Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I can never praise Midsomer Norton enough. They have been the inspiration for all further developments on the S&D, particularly Shillingstone and, to a greater extent, the New S&D.
Last night I had the privilege of meeting Nick Howes again after a break of a few years. Nick was the person who saved Midsomer Norton from developers, with the help of local councillor Shirley Steel. I used to work with him on the Midsomer Norton Monday track gang. Nick conveyed the news that Shillingstone were now prepared to publicly support the New S&D. It's taken over a year, but I think we needed to prove ourselves first. We could have floundered, like a few other S&D groups over the years, but in fact the New S&D has flourished in a way I never dared hoped for, and I feel we've now reached that tipping point where both the wider railway community and the local population along the route realise that what we're proposing is not only viable but essential.
Imagine the situation back in the early nineties when Nick surveyed the scene at Midsomer Norton. The building was in disrepair, the signalbox just a pile of stones in a hole, the gap between the platforms was filled in, the very top of the loading gauge stuck out of a pile of tons of rubble. Imagine what the locals and railway buffs thought of the plan! Fifteen years on Midsomer Norton is just about fully restored, an absolute gem of a station, and the line will start running trains again very soon.
On the same day as the excellent news from Shillingstone we have also been embraced by the Gartell Railway who want us to appear at their next S&D Gala event and I've now heard on the grapevine that purchase of Midford - which will almost certainly happen in April or early May - will swing Midsomer Norton over to us as well.
Once all the S&D groups can present this essential united front we can really start the job of bringing back this fantastic railway! 2010 is going to be an absolutely sensational year for the S&D!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The Severn Valley Railway has achieved a record £6.25m turnover.
The figures relate to last year, when it carried 248,798 passengers, the second highest figure in its history.
The steam railway, which has a 16-mile (25km) line in Worcestershire and Shropshire, celebrates its 40th birthday this year.
It has secured a deal of about £100,000 to build a locomotive boiler from scratch for the first time, for Dolgoch on the Talyllyn Railway in mid-Wales.
Severn Valley opened a boiler shop in Bridgnorth in 1990 mainly to repair locomotives on its line, but it has since carried out work for other railways.
The railway said any profits made on its turnover had been ploughed back into maintenance, repairs and improvements.
Marketing manager John Leach said: "It's true that many mainstream visitor attractions like coastal resorts and those on the UK's main tourism trail achieved results far better than expected last year.
"But we're not in a mainstream tourist area - we straddle two counties 'somewhere to the west of Birmingham'.
"The SVR has to make a strong case for itself in order to win a respectable share of the tourism market."
The line, between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, fully re-opened in Easter 2008 after recovering from flood damage in 2007, when the track was washed away in 45 places.
The Talyllyn Railway runs from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol.
Thanks to David Bailey for the information. Source.
And remember, the SVR doesn't even run passenger and freight trains for the people living along the route! So the potential income is a lot larger. I suspect the potential annual income for a new S&D including passenger, freight and heritage trains as well as associated retail premises could reach £50,000,000 quite easily. This underlines the scope and size of the project we're undertaking.
Interesting that the SVR offer a service that Shillingstone hope to do in the future, providing loco parts to other lines. Railways shouldn't be just about running trains, but also about identifying other potential and linked income streams.
By building infrastructure that can be used for both the host railway and other lines railways can make even more money and, more importantly, provide employment for local people.
Monday, March 29, 2010
I've been hearing some disconcerting stuff about various S&D groups and I think it's time all the various parties stepped back from their tiny agendas and take time to set what they are doing in the wider perspective of UK rail renewal. The New S&D is committed to unifying the disparate strands in the S&D 'community', in fact it's enshrined in our constitution. As far as I'm concerned all the groups working to restore and preserve the S&D should commit to eventually combining their resources so that reinstatement of the entire S&D happens sooner rather than later.
The collection at Washford needs to come home at some time, it's out on a limb over at Washford and is only there due to ancient history - 1970s lack of appreciation of railways as an asset. Blame the council at Radstock, not the preservationists at Washford. But we're thirty years on from all that and S&D material belongs on the S&D.
Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone are doing wonders restoring their stations but I'm sure there is far more opportunity to work together on various projects. And the New S&D hopes that Washford, Shillingstone and Midsomer Norton members come along to help when the actual job of rebuilding, at Spetisbury and Midford for starters, begins in earnest.
We should make a point of having an annual joint event at each site in turn with all groups represented, everyone getting together for a social, and show the world the the old, friendly and cool image of the S&D didn't die in 1966 but is alive and well and stronger than ever. I'm up for it - are you?
Sunday, March 28, 2010
(Photos courtesy John Penny 21.3.2010)
The Gartell Light Railway's first open day of 2010 is next Monday (5th April). Two new goods vans have been made for 2010. One has a sign attached for the DVCA (Dorset Vintage and Classic Auctions) and will be added to the GLR 'Private Owner' goods train. The other van is also in 'bauxite' and is intended to be sign-written soon, probably with 'Gartell & Son' lettering.
(Round about Sturminster 2009)
Simon Ellison joined the board back in January and is particularly interested in the Sturminster Newton area.
He's just posted a comment which I think should be promoted to the main blog page as it covers much of the reasons why we exist and cleverly draws together many points raised (and challenged!) here over the last few weeks.
I note, with some disquiet, the rather 'negative' comments which seem to blight all aspects of railway restoration, in whatever form that takes.
Thing is: There are ALWAYS dissenters and ne'er do well's who delight in the negativity of their own lives, and like to project on to others their attitude.
If you do not believe in something with passion, then it's best not be get involved at all - applies to life generally, not just railways.
The obstacles to reinstating a continuous rail route from Bath/Bristol through to Poole/Bournemouth are huge, but not insurmountable. Of course there will have to be deviation from the original route at various locations, but, essentially, the route in its entirety should be, and MUST be reinstated, because rail will be the only sure way of transporting heavy freight and passengers in a viable way to smaller towns and villages in the future of road degradation and spiralling fuel costs.
Councils are being squeezed like sponges for funding which will not be forthcoming for essential road repair - here, where I live, roads are like rutted farm tracks, damage to wheels, tyres and steering geometry is becoming horrendous as well as unsafe.
Roads like minor 'B' and unclassified ones are left to their own devices due to lack of funding for repairs - that situation is fuelled by inclement weather which rapidly adds to the [rapid] destruction of surface 'black top'
How will we move anywhere in relative safety without wrecking our spines and our vehicle's suspension ? Are we to remain isolated in villages which have roads not fit for purpose?
At least a rail link would mean no more road wrecking heavy trucks - all commerce conducted by small trucks/vans from RAIL depot to destination - probably by electric engined vehicles.
But, before we all fall into the trap of 'electric' propelled vehicles [of ANY sort], just remember this: electricity has to be generated - which still means oil/coal/nuclear powered generating plants - so at whatever point, there will always be some form of 'unfriendly' fuel being used to provide all this 'clean' electricity. I'm sorry, but these pathetic wind farms will just NOT fit the bill for reliable and continous power supply, besides which, they are a blot on the landscape as well being a major threat to wild life, which also has the right to exist.
Remember this: Rail over road transport has much in it's favour:
A. It is fairly unobtrusive to the environment - noise is a minor consideration, once a train has passed the sound of its passage fades back into natural surrounding sound level, unlike the continuous drone of road transport.
B. The physical space needed to run trains is much less than an A class road!
C. Many more people die on the roads than on railways.
D. The cost of fuel is slashed as ton for ton, railway transport is far more efficient [much less frictional resistance on steel rail].
E. More economical - a typical train load is equivalent to many 44 ton trucks but in ONE movement and with ONE loco.
F. Faster - over distance, rail is MUCH quicker than road.
There are many other considerations which I have not entered here, but I am preaching to the converted ! It's the general public and local government who need to be 'educated'
The monopoly of road transport is over - it's time to bring back OUR trains for the betterment of OUR lives, our children's and their children's lives.
Short term-ism has been this country's failing - it's the reason for blinded politicians wrecking a once comprehensive railway infrastructure, and HERE lies our problem. It's so much easier to destroy than construct - all for short term profit/gains which gain NOTHING in the 'long run'.
We should DEMAND government aid in repairing the damage THEY were responsible for in the first place!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Yesterday's announcement that an alliance of local residents and climate protestors had managed to get the third Heathrow Airport runway stopped dead in its tracks, the day after admissions that the British road network was cracking up after the 'harsh' winter, are more signs that the pendulum is now swinging fully in favour of rail development and reinstatement.
Heathrow 3 was always a dead duck, but I was surprised just how much retrenchment there's been from maintaining the road network. If governments really believed the hype that roads had a future would they really allow them to deteriorate as they are? If that were true surely almost all transport investment would go to roads? That's clearly not happening.
The real sign that air traffic was expected to decline happened years ago, when Concorde was retired with no replacement. The real sign that the decline of road traffic was expected was the opening of the Channel Tunnel as a rail, rather than road, tunnel.
So the process begun in the 80s and 90s, which was also yesterday in a different sense of the word. We do indeed live in interesting times!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Four shots courtesy of John Penny showing fence removal work at Gartell on 21.3.2010. This is because a new disabled access is being put in.
Narrow gauge work always seems gentler and lighter than standard gauge work!
Please note- the GLR is on private property and participation is by invitation only. However, you may write to introduce yourself, and careful consideration is given to those who wish to become a member of this very exclusive band of volunteers.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Nick Howes pointed me in the direction of an S&D forum today with the email header !!!!!!!
It soon became obvious what his point was!
One post read - (this was regarding this blog!)
MMmmm, the juries out on this one.I have an uneasy discontent with the underlying politics in the blog.But the wishful dreaming is harmless.
LOL! I have no idea what the 'underlying politics' are on this blog. If anybody or any group are radically non-political it's me and the New S&D - in fact the only time I've ever mentioned politics was when I damned the lot of them! But I have found in the past that when people accuse you of something they are often really talking about themselves. And as for 'wishful dreaming' - none of that nostalgic drivel will EVER get past me! This group has always been immersed in cold, hard, unsentimental economic reality, and hopefully always will be. It's funny when someone gets something totally wrong!
So I was left a little speechless when I read this. But then a later post started to give me a clue as to what this was all about. This was from somebody else.
There are some parts of the old S&DJR route that, without extraordinary amounts of money and some serious compulsory purchase orders, are unrecoverable. These are mainly the old routes and station sites that are within the larger towns.So while I applaud the aim of the group the reality is that the original road could never be restored in its entirety, and consideration would need to be given to 'bypass' such locations by constructing new route. I will hazard a guess that such new route building would be as just as expensive as trying to compulsory purchase the old route. The upshot of these costs is that the complete line itself could never earn them back as a profitable service in a millennia of Sundays, and as a community project the costs would simply be too high compared to providing replacement bus services.It's sad, but unfortunately true.
Ignore the initial teaching 'grandma to suck eggs' bit. It qualifies itself in any case and is only really repeating what we've always said. The New S&D, from day one, will be profitable. We have no intention of borrowing a penny to finance construction and shares won't pay a dividend except out of profit. As for talking about 'replacement bus services' this shows the writer hasn't even reached their Peak Oil Moment yet. Bus services using what fuel at what cost and on what useable roads? And how exactly are buses going to carry freight? Everyone has to have a sack of wood or cow sat on their lap? And a replacement for what? Cars?
'It's sad, but unfortunately true'. No, that's just your unthought out opinion. Get a bloody backbone man and stop thinking it's still the 70s!!
Oh dear, two of 'em!
And then, as a final treat, number one comes back with a riposte and suddenly everything becomes clear!
Too true, the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway is part of our archeological/historical heritage, that we should be proud of, and there it will stay, killed by the march of time, unfortunately some people need a serious reality check.
I'm not going to embarass the poster by naming him on this blog, as he's going to have to live this down in the future. But let's at least analyse this reply.
Straight away he's in with '[t]oo true'. Well, again, it's only an unthought out OPINION, not a fact. And then it all comes out ... heritage ... blah, blah, blah ... (portentiously) and there it will stay ... blah, blah, blah ... killed by the march of time ... blah, blah, blah, and then, as a final treat to us all another very revealing bit of self-analysis 'unfortunately some people need a serious reality check'!!!
Yes, it's called the Peak Oil Moment, when you suddenly clearly see that the way forward is rail, and that our comfortable cheap oil fuelled existence is drawing to its natural end! It'll come Backwards of Blandford, and then you'll join us as have many other doubters in the past!
So it all boils down to a rather selfish need to think of the old, destroyed S&D as 'theirs'. It's true that in the run up to closure and its aftermath old disused railways gain a strange patina of charm and decay. I know this because once it appealed to me. The old dinosaurs don't want us to tread on their memories and more importantly on their relics. They HATE the idea of modern freight and passenger trains running up and down the line. Sod the passengers, sod the companies that want their goods delivered quickly, cheaply and efficiently. They seriously think their memories, their patches of land 'where once ran a sabotaged and defeated railway' should remain unfettered by the infrastructure of the 21st century. They want to be free to live with their dreams and nostalgia, crying on a crumbling embankment as the years pass them by.
The sad thing is that we have ALLOWED for this. We want to rebuild the S&D as closely to the original, in terms of infrastructure, and preserve the relics that do remain, providing they are still economically viable. We're not really stamping on anyone's dream, surely just making them clearer and accessible to all?
I know the Lynton and Barnstaple had this problem as well. The dinosaurs need to understand that we also appreciate the heritage aspect of the S&D and will do everything to capture and preserve it. We can blend the modern era and the past, and both can benefit from each other.
I'm sorry if this is a little intense for some of you, but I think people out there need to know that we're not stupid, that we detest 'dreamers' and that we're here for the long haul. The S&D will return and probably a lot quicker than most of us realise. And a few dinosaurs are hardly going to stop us.
Monday, March 22, 2010
I was brought up in Littlehampton in Sussex and amazingly we had a steam railway until the late 1970s. Okay, it was in the (then) unique 12¼" gauge, but it was genuine working steam.
I remember walking along late at night it in an inebriated state in the early 70s!
There were plans to extend the line all the way along the prom to the pier end of town in the 1980s, and the line was actually extended about 50 metres around this time (extension shown in bottom pic, the station was formerly in the trees in the background).
Now the line is under threat due to the very short-sighted and backwards-looking council. There's an excellent facebook group set up to preserve the line - if you believe in railways (even the miniature variety!) please join.
I've just started on the huge task of posting out our leaflets to every heritage railway set up in the UK! Seven packs will be going off tomorrow, mainly to neighbours and some of the biggest UK heritage set ups. If you're based at a UK (or even European) heritage railway please contact us and we'll get leaflets to you right away!
I also now have membership cards from 043 onwards. These will go out with the next copy of Right Lines, which should be out quite soon.
A comment from Mick Knox in response to Ian W's post yesterday -
Congestion is certainly the reason a lot of people use rail now, and to take the Portishead Branch as an example how long would it take using a train, compared with a car, to commute into Bristol? The public understand this argument well, and it also stands up with the switch to electric cars. What is the journey time from Radstock to Bristol, or Bath? And would that be easily beaten by train today? I would have thought easily so?
Most motorists would love to see more freight on the railways as it would leave more road space for them, together with less roadworks due to the damage caused by the heavy goods vehicles.
There is nothing more frustrating than sitting in traffic jams, so yes congestion is an issue the general public will understand. Post ‘Peak Oil’ it may not be, but today it is, so I suggest we use this to our advantage.
It was a valid reason not to close the Somerset & Dorset and therefore it is a reason to re-open it again.
My own view was that we could wrong foot ourselves by talking about congestion as a problem into the future. But I think there's a way to tie this all together. And perhaps I was being too dogmatic ...
Firstly we need to understand why there is congestion. If road really was a mode for the future then surely road development would continue as a reaction to congestion? Congestion would perhaps happen somewhere and measures would then be undertaken to get rid of it. But this doesn't happen. We need to understand why.
It seems to me that governments are well aware of the impact of Peak Oil, even if they are trying to keep it from us. They hide the measures needed to deal with it under the 'climate change' banner but any intelligent person sees through that quickly enough. (Clearly the world is warming and our activities are responsible for much of it, but this will slow down as Peak Oil hits so it's not a long term problem unless we reach certain tipping points). Governments will also be aware of the impending end of cheap air travel but they use different methods to hide this in their devious equations, like proposing a new runway for Heathrow knowing full well it wil never be built but being able to pass the blame on to climate change activists for example.
But underneath all deviousness and posturing there is a very real fear by government that this is a problem so big that they may not be able to contain it, hence the fact it's hidden at the moment from the general public. It may even be that climate change was put forward as a safe alternative just to test some of the measures that will be needed.
Okay, there was a lot of waffle there, but it does underline why road development has ground to a halt. It not only shows that governments are well aware that petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles have had their day, but that the proposed alternatives will NOT fill the gap. Hence the current level of roads will be more than adequate to cope with future traffic needs. This means that congestion is a problem now, whilst oil-derived fuels are so incredibly cheap, but will not be in the future.
There's another side issue which concerns fuel prices. People are surprised that the retail price has remained stubbornly high despite the falling price of crude oil (at least from its 2007 highs of $147 barrel). This is easily explained by the lack of refining infrastructure. New refineries are not being built because the oil companies are even more aware than we are of the looming oil shortages. There's no point in building new refining facilities as whilst they may be needed for a few years they will be derelict in a few decades as the raw material will have dried up. Hence the current level of refining capacity will be more than adequate to cope with future needs.
So how do we apply all this to the New S&D without ending up with egg on our faces? I think we need to set current congestion levels within a long term framework. We've all been held up in traffic jams and they are without doubt both very annoying and a terrible waste of precious time. They also have a damaging effect on economic activity. Mick has mentoned the problem of heavy lorries and this is something we can really exploit. Car drivers hate them and railways are desperate to grab the freight they currently carry. So we need to encourage aggressive pricing wars between railfreight companies and the road based freight companies. Rail will become more and more advantaged as the system expands and the price of fuel goes up. Whilst railways will also be affected by the rising cost of energy the 400% extra efficiency of rail will work for rail and against road in this context. Freight will start switching from road to rail, and the New S&D will be as much a freight carrier as a passenger carrier. So this part of our programme should appeal to car drivers, even if they don't (for now) plan to use our trains. But it won't hurt to throw Peak Oil into the equation and say to drivers that by pushing freight onto new railways the infrastructure will then be in place for a return of passenger services on most lines as the oil runs out. They don't need to believe in Peak Oil to suffer from its effects! As the price of driving a private car goes stratospheric then people will return to the railways in their droves. It may be the last thing that goes, but go it will!
Sunday, March 21, 2010
We've had a comment to an earlier post which I'd like to bring to the main board.
I do think the writer has a valid point about congestion TODAY, but I personally feel that to push the congestion angle too much could well leave us with egg on our faces as traffic FALLS due to the steadily rising cost of energy (which will apply to petrol/diesel AND electrically operated cars).
By setting our argument and lobbying within the long term problem - ie Peak Oil and its consequences - I think we're positioning ourselves well ahead of the crowd and I feel we'll reap benefits from it from now and in the future. I worry that arguing the congestion case too loudly we'll look stupid in the face of the facts, but as I said above I do think that congestion is an issue now, and may even be for a few more years. But what do you all think? Feel free to support or challenge any of the views quoted above and below, and please post all comments to the comments section under this post.
I already have an electric car, powered by water according to Southern Electric. We still need to talk about congestion as that is the issue now. Petrol cars will be on the roads for at least the next two decades and we will wait for an eternity to rely on the public's acceptance of peak oil to switch. As I have said on here before, the car will be the last thing to go. Air travel, foreign holidays, new consumer goods and all other discretionary spending will decline before people give up their cars. if we are going to regenerate the railways today we need to sell them to the public in a language it understands.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
The Blandford Arches group has started a series of fundraising quiz nights at Colin’s Community Club in Damory Street (first this Thursday March 25 at 8pm) and is also planning involvement in Blandford’s Hidden Gardens event on June 20 and Green Week coming up in July as a preliminary to seeking to secure a lease or whatever from the town council (which currently leases the arches from North Dorset District Council) and then to seeking grant funding etc.
They have also established a Heritage Trail through the former station and up the railway line which they hope to develop.
The Blandford Museum, which opens for the season next Saturday, has created and is continuing to create a scale model of the station which has taken over a large part of the first floor of the building in Bere’s Yard.
Friday, March 19, 2010
I've just done a post on The Rail Thing based around Groombridge. Interestingly this is potentially a route that will have Network trains and heritage trains operating on the same tracks - in fact it will involve TWO heritage groups, the Spa Valley Railway and the Lavender Line. It will be interesting to see how this develops - it may well become a core route in the future that will spark other restorations including the Eridge to Three Bridges route which would give East Grinstead a second (and probably quicker) route into London, as well as restoration of the excellent Cuckoo line which would give the large town of Hailsham a link back to the network and Eastbourne a second route into London. This is how we will allevaite the congestion problems that are already showing up on the network. Closed railways are amazingly valuable infrastructure assets, the S&D being one of the most valuable of all.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I heard the words 'Peak Oil' mentioned for the first time on television yesterday. It wasn't on some obscure cable channel either but on peak time BBC. For some reason the programme 'Bang Goes the Theory' had a little feature on Peak Oil. I'd expected them to come up with one of the myriad of miracle energy cures but in fact they never mentioned any such thing. Just mentioned Peak Oil. Their researcher needs a good kicking though for suggesting that Peak Oil was 'until recently' the exclusive concern of bearded hippies (cue an interview with Richard Branson). Of course the hippies daren't even mention Peak Oil as it destroys their whole climate change agenda - Peak Oil is, of course, the baby of economists, oil professionals and financiers, a totally different demographic to the green lot.
Nethertheless the fact that Peak Oil is at last being spoken about in the mainstream suggests that it is being eased in gradually, that the bad news so heavily cloaked in climate change posturing is beginning to seep through.
We also heard today that the price of petrol is likely to hit £1.20 per litre this summer. There is a relentless rise in the cost of hydrocarbon energy, and no amount of subsidy, taxation, quantitative easing or lobbying can hide it. You can't hide from cold hard economics.
If the New S&D is anything it is an unsentimental, forward-looking and hard-nosed organisation that is already beginning to exploit the effects and forecasts of Peak Oil. As I've said for years we are pushing on an open door and has any group ever been so firmly on the right side of history?
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Blot on the landscape - and what for?
How modern transport should blend in!
My in box has been full of stuff about the laughable Cambridge Guided Busway. This extraordinary white elephant has still not been opened, and costs are still spiralling. Will we ever know what this idiocy was ever about? Or perhaps it's just a very long-winded way of preserving the trackbed without letting the Peak Oil cat out of the bag?
The simple fact is that this piece of essential transport infrastructure needs to be rebuilt as, preferably, a heavy railway or, at the very least, a modern interurban tramway. The cost would be around 30%/15% and ridership would be far higher. Fuel use would be around 25% of that for the buses and who knows what the maintenance costs are going to be?
This is why cold hard economics needs to be applied to transport investment rather than agenda-laden posturing by idiotic politicians who are desperate to keep Peak Oil below the radar.
We all know that buses are considered to be the most unpopular form of public transport. It is almost impossible to prise people out of their cars to use them, whereas many car drivers are happy to switch to trams which are seen as modern, clean, fast and efficient. Buses even try to disguise themselves as trams to tempt people out of their cars by being given smart modern lines, but it won't work. Passengers need the added security of a FIXED route to convince them that the new transport system is here for the foreseeable future, rather than buses which use pubic roads. Okay, the concrete tram-like tracks of the guided busway suggest a similar commitment, but we can see that they are just a stage towards modern transport - ie the eventual replacement of the method of propulsion to overhead wire (trolleybus fashion) and the eventual replacement of concrete by steel rail (giving a 75% fuel, efficiency and cost saving). But why not just build the railway/tramway in the first place?
People locally HATE this monstrosity and will boycott it until they get their trams or trains. I fully expect to be reporting on the replacement of this joke by a modern tramway or railway within ten years.
The extraordinary thing is that this lunacy is being threatened on two other essential rail routes - Fareham-Gosport and Luton-Dunstable!!