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, January 31, 2011

surprise surpise ...

Rail travel is at it's highest peacetime level since 1928, when there was twice as much route and far less road traffic. Mind you this only applies to passenger traffic and I suspect that freight traffic still has some way to go before it reaches the levels of 1928 - but it will get there and quickly surpass anything seen in the past.

Privatisation was such a good thing for our railways, at last they had proper marketing and a reason to look ahead. Train travel today, if you can disregard the overcrowding which is a symptom of success, is better than it's ever been. Trains are classy, and cheap (if you book ahead). But we are only at the very beginning of the golden age of rail. We need to be opening 200-300 miles of new track every year. There are still far too many large towns not currently on the network, including many in Somerset and Dorset. As the roads vanish everyone will be clamouring for new lines, new stations, more trains. We need to be ready to satisfy these demands, and politicians need to make the right moves now, to ease the transition from road to rail. It's not just the current network, plus reversal of the Beeching cuts (how stupid they seem now!) but a huge expansion in light rail and tramways, plus industrial lines.

95% of people still rarely use a train. That is a HUGE potential market for railways. How many of them will be able to afford to run a car in five let alone ten years time?

These are indeed interesting times to be living through!
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down ringwood way

(All photos © Derek Lunn.)

The top shot is of the trackbed south of Broadstone looking towards Corfe Mullen. It shows a very minor incursion on the trackbed by a shed - hardly a problem but typical of the sort of chipping away of these essential transport links back when people didn't realise their value.

The two lower shots are of a fantastic bridge just north of Broadstone towards Wimborne. The trackbed looks very well preserved just waiting for the double track track to be relaid, and look at the superb brickwork in the long bridge/short tunnel - definitely built to last!

Derek has just taken on the Track Steward role for the stretch of line from Broadstone to Ringwood. This is one of the non-S&D routes we will restore, and will serve as an extremely useful route connecting Ringwood and Wimborne into Bournemouth, an essential commuter and freight route for the 21st century. Extending up towards West Moors and Fordingbridge, and on to Salisbury, will also be inevitable as time goes by. This will become a dense network of routes at the southern end of the S&D proper, with an additional route allowing trains to run from Bath and Templecombe direct to Wimborne, Ringwood and Brockenhurst created by a northern curve to the north of Broadstone connecting to Wimborne. Bournemouth will, at last, get proper transport to the north, routes that were destroyed between 1964 and 1966.

If you are keen on taking on a track steward role please email me at leysiner@aol.com - there are still long stretches of the line not currently covered. The role is not an onerous one, really just requiring you to keen an eye on a short stretch of the line.
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

endangered transport

Railways have been documented in such depth that there's hardly a corner that hasn't been recorded for posterity through pictures and words.

But will our roads leave ANY trace once the last car is garaged for good? Will a stretch of road be preserved and open for the public to experience an otherwise extinct transport mode? I hope so.

I did have the foresight even back in the 80s to record this doomed transport mode and have a good collection of pictures. But I doubt there are 1% of the number of railway shots out there. I'd urge all of you to go out and try to capture this form of transport in its dying years.

But there are a few books on cars, and even a few on the road culture (an oxymoron if ever there was one!) New member Derek Lunn has an excellent range on his website, and an even bigger range of railway titles. Take a look at his site and grab some of those rare titles. He will be sending out the New S&D brochure with every relevant book sold.
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the best laid plans ...

Hmmm. Midsomer Norton and Midford are going to have to wait. I'd assumed that this morning would dawn bright and sunny, but it's grey and miserable, not at all the right conditions for photos, particularly of the S&D. So I'll have to postpone the trip I was so looking forward to yesterday! I'll try again in a couple of weeks' time.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

two centre trip

A real treat tomorrow - I get to go to Midsomer Norton AND Midford. The main purpose is to get up to date pictures of both locations, also to check out the boundary at Midford and plan the next stages of clearance. And take hundreds of pictures of course!

I should be at Midford by around three so if any of you want to come up for a bit of work or just a chat please try to do so.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

midford today

Three shots of Midford (courtesy of Tom Seale) taken today. The clearance proceeds apace and the transformation continues! Remember that any member is welcome to get involved with the restoration - just email me first on leysiner@aol.com to check what needs to be done.

Remember that if coming by car please do not park in the Hope and Anchor car park. There is other parking in Midford, for example in Twinhoe Lane. At a later date we may well provide on site parking places, which was the arrangement in the 1980s/90s during earlier attempts to restore the site.
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the S&D's second city

Photo © John Thorn

This is Wells Priory Road in 1963/64. Wells in England's smallest city and once boasted three stations. This branch of the S&D was the first major section of the route to close, the branch connecting to the Highbridge line (itself a branch) at Glastonbury. There was of course a more logical route through Wells via the Cheddar Valley which explains the early closure.

How Wells will be served by trains in the future is still undecided. It will be essential to connect Glastonbury and Wells back to the network though whether it will be via the line to Highbridge, Evercreech, the Cheddar Valley route (to either Witham or Yatton) or perhaps even by a new direct route over the Mendips to join the main line near Masbury ... who can tell at this early stage?
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

the s&d brand

This is the fantastic model of Blandford station which graces the cover of this month's Railway Modeller. The S&D seems to be going from strength to strength lately, it's everywhere! No other line comes close to the S&D for popularity.

I think much of the reason is that it is coming back, and more and more people are realising that that now means the WHOLE route and not just tiny - magnificent as they are - portions of it. It's amazing to think that 20 years ago not an inch of track remained in place on the route, and there were still many people that thought it would NEVER return.

We've seen a surge in membership in the New S&D over recent months, despite keeping ourselves pretty low key. Yesterday we had 419 hits on this blogsite! 2011 will see that big push that we've promised for some months. Hopefully we'll have solid news on Spetisbury soon which will mean that the S&D will be being revived at FIVE sites (6 including the private restoration at Masbury) on the route. Hopefully the groups will work more and more closely together in time. It would be nice for example to have joint meetings of all the groups (plus Washford) so we can co-ordinate the restoration and to share information. As I've often said this is a fantastic time to be involved with the most important rail restoration project in Europe!
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

midsomer norton progress

Mike Tuck's excellent site has recently uploaded some absolutely SUPERB shots taken at Midsomer Norton. It really is looking like a railway again and Mike's photos really capture the atmosphere of this truly magical stretch of the S&D.

The above shots are NOT Mike's, they are my own not particularly brilliant shots!

So take a look at his website and see the amazing progress that's been made converting a derelict site that was all but written off into an absolute credit both to the heritage movement and the S&D - high praise indeed!
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beginning of the end?

Fuel prices seem to be hitting the news again, in amongst all the other reports of price rises.

The tanker drivers are whimpering, reminding us of nothing more than the coal miners in the 80s, haulage companies are whining about their costs, regular car drivers are moaning about the price of fuel. Anyone would think it was expensive! It isn't. It will never be this cheap again.
An amazing statement today, and I haven't made this up, was 'Drivers will ALWAYS pay whatever price is asked for fuel, even ten pounds a gallon!' There's an implication that ten pounds a gallon is some incredibly distant, almost unfeasibly high price that we won't see in our lifetimes. Really? The very use of 'gallon' suggests some old dinosaur fart, looking back to some nostalgic past where petrol was, for example, £1.98.7 per gallon. Well £10 per gallon equates to about £2.22 a litre. Some pundits are already expecting it to hit £1.50 per litre THIS summer, with crude oil reaching $100-$200 per barrel within a year or so. That price of £2.22 per litre will soon seem cheap.

But of course it won't only be the cost of petrol that's a factor, but its availability. And that will be the real crunch. A mix of high prices, crumbling roads and uncertainty of supply will drive almost all drivers off the road. And that's when rail will be the obvious answer to EVERYONE, not just those of us that are forward-thinking. Opportunity will knock far sooner than most of us expect.
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more s&d returns

These shots from the Shillingstone website show the amazing progress they are making on rebuilding the signalbox. This is impressive work and will be a real asset to the S&D. Midsomer Norton did this a few years ago and Graeme Mayes worked wonders recreating another S&D iconic signalbox there. With Midsomer Norton South and now Shillingstone signal boxes returning from the past how long before Midford - and many other places en route - also reappear in all their glory?

2011 so far has been an amazing year for the S&D all along the line. Midford is now almost cleared, Midsomer Norton is progressing steadily, with regular trains a feature later in the year, and Shillingstone seems to have had an incredible new burst of energy. Hopefully Spetisbury will also begin to stir in the next few months.

I can't see anything now stopping the gradual restoration of the whole route and in a real S&D style rather than the basic railway which is the alternative. This is a fantastic time to be involved with the S&D and the old (ridiculous) 'divisions' which once tainted us are disappearing as quickly as the infrastructure is reappearing.

So please get involved. Obviously join the New S&D, as this is the umbrella organisation for the whole route, but please also join any or all of the other organisations that are preserving and restoring the S&D (Midsomer Norton, Shillingstone, Gartell and Washford). All of the groups, even including the New S&D now we have Midford, offer loads of opportunities to work on site as well as behind the scenes activities which are so important. Hopefully soon we will be able to offer joint membership for all the groups which will benefit the whole S&D.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

midford progress


Latest pictures from Midford today (courtesy of Tom Seale).

Hard to believe this is the same jungle that existed back in September when work started! It's beginning to open up new vistas of the line, we now also have our own entrance to the site via the gate in picture 2 - this will obviate the need to use the pub car park for deliveries. It really is starting to look like a proper looked after station again - with the restoration of track not a physical issue at all!
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First apologies for no posts for a week or so - I've not been too well. But a lot better today ...

I'm sure a lot of you have been waiting for Bachmann's S&D 7F '00' gauge model. It's now with us and it looks fantastic.

Is there any other line apart from the S&D that would get this treatment? A specific model for our route and look at the pubicity shot with a classic S&D landscape behind. This shows the enormous power of our brand!

This post was inspired by this from Adrian Romano which covers S&D and modelling and a few other things ...

I don't know if you keep abreast of what is going on in the world of model railways at present, but there's suddenly a lot of S & D emphasis here and there, what with the excellent 00 gauge layout based on Blandford Forum station at the local museum starring as Railway of the Month in the "Railway Modeller", Bachmann's superb models of S & D 7Fs and Hornby releasing a set of Maunsell coaches as running on S & D metals and a 2P in that railway's Prussian blue.

Apropos Peak Oil, if the peak happens round about 2015 as they suggest on the Steel Interstate website, this would be around the time a century ago when, in Switzerland, there were serious coal shortages on their railways as a result of the First World War, and they ended up electrifying the major routes such as the Gotthardbahn in the 1920s by taking advantage of cheap electricity from hydro-electric plant. A similar scenario could affect the US of A in the coming years, possibly as an unwelcome addition to the in-tray of a Republican administration with Sarah Palin as Vice-President soon after coming into office!

Myself? I've just submitted an application to join the Mid-Anglia Rail Passengers' Association, to promote and protect rail services between Ipswich and Cambridge and Peterborough. It will be interesting to learn how seriously they and Railfuture are taking Peak Oil at present.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

blandford's past and future

2009 and this was the scene at Blandford where the footpath passed over the railway to the north of the station.

And this video shows the station in its running days - courtesy of YouTube via SteamTube.
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

where the US leads we follow

(Orlando November 2010)

I made my first trip to the USA in November and I was VERY impressed. It was much cleaner, friendlier and, surprisingly, greener than the UK. Dozens of new tram systems have opened up there in the last ten years and rail is seeing a big revival. Most US freight is already carried by rail. The US did of course have a superb rail network - both steam and electric (interurban) until about the 40s, but then cheap oil and the car took over.

Cheap oil is now vanishing and the US is leading the way in the switch from road to rail. See below for a tangential view of this development.

This from today's Whiskey and Gunpowder (an investment site)

Auto-suburbia is losing its utility and its desirability. More from "The
Echo Boom: A New Wave of Market Change":

One overlooked issue in particular about the Echo Boomers will have a meaningful impact on all forms of real estate…they don’t drive.

According to a report by Kiplinger, motorists aged 21 to 30 now account for 14% of miles driven, down from 21% in 1995. As quoted in that report, William Draves, president of Learning Resources Network pointed out, "This generation focuses its buying on computers, BlackBerrys, music and software and views commuting a few hours by car a huge productivity waste when they can work using PDAs while taking the bus and train."

This certainly doesn’t bode well for the automotive industry, but it also may not help real estate strategies that rely on communities and suburbs that can only be navigated by car. The Baby Boomers fueled the growth of cities that revolve around cars, but the Echo Boomers are likely to flock to places where they don’t have to drive every day. This could be a significant drag on low-density communities without mass transit and a boon to older, more compact cities.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

q and a session

(Photos - all inspirationally Swiss!)

Recently posted - a gift for return of serve!

Wish you luck and agree with idea but you are living in a fantasy world if you think it will ever REALLY happen; too many plots sold off and millions upon millions of pounds of infrastructure to replace. Should never have been closed - but the time to fight was 60s, like the Settle and Carlisle Railway supporters did. The only REAL railway investment likely to happen now is HIGH SPEED links, not the local loss making railways. Despite this, you are right but that doesn't mean much!
My reply -

I hate fantasy - it's a waste of energy! You won't find any in the New S&D - we are a terribly straight-laced and unsentimental lot! Businesspeople, accountants, economists and academics in the main.

Please don't just wish us luck - join us!

Billions, not millions. We have no illusions as to the difficulty in raising money like this, but there are ways. And it will get easier as time goes by.

The S&C fight was in the 70s, the absolute nadir of railways. In fact I felt that was the turning point for rail in the UK and the S&C (I was born in Carlisle) is one of the inspirations for the S&D.

Most rail infrastructure investments in this country since have been for local routes - Robin Hood line, Airdrie-Bathgate, Ebbw Vale, Waverley route, Larkhall, Alloa, Welsh Highland Railway. HS rail is part of the future, but will hardly be ideal for freight, terrible for local rail traffic and is already causing controversy through the areas it runs, as the inhabitants can't see the benefits they'll get. It's not a zero-sum game. Remember all that former road development money is coming rail's way ...

And the S&D won't be a loss-maker in any case. Remember that dodgy accounting, hatred of the route by the regional management and a deliberate decision not to rationalise and dieselise the route, together with diversion of traffic, killed the line, not big losses. It certainly won't be a loss maker in the future - we hope to pay regular and good dividends to the shareholders!It will happen - the only question is what sort of S&D will emerge. Let's do it our way.

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