Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Friday, September 10, 2010
perchance we are all waking up!
Photo courtesy Welsh Highland Railway.
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Look carefully at the photo above. It says a lot about the way things are going.
The lead loco is the new build 'Lyd', an authentic copy of the elegant and charming Lynton and Barnstaple Railway loco.
The Lynton and Barnstaple closed in 1935. It was a digraceful closure, robbing southern England of its second most charismatic railway. It served a prime holiday area and had it survived a few more years would now be one of the biggest and most profitable tourist attractions in Britain. On the buffer stop at Barnstaple Town some incredibly far sighted admirer placed a wreath stating 'Perchance it is not dead but merely sleepeth'. I suspect it was partly this image of optimism that encouraged brave preservationists to suggest in the 70s that the L&B should be rebuilt. The best thing is that the small start up group has over the years developed into an ambitious affair which intends to eventually restore the whole line, and in fact even extend it in Lynton to make it a more appropriate public service for the 21st century. Of course the original closure of the L&B was idiotic, it was a visionary line that has an even bigger role to play in the 21st century than it ever did in the 19th and 20th. Its time has come, and now one of its engines has returned from the past.
The second fascinating aspect of this picture is the track. Note that it's laid tramway style. This is the start of the section of line in Porthmadog that runs as a tramway. Who would have thought back in the 60s and 70s that this could ever happen? Again trams are possibly the most iconic 21st century transport system imaginable, and whilst this is not a tram or tramway in any normal sense of the word the return of rails to streets in other parts of the UK has made their adoption in a small Welsh town possible. It may well be that parts of the S&D in the future use tram like tracks in places, to save huge demolition bills. The Welsh Highland Railway has now been fully rebuilt giving tourists a modern way to explore the heart of Snowdonia. This is not preservation as such, but the first wave of a huge railway revival in Britain.