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, November 30, 2009

back from torbay

Back from an almost rail-less weekend! We did manage to see the above - the 10¼" gauge Paignton Zoo Miniature Railway - but nothing was running.

Some very nice donations came into the New S&D whilst I was away for which I thank you very much!

Back to the grindstone tomorrow ...
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Friday, November 27, 2009

boscastle link

A potential visitor to the New S&D in the future - please take time to look at this website for more info.

Thanks to Mark Warr for this link. It's good to see that some people are already putting some thought into the sort of visitors that we will be attracting in the not too distant future!
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

long weekend

© Steve Sainsbury Paignton 1.9.1972

I'll be away from tomorrow morning until Monday for a long weekend on the English Riviera - a wonderful prospect no doubt in November. With the Kingswear line closed there won't be a lot to do railway-wise! So don't expect any posts for a few days.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

midsomer norton corners

A few more random shots from my recent visit to Midsomer Norton, which shows just how much progress has been made in getting the atmosphere and infrastructure right. It's almost as if the line never endured its period of temporary closure. With Shillingstone also coming back to life, in a few years' time I suspect there will be two or three more locations on the route where rails will return.
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right lines

Following hot on the heels of the new brochure, today I've got our first newsletter/magazine ready. This will be posted out to all members over the next few days, together with membership cards.

This is only a four page effort but I hope to at least double the size for the March 2010 issue. The aim is to produce a glossy magazine within three years but this is only economically viable once membership reaches 500, so please join if you haven't aleady!

This first magaine features the new brochure, track stewards, secretary's report, this blog, miniature railways at Shepton and Midford and reports from our three sister groups at Midsomer Norton, Shillingstone and Gartell.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

a big step (at last)

I've finally got round to ordering our promotional leaflet, which should be ready within two weeks. It's based on the already available home printed one, but will be a hundred times better! Obviously if you need some at your own railway please send for some.

Despite appearances this is actually a 2005 shot and a lighter version is used for the watermark background on the text side of the new leaflet. This was of course the Midsomer Norton Jinty impersonating the Bath-Binegar local ...

Also on order are mousemats with the main leaflet picture (Charlton Marshall). These should be available just in time for Christmas, and will be available through the e-commerce site.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

james howard rides again

Sorry, couldn't resist a random post with random pics and a slightly off-topic polemic from Mr Kunstler, posted with the usual disclaimer re USA angle and apocalyptic merriment.

Best read after watching Idiocracy!

The Fate of the Yeast People by James Howard Kunstler

Every time I do a Q and A after a college lecture, somebody says (with a fanfare of indignation) — so as to reveal their own brilliance in contrast to my foolishness — "You haven’t said anything about overpopulation!"

Right. I usually don’t bother. Their complaint, of course, implies that we would do something about overpopulation if only we would recognize it. Which is absurd. What might we do about overpopulation here in the USA? Legislate a one-child policy? Set up an onerous set of bureaucratic protocols forcing citizens to apply for permission to reproduce? Direct the police to shoot all female babies? Use stimulus money to build crematoria outside of Nashville?

It’s certainly true that the planet is suffering from human population overshoot. We’re way beyond "carrying capacity." Only the remaining supplies of fossil fuels allow us to continue this process, and not for long, anyway. In the meantime, human reproduction rates are also greatly increasing the supply of idiots relative to resources, and that is especially problematic in the USA, where idiots rule the culture and polity.

The cocoon of normality prevents us from appreciating how peculiar and special recent times have been in this country. We suppose, tautologically, that because things have always seemed the way they are, that they always have been the way they seem. The collective human imagination is a treacherous place.

I’m fascinated by the dominion of moron culture in the USA, in everything from the way we inhabit the landscape — the fiasco of suburbia — to the way we feed ourselves — an endless megatonnage of microwaved Velveeta and corn byproducts — along with the popular entertainment offerings of Reality TV, the NASCAR ovals, and the gigantic evangelical church shows beloved in the Heartland. To evangelize a bit myself, if such a concept as "an offense in the sight of God" has any meaning, then the way we conduct ourselves in this land is surely the epitome of it — though this is hardly an advertisement for competing religions, who are well-supplied with morons, too.

Moron culture in the USA really got full traction after the Second World War. Our victory over the other industrial powers in that struggle was so total and stupendous that the laboring orders here were raised up to economic levels unknown by any peasantry in human history. People who had been virtual serfs trailing cotton sacks in the sunstroke belt a generation back were suddenly living better than Renaissance dukes, laved in air-conditioning, banqueting on "TV dinners," motoring on a whim to places that would have taken a three-day mule trek in their granddaddy’s day. Soon, they were buying Buick dealerships and fried chicken franchises and opening banks and building leisure kingdoms of thrill rides and football. It’s hard to overstate the fantastic wealth that a not-very-bright cohort of human beings was able to accumulate in post-war America.

And they were able to express themselves — as the great chronicler of these things, Tom Wolfe, has described so often and well — in exuberant "taste cultures" of material life, of which Las Vegas is probably the final summing-up, and every highway strip, of twenty-thousand strips from Maine to Oregon, is the democratic example. These days, I travel the road up the west shore of Lake George, in Warren County, New York, and see the sad, decomposing relics of that culture and that time in all the "playful" motels and leisure-time attractions, with their cracked plastic signs advertising the very things that they exterminated in the quest for adequate parking — the woodand vistas, the paddling Mohicans, the wolf, the moose, the catamount — and I take a certain serene comfort in the knowledge that it is all over now for this stuff and the class of morons that produced it.A very close friend of mine calls them "the yeast people." They were the democratic masses who thrived in the great fermentation vat of the post World War Two economy. They are now meeting the fate that any yeast population faces when the fermentation process is complete. For the moment, they are only ceasing to thrive. They are suffering and worrying horribly from the threat that there might be no further fermentation. The brewers running the vat try to assure them that there’s more sugar left in the mix, and more beer can be made from it, and more yeasts can be brought into this world to enjoy the life of the sweet, moist mash. In fact, one of the brewers did happen to dump about a trillion-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar into the vat during 2009, and that has produced an illusion of further fermentation. But we know all too well that this artificial stimulus has limits.

What will happen to the yeast people of the USA? You can be sure that the outcome will not yield to "policies" and "protocols." The economy that produced all that amazing wealth is contracting, and pretty rapidly, too, and the numbers among the yeast will naturally follow the downward arc of the story. Entropy is a harsh mistress. In the immediate offing: a contest for the table scraps of the 20th century. We’ve barely seen the beginning of this, just a little peevishness embodied by yeast shaman figures. As hardships mount and hardened emotions rise, we’ll see "the usual suspects" come into play: starvation, disease, violence. We may still be driving around in Ford F-150s, but the Pale Rider is just over the horizon beating a path to our parking-lot-of-the-soul.

It’s a sad and tragic process and, all lame metaphors aside, there are real human feelings at stake in our prospects for loss of every kind, but especially in the fate of people we love. The human race has known catastrophe before and come through it. There’s some credible opinion that "this time it’s different" but who really knows? We have our 2012 apocalypse movies. The people of the 14th century, savaged by the Black Death, had their woodcuts of dancing skeletons. Feudalism was wiped out in that earlier calamity but, whaddaya know, less than a century after that the Renaissance emerged in a wholly new culture of cities. Maybe we will emerge from our culture of free parking to a new society of living, by necessity, much more lightly on the planet and for a long time, perhaps long enough to allow the terrain to recover from all the free parking.
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more midford

© Ron Strutt 15.5.2005

© Dr Duncan Pepper 21.9.2008

© Derek Harper 25.8.2008

© John Thorn 1962

Some more shots recently found on Geograph. All show Midford over the years, the later shots giving a real sense of the permanence of S&D structures. It's going to be quite something when the trains start running across the viaduct again!
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Binegar 1967

Another interesting shot from the Geograph site. This is Binegar station in September 1967 after closure and before track ifting.

Image Copyright Tudor Williams. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.
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how not to run a railway

This is amazing. You would think the country was awash in money rather than being in a deep recession. Each of these signs seems -to me - perfectly adequate for many years of use. Yet the company erecting them has been quite happy to waste further paint on putting 'temorary sign' on each and will no doubt be wasting further resources on producing what will be essentially duplicates when the signs are replaced. To me this is an argument for more privatization because surely a private company would never have wasted money like this?
Rest assured the New S&D will not engage in this madness!
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

play your cards right

Just arrived today are our membership cards, thanks to Paul Beard. They look very smart!

I will be sending these out, together with Right Lines number 1, over the coming week or so.

This is not all of them by the way! New S&D membership now stands at 42, so we're approaching our first landmark (50). If you've been putting off joining then please don't hesitate any further. Our 50th member will receive a free very good bottle of complimentary wine (from my own cellar, not New S&D funds!).

Oddly enough I got a bottle of wine when I joined Midsomer Norton as I was the 250th member to join!

We will be doing a big membership push in 2010. So far 90% of members have joined via this blog!
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new resource

(Photo © Tudor Williams 16.9.1967)

I've just been pointed in the direction of a fabulous resource which aims to cover every part of the UK in photos. Whilst this is primarily a contemporary archive my hope would be that it also becomes a historical resource, and not just due to the passage of time!

I found the above gem within minutes (after searching Hartcliffe, Littlehampton and Leadhills!). It shows Midsomer Norton 18 months after closure and before tracklifting. This may be the first time this shot has reached such a large audience.

The site is Geograph and can be found here. Expect more gems over the next few weeks as I travel up and down the route ...
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

a credit

A credit to Midsomer Norton is the superb Midland Mark One coach now on site. I'm proud to say that I'm a part owner of this, but only got to see if for the first time this month.

The interior looks great and I can't wait to see this being used for passenger trains at MN, hopefully in 2010.

You can contribute to the upkeep of this coach via the New Somerset and Dorset website.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

new midsomer norton pics

(All above Steve Sainsbury 6.11.2009)

Check out these bang up to date photos of Midsomer Norton recently loaded by Nick Howes, spiritual founder of the S&D revival.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

kunstler again

We haven't heard from James Howard Kunstler for a while. I know he's not to everybody's taste, but he does put things more succinctly than I do, and it's easy for me to just cut and paste for a change! Obviously this is from the USA's angle, but it's also totally apposite here, if not more so, as we're further down the international pecking order ...

Too Big NOT To Fail

In The Long Emergency (2005, Atlantic Monthly Press), I said that we ought to expect the federal government to become increasingly impotent and ineffectual — that this would be a hallmark of the times. In fact, I said that any enterprise organized at the colossal scale would function poorly in years ahead, whether it was a government, a state university, a national chain retail company, or a giant midwestern farm. It is characteristic of the compressive contraction our society faces that giant hyper-complex systems will wobble and fail. We should expect this.There are going to be a lot of disappointed people out there who will be suffering terrible losses and real pain in daily life. Societies don’t do well when the public falls into the broad despair that is the opposite of hope. That’s when the long knives and the tribal animosities come out and things get smashed.

Within the context of conventional party politics — the kind that has been baseline “normal” in the USA for a long time — we see this playing out in two factions that are increasingly out-of-touch with reality. The Obama government has made itself hostage to a toxic form of pretense and lying. In order to sustain the wish for “hope” — if not hope itself — the President and his White House advisors along with his cabinet appointments, are pretending that the historical forces of compressive contraction are not underway. They’re flat-out lying about the employment figures issued in the government’s name. They’re willfully ignoring the comprehensive bankruptcy gripping government at all levels. They refuse to bring the law to bear against “the malefactors of great wealth.” They appear to not understand the epochal energy scarcity problem the whole world faces, or its implications for industrial economies. Most of all, they persist in promoting the lie that this economy can return to the prior state of reckless debt accumulation (a.k.a “consumerism”) that has made us so ridiculous and unhealthy.

The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn’t care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn’t “spin.” Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management. These days, Americans don’t like reality very much because it won’t let them push it around. Reality is an implacable force and the only question for human beings in the face of it is: what will you do? In other words, it’s not really possible to manage reality, but you can certainly choose to manage your affairs within reality. We won’t do that because it’s too difficult. This harsh situation leaves the public increasingly with little more than bad feelings of discouragement and persecution.

Reality unfolds emergently, and this ought to interest us. For instance, I have maintained for many years that we are approaching the twilight of the automobile age — and the implications of this for daily life in the USA are pretty large. For a long time, I had assumed that this change of circumstances would proceed from our problems with the oil supply. But reality is sly. It has thrown two new plot twists into the story lately. America’s romance with cars may not founder just on the fuel supply question. It now appears that our problems with capital are so severe that far fewer people will be able to borrow money from banks to buy cars at the rate, and in the way, that the system has been organized to depend on. Our problems with capital are also depriving us of the ability to pay to fix the hypercomplex system of county roads, interstate highways, and even city streets that make motoring possible. What will we do?

For now, a cashless government gives out cash-for-clunkers, which is basically a self-esteem building program designed to make the government feel better about itself because it is ostensibly taking 11-miles-per-gallon cars off the road and replacing them with 27-miles-per-gallon cars, thus forestalling scary problems with climate change. It’s dumb of course, but the failure of leadership is comprehensive. Even the elite environmentalists at the Aspen Institute are preoccupied with finding new “green” ways to keep all the cars running. They put zero effort into the idea of walkable communities, or restoring the railroad system, which will be the reality-based remedies for the car-dependency problem.The extreme right is, if anything, even more childishly delusional. For them it comes down to “drill, baby, drill.” They know nothing about the geology of oil — they don’t even believe that the earth is more than six-thousand years old, meaning they don’t believe in geology, period — but they are inflamed with the faith of eight-year-old children that we must have a lot more oil in the ground because this is America and God loves us more than people in other parts of the planet so it must be there. As their disappointment mounts, their childish ideas will turn cruel and sadistic. They’ll seek to punish anybody who believes that the earth is more than six thousand years old. The catch is, if they get into power in the election cycles ahead, they’ll be impotent and ineffectual even at persecuting their enemies.

In the meantime, American life will just wind down, no matter what we believe. It won’t wind down to a complete stop. Its near-term destination is to lower levels of complexity and scale than what we’ve been used to for a long time. People will be able to drive fewer cars fewer miles. The roads will get worse. They’ll be worse in some places than others. There will be fewer jobs to go to and fewer things sold. People who live in communities scaled to the energy and capital realities of the years ahead are liable to be more comfortable. We’re surely going to have trouble with money. Households will drown in debt and lose all their savings. Money could be scarce or worthless. Credit will be scarcer.

Both factions of American political life indulge in the fiction of control. History is reality’s big brother. It is taking us someplace that we don’t want to go, so it will probably have to drag us there kicking and screaming. For starters, both reality and history will probably take us out to some woodshed of the national soul and beat the crap out of us. That could be a salutary thing, since the crap consists of all the lies we tell ourselves. Once we’re rid of all that, we may rediscover a few things left inside our collective identity that are worth regarding with real self-respect.
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