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, March 10, 2010

kunstler time

The latest apocalyptic piece by James Howard Kunstler.

Many of you will not agree with a lot of this but I do like his no-nonsense writing style and he does make very good observations. Being American he may have a more jaded view of the future than we do, and he doesn't tend to volunteer solutions. That is, of course, exactly what we ARE about!

I think my main worry is that his view will become the prevailing view (at least in the USA) and that will lead to a sense of impotence to address, then correct, the numerous problems that Peak Oil will cause. I have always felt that providing we start planning now for a post-oil future, and that our governments are honest with us about the real reasons for 'energy efficiency' etc (rather than always resorting to the 'Global Warming' excuse) the transition need not be apocalyptic but actually life-enhancing. That is surely what the S&D is all about, and indeed always has been!

Going Broke Slowly, Then All at Once

I was plying the interstate highways of New England this weekend — there is no sane way to get from Albany, New York, to the vicinity of Middletown, Connecticut, by public transit — marveling at the vistas of normality all around me: the freeway lanes with their orderly streams of happy motorists, the chain stores floating like islands on the gray undulating landscape, the corporate towers of Springfield, Mass, and then Hartford, gleaming in the persistent pre-spring sunshine, as though they physically represented the wished-for dynamism of economies in recovery. “I see dead people...” said the kid in that horror movie. I see dying ways of life.

There was no denying the spectacular weather for us long-suffering northeasterners. A week ago, it was like living in a banana daiquiri around here. Now, it was sixty-two degrees in East Haddam, CT, along a very beautiful stretch of the Connecticut River somehow miraculously unmarred by the usual mutilations of industry or recreation. On a few hillsides facing south, daffodils were already up with blossom heads ready to pop. The mind could go two ways: into the past, when wooden sailing craft were built in yards along the river; or into the future, when it would be easy to imagine wooden sailing craft being built there again, only twenty miles or so from the great sheltered mini-sea of Long Island Sound.

Whatever else one thinks of how we live these days, it’s hard to not see it as temporary, historically anomalous, a peculiar blip in human experience. I’ve spent my whole life riding around in cars, never questioning whether the makings of tomorrow’s supper would be there waiting on the supermarket shelves, never doubting when I entered a room that the lights would go on at the flick of a switch, never worrying about my personal safety. And now hardly a moment goes by when I don’t feel tremors of massive change in these things, as though all life’s comforts and structural certainties rested on a groaning fault line.

It had been one of those eventless weeks when the world pretended to be a settled place. The collapse of Greece seemed like little more than a passing case of geo-financial heartburn. The 36,000-odd newly-unemployed were spun magically into a feel-good story for public consumption, and the stock markets ratified it by levitating over a hundred points. The news media was preoccupied with the Great Question of whether the first woman film director would win a prize, thus settling all accounts in the age-old gender war, and the health care reform bill lumbered around the congressional offices like a zombie in search of a silver bullet that might send it back to the comforts of the tomb.

All in all, it was the sort of quiescent string of days that makes someone like me nervous. I can’t help imagining what it was like in the spring of 1860, for instance, when so many terrible questions of polity hung over the country, and hundreds of thousands of young men still walked behind their plows or stood at their counting desks or turned their wrenches in the exciting new industries — not knowing that destiny was busy preparing a ditch somewhere to receive their shattered corpses in places as-yet-unknown called Spotsylvania, Shiloh, and Cold Harbor. Or else my mind projects to the spring of 1939, when men dressed in neckties and hats sat in a ballpark watching Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller play “pepper” in the pregame sunshine, and nobody much thought about the coming beaches of Normandy and the canebrakes of the Solomon Islands.

Everything we know about it seems to indicate that human beings happily go along with the program — whatever the program is — until all of a sudden they can’t, and then they don’t. It’s like the quote oft-repeated these days (because it’s so apt for these times) by surly old Ernest Hemingway about how the man in a story went broke: slowly, and then all at once. In the background of last week’s reassuring torpor, one ominous little signal flashed perhaps dimly in all that sunshine: the price of oil broke above $81-a-barrel. Of course in that range it becomes impossible for the staggering monster of our so-called “consumer” economy to enter the much-wished-for nirvana of “recovery” — where the orgies of spending on houses and cars and electronic entertainment machines will resume like the force of nature it is presumed to be. Over $80-a-barrel and we’re in the zone where what’s left of this economy cracks and crumbles a little bit more each day, lurching forward to that moment when something life-changing occurs all at once.

I gave a talk down in Connecticut to a roomful of people who are still pretty much preoccupied with such questions as how to fight the landing of the next WalMart UFO, or how best to entice tourists to purchase objets-d’art, or serve up weekend entertainments along with fine dining and accommodations. Meanwhile, I’m thinking: how many of you might be grubbing around the woods six months from now for enough acorns and mushrooms to make something resembling soup...? It’s an extreme fantasy, I know, but it dogs me. Elsewhere in this big nation, I imagine a laid-off engineer — a genial, capable fellow, once valued by his former employer — tinkering in his Ohio basement with a device designed to blow up the headquarters of the health insurance company that has just denied his wife treatment for cancer of some organ or other. Or my mind ventures into the rank “function room” of a Holiday Inn outside Indianapolis, where Tea Party recruits meet over chicken nuggets to discuss the New World Order, and the Bilderberg conspiracy, and the suspicious numbers of Jews in the bonus-padded upper echelons of the Wall Street banks, and what might be done about that.

On the trip back to upstate New York, my eyes couldn’t fix on anything in the landscape that seemed even remotely permanent. Even the massiveness of all that steel and concrete deployed in everything from the glass towers to the highway toll booths seemed insubstantial. I could easily envisage the Mass Pike empty of cars with mulleins and sumacs popping through fissures in the pavement, and sheets of aluminum on the vacant Big Box stores flapping rhythmically in the wind, and something entirely new going on in the hills and valleys along the way, where people labored to bring forth new life.

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