators want to modernise their services by using steam trains, I would be happy to give them a quote."
A spokesman for Southeastern Trains congratulated Mr Allatt on his "moment of glory".

He said: "I'm sure those passengers were saved from a lengthy wait, all credit to him."


Thanks to David Bailey for the link!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 21, 2009

happy christmas

It's time for our traditional Xmas sexist greeting so once again thanks again to everyone who has sweated blood in preserving and developing our line, whether as members of the New S&D, Somerset and Dorset Railway Heritage Trust at Midsomer Norton, North Dorset Railway Trust at Shillingstone, the Gartell Railway, Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust at Washford, The Sturminster Rail Group, Blandford Arches Project and Recreation Railways, not to mention all those individuals and wellwishers that belong to some, all or none of the above!
Posted by Picasa

another resource

Midford Spring 1963 © Peter Leigh

David Bailey's just discovered this excellent resource which includes a Somerset and Dorset Photostream which can be accessed here.

If you have S&D photos why not add them, perhaps adding this blog address in the comments box?
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

50 not out

All pics © Adrian Vaughan

Just had our 50th member sign up! This is pretty incredible bearing in mind we've only been up and running since March this year and haven't even begun the process of publicising our organisation outside of this blog and our website.

I can already offer the next bottle of wine to our 100th member!!
Posted by Picasa

more gartell

Photos © Mike Lucas 31.8.2009

Four excellent shots from Mike Lucas of various locomotives and trains on the Gartell this August bank holiday.

This is still, currently, the only operational section of the S&D. Expect a few more miles to be in regular operation within a few years!
Posted by Picasa

the future of air travel

This is the Boeing Dreamliner 787. 'Dream' liner is very appropriate. It's being marketed as 'the future of air travel'. LOL! It's claim to this status is that due to the lighter metal being employed it will use 20% less fuel! And what magical 'fuel' is it going to use? Nuclear? Steam? Electricity? No ... good old fashioned (and in the medium term extinct!) kerosene.

So what's the real future of air travel? The picture below says it all!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 14, 2009

thanks Adrian

Adrian Vaughan has very kindly allowed us access to his excellent collection of S&D photos. These will be utilised by this blog and of course the New S&D website and also selected ones will be available to purchase as quality prints over time, raising funds for the route.

It is very important that the history of the S&D, which many thought ended in 1966, is a living and developing thing! Whilst our prinicple aim of course is to restore the railway we are also very aware of the hugely important historical significance of our line, both to railway enthusiasts and people living along the route.

We are always happy to accept offers such as Adrian's, and it is a way of securing your valuable photos so that they can be enjoyed by generations not yet born, who as well as being able to travel on a reborn S&D will also be able to see how it was in the past, both before and after its temporary closure.
Posted by Picasa

double-headed steam back on the S&D!

The first double headed steam train on the S&D since...when?

The camera of Mike Lucas captures the fine moment as GLR No6 Mr. G and GLR No9 Jean head down the S&D. This was especially run for the 2009 S&D reunion, when staff from the days of the 'old line' got together. Due to the length of the train, six coaches - double the normal length - special written instructions were issued to GLR staff and the train was put in the hands of the most experianced enginemen and senior guards.

(Thanks to John Penny for this gem!)
Posted by Picasa

what could possibly stop this?

When I did a trip down the southern end of the line back in February with Mick Knox we met quite a lot of people who were intrigued at what we were doing. Back then, before the formation of the New S&D, we were just looking to see what was left. Everyone we spoke to wanted the railway back, most adding (quite rightly) 'but please NOT steam trains!'

Of course there will be steam on the New S&D, at least at first as heritage operations originating off the line, but as the energy crisis bites harder then wood-burning steam is almost certain to make an appearance, particularly if sections of the route are non-electric or if electricity supply is not 100% reliable. But we need to take small steps, it's not really possible to expound the science and economics behind Peak Oil in a few minutes on a windy hillside! The important thing is to get the railway back!

There's an echo of this from a little anecdote shared today by member Paul Beard, who was taking measurements down at Spetisbury. A local came up, asked what he was doing, and the next thing he said was, "Everyone in the village wants the railway to come back you know".

I suspect it will be like this up and down the line. This will be our big push in 2010, to bring in the locals, the people who will use the trains on a daily basis, into the organisation.
Posted by Picasa


This is a video posted on Youtube and also on the SteamTube S&D Reborn group, which I'd recommend joining!

It's nice to see moving pictures from sites on the S&D and it's good to see so much progress at Shillingstone.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 12, 2009

steam tube

Steam Tube has been very supportive of the New S&D so please reciprocate by looking at their site and joining!

Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 11, 2009

then, now, and the future

I received this card from a friend today, which is particularly appropriate as our next meeting will be on the right of this scene. This is of course classic Pines Express at Blandford. The photo below shows the amazing 'progress' made at this site!

Mmmm. From heart of the community to a bland and characterless corner of a dying town.

If you ever doubt or misunderstand what we are about, it is to switch this scene back to how it was - but with modern fast passenger and freight trains serving a thriving community, interspersed with steam specials bringing even more trade to our busy line!

Looking back at that first picture you do wonder how people were so short sighted that they allowed the S&D to close. Blandford station was close to the centre of town, even with closure of the rest of the route this section survived for another 3 years for freight - how did locals and rail enthusiasts allow it to go?? Surely it didn't take a lot of thought to understand that this section would have provided an excellent service into Bournemouth and Poole for the large town of Blandford, particularly taking into account the poor state of the roads in the area. Still, this is the 21st century, not a couple of bland and characterless decades in the 20th, and we won't ever make the same mistakes again.

I get a feeling that this will be the first part of the old S&D to be restored for real trains. I'm itching to announce wonderful news about a location on this section of our route, but I have to keep it under my hat for a little while longer!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

cover story

Once again I can't resist posting James Howard Kunstler's latest blast. I suspect that, like me, he is pretty clear that 'climate change' is a cover story for Peak Oil. The more hysterical our 'leaders' get about climate change, the worse the energy situation is becoming. I don't say there's nothing to climate change - there clearly is - but the MEASURES being suggested to combat this seem more and more to be the measures societies attempting to deal with massive energy shortages would introduce. I'm convinced that governments are even creating 'deniers' to cover up what they are really up to - and that is me speaking as a complete sceptic on conspiracy theories!

JHK hits it on the nail. What is at stake is comfortable, road-based, energy-intensive sedentary consumerism. It's not climate change threatening this, but looming energy problems.

I have a very different writing style to JHK, and a very different world view, but I can see where he's coming from!

Climate, Oil and Delusion by James Howard Kunstler

Against a greater welter and flow of incoherence jerking the nation this way and that way en route to collapse comes "ClimateGate," the latest excuse for screaming knuckleheads to defend what has already been lost. It is also yet another distraction from the emergency agenda that the United States faces — namely the urgent re-scaling, re-localizing, and de-globalizing of our daily activities.

What seems to be at stake for the knuckleheads is their identity, their idea of what it means to be an American, which boils down to being an organism so specially blessed and entitled that it is excused from paying attention to reality. There were no doubt plenty of counterparts among the Mayans when the weather changed and their crops failed, and certainly the Romans had their share of identity psychotics who doubted reality even when Alaric the Visigoth was hoisting off their household treasure.

Reality doesn’t care if we are on-board with its mandates or not. The human race has to get with whatever program reality is serving up at a particular time. Are we shocked to learn that scientists fight among themselves and cheat as much as congressmen? Does that really change the relationships we understand about parts-per-million of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and the weather?

What the people of the world can do or will do about a change in climate is something else. My guess is that the undertow of entropy is now too great to provoke any meaningful unified change in behavior. The collapse of the US economy is too close to the horizon, and the so-called developing nations will have problems equally severe. In the meantime, it is unlikely that any of the major players will burn less coal and oil, or not cheat on each other even if they pledge to burn less. People who are not knuckleheads will make the practical arrangements that they can. These will, by definition, be localized, small-scale, and non-global communities, doing what they would have to do anyway.

A parallel identity mania afflicts those who have decided that the Bakken shale oil deposits and the Marcellus gas play will allow the USA to cancel any modifications to our living arrangements. This cohort of knuckleheads wants to believe the public relations of the oil and gas industry, and in particular the bankers who are arranging the financing for these ventures. The facts are irrelevant to their identity-claims (that the USA has limitless energy resources). In fact, the Bakken shale formation is unlikely to produce more than a few hundred thousand barrels of oil a day in a nation used to burning about twenty million. A few hundred thousand might mean a lot if were only used to light kerosene lamps, but it is unlikely to keep the faithful motoring off to WalMart and Walt Disney World — which is the exact expectation of the knuckleheads.

Shale gas is a similar story. It will be too expensive to get out of the tight rock at a flow that will allow business as usual to continue. It certainly won’t be produced at under $10 a unit, and the nation’s comprehensive bankruptcy accelerates every day, making it less likely that the public can pay premium prices within the framework of our current living arrangement.

The Green Shoots crowd — a sub-category of identity maniacs, who think the USA is immune to the laws of history and physics — has made common cause with the oil and climate knuckleheads to proclaim that we are returning to normal, back to the "consumer" orgy, the suburban sprawl nexus of McHousing and miracle mortgages, and new frontiers of corporate profit-raking. They are tragically wrong. Instead, we’re headed into the wildest king-hell debt workout that the world has ever seen, which will propel a lot of people used to working in air-conditioned cubicles into a world made by hand. We march day by day into the great holiday season with mortgages going unpaid and the credit cards getting cancelled and money disappearing and the fears and grievances mounting. Pretty soon, the folks doing "God’s work" at Goldman Sachs (and their tribal kin on Wall Street) will announce their annual bonuses (because they are publicly-held companies, which have to do so). Won’t that be a galvanizing moment for us all?
Posted by Picasa

going up a division!

Well the end result of yesterday's extraordinary blog visitation was 359 hits, well over double our previous record! We definitely seem to be picking up a gear as we head towards 2010. New members join up most days now, the new leaflets have arrived and we should soon be appearing regularly up and down the line with our sales and information stands. We now seem to pushing on an open door as one of many genuine rail restoration schemes in the UK, most of which are reversing the ridiculous Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

Rail is the future, not just for inter city connections, commuters and freight movements, but eventually for all industries, ports, farms and villages through a huge expansion in our tramway and light railway network.
Posted by Picasa


New leaflet now arrived!

If you need some for your rail group, local library, green/environmental/transport/Transition group etc etc please request some now, giving me amount needed, delivery address and location where they will be displayed. Please email me here
Posted by Picasa

mousemats now available

Just in are the first batch of New S&D mousemats, which can be ordered from the shop here. They show a 2009 image from Charlton Marshall. Ready just in time for Christmas, cost just £4.95 + 50p post and packing.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 07, 2009

a big welcome to all you new visitors!

Our blog stat figures have gone through the roof today - 231 at last look against an all time previous record of 150!

Many seem to have visited us from here so a big thank you to MREmag Independent News Service and in particular to Geoff Brown who gave us the plug! Keep coming back - new content is added nearly every day.
Posted by Picasa

reaching out to our new demographic

It was always clear to me that the first steps in establishing an organisation with the clear aim of restoring the whole S&D as a fully functional modern railway would be to appeal to enthusiasts first. That first step has now clearly worked, and far more successfully than I'd dared hope. The next step is to involve the existing heritage groups more. They need to have people on our committee, and also soon as directors of the limited company. That also seems to now be happening.

I expect that by the end of 2010 we will have a very vibrant organsiation that will be a model for new generation rail revival groups all over the UK. By drawing on the energy and resources of 'traditional' rail enthusiasts we can then bring in our true target - the people living along the route of the S&D, people that have no interest in railways except as a means to get from A to B. They need to see that we are VERY serious about bringing the railway back, and that we have the organisation to make it happen using our multiple approach of trackbed purchase, selective restoration (and support for already established heritage lines en route) and lobbying.

The first step towards approaching this group of people will be the launch of our leaflet, which should arrive any day soon. I've already had many requests for these, so it shouldn't be too difficult to place these up and down the route to show local people what we are all about. Considering we've only been going 9 months this is excellent progress. This local launch will be backed up by a big press assault on both the national railway press and the local general press, ensuring that everyone that needs to know we exist does know!

As soon as the leaflet arrives I'll post it to the blog and also ensure those who have already requested get their copies for distribution ASAP.
Posted by Picasa