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, April 28, 2010

fuel economy

Offered with little in the way of comment - and as a little add-on to today's earlier post, when we're looking at fuel efficiency in the future hopefully we'll take into account the comparitive fuel efficiency of the Parry People Mover over other, less modern, forms of transport! The ability to move 50 people 15 miles on just a gallon of fuel is very impressive!
Posted by Picasa

paradigm shift

Following on from yesterday's post re 1970s style council dinosaurs, it's clear that not only is a paradigm shift in transport planning required but that it's also fairly imminent. The mixed messages sent by those responsible for transport matters at all levels is a clear indication that things are changing. But of course we are in the VERY early stages of the energy crisis, which has been somewhat masked by the global recession, which is on the verge of becoming a double-dip recession or even a depression. This has helped to preserve fuel stocks and inventories as well as diverting people's attention elsewhere.

To my mind the paradigm shift will take two major shapes. The first will be the understanding that never again will it be so easy - or cheap - to use masses of energy. This will lead to a whole new attitude to energy use which will be based on efficiency and conservation, as well as the search for sustainable and renewal energy. This is being done in a tiny way already, though under the mask of 'tackling climate change', which carefully avoids the much scarier Peak Oil issue.

The second change will be in our attitude to road transport. We are already using cars less, but the biggest change will be the wholesale switch of freight from road to rail. This won't really happen until we're firmly ensconsed in the first stage of Peak Oil awareness, as stated above. There will then be a scramble to switch freight traffic to rail, which will soon run up against the constraints of limited capacity, lack of freight vehicles and locomotives, and the urgent need for a wholesale rebuilding of the network plus the introduction of dedicated freight lines and private sidings. This will be the moment the rail revival really takes shape!

Once this happens people will, after a few golden years of quieter roads thanks to no lorries and fewer cars, question the wisdom of throwing large amounts of tax money at maintaining the road network. Any shortage of funds will lead to massive infrastructure damage as potholes appear. Any interruption in fuel supplies - inevitable in an energy constrained world - will lead to more and more people switching to the certainty of rail.

We see paradigm shifts all the time. The unthinkable suddenly becomes the everday. Who would have thought a year ago that Plan B would switch from the potty-mouthed urban rap of Who Needs Actions When You've Got Words to the sweet soul of The Defamation of Strickland Banks?
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

mixed messages

(All 14.5.1985)

On the same weekend that huge strides were made in getting the S&D rebuilt, in the next door county (Devon) the council there is doing everything it can to perpetuate the 1970s, by claiming that the no-brainer restoration of the Barnstaple to Bideford line would not be economic. Pure drivel, and they know it. Restoration of the route will only cost 80 million pounds, and the line would be heavily used from day one. Bideford is way too large a town to be off the network in the 21st century and the original closure was a clear mistake. In fact if anything the line should be continued to Torrington and a light railway run across the bridge at Bideford to the main part of the town, giving Bideford stations on both sides of the Torridge.

I'm sure this crazy decision will be reversed and the 70s mentality quickly overcome by common sense and the rising cost of energy, but it does show that even in 2010 there are people in positions of power and responsibility that are completely stupid and out of touch. Let's hope we don't run into similar idiots in Somerset and Dorset as the S&D bursts back into life!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 26, 2010

spetisbury again

Nick Howes joins Ian Harrington on the down platform.

Paul and Kate Beard look towards Bournemouth.

Kate Beard, Debby Sainsbury and Ian Harrington contemplate the task ahead ...

Overview of the station - impressively intact after 54 years of disuse.

The highlight of the weekend - in railway terms anyway - was the after-meeting trip to Spetisbury, which was a spur of the moment decision made after half the attendees had left!

We still need agreement from the council but it's highly likely that work parties will begin very soon, as we've already been given informal permission to do this. Remember we have a Spetisbury Facebook group where news will also be posted.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 25, 2010

momentous weekend

The committee and Debs who took the minutes.

Members present on the big day.

Spetisbury immediately after the meeting.

The third New S&D meeting was momentous, with three major landmarks being passed.

The setting up of the limited company - Wessex Links Ltd - who will purchase sections of trackbed etc, and eventually build and operate sections/all of the route.

The setting up of a charity - the New Somerset and Dorset Railway - which will cover fundraising and membership.

The agreement to purchase Midford from Laurence Skinnerton, which will happen as soon as the limited company details are received, which should be a week or so. This will give us our northern base, providing other interested parties are agreeable, the station and other infrastructure will be rebuilt and this will then serve as an information centre, office and shop for the New S&D.

After the meeting a lot of us went to Spetisbury which hopefully this year will become the southern base, with the same commitment to rebuild the infrastructure and set up a second information centre, office and shop.

From now the New S&D is not just a serious player locally but also nationally, being the first properly incorporated sustainable railway charity and business, no doubt the first of hundreds that will spring up as a reaction to the energy supply and affordability problems that are even now beginning to ear their ugly heads.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 23, 2010

a little bit of peak oil

The effects of Peak Oil are going to become more and more obvious to all of us over the coming years. I really don't mention this as much as I should, but it was one of the main drivers of setting up the New Somerset and Dorset Railway.
When Gordon Brown tells us the world economy is going to double over the next thirty years you can be pretty sure that the opposite is going to happen, in fact halving of the world's economy is at the top end of optimism in any post Peak Oil overview.
Whilst big projects like the reversal of the Beeching cuts followed by a huge rash of new rail building, coupled with enormous development of both sustainable energy sources and sustainable businesses are extremely important, so is mangement of the transition on a personal/family level and this website is a great start - PostPeakLiving.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

forging ahead

(All Midsomer Norton, 19.4.2010)

There's a real feeling of something happening in the air railway-wise and I certainly think the New S&D is goig to benefit enormously from the huge changes that are starting to take place around transport.

It will soon be time to take the New S&D out to the public - that's the 99.9% of people who aren't railway enthusiasts (whatever that means!), but those people who are going to clamour for the return of their line as the energy crunch really hits home.

Why not get in at the start and get involved with us? We're still small enough for each person to make a difference, but big enough to be taken seriously.

Our next meeting is on Saturday, 24 April 2010 13:30 - 15.00 (lunch/social) 16.00 Public meeting (ALL welcome) The Railway Hotel, Oakfield Street, BLANDFORD FORUM, DT11 7EX

Try to come along if you can. There'll be a question and answer session in the public part of the meeting - or you can of course grill us (not literally) during the meal!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

what to ask your candidates ...

The election will soon be over, and it's doubtful much will change.

But if you are lucky enough to get some prospective candidates on your doorstep why not ask the following questions ...

What are your party's views on peak oil?

What is your party's transport priority?

Do you believe the current road budget should be transferred for the reinstatement of railways?

and, most importantly

Will your party support the reinstatement of the Somerset and Dorset Railway (or your own local routes if you live outside our area)?
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

plane speaking

(The sky over Bristol on Saturday - no enhancements, no twiddling, no contrails ...)

Could we live without flights?


By Finlo Rohrer and Rajini Vaidyanathan BBC News Magazine

For days no planes have taken off or landed across the UK, due to the Icelandic volcano. The lack of air travel has inconvenienced holidaymakers, school and businesses - but how would we cope if the ban went on and on?

At the moment air travel is virtually all by engines powered by kerosene. One day kerosene - like every other fossil fuel - will run out.
So does the effect of the ash cloud hanging over northern Europe give us a valuable insight into what the world would be like with dramatically reduced or non-existent aviation?

How would the UK cope?


"I think you'd be talking about going to the situation like the 1950s, "when planes were very much the preserve of the upper classes because it was extremely expensive to fly," says a spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents, Abta.

The main impact would be on long-haul travel. But this would be partly offset by short-haul breaks, to mainland Europe, thanks to improved high-speed train links or ferries. Then again, many of us might just stay at home more.

Figures show that the lion's share of tourism revenue in the UK actually comes from domestic holidaymakers, compared with inbound visitors.

Some categories of tourism would be squashed by the demise of the plane. The foreign weekend break to anywhere other than a small segment of north-western Europe would no longer be viable.

But to the environmentally-minded that might not be a bad thing.

In 2009, 30 million people visited the UK from overseas, and three-quarters of them travelled by plane.

Strip away air travel, and it would inevitably change the shape of the tourism industry, but not all for the worse, says a spokesman for Visit Britain, the organisation responsible for promoting tourism here.

"Although fewer people would be coming in, we'd hope that people would take the opportunity to visit the whole of Britain in a way they wouldn't consider doing normally," says the spokesman.

One of the biggest concerns might be a potential loss in revenue generated by foreign tourists.

While visitors to the UK from other countries outnumber Americans, those from the US spend the most - £2.2bn a year. Take away air travel and that revenue seam would vastly diminish.


The good news in a flight-less world is that Britain would still get enough to eat. Moreover, it would still get its share of tropical fruit and vegetables.

"The impact is not massive. We only import 1.5% of all our fruit and veg by air," says Michael Barker, fresh foods editor at the Grocer magazine.

Tesco goes along with this picture, saying less than 1% of all its stock comes by air. At the higher end of the market, Waitrose also says the proportion is tiny.

Specific examples might include fresh mangoes from Ghana, asparagus from Peru and papayas. They are not exactly staples of the British diet.

Much of the food that comes from abroad, comes on "reefers", special refrigerated ships, or in refrigerated containers on ordinary ships.

If you need an out-of-season apple from New Zealand, it comes on a ship. Within Europe, much of the distance from field to plate will be covered by road and rail.

And of course, there has been continuous pressure in the past few years from environmentalists to eat more local and seasonal food.

But one thing we really do need planes for is the UK's floral industry. Many of our flowers come from Africa, particularly Kenya, and they are much more perishable than most other produce.

The industry would have to be radically reshaped to cope with the loss of aviation, says Jason Rodgers, retail director of the British Florist Association. More than 80% of the flowers sold by florists in the UK come through the Netherlands, which is an international nexus for auctions.

They come to the UK often by road or rail, but they will often have got to the Netherlands by air from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Colombia and other supplier nations.


Even if there were no planes, the show would go on. It just might look and sound a bit different.

"No air travel doesn't necessarily mean no entertainment, but it could affect the kind of artists who would come and tour here", says Matt Wooliscroft, a concert promoter for SJM concerts.

For Mr Wooliscroft, this week has shed a light on how tricky arranging tours can be without the benefits of aviation. The Icelandic volcano has meant one of his bands, the Australian group Powderfinger, have had to reschedule their tour dates. Some members of another act he works with, Alphabeat, are stuck in Norway, and are trying to see if there are ways they can travel overland to fulfil their UK tour commitments.

Looking at a hypothetical scenario with no planes, the Australian and US music acts would be hit the hardest, says Mr Wooliscroft. When it comes to European artists it might not make such a dent, he explains, because most bands travel across the continent on their trusted tour buses anyway.

"For the smaller American bands, it'd be less cost effective to tour. For the bigger bands, if it took them a week or two to get here by boat they may not be able to afford the time to do that."

This week has seen some celebrity spottings on ferries however, with both Whitney Houston and Dizzee Rascal making the trip to Dublin on the ferry to honour concert commitments.

In a plane-free world, the nature of travelling by sea could fundamentally alter in terms of cost and speed, says Mr Wooliscroft, so the journey across the pond to play a gig, might not be as painful as one might imagine.

Sport needs aeroplanes. If you take football as your example, the number of games played every season is sustained by the availability of air travel. This week Liverpool will have played a Premiership match against West Ham on Monday, immediately started a 1,300 mile overland journey to Madrid to play a Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid before getting straight back on the road to get to Burnley for another Premiership match on Sunday.

It can be allowed as an exhausting one-off now, but a prolonged absence of plane travel would mean massive changes to the structure of sport.

Once upon a time cricketers spent weeks sailing to play in the Ashes in Australia, but now the game sees international cricketers fly to play 20/20 in India before hopping back to the UK for county cricket or off somewhere else for a test.


The effect on British business would not just be in terms of tourist disruption or impossible air freight.

"We are an island nation and without that ease of use and connectivity we would be cut off," says Gareth Elliott, senior policy adviser at the British Chambers of Commerce.

The increasingly globalised world we live in has been made possible by - among other things - the rise of air travel. Video conferencing has made it possible to hold meetings without leaving the comfort of your office, but for many critical deals and projects, a face-to-face meeting is necessary.

"People want to meet each other," says Mr Elliott. "They want to be able to greet and shake hands."

"Sometimes it is as simple as seeing goods you are buying or selling. You need to speak to the people who are doing it, gain their trust."

There are circumstances where nothing else will do. No matter how convincing the balance sheets, how regular the video conferences and how trusted the middle men, a Far East business person is not going to buy a business in the UK without coming here first to check it out. A big deal may require a series of visits by different people.

Having to go by ship or not at all would impede that process.

And the change in the nature of industry in the UK makes air travel more important than ever before.

"As we have moved up the value chain, consultancy has grown significantly in terms of the share of exporting our skills to other countries. This is a high value knowledge economy where you need to move these people."

He gives the example of ARM Holdings, which designs processor chips.

"They need to move people rather than goods. Aviation is vital. If you look at some of the UK's biggest businesses they are always located within easy reach of an airport."

Pharmaceutical and consumer goods giant GlaxoSmithkline is a case in point - siting itself next to the motorway that leads to Heathrow airport, he says. It is where it is to be near Heathrow, and so connected with the world.

But for Prof Helen Walker, an expert in sustainable supply chains and corporate social responsibility at Warwick Business School, the insight we are currently having into a Britain without flight is a useful exercise.

"We have in the last 10, 20, 30 years been moving increasingly towards off-shoring our manufacturing to drive down costs. We have got increasingly complex global supply chains.

"If we are reliant on suppliers in other countries, it is necessary to have multiple sourcing strategies."
She concurs with the analysis of the UK's changing economic base.

"Britain as a nation has become more a service sector nation. That makes us vulnerable."


It's important not just to think about what we would lose if air travel was to come to an end.

There are those who would welcome just such a scenario.

"Of course a complete halt in air transport would be dramatic, but transport by water and land would re-emerge and essentially suffice," says John Stewart, chairman of HACAN Clearskies, which campaigns to mitigate the impact of aircraft in London and the South East.

"We would lead more localised lives - communities have become dispersed with the invention of the motor car and even more so now that we use aeroplanes."

The group is not campaigning for an end to planes, but their enforced absence has been a bonus in the last few days for many residents near to airports, he says.

"For the first time in years they have had a sequence of five or six good nights' sleep, and they feel calmer for it."

A lady of 60 e-mailed him, saying: "For the first time in decades [I'm] able to sit out in the garden for more than 20 minutes at a time and linger over the sound of the birds… and there isn't the feeling that they will start again soon, fearing a plane is going to come and take it all away."

Monday, April 19, 2010

midsomer norton today

It was great going back to Midsomer Norton, catching up with progress and chatting to John Bridges, Doug Auckland and Norman Allward. Most of the other faces have changed since I was a regular on the Monday Gang. With all the 'beginning of the end of air travel' angst of the last few days it was nice to be at a transport location with a future. All is not lost, we will still be able to travel - and it will be enjoyable. For the first time at Midsomer Norton I got the feel of a 'real' railway, a railway that will actually carry freight and passengers into the future. As I rounded the bend and the station came into view on the return walk I could see a modern passenger train - in my mind - easing round the curve on its way to Bournemouth. An inspiration as always ...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

to midsomer norton

(All 28.3.2007)

I'm planning a trip to Midsomer Norton tomorrow to catch up with old friends and hopefully photograph the progress that's been made there over the last few years. Expect up to date photos tomorrow!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 17, 2010

radstock future?

These shots, courtesy of David Bailey, show the way that the new link line at Sheringham fits so snugly into the pre-existing environment. You would hardly know the railway was there, and note that it is unfenced! This is far more in keeping with continental European or tramway practice. In tandem with the tramway section through Porthmadog on the Welsh Highland Railway, it does show that the UK is beginning to catch up. This may well be a model for parts of the New S&D, I'm thinking of Radstock in particular. It may mean in a few places the trains are reduced to 5mph or so, but only over very short stretches. There again in Switzerland on some street running sections trains run at 20mph or so and can have as many as ten carriages!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 16, 2010

the beginning of the end?

Results just in from the AA Populus poll -

Subject: March survey results Posted At: 12/04/2010 13:26:31

Impact of current fuel prices - Over a quarter of members (27%) have cut back on car use - Two thirds of members have cut back on spending and car use.

'Current fuel prices'? Prices are still ridiculously low compared to what's coming, but this does rather challenge the standard view that motorists will NEVER give up their cars, regardless of the price of fuel. If the very low cost of fuel we are currently experiencing can have this effect - what does the future hold?

What this means is that we really have to start getting railways back to pre-Beeching levels NOW, and that's just the start. With the terminal decline of road transport we'll need to bring the rails to every village, hamlet, factory, shop and market in the country. Some lines will be standard gauge heavy lines, others standard gauge tramways, others will be narrow gauge or ultra light rail. There's an awful lot of work to do in the next twenty years!
Posted by Picasa

you couldn't make it up

As ash continues to fill the skies above us could we have hoped for a better glimpse into the future? There's just been a brilliant TV report from Bristol airport, with the airport staff flying kites or running up and down the runway doing an impromptu mini marathon. Smiles all round.

We took a car trip yesterday into town with empty skies above us and potholes big enough to contain baby elephants below us.

The silly troubles at Shillingstone paled into total insignificance as the whole of Europe seemed to shift twenty years into the future with crumbing roads and airports reverting back to peace and quiet. Once again Mother Nature showed us that we can't build a complex global society that works seamlessly for 100% of the time. And although the emphasis has been on passenger delays no-one seems to have yet considered the knock-on effect of the cessation on air freight or indeed the airmail service. We may think this won't affect us, but it will.

And whilst the planes are grounded most passengers are trying to switch to rail, but finding that the capacity so cruelly and stupidly reduced by Beeching and his crew can't handle all the extra traffic, leaving them stranded. We do need a fast European high speed network to fill the gap as air travel winds down, and we also need a huge expansion of rail to every town and village in Britain as the roads empty. This air shut down, which is probably still in its early stages, will give a huge impetus to the expansion of rail Europe wide. Are you all ready to play your part?
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The Icelandic eruption has grounded all air travel in the UK. Meanwhile the trains run as if nothing is happening.

I travel a lot by air so I do understand the passengers' misery - and I certainly hope they do get away in the next day or so. This is nobody's fault.

But what it does show us that the more we rely on tempramental high technology, the more we depend on things running smoothly regardless of what nature throws at us, the more it becomes clear that what we need is a network of railways that serve every town and village in the UK, and via Eurotunnel connects us to mainland Europe.

Air travel is in terminal decline, but 95% of us haven't realised it yet. We need the alternative options, and they need to be in place before the real crunch comes. We probably only have five years of cheap oil left. Decisions need to be made now, before the problems realy kick in, rather than after it's happened. It'll be too late then. At the very least we need to switch ALL transport investment to rail, we need to quickly restore at least 5000 miles of track and 2000 stations, and that's just a start. If the political parties come knocking at your door this election time please please ask them what their transport policies are, and tell them why you are asking!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

the wrong model!

The 70’s pro road attitude ……….

1) railways are dead

2) railways are now trailways, they died and are not coming back

3) you're not putting a smelly old railway that’s costs the taxpayer 25 billion and only used by 5% of the population back through our children's landscaped nature trail (but we don’t mind if you build a 300 million relief road just over the other side of that hill if it means getting those blasted 44 ton trucks out of our village thanks!!)

There are still a few people who have this attitude, they are a dying breed, but to those who don't care one way or the other their views are still considered, a bit like those divs that (normally because they are paid to lie) claim that although global warming's happening it's not due to our activity in any way. There is of course a concensus amongst 95% of scientists that global warming is mainly due to our activities! (I hope this doesn't sound like enviro-babble to some of the beardies, it's not, it's just simple science!)

We do need to keep pushing our view (the correct one)

The 21st century pro-rail attitude ..........

1) roads are dying

2) railways are now trailways and cycleways, but this is simply a way of preserving the integrity of the trackbeds that are soon coming back

3) we will soon be desperate to have our railway put back, we can't afford to run our cars any more, the roads are falling to pieces, how are we going to get to work/shops/holidays unless you bring back our trains?
Posted by Picasa

pines express - leaving peterbrough soon!

The Nene Valley are yet another heritage railway paying tribute to the fabulous S&D.

Thanks to Mark Warr for the following link - Pines on the Nene Valley.


Non stop double headed Pines Express from Peterborough NVR to Yarwell

73050 will be running with it's name plates removed

Turntable demonstration

Freight Train In Operation

Real Ale Bar - Somerset themed Cider

Mark 1 carriage set in operation.

Ivo Peter's Bentley: NHY 581 on display by kind permisson of Julian Birley.

Other Somerset & Dorset attractions to be confirmed.

Imagine the support for an S&D recreation on the real S&D - coming soon to a station near you!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

fantastic news!

We've been very lucky with our members, who have joined in their droves since we started just over a year ago.

Today two very special S&D people have joined the New S&D, Nick Howes and Ian Harrington. I worked with both of them at Midsomer Norton, in the days when I was more physical than cerebral, and their work on infrastructure was second to none. Now I don't expect either of them to get their hands dirty with the New S&D as they are key members down at Shillingstone, and have more than enough to do there, but both bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to the New S&D.
We all owe Nick Howes a huge debt - it was he who started the Midsomer Norton project when the site was threatened by housing development, and I don't think it's too over the top to say that there's a direct line from that event, through the Shillingstone revival to the setting up of the New S&D. Without him the S&D would be a dead trackbed.Posted by Picasa