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, January 19, 2010

turning around

Brookwood. 33 104 - 8/8/1977

Basingstoke. 50 043 - 28/10/1983

Okehampton. 4/12/1984

Salisbury. 50 021 - 11/8/1986

(All photos © Steve Sainsbury)

Once there was a great way to the West Country, using the Southern line from Waterloo via Basingstoke, Salisbury, Exeter and Okehampton. It was a busy and modern route, but the idiot Beeching decided that we only really needed one main line to the west and that was the ex-GWR route via Reading. At one time the Salisbury to Exeter route was - unbelievably - under threat of closure! Many of its branches were closed and in 1968 the route west of Okehampton - the priceless diversionary route avoiding the sea wall at Dawlish - was also, amazingly, closed. The branches beyond, to Bude, Padstow, Ilfracombe, Bideford, all closed without any consideration of future needs.

Of course the S&D intersected this route at Templecombe and a great deal of valuable exchange traffic took place here. But even Templecombe itself closed with the S&D on 7 March 1966. Many 'minor' stations on the Salisbury-Exeter route closed at the same time. Closure by stealth of the whole route was clearly on the agenda. The line was singled, creating huge delays, and the service became two-hourly. Freight vanished as did local trains.

This was the mindset of the 1960s and 1970s (still sometimes seen on our comments sections!).

How things have changed as we enter the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. Templecombe station reopened in 1982, perhaps being the first indicaton that the S&D would eventually return there, and now the section through Axminster has been doubled, allowing an hourly service on the line again. The line is now prioritised for electrification, and surely it is not now that long before stations such as Wilton are reopened and local trains reintroduced. The line will also be a very useful freight route. Future exchange traffic with the New S&D will bring even more trains and potential to the route. Beyond Exeter there are serious moves to put the link back to Plymouth in before the Dawlish section vanishes beneath the waves, and restoration to Ilfracombe and Bideford/Torrington (at the very least) can't be too far off.

Perhaps the Salisbury-Exeter route is a symbol of the whole network, its decline in the 60s, stagnation throughout the 70s - surely the worst ever decade for railways - hints of revival in the 80s, traffic building in the 90s and real moves to realise its potential in the 00s. It's great that this is one of the lines that the New S&D will feed into.
Posted by Picasa


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with your comments here, the Salisbury Exeter really needs to be total restored to double track plus the 3rd rail as well frm Basingstoke,also likewise the Southern way via Tavistock needs to be restored vice Dawlish.
It is not everybody that requires travel to London Paddington. If the Southern was totally restored and upgraded it would relieve seating pressure on the old WR route as this also carries trains for the midlands and North as well.
Southern and SE England passengers could be routed via the Southern instead therefore relieving pressure on Paddington and the Underground as there are some good interchanges to be had at places such as Clapham Junction

Anonymous said...

I Would also like to add that a spur from the Weymouth line at Yeovil join the redoubled Exeter Route. This would fill in the Westward missing link for the first time. Enabling Trains to run from Weymouth to Exeter the redoubling giving extra capacity for these trains. I also wish this country would get on with it and reconnect Okehampton to Plymouth what a trip that would be Weymouth to Plymouth Direct!.

Mark Warr

Sunshiner said...

I'd go beyond that and foresee that eventually the Dorchester to Exeter route, planned in Victorian times, will be built giving direct access to main line rail to places like Bridport, Charmouth, Lyme Regis, Seaton, Sidmouth etc. What a route that will be, and it will help keep congestion down on the other main routes to the west.

Turning back of all the main Beeching cuts is hardly daring these days but rather a given! The real excitement begins when totally new routes are built!

Anonymous said...

I been looking for info on the electrification of the Salisbury line for ages. Anyone got any links I can look at?

Nigel UK said...

I'm thinking in terms of a through route along the South coast from Penzance to Ashford (Kent) and the line to the Channel Tunnel. This would take freight traffic off the roads and link into the southern end of the "electric spine" at Southampton. For this, the line from Salisbury to Exeter will need restoring to double track, and from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton, ditto.

Call me an incurable nostalgic if you like, but from Exeter to Salisbury and beyond to Plymouth is the Southern's answer to the Settle and Carlisle line. Let's see Bulleid's creations put to work hauling tourist specials to the West Country again!