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, September 29, 2010

unsentimental sentimentality

A two parter today - I'm getting a huge build up of articles, ideas etc, which has to be a good thing!

Top photo is a superb atmosphere shot of Blandford in the last few weeks before temporary closure in 1966. Night photography back then was a real challenge and the photographer (Joe Robbins) is a real hero of the S&D. We've all seen the classic S&D shots, double headers hauling the Pines through Midford etc, but I love the atmosphere shots most of all.

I know, I'm a hard-headed business person, so this shouldn't appeal to me. But, to me, it taps into memories of waiting around on stations at night. There's no sense of threat here, not even one of foreboding which could be excused due to the circumstances! It's the solidity, the sense of quiet purpose, more importantly the sense of connectedness. You don't get this with roads - an empty road at night is a spooky place ... and even 'modern' railway stations lack a lot of this.

Think of Blandford today. Remarkably rail-less, even if just for a few more years, bland and characterless, with nothing like the above to make it stand out. Just waiting really, for the New S&D's time to come.

Sentimental? Not at all. To fill our trains in the future, and there will be an awful lot of them, we need to make the railway environment as comfortable, friendly, familiar and, yes, English, as the above shot. We don't want bus shelters, trains where the seats don't match the windows, services stopping at 9pm rather than 1am and starting again at 7am rather than 4am. There'll be almost as many trains at night as in the day, possibly more when you factor the freight trains in. We deserve a pleasant environment to do our stuff in. The harsh brutality of 60s architecture offers nothing to us 21st century types. The pathetic haste in which ESSENTIAL railways were closed under the most crooked circumstances should never be forgotten - or forgiven. This photo, to me, has the same redemptive - and predictive - power as the 'Perchance it is not dead' wreath at Barnstaple Town.

And completely unsentimentally here's the lean-to oil store at Midford as it was in September 1961 (photo © John Eyers). Had this survived, or been rebuilt, I'd have been up there today in the rain - but sadly the oil store will not reappear for a little while yet! This is a particularly nice shot as it shows all our trackbed up to the Long Arch Bridge.

Both these photos appear in the superb S&D Telegraph number 36, available to members of the SDRHT at Midsomer Norton and usually available at their shop, as well as other back issues.
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Anonymous said...

What really pisses me off about that photo of Blandford is that it looks so tangible, so real, as if it was taken last week. To think of what has happened to it since is sickening.

Knoxy said...

It does me as well.....

In the long run it is not as if it benefitted any of us?

Sunshiner said...

All the Beeching cuts led to was more , more accidents and death and vastly more costs - to all of us - than the minor savings made by closing railways.

History will treat Beeching very very harshly indeed.