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!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

branching out

Two above courtesy Jeffery Grayer.

Courtesy Adrian Vaughan.

We'd like to welcome Steve Overthrow on board the New S&D team. He'd only discovered this blog a few days ago, has since joined and is now acting as track steward for Evercreech Junction to Burnham and the Bridgwater North and Wells branches. He will also be taking a keen interest in these branch affairs via a co-opted committee role. He has a long family history with the 'branch'.

We have always intended to restore the branches as well as the main line. All S&D branches served important towns and a city - Wimborne, Wells, Glastonbury, Burnham and Bridgwater - and also provided potential modern transport to many villages en route.

Restoration of the branch presents few physical obstructions and compared to the main line follows a very easy and lightly-engineered route. Early on I mooted restoration of Burnham-Highbridge or even an isolated (at first) route between Wells and Glastonbury as possible first steps towards restoration of the branch, mainly to find our feet as rail operators and to show that we are very serious. I can imagine Parry People Movers (of which more tomorrow) being ideal transport on these flat routes. The branch had a particular charm which I think will be recovered when it is restored - the landscape through which it runs has changed little during the four decades of temporary closure.
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

wasted money ...

The huge snowfall [and very low temperatures] we’ve had in recent weeks has done terrible damage to Britain’s road network. There are now millions of potholes strewn across the country - in fact around one in every 120 yards, that are causing treacherous driving conditions. The total repair bill is estimated to be £10bn just to get all the UK’s highways back into shape and safe to use - equivalent to spending another 2012 Olympics just on resurfacing work. Source.

So to keep our dying road network up to speed we have to commit DOUBLE the total rail subsidy? This is a total waste of resources, the roads should be allowed to gradually return to nature and we should be investing in the future, not the past. It makes the Road Users' Alliance claims (see earlier post) that only £4bn a year is spent on roads look ridiculous (and see the comment section on Jurassic Park for a complete forensic dissection of that stupid claim!)

I wonder how much damage (if any) was done to the rail network by the recent cold winter?
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

jurassic park

The past.

The future.

This extraordinary load of old tosh appeared today on AOL.

Road congestion 'could rise by 37%'

Britain's roads need more investment, the Road Users' Alliance has said.

Traffic congestion will rise by 37% if the current "minimal levels of investment" in roads continues for the next 15 years, a report has said.

By 2025, drivers could be wasting 656 million hours a year - the equivalent of 75,000 years - sitting in traffic jams, the Road Users' Alliance (RUA) added.

"Under-investment in the strategic road network has left the UK with a transport system which is uncompetitive, congested, vulnerable to incident and inadequate to meet the future needs of the economy," the report concluded.

The RUA said that the UK's investment in new motorway capacity was among the lowest in Europe, with no new motorway miles being created in 2007 and 2008.

It added that while £47 billion a year was collected in road user taxes, only £4 billion was invested in new road capacity.
The survey also revealed that the major road network grew by 1% between 1998 and 2008, but had to cope with traffic growth of almost 10%.

Travel by car remained the most popular form of transport, with 92% of Britain's passenger transport taking place by road and 70% of commuting and business journeys made by car.

RUA director Tim Green said: "Road users have for too long been regarded as wallets on wheels, providing an endless stream of revenue for the Government to spend on anything except the road network.

"Hard choices face whichever party leader finds himself in Downing Street after the election. Will limited funds be spent on rail, which moves fewer than 10% of UK passengers, or invested in the transport mode which makes the biggest contribution to the UK's prosperity and quality of life - the road network?"

Well, I know dinosaurs had tiny brains but this goes beyond that! Why do people so desperately want to hang on to the twentieth century? Was it really that good?

All through this piece the clues are there. If any government seriously believed roads DID have a future then obviously this investment would be made - it would be madness NOT to invest in the road network. But we know that roads don't have a future - no amount of scrabbling about trying to replace oil is ever going to produce the levels of traffic we have today. There's no possibility of road transport being used for freight in the future -except for very short runs where private sidings, goods lines or goods tramways haven't yet been built. All long distance travel will quickly switch from road (and air) to rail. Private cars will become really scarce and the roads themselves will begin to physically vanish from the landscape, apart from those adopted by Sustrans, horse riders and walkers. This is the reality and these mugs at the anachronistic Road Users' Alliance have found themselves on the wrong side of history.

I almost feel sorry for them!
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


A few tasters from Barcelona - needless to say I'll be covering the visit in more detail over coming days.

Loads also happening on the S&D front with station developments and a bit of a rush of new members!

Keep watching and reading ...
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

small break

I'll be away for a few days - hopefully enjoying the comparitive warmth of Barcelona. What will definitely be on the cards is modern public transport - Barcelona has been busy building new tram routes since 2004, unlike Bristol, Bath and Bournemouth who still insist on looking to the past for 'solutions' (buses!!) rather than trams.

Had a fantastic new joiner today, who was born in 1912 and remembers seeing the last Pines travel through Broadstone when he was playing golf there. He's 97 or 98 and had the foresight to take out a three year membership! Let's work together so we can show him something concrete in those three years ...
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

gartell weekend

The Gartell Railway report a very successful weekend just passed.

The Model Railway Exhibition was a phenomenal success. It was their fifth, and all records broken.

Above shot courtesy John Penny, as usual!
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Friday, February 12, 2010

don't miss

Try to make time to see the above talk which will be held at Green Park station on 3 March. Entrance is free but donations are most welcome!
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

bristol's tramways take shape

Works alongside Hartcliffe Way, Bristol, January 2010. Trams at last??

Bristol has a population of 380,615.
Bratislava (Slovakia) has a population of 426,927.

Bratislava has 40km of tramways and 13 lines. This is in addition to a suburban railway network, metro, trolleybuses and even (LOL) buses.

Bristol has 0km of tramways and 0 lines. This is in addition to a railway network that cleverly avoids most places, including Portishead, no metro, no trolleybuses and lots of (LOL) buses, many of which proudly proclaim 'Not in Service'.

No, the pic isn't of tramway works in Bristol. Our Supertram was abandoned a few years ago by a bunch of spineless councillors who would rather look backwards than forwards and have consequently condemned Bristol to years of congestion. The trams WILL come, that's inevitable. No real city lacks trams. What the pic is of is the new cycleway - but the interesting thing is that it can, and will, convert easily to a tram route. Perhaps the councillors here are taking their heads out of the sand and are - at last - looking ahead, even if they are doing it covertly.

So what's Bratislava got to do with anything? Well, apart from being a similar size to Bristol it's our holiday destination in June. And why did we choose it? Precisely because it does have modern public transport, which makes it tourist friendly.

And what's any of this got to do with the New S&D? Well, Bristol will be a destination for us, using the old Pensford route. In fact I fully expect trams to shadow our route south from Bristol to Whitchurch station on the New S&D. And trams will almost certainly reappear in Bournemouth, Poole and up to Broadstone and Wimborne. Over the longer term trams/light railways will pop up everywhere, feeding into the new rail network, carrying frieght as well as passengers. Those dinosaurs who think that the 21st century will merely see a reversal of the Beeching cuts simply haven't understood the urgency and depth of the energy crisis.

So keep watching this space. I fully expect to retake these pictures by 2015 with tram tracks running down Hartcliffe Way!
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before closure

A couple of excellent shots from Adrian Vaughan. He has sent us around 100 pictures of the old line so I'll be loading these to the website in the stations section and also the fledgling loco section over the coming weeks. Eventually we will offer these on CD as a collection once we have more dates from Adrian.
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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

'we are approaching midford'

Great news is that the agreement for the New S&D taking over Midford is now in the post. All we have to do is sign and we will get access to Midford and begin the rebuilding of the station. We will be paying £100 per month for just over 40 years to buy the freehold of the station and the trackbed as far as the southern end of the Long Arch bridge, about a quarter of a mile.

The intention is to rebuild the station building, signal box and associated infrastructure and lineside furniture. It is possible that track will be relaid for cosmetic purposes but no rolling stock will be sited here until the line is reinstated for real trains from Radstock to Bath. The station building, once reconstructed, will serve as an office, information centre and shop for the northern section of the route.

This will be a big step for us and should raise our profile enormously. We will put out an appeal for funds to rebuild the station as soon as we have taken the site over.
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gartell this weekend

The Gartell Railway have now announced their operating dates for 2010 (see above).

This weekend 13/14 Feb they are having a model railway exhibition. They also hope to be running a steam service on the GLR as well. If you are interested then they will look forward to seeing you - if not please pass this information on to everyone in your address book with the same message. Thank you. (We're open Sat 10-5 and Sun 10-4)
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Monday, February 08, 2010

that's the way to do it

Midsomer Norton's superb Telegraph (number 35) is now out. Brilliant as always, packed with information and an excellent read, as one of the letter writers says this is the best railway group magazine in the country. There are some excellent shots of Blandford for example, plus all the usual departmental updates and the news that the Somerset and Dorset Railway Company Ltd exists again after 88 years! It's also fantastic to see that expansion is back on the cards, with discussion over the merits of a link back to Bath, extension to Shepton AND southwards and even a tilt in the direction of New S&D plans to restore the southern end quickly.

If you're not already a member this mag is an excellent reason to join the Somerset and Dorset Railway Heritage Trust. It can also be purchased from the station shop.
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Sunday, February 07, 2010

business appeal

The New S&D is very keen to help businesses along our route develop and for this reason we welcome reciprocal links from any businesses along the route, that is Bristol/Bath to Bournemouth/Brockenhurst and Evercreech to Burnham and Bridgwater.

Pubs and hotels are obvious choices, key pubs we're already close to are the Hope and Anchor at Midford and the Railway Hotel at Blandford. If visiting the line please try to use these facilities and let them know why you're there!

The line may not be here yet but we hope that the sense of a shared business interest and a shared destiny in an energy-poor future is already beginning to develop.

If you own a business within a few miles of the New S&D, whatever it is, please email leysiner@aol.com to arrange reciprocal links.
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Saturday, February 06, 2010

welcome pete smith

New member Pete Smith has kindly agreed to take on the track steward role for the section from Blandford northwards to Sturminster Newton. From Sturminster Newton northwards to Stalbridge is covered by Simon Ellison. Other sections of the route that have track stewards are, ironically, both non S&D sections, with Mark Warr covering Ringwood to Brockenhurst and myself covering Radstock to Bristol via Pensford.

If you would like to take on a track steward role, which really only entails keeping an eye on the physical remains and the local media, please contact us on leysiner@aol.com Posted by Picasa

new somerset and dorset meeting(s) 24 April

We've just set the date for the next New S&D meeting.

It will be at the Railway Hotel Blandford. There will be a lunch at 13.30 to finish at 15.00. There will then be a free hour (exploration/shopping) from 15.00 - 16.00 with a public meeting at 16.00, which should last about an hour.
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Thursday, February 04, 2010

getting our act together

Two angles under the same heading.

First of all thanks to Andy Thompson again of RailTube who has taken on the task of bringing our IT services up to scratch. Not the website, which is in the very capable hands of David Bailey, but the blog, Facebook and Twitter.

He's created a general S&D Facebook page which already - in under two weeks - has 108 members! He's also created an S&D Twitter page which already has 83 followers!

It shows that there is huge support for the S&D out there, and that this support can be nurtured through all these internet channels.

It brings me on to my next point - the FIVE S&D groups, who all have the same aim, that is restoring and preserving the S&D, need to commit to combining, so that we can draw on far more resources and not keep reinventing the wheel. It seems that there has been some 'history' between groups, which as far as I'm concerned is nonsense. There's no room for egos or nastiness within a hundred miles of the S&D, it's not what we're about or have ever been about. The S&D was a friendly, family-orientated line, and as its successors we need to be the same.

I think this is where ordinary members should take the initiative. Join all the groups, then vote to make sure they do everything they can to make an easy transition to just one S&D group representing the whole route. The New S&D has this aim enshrined in its constitution, as members of the other groups we should ensure that they also adopt this as an aim. It will make the S&D stronger and trains between Bath and Bournemouth depart - and arrive - much sooner.
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