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!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

living in electric dreams

As another riposte to the conucopian viewpoint of some observers out there, here is an excellent article from member Anna-Jayne Metcalfe, designed to add to the ongoing discussion re the possibility of electric cars.

Electric Cars and the National Grid.

When I did my engineering degree 25 years ago one of the subjects we covered in some depth was power generation, and how the National Grid was managed. A central tenet was (and still is) "hot standby" stations - i.e. the provision of excess generating capacity which can be brought online at very short notice to meet peak electricity demands. At the time oil and gas power stations were mostly used for this purpose (the Dinorwig pumped storage station being the obvious and very notable exception), with coal forming the majority of the generating capacity and nuclear fission (virtually all first generation Magnox and AGR stations) a substantial minority.

Since then the mix of power sources we use has changed fundamentally - the use of coal has significantly declined (with a consequent reduction in pollution such as sulphur emissions - when was the last time you heard of acid rain?) and the use of gas has shot up. All of the Magnox stations are now off the grid and in the process of being decommissioned, and the bulk of the AGR stations are likely to follow toward the end of this decade. As a result of long term public hostility and government inaction new fission power stations are some way off, and renewable sources - although gradually becoming more established - still make up a very small percentage of our generating capacity and have a much lower power output per installation than traditional fossil fuel or fission power stations.

As a result, our generating capacity is far more dependent upon fossil fuels than it was 25 years ago - and if media reports are to be believed we could face a shortfall of generating capacity once the decommissioning of significant numbers of AGR stations commences even if energy demand remains static. With UK fossil fuel assets in decline that will mean importing an even greater proportion of our electricity or fossil fuels from overseas, with the consequent vulnerability to political turmoil that entails (the recent disruptions to gas supplies from Russia to several EU countries illustrate this all too vividly).

The one potential game changer in power generation is of course nuclear fusion. Unfortunately, although fusion (magnetic bottle and laser initiated) technology is starting to show glimpses of its potential, commercial fusion power stations are still many years away and so can't help us with this particular conundrum. The magic bullet just isn't anywhere near ready yet.

When faced with such a challenge, governments tend to take the easy way out (e.g. leaving it until almost the last minute and then flailing around announcing new windfarms everywhere and/or taxing everyone) rather than planning ahead. I'd hate to think of electricity rationing or blackouts occurring again, but it could all too easily happen.

The bottom line is that unless significant new generating capacity is put in place by the time the AGR stations start being decommissioned we could face a significant shortfall in power generation capacity on the grid. If that happens, increasing consumer demand significantly by shifting the dominant fuel source for personal transportation from fossil fuels to electricity sourced from the grid could all too easily prove to be beyond our capability. That could all too easily have significant effects on the pricing and availability of electricity supplies in the UK.

If generating capacity is somehow increased correspondingly that does of course become less of an issue, but the other issues (e.g. charging infrastructure and especially road congestion) will still of course remain.

The bottom line is that this is - climate change and Peak Oil aside - a very real problem, and one for which there is no easy solution in sight. The politicians are being as impotent as ever, and unfortunately technology can't yet provide a straightforward answer either. In such a situation it is an unfortunate truth that it is always the public who - one way or another - ends up making the most sacrifices.

Before too long, plugging in your new "green" car could become trickier and more expensive than you expect. Electric cars may indeed prove to have their place, but they are certainly no panacea.

Postscript: For completeness, the current operating capacity and estimated decommissioning dates for the remaining operational nuclear fission stations are:

Hartlepool (AGR - 1190 MW) – Decommissioning starts 2014

Heysham 1 (AGR - 1160 MW) - Decommissioning starts 2014

Hunterston B (AGR - 840 MW) - Decommissioning starts 2015

Hinkley Point B (AGR - 1140 MW) - Decommissioning starts 2016

Dungeoness B (AGR - 1090 MW) - Decommissioning starts 2018

Totness (AGR - 1250 MW) - Decommissioning starts 2023

Heysham 2 (AGR - 1230 MW) - Decommissioning starts 2023

Sizewell B (PWR - 1188 MW) - Decommissioning starts 2035

[AGR = Advanced Gas Reactor]

[PWR = Pressurised Water Reactor]

Shillingston to Blandford Forum S&D Railway 1983

argument or not?

I'd like to thank Ian who posted the following on the comments page of an earlier post. I think it should be promoted to the main page as it quite succinctly puts the conucopian view forward. We may still come up against this over the next few years, so it's worth analysing and criticising.

I am as keen as anyone here to reinstate as many disused railways as is feasible including the S&D but it is worth remembering some facts. Petrol is only as expensive today as it was in real terms when I started driving in 1981 nearly 30 years ago. I remember back then how the demise of the petrol car was anticipated yet the number of cars on the road has virtually doubled between then and now. People will pay the price for the transport quite simply because of the convenience and the fact that whilst rail travel is great for single travellers, if you have any more then one person travelling to the same destination it is virtually always cheaper to go by car.
I am trialling an electric plug in car which is excellent and will, as battery technology improves, be a viable alternative to petrol so we are going to need a different argument for modal shift from road to rail as the peak oil argument is going to be redundant.
I am also a fan of Eurostar and relish the thought of increased travel opportunities but living as I do on the south coast I fly from Southampton or Bournemouth to European destinations as you arrive there before you would even be in the Eurostar train in St Pancras, having to travel up to London in order to return by Eurostar to the south coast at Ashford! We need radiating routes from Ashford avoiding London (possibly upgrading the long straight Tunbridge Wells line west from Ashford).
I think we should concentrate on the issue of congestion as being the key reason why people would move from road to rail. The advent of average speed cameras which will slow down the traffic flow on major roads, together with the above mentioned doubling of car volumes on the road is our best bet for persuading people who do not share our vision for the railways in the future to join us on the railways.
My reply follows. My main point is that he has not addressed how all this extra electricity generating capacity will be acquired. This is the heart of the Peak Oil dilemma. It's not just about oil, but about energy in its entirity. The conucopian view has been created by an unholy alliance of politicians and classical economists, the first group believe that truth is flexible, the second that nature is flexible and will always provide substitutes. They are both wrong!
Hmmm. Interesting argument, though a little hard to grasp as you don't give any facts. You claim Peak Oil will vanish as we all switch to electric cars, but how exactly is all that extra electricity going to be generated? We are already being told that we may well face power cuts from 2013, that's without the huge extra demand for electricity that running cars on electric will make. I think I read somewhere that we'd need to increase generating capacity by 300-400% to cover this. This is the real question, not the rather minor one of method of propulsion - it's about scalability, and all the technical reports and articles I've read bring this up as the main problem.
This then leads to allocation of resources and also pricing. With a huge undercapacity in generating ability price would have to rise to ration demand, if supply could not be upped. Remember that even sustainable energy sources often have upper limits - wind power is variable, hydro is almost fully tapped and nuclear will suffer from uranium shortages sooner rather than later. In many ways all energy prices will reflect the price of oil, which will inexorably rise as it begins to run out. This is because much of all generating capacity, even sustainable, has oil inputs.
All this will lead to a fall off in road traffic, not an increase, making arguments about congestion look naive in a decade or so's time. That's not to say it shouldn't be an argument we put forwards NOW, in a popularist way, but we need to be careful not to place too much importance on it and to drop it at the right time. We don't want to look stupid, banging on about congestion, when it will be clear to everyone that their own car use and others' is falling in the real world.
Your one valid point re cost of a car trip for a family versus a rail trip for a family will need to be addressed, at least whilst road is still an option. Families travelling on a family card priced at say 50% above the cost of a single person would be an idea for example.You need to look behind the facade that's been carefully constructed by those with an interest in keeping inefficient road transport limping on to the bitter end. They are counting on us being stupid. We're far from stupid, and our analysis goes way beyond that of the average tabloid newspaper journalist! This is all about economics, and what journalist ever understood that subject LOL??
To be honest I'd rather congestion was the problem, but of course it will become less and less of a problem over the next few years. It would be, to me, a cop out to use this argument in a big way. I think perhaps pointing out the terrible inefficiency of road transport would be a better angle to take, although again that problem will diminish in time as the roads empty.

Congestion and capacity on the railways will be far more of an issue, and one that will need to be addressed. That's really what the New S&D is about, adding capacity to the network, as well as bringing more towns, currently lacking modern transport, back into the 21st century.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Please leave us your comments

We always welcome feedback, comments, messages of support and questions. Please leave us a comment here!

the need to travel

It's not easy to predict how we will travel in 20 years' time, but I think it's quite safe to say we will still travel. There are a few no-brainers - car travel will be much diminished due to the escalating cost of oil and the absence of any real alternatives, civilian air travel will be all but over, rail travel will have expanded enormously, most freight overland will move by rail. These are easy things to predict.

But will we still travel as much? Probably net travel around the world will decrease, mainly due to the winding down of cheap air travel, but I suspect that within the UK we will still travel as much. Visiting new places, taking regular holidays, weekends away, the geographic spread of families, all these things will keep the demand for leisure travel up. Many bus and coach routes, especially long distance ones, will vanish and their passengers switch to rail.

We'll probably commute less, as more and more of us work for smaller businesses from home. We'll see far more freight trains on the railways, and this will be one of the biggest pressures on capacity, more than making up for any losses in commuting.

I travel abroad about four times a year, flying from Bristol airport, ten minutes up the road. I know that I'll only be able to do this for a few more years, so I'm making the most of it. I visit other countries mostly for the new experiences, not for the weather, though that is a bonus. Next month we're off to Barcelona (trams!), in June to Slovakia (more trams!), in August to Switzerland (trams and light railways!!) and in November to the Caribbean (no trams, no trains but, apparently nice weather, beaches, swimming with rays etc). I've always travelled a lot, and hopefully always will. I really do think travelling is now hard-wired into most of us, and the tribulations of Peak Oil won't unravel this, though it will doubtless change the way we travel. In twenty years' time I won't be going to the Caribbean, except perhaps by a cruise liner leaving from Southampton, but hopefully will still regularly travel to mainland Europe over what will, by then, be a superb high speed electrified rail network, more than making up for the loss of all those cheap air routes.

And as our weather improves thanks to global warming the New S&D will once again fulfill it's role as a holiday carrier, bringing millions from the Midlands and North to the seaside resorts between Southampton and Weymouth.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

life sentence

It was agreed at the Blandford meeting on Saturday that Life membership of the New S&D would be made available, at £250, with immediate effect. As a long term project I felt that with almost a year under our belt it was clear that we were going to be around for a very long time!

If you are interested in upgrading, or you've been waiting until Life membership was available before joining, please email us at leysiner@aol.com

I'll put a Paypal button on the sidebar shortly as well.
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right lines 2

The second issue of our magazine RIGHT LINES is due at the end of February. I want to at least double the size of the previous one, so please send in your articles, letters, photos, comments etc etc. Particularly welcome are progress reports on Midsomer Norton, Gartell, Shillingstone, Washford, Blandford Arches etc etc. Also more than welcome are articles of either a historical or personal nature on all aspects of the S&D.

I want the magazine to become the best by any railway group in the UK within a year or so. I can't see we'll ever exhaust the potential content, and there is always a new angle, not to mention that the S&D is now up and running again in places and new history is being created. For example the above four photos all feature the Midsomer Norton diesel in it's previous unlamented Prussian blue livery!

Please send all articles and photos either electronically to leysiner@aol.com or by post to New S&D, Right Lines, 10 Bellamy Avenue, Hartcliffe, BRISTOL, BS13 0HW.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

helping haiti - and the S&D

Excuse the random shots!

For the rest of January and the whole of February all membership fees received will be matched by a donation to the Haiti Relief Fund (from my own pocket) so if you have been putting off joining for any reason there's never been a better time and reason to join! Please see the sidebar to join us!
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welcome aboard!

A big welcome to three new members of the New S&D team. Anna-Jayne Metcalfe and Simon Ellison have both joined the committee and will bring considerable skills to the team. Andy Thompson is now ploughing through our IT infrastructure, and a few other things, hopefully with the end result of making our New S&D presence as high profile and rewarding as his Steamtube and related sites!

We are still less than a year old and have made enormous progress in that time, but as I made clear at Saturday's meeting this is only the very very beginning of a long term and amazing project that will set the railway heritage, professional railway, tourism and sustainable industry 'communities' alight.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

S&D developments

Yesterday's meeting at Blandford was superb. A very good turnout, great fun and a lot of ground covered. And two new people have joined the committee, which will strengthen us enormously.

Andy Thompson, who has created the hugely successful Steamtube site has agreed to begin contributing to this blog, and has also set up a New S&D Twitter account. This will be an ideal way to keep up with what's going on, and wil help build the S&D community.

I still feel that this blog needs more direct contributors, particularly from Midsomer Norton, Shillingstone, Gartell and Washford, who can keep our readers up to date with developments on site. You'll have full posting rights for both text and photographs. Please contact me to start posting!

At the meeting we spent some time discussing both Midford and Spetisbury. Both stations will be restored and will then act as information and sales points for the whole route. The stations will be restored to their peak BR glory and other buildings such as signalboxes etc will be rebuilt, to get a real railway atmosphere. Having had sight of the lease agreement at Midford between the current owner and Sustrans there is a codicil which requires Sustrans to move the cycleway from the trackbed and allow a single track railway to be reinstated. We will never bring in rolling stock or locos to Midford as a discrete restored station, but only when it is a part of a longer route (probably Radstock-Bath) - but track at Midford will be a real possibility to create the desired cosmetic effect.

Purchase of Midford proceeds apace, with paperwork (going back to 1895!) now in our hands.

2010 is going to be a fantastic year for the S&D!
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Friday, January 22, 2010

working on the railway

Trackworks on the Chilcompton extension.

The bank behind the retaining wall looking clearer than ever.

Two excellent and VERY recent shots from Mick Knox of Midsomer Norton. The extension is looking fantastic and hopefully soon will be heading even further south over Mrs Wells' and the Duchy's land, right up to the infill. Then the real job of breaking through to Chilcompton itself, which then sets the line up for its eventual extension right to the outskirts of Shepton Mallet. Hopefully with all this frenzied activity looking south the Radstock extension and network connection isn't lagging too far behind!

Second shot is Mick's pride and joy - fifties style neat landscaping along the route. This was something that was very distinctive on the S&D and made it sit so well into the environment. The New S&D will have this as a priority, the new route sitting as comfortably and humanly into the environment as possible. Midsomer Norton is looking fantastic as always, whatever the weather!

On an unrelated, sort of, matter, I've just been watching the BBC local news, which featured a young female track worker on Network Rail. All very interesting, but why on earth did they keep describing rail work as 'old fashioned'? Surely even the dimmest reporter realises that rail is the most dynamic aspect of transport, and a job with the Network is a skilled job for life?

Ho hum ... there's still work to do!

See many of you tomorrow at Blandford.
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Thursday, January 21, 2010


Don't forget that our very important second meeting will be taking place this Saturday (23 January 2010) at the Railway Hotel in Blandford. We're having a meal at 1.30 followed by the meeting proper at 4.00. There are a huge number of developments to discuss including possible working sites at two locations on the S&D, a big publicity/media push and setting up the two roving sales/information stands.

Please try to come along!
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Cheap Oil is Gone, and That's Good News

The following is from a US investment newsletter. Once Peak Oil is taken seriously by the investment community you know it is a serious issue!

Over the next year or two, you will likely find yourself paying a LOT more at the gas pump. Big changes are taking place in the oil industry. With increased global demand and declining supply, easy oil is not so easy anymore.

Everything is about to get more expensive. From gasoline to anti-freeze, life jackets to golf balls, and eye glasses to fertilizer. There are very few things in the modern world that aren't made from oil, made by machines dependant on oil, or shipped by vehicles powered by oil.

The implications, at first glance, appear to be the opposite of good news. In fact, it's enough to strike panic in the hearts and wallets of the average consumer.

And that's exactly why the International Energy Agency just released its annual World Energy Outlook, clearly rejecting the possibility that crude output is now in terminal decline. Their attitude seems to be, what you don't know won't hurt you. For now that is.

The truth however, is beginning to surface, and from an investor's perspective, the truth can mean money in the bank. Right now, the IEA's claim that oil production will be ramped up from its current level of 85 million barrels per day to 105 million barrel per day by 2030 is receiving harsh criticism.

The Guardian reports, "The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit."

This comes from a whistleblower inside the International Energy Agency who states the fear of triggering panic buying has caused them to intentionally underplay the inevitable shortage.

Kjell Aleklett, professor of physics at the Uppsala University in Sweden, and co-author of a new report 'The Peak of the Oil Age', states "oil production is more likely to be 75m barrels a day by 2030 than the 'unrealistic' 105m used by the IEA."

According to Professor Aleklett's research, they are making a dangerous and unjustified assumption. One that is dependent upon the oil industry's ability to ramp up production to levels never before achieved.Are you beginning to see the opportunity here?

Whistleblowers and scientists are not the only ones disputing the IEA's report. The folks who pump oil aren't buying its rosy scenario either.

Total SA, the French oil giant, that is making its move into the Alberta oil sands, doesn't accept the IEA's optimistic claims. The company runs on the belief that oil production won't surpass 95 million barrels.

Former chief executive officer of Canada's Talisman Energy, Jim Buckee, agrees the IEA prediction is nonsense.

Sadad al Husseini, energy consultant and the former exploration and production chief of the world's largest oil company, Saudi Aramco, recently said, "Oil supplies have reached a capacity plateau and will not meet a growth in demand over the next decade."

The Globe and Mail recently joined the debate stating, "New [oil] fields, generally smaller, are less productive than old ones - note the virtual freefall in production rates from the North Sea fields, which reached peak output in 2000. Another reason [for the decline] is development pace, or lack thereof. The yet-to-be-developed reserves in the WEO report cover 1,874 fields of various sizes that would have to come into production in the next 20 years.

"That works out to almost eight new fields being brought to production each month. A realistic target? Only time will tell. Even if the oil exists, the next question becomes one of money, and where it will come from in order to keep this pace of development on target.

When you add in professor Aleklett's conclusion that production will shrink to 75 million barrels per day by 2030 — almost one-third less than the IEA's figure and 10 million barrels less than current production, it's easy to see why investors need to take notice.Shrinking supply and ever-growing global demand are creating the perfect storm for oil prices.

The current price of crude could be the bargain of the century. Understand this and every increase at the pump will give you reason to smile.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

turning around

Brookwood. 33 104 - 8/8/1977

Basingstoke. 50 043 - 28/10/1983

Okehampton. 4/12/1984

Salisbury. 50 021 - 11/8/1986

(All photos © Steve Sainsbury)

Once there was a great way to the West Country, using the Southern line from Waterloo via Basingstoke, Salisbury, Exeter and Okehampton. It was a busy and modern route, but the idiot Beeching decided that we only really needed one main line to the west and that was the ex-GWR route via Reading. At one time the Salisbury to Exeter route was - unbelievably - under threat of closure! Many of its branches were closed and in 1968 the route west of Okehampton - the priceless diversionary route avoiding the sea wall at Dawlish - was also, amazingly, closed. The branches beyond, to Bude, Padstow, Ilfracombe, Bideford, all closed without any consideration of future needs.

Of course the S&D intersected this route at Templecombe and a great deal of valuable exchange traffic took place here. But even Templecombe itself closed with the S&D on 7 March 1966. Many 'minor' stations on the Salisbury-Exeter route closed at the same time. Closure by stealth of the whole route was clearly on the agenda. The line was singled, creating huge delays, and the service became two-hourly. Freight vanished as did local trains.

This was the mindset of the 1960s and 1970s (still sometimes seen on our comments sections!).

How things have changed as we enter the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. Templecombe station reopened in 1982, perhaps being the first indicaton that the S&D would eventually return there, and now the section through Axminster has been doubled, allowing an hourly service on the line again. The line is now prioritised for electrification, and surely it is not now that long before stations such as Wilton are reopened and local trains reintroduced. The line will also be a very useful freight route. Future exchange traffic with the New S&D will bring even more trains and potential to the route. Beyond Exeter there are serious moves to put the link back to Plymouth in before the Dawlish section vanishes beneath the waves, and restoration to Ilfracombe and Bideford/Torrington (at the very least) can't be too far off.

Perhaps the Salisbury-Exeter route is a symbol of the whole network, its decline in the 60s, stagnation throughout the 70s - surely the worst ever decade for railways - hints of revival in the 80s, traffic building in the 90s and real moves to realise its potential in the 00s. It's great that this is one of the lines that the New S&D will feed into.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

expect content soon

Apolgies for the absence. The post-Xmas period is always difficult as I have a lot of work catching up to do after two weeks of indolence, drink, presents and bad TV! Add in my lack of B12 (which will be corrected this Friday - ouch!) and the endless snow and I hope you can see why I've been a bit quiet!

Expect lots of posts from Saturday onwards!
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Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Here's the latest polemic from James Howard Kunstler, posted with the usual disclaimer!

The Futility Economy

On the first business day of the new year and oil traded above $80 a barrel, which means the price has re-entered the danger zone where it can crush industrial economies. This is a central element of the predicament we find ourselves in. The US economy is essentially a Happy Motoring economy. During the whole nervous period since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, American gasoline consumption hardly went down at all, though so many other activities collapsed, from house-building to trucking. Yesterday, The Seattle Times published a story with the idiotic headline: Oil Touches $80 on US Economy, Demand Optimism. Apparently, they think high oil prices are "a good sign."

How much can a nation not get it? Would $100 oil ignite a new orgy of "consumer" spending and another round of investment in commercial real estate? Welcome to the Futility Economy. This is the economy where Nature and its material companion, Reality, punish us for our stupidity and fecklessness. This is the economy that will tear the United States apart, after it bankrupts us at every level, and mercilessly drives the population down by one-third through starvation, homelessness, violence, disease, and sheer political cruelty.

Whatever you thought our economy was the past thirty years — whatever model of it you have in your head — that is definitely not what we are going back to. Like one of Dickens’s Yuletide ghosts, Reality is leading us by the hand into new circumstances. We resist like crazy. We throw our hands over our eyes. We don’t want to look. We want to return to the comfort of our dreary routines — living in places that aren’t worth caring about, weaving endlessly in freeway traffic, drawing a paycheck at the air-conditioned cubicle, inhaling Buffalo wings by the platterful, with periodic side-trips to the state-chartered casino where there’s always a chance of scoring a lifetime’s income on one lucky bet. And at the end of the day, you can retire with a simulated prostitute on your laptop screen! And not even have to fork over a dime — except perhaps for the Internet connection fee.

Reality is taking us out of that familiar, if sordid, realm, whether we like it or not. Our destination is an everyday economy where you rarely travel far from the place you live, where you have to make provision for you own health, your own old age, your own income, your own diet, your own security, and your own education. If you’re really fortunate, some or all of these necessities can be obtained in conjunction with your neighbors in the place where you live — but don’t expect an increasingly mythical federal government to supply any of it. Expect a new and different way of organizing households based on extended families and kinship groups. Be prepared for agriculture to return to the foreground of everyday life, where farming is back at the center of the economy. Think about how you will cultivate your best role in a social network so the things you do will be truly valued by the other people who know you. Learn how to make your own music and write your own scripts. Try to study history. Resist cults. Keep your mind clear and your senses sharp.

Even if you have a dim sense that this is where we’re headed, most of you probably want to stay where you are. The investments we’ve made in the current mode of existence are so monumental that we can’t imagine letting go of them. This will be the theme of American life for the next couple of years as we struggle mightily to escape the confining armor of the Futility Economy and move closer to ways of life that have more of a future. Right now, all the power and authority in our culture has dedicated itself to remaining inside that old armor.

The Master Wish around the country, including among people who ought to know better, is that we can "solve" our economic problem by finding some other way to run all the cars. Even hardcore environmentalists yammer incessantly about hybrid and "plug-in" cars as the "solution" to our blues. One of Barack Obama’s first acts as president was to "save" the giant car companies. This is exactly the kind of signature behavior of a Futility Economy. It’s based on the idea that we have to continue driving cars all the time and for everything, at all costs.

The religion of the Futility Economy is Techno-Triumphalism, which is the belief that an endless sequence of magic tricks performed by shaman scientists can defeat the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which rules the universe — which true scientists ought to know cannot be defeated. Their colleagues, the shaman economists believe in parallel magic tricks, such as the idea that increased borrowing can "solve" a problem of runaway over-indebtedness. These are the actions that currently engage the people in charge of things in our society.

Given this current state of things, and the current course we’re on, my guess is that when the falsity of these ideas and actions are exposed, they will become evident not gradually but very rapidly and shockingly. The people in charge of things will lose their vested legitimacy in a flash, and the institutions they command will become irrelevant overnight. The process would be traumatic for all of us as routines we counted on for a thousand particulars of everyday life vanish or collapse. A Great Indignation will rise across the land over the perceived swindles involved. A lot of effort will go into avenging the swindles instead of rebuilding an economy out of the ashes of futility.
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Monday, January 04, 2010

new year surprise

Whilst out and about on the southern end of the line Paul Beard found this interesting survivor at Corfe Mullen.

This is the one place where I remember seeing the S&D with track just before this section closed to freight traffic in 1969, sadly a few years before I started taking photos. It's nice to see that there is still a pretty obvious S&D presence here. Of course in a few years time trains should be running through here again, giving the residents of Blandford a high speed modern transport link into Poole and Bournemouth.

(Photos © Paul Beard Corfe Mullen 1.1.2010)
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Saturday, January 02, 2010


Spetisbury in summer 2009 - well overgrown!

Spetisbury 27th and 28th December 2009, beginning to emerge ...

(All photos © Paul Beard)

The very first physical signs of the New S&D are starting to appear at Spetisbury where we have an agreement to start clearance works. All of this work has so far been done by Paul Beard and he's revealed that the back wall of the station building is still in surprisingly good condition. It also appears that many of the bricks from the building are still on site, so we will be recovering these for both historical and economic reasons! The building itself is around 45 feet long by 10 feet deep so will provide a good base for the southern end of the line once it is restored.

Spetisbury is on the southern end of the line south of Blandford. This is the key section of the route and we expect to be concentrating most of our resources on it in 2010, though of course we will also be keeping an eye out for opportunities on the northern section of the route! We will be doing a more general launch of the New S&D between Blandford and Poole this year, aiming at the residents who seem desperate to have their trains back. It is ludicrous that a town the size of Blandford is STILL not rail connected in the 21st century.

Paul was spoken to by many passers-by who were fascinated by the work he was doing. Locals are 100% behind the railway, and can now seriously look forward to getting trains back - Spetisbury was cruelly deprived of modern transport as long ago as 1956, ten years before the line closed! We have already had one couple volunteer to help the restoration, and an invitation to give a talk in a nearby village in September.

We are not ignoring Midford, merely awaiting paperwork from the current owner before agreeing a price and terms to taking on the site. We already have agreement in principle from Sustrans to run the 7¼" gauge railway on the cycleway between the south end of the station and the south end of Long Arch Bridge, probably in May. Andy Lunness, who owns the loco and portable line will also be talking to the landlord at the Hope and Anchor to arrange car parking facilities and, hopefully, joint ticketing (train trip and a meal).
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