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, May 31, 2010

new facebook

Another S&D relevant facebook group has just started up, this one concerning the locomotive 'Evening Star' which was not only the last steam locomotive built for British Railways (up to now of course!) but was also a regular on the S&D. To join click here..
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Sunday, May 30, 2010

transport of the future!

From Mick Knox -

Will Algae oil be used as Fuel? Not at this price! $300 a gallon....

Last week when on duty at Dalston Western Junction one of the signalling technicians involved with the rebuilding of the line, closed in 1986, commented on the source of algae based fuels to replace fossil fuel based oil. This came about as we were discussing the rebuilding of railway lines and my assertion that for this country to have a hope in remaining competitive it will have to safeguard old routes and eventually rebuild them. Indeed the line from Dalston Western Junction prior to June 1986 ran into Broad Street Station, alongside Liverpool Street Station, and a quick Google search will reveal Broad Street was once a very busy station. Back in 86 a certain Mrs Thatcher didn’t like the railways and the old Broad Street Station closed and disappeared under the Broadgate development. As a long term cost saving exercise I argue this was indeed a folly, because under 25 years later the former trackbed is now incorporated in the East London Line extension, except of course there’s no Broad Street. Indeed a modern day Broad Street station, with the former frontage incorporated in the new office block developments, owned by the railway and providing revenue for sustainable transport, would have been a far better way to have spent the North Sea Oil bonanza.

Anyway, I’m back to oil, and the algae based oils as a possible replacement for fossil oil. Now I’m coming at this with open eyes, as well as being a railwayman I’m also a devotee of the internal combustion engine, especially V8’s...so I would like to hope that I can still drive my cars, bikes, etc in the future, but at what cost? An internet search produces an item advising that algae fuel currently goes for $300 a gallon! There’s going to have to be some development to bring that price down, isn’t there? Are weapons of mass destruction going to be found in Zimbabwe? Because if so, we could invade and secure the former wheat fields for bio-fuel production, or am I being too cynical? If so, the question arises, do we feed people or our cars?

Knoxy at Camden Box, on a nice sunny day...

Incidentally Broad Street once had fast services from Watford Junction and services off the East Coast Main Line, and was four tracks from Camden. How much better than trips round the Circle of Northern line today?

There are real dangers that these quests for a future fuel are taken too seriously. At best they are a scientific thought experiment, at worst they can damage serious attempts to find future fuel sources. The problem of course is one of economics and engineering. These wonder fuels generally do not scale up ie they could never be used to provide anything more than a tiny percentage of what we obtain so easily and cheaply from fossil fuels today. We've heard this week that a scientist has managed to produce a self-replicating form of 'life' and one of the wonders that we can expect from this 'huge step forwards' is that they will be able to 'create' new hydrocarbons from pollution! Great! So we're so desperate that we'll need to create pollution to convert to oil? How sad is that? And, on a more serious level, how practical and economic and undamaging would such a process be? And for what? To further damage the planet and us by keeping the dying culture of private persoanl transport spluttering on for a few more years?

The simple fact is that we had a perfectly serviceable form of fast transport BEFORE oil was even used. As the default option for the future rail doesn't need to be tested, we know it works. If ALL else fails, and some commentators think that it will, then we can still travel at reasonable speeds and carry huge amounts of freight by burning wood efficiently and running at least some of our future transport by using sustainable fuel to power electric trains and trams.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

power ...

Heidelberger Strassenbahnen: Eine Dokumentation uber die Heidelberger Strassen- und Bergbahn AG = Tramways of Heidelberg (Germany) (Archiv) (German Edition)
Tramway and Light Railway Atlas 1996: Germany - Tramway, U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Trolleybus
Schwandl's Tram Atlas Deutschland: Detailed Maps of All German Tram, Light Rail and Underground Networks (English and German Edition)

The Parry People Mover uses a flywheel to store energy with no overhead wires or conductor rail needed.

Modern trams use lightweight catenary.

Classic Southern Region conductor rail - cheap but dangerous!

Heavier style main line catenary - here used on a roadside line in Switzerland.

Anna-Jayne has just found this article which could provide the ideal power system for the New S&D - buried electric supply meaning that the system is totally safe (unlike conductor rails), cheap (no expensive masts) and aestetically pleasing (no external presence). This gets easier as each week passes!

Bombardier to test wireless trams in Augsburg

26 May 2010

GERMANY: The Primove induction-based catenary-free electrification system developed by Bombardier Transportation is to be piloted on the tram network in Augsburg, the manufacturer announced on May 26.

Formally unveiled at Bombardier's Bautzen factory in January 2009, Primove uses cable buried beneath the track to produce a magnetic fields which induces electric current for traction power in pick-up coils mounted underneath the vehicle.

It will be installed on a 0·8 km branch from Augsburg Line 3 which serves the city's exhibition centre. This will enable Bombardier to demonstrate the technical capabilities and electromagnetic compatibility of Primove, which is a potential competitor for Alstom's APS ground-level power supply in locations where overhead electrification is considered undesirable.

'Our expectation for the Primove pilot project is to gain further insights into new developments in energy management and energy savings in tramway operations', said Stadtwerke Augsburg Verkehrs Managing Director Norbert Walter. 'We will also co-operate with the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences'.

Bombardier is currently supplying Augsburg with 27 Flexity Outlook trams. The first arrived last year and deliveries will run to the end of this year.

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pines express facebook

Just spotted on Facebook is a new group that's celebrating the Pines Express. Please join!

Hopefully the 'historic' side of the New S&D will operate a new Pines Express over the route in the future. It will surely be the most popular steam train in the UK!
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Monday, May 24, 2010


THE SOMERSET & DORSET RAILWAYSomerset & Dorset Railway [VHS]Somerset and Dorset Railway (British Railway Pictorial)

I thought I'd just do a quick update on where the New S&D now is, and what we hope to do in the next year.

Firstly we will be taking Midford on within a week or so, once the paperwork's been signed. Paul Beard is still negotiating with the council over Spetisbury. Right Lines 2 will be out in a week or so. The landholding, line building and train operating company, Wessex Links Ltd, is now set up. The charity will be set up over the next few days, which will take up the membership, fundraising, social activities etc, as well as retailing and promotion/lobbying for the route.

You may have been a member for a while, or perhaps not even joined yet (!), but if you haven't taken an active role up till now there will be lots of positions arising over the next year. Right Lines Editor, Membership Secretary, Press Officer, Fundraiser are some of the positions up for grabs. We'd also love business-minded people to join us on the board of Wessex Links Ltd, where the workload is far more commercially orientated. If interested in any of these positions please email me at leysiner@aol.com

Hopefully by next year we will have published 'The Case for the S&D', contacted all councillors, MPs, businesses, media and other interested parties along the route, started rebuilding Midford and hopefully Spetisbury and be producing a quality A4 magazine, as well as operating sales/information stands at shows along the route.
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

S&D weather!

For those of us that never knew the old S&D I suspect we all think of it as running through a never ending summer, thanks to Ivo's pictures! That's not to say he didn't photograph it under other conditions, there are classic shots of the line in the winter of '63 for example, but the ones that stick in my mind are the ones showing summer expresses.

I can't wait until we are running trains again through that beautiful countryside in beautiful weather like we've had this weekend. The above shots are near but not on the S&D, all three taken in S&D weather! One of the reasons I've been quiet for a few days - making the most of it!

Main news is that we will be taking Midford on in a matter of weeks if not days. Imagine working up there in weather like this!
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

right lines 2

Our second magazine will be ready in a few days and members should receive it some time next week. I may well look at getting the third issue properly printed - but with my current New S&D workload I think it would be best if one of you took over as editor! I'm happy to proofread and obviously produce content, but this issue is about three months late mainly because of the sheer workload of getting the New S&D up and running and, nore recently, incorporating both the limited company and charity.

New members are now flooding in mainly via the leaflets that are now beginning to appear all over UK heritage sites. Even if you've only just joined please put yourself forward for one of the positions that we'll be appealing for in Right Lines 2!
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Monday, May 17, 2010

oh dear

Classic comment on a previous post - possibly the saddest yet of 2010.

I can't see why Shillingstone would have anything to do with you as they are purely a heritage site?

Hmmm. I've given this some thought. Not sure whether it's come from one of the infamous 'beardies' at Shillingstone, or from an innocent third party, but it is an opportunity to condense some of what we're about!

This has come about because of the famously daft 'disclaimer' at the top of the Shillingstone website. Fact is it's sent a lovely lot of traffic (and conversions to new members!) our way, but in an ideal world all the S&D groups would work together. I suspect it has something to do with the long history of animosity between the old S&D groups, but it's nothing to do with us and we have no intention of ever getting involved in such parochial and egotistical nonsense. What we are doing is far too important for such indulgences.

I'd first argue that Shillingstone isn't 'purely' a heritage site. First and foremost it is to be a servicing area for large steam locomotives which will be serviced at the Highbridge New Works. This gives Shillingstone a 'real' purpose, which will bring skills and employment to the area, rather than being just a big train set! Many of the people at Shillingstone - members, volunteers and department heads - fully support the New S&D and are members of ours. So they obviously feel differently!

Secondly purely heritage sites have a bleak future as in an energy constrained future railway assets will be of primary importance and will hardly be allowed to be a plaything for hobbyists. Every inch of abandoned trackbed in the UK, together with thousands of miles of new light railways and tramways, as well as new HS routes, will be needed in the 21st century. The way heritage lines will be able to cope with this is by morphing into community railways, fulfilling a much needed freight and passenger requirement in parts of rural Britain.

And obviously if a heritage site did by some miracle survive in an undiluted form it will need a way to get customers to its site - and that will of course HAVE to be by rail, bike or walking. So any heritage line now existing has an ABSOLUTE and PRIMARY need to engage with groups and companies that are restoring the railways.

The New S&D is different - we have grown out of a loose alliance of mainly railway enthusiasts, and most of us have come from Shillingstone and Midsomer Norton. Our constitution ensures that Wessex Links Ltd will ALWAYS be owned by the New S&D charity, which is committed to restoring the S&D - at least in infrastructure terms - as closely as possible to the classic 50s/60s S&D. So you see there is a heritage element in what we do as well. In addition we will be providing steam servicing and storage locations along the route - including of course at Shillingstone - primarily as an additional source of income, but surely there is a heritage aspect to that as well?

But let Mick Knox have the final say on all this -

And let’s hope the local community get involved to safeguard and protect what we have left of the route, because they are the ones who are going to need it.

I’m sure everyone has noticed how much fuel has gone up lately and my view is that it will continue going one way: upwards.

No need to worry about the odd supermarket built across the trackbed, as I’m sure they won't be slow to act when the realisation that the cheap fuel and energy era is ending.

Villages like Spetisbury must restore their station buildings as they would want them, and make the station once again at the heart of the community. You don't want the indebted state buying just a poxy bus shelter?

When i travel to the seaside from the Midlands i want to lean out the window and enjoy the countryside, like the generation before me once did.

We have the ability in this country to do such a thing, and our over reliance on oil & road will give us the opportunity to do so, and we mustn’t waste it.

oil - the future's looking bleaker

From Bloomberg via Daily Reckoning

“Senators from California, Oregon and Washington introduced legislation to ban oil drilling off the West Coast amid mounting concern about the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“‘We believe that offshore oil drilling is simply not worth the risk,’ Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat of California, told reporters today in Washington.

“The measure would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to impose a permanent ban on drilling off the three states.“Offshore drilling was banned for decades after a 1969 spill about five miles off the Santa Barbara coast soaked California beaches in a 35-mile long oil slick. In July 2008, then-President George W Bush lifted the presidential moratorium. Congress allowed its own drilling ban to expire three months later.”

“This oil spill could destroy the future of offshore drilling,” adds our Family Office researcher, Charles Delvalle.

“More states will be allowed to decide whether they want drilling offshore or not. And senators are trying to allow neighbouring states to have a ‘veto’ over any one state’s offshore drilling decision.

“So let’s say Florida wanted to put some offshore rigs up close to Georgia. If Georgia doesn’t want that rig up, it can ‘veto’ Florida’s decision.”

[You] can see where this is going. Even if the oil were available beneath the sea, the oil industry is going to have more and more trouble bringing it to market.

[E]ven on dry land, the oil industry is facing disasters. A number of major exporters – Mexico, Iran, Venezuela and Peru – could take themselves out of the export business in the next few years [, ] thanks to their habit of using oil revenues for social/political purposes and failing to invest in additional capacity.

This is occurring as the number of cars – and the demand for energy – is exploding.

Implication: a higher oil price.

“There’s plenty of $200 oil,” [ ].

Trouble is, there isn’t that much $70 oil.
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

something a little different!

Mock up of a coach but original track!

One of original turnstiles.

Another group of visitors.

The stairs and walls added during world war two. One rail remains under the stairs, the other six to the right of the wall, and the last behind a wall built on the opposite side.

Something very different today - a trip to see the Clifton Rocks Railway. This was a very unusual four track underground funicular in the shadow of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Although it closed in 1934 the track remains and there is now an active group restoring it, with the eventual aim of operating it again on two of the four tracks, connecting with a bus (hopefully eventually tram!) route into the city centre, so fulfilling a genuine transport need.

Although today's trip was only of the top station the society does offer tours to view the whole route, which takes about two hours as there are interesting war time additions to view including air raid facilities and a BBC underground emergency broadcasting station.

If any readers would be interested in joining one of these special tours please email me on leysiner@aol.com - we need 10 to make up a tour of our own, with less we can join a tour with others. Unfortunately there is (for obvious reasons) no wheelchair access for this tour. A donation of £5 each is suggested.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

midsomer norton in N

Sorry for the few day's silence - haven't been too well.

As a treat (because I was sickly) I got some sweets and the current Railway Modeller. And there on page 438 is an excellent article on an N gauge model of the station, which captures the atmosphere very well, even if it's all a little too tidy!
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Sunday, May 09, 2010

tourist potential

(Midford 2.2.2010 © Mick Knox)

Although we're sometimes mistaken for a potential heritage railway (we're not of course!) we do appreciate that our route does pass through some of the finest scenery in England, and as a commercial operation we would be stupid to ignore that potential. The Bath Extension from Evercreech to Bath was possibly the most scenic stretch of railway in England, and the rest of the route is also pretty attractive!

In the same way that we will be welcoming to steam trains, because that will provide additional cash flow, profit and media attention, we will certainly exploit the beauty of the route, encouraging people to visit the line for the journey alone for example.

The top view is of Midford, admittedly on a damp winter's day, but it does give an idea of the rural attractiveness of the route. Any look through an album of photos of the line will also show just how attractive it was. The architecture and infrastructure on the route actually fitted in with this and in places even enhanced the natural beauty.

We do feel a huge amount of responsibility to restore the route as closely as possible to the original. Railways have always had an immense advantage over roads in fitting into both the urban and rural environment and the S&D was possibly the finest example of them all.
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Saturday, May 08, 2010

midford 2010

(all 2.2.2010 © Mick Knox)

Four recent Midford shots courtesy of Mick Knox. Frebruary is probably the best month for capturing detail as nature is in deep sleep. This really will be an easy place to restore as the platform and trackbed are so clear.

We'll be initiating an appeal to raise money for the rebuilding (as opposed to purchase) of the site very soon. This will become the northern information office for the New S&D with infrastructure restored to 1950s style. Steam Railway Magazine will be running a feature very soon.

Why not join the Midford Facebook page?
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

views from bournemouth west

If you happen to live in the Bournemouth West constituency and haven't decided who to vote for yet, Anna-Jayne Metcalfe has asked the candidates a few questions on the most important issue.

Alasdair Murray [alasdair@alasdairmurray.net] (LD)

"We will implement the largest expansion of the rail network since the Victorian era and undo many of the cuts made by Beeching as well as support the roll out of high speed rail links. This will be paid for by cutting funding from the major roads budget, much of which is used for motorway widening and hard shoulder running projects, and redirecting it into rail."

Question: Can you confirm whether the LD rail re-openings commitment includes the reopening of the lines from Bournemouth to Bath and Ringwood to Brockenhurst?

"I know we are committed to the Ringwood line but I would need to check on the Bath link (i would say it is fairly likely though)."

Conor Burns [conor@localconservatives.com] (Con)

"On high speed rail, we have one of the most comprehensive policies of all the major parties and will begin work immediately on a high speed rail line connecting London and Heathrow with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with construction beginning in 2015, as the first step towards our vision of a national network joining up cities across England, Scotland and Wales. Stage two will deliver two new lines bringing the North East, Scotland and Wales into our high speed rail network. In addition we will support crossrail and the electrification of the Great Western line to South Wales and introduce a moratorium on building on disused rail lines."

Question: I would ask whether you will support re-opening secondary routes such as the direct line from Bournemouth to Bath?

No answer to that one yet.

No response whatsoever from Labour or UKIP.
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pensioners get it right!

(Sent by Mick Knox)

Protest pensioner halts A35 traffic in Dorset

Tony Fuller: "We are afraid that the lorries are going to crash into our home".

A Dorset pensioner angry at lorries driving through his village blocked traffic for an hour by making sure a pelican crossing was in constant use.

Tony Fuller, 77, and his neighbours carried out the protest in Chideock, near Bridport, on Tuesday.

Traffic on the A35, the main coastal road between Bournemouth and Exeter, backed up within minutes.

Mr Fuller said the roads were too narrow for lorries and he wanted a bypass built around the village.

He said his house had been crashed into by vehicles twice and on one occasion the driver died.

'Terrible pollution'

He added: "It's virtually like a motorway, in fact it's got as much traffic on it as a motorway but there's no pavements and the houses are right on the road.

"The pollution in the village is terrible. You can't walk through the village without choking."

The A35 is the main coastal route between Bournemouth and Exeter

Is dawdling on a crossing illegal?

He said he was upset that plans for a bypass were abandoned several years ago.

He added: "If our local county council is spending £77m on a bypass to Weymouth for the Olympics for two weeks... why don't they come and do something for the citizens and parishioners of Chideock?

"We only want them to show they are doing something and when they do we will stop, but if they don't we shall continue, now, year after year."

Mr Fuller said about 50 residents had already pledged their support to the protest.

He added: "If they all turn up and they each press that button once, one after the other, that's 50 times that traffic will be stopped and it will cause chaos.

"Because they've only gone across once each, they can't be prosecuted for using the crossing that was put there for their benefit."

The Highways Agency, which is responsible for the A35, declined to comment.

Dorset County Council said the Weymouth relief road had mostly been funded by the Department for Transport and the council's contribution had totalled £8.6m rather than £77m.

Forget about a bypass Gramps - just press for ALL freight to be switched to the railways now!

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history unfolds

Here we are - the certificate of incorporation of Wessex Links Ltd. Our company registration number is 7244078. I suspect that this is a historic document, not just for the S&D but for the whole UK. The New S&D is the first new railway that is being proposed primarily because of Peak Oil concerns. And with about 150 miles of line to rebuild this is probably the biggest event in British railway history since the formation of the Great Central Railway. We've come a long way in just over a year and thanks to all of you for your superb support. The adventure really begins now!
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unlimited horizons

We have today set up the limited company that will hold the land acquired by the New S&D and eventually build and operate sections of the route. The name chosen is WESSEX LINKS LTD. This development will allow us to proceed with the purchase of Midford, which should now happen over the next few weeks.

Thanks to Mark Warr for the company name.
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