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 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.

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