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 02, 2011


I was pointed in the direction of the National Preservation Forum the other day. The name gives away the fact that this is basically a site for rail preservationists - or 'puffer lovers' as they are sometimes cruelly called. It's amazing that in many cases the contributors want to not only preserve the rail infrastructure of the sixties but also the dinosaur attitudes!

The one thing that really upset me was the poster who reckoned all the S&D groups should combine (something we support 100%) but then only build a ten mile stretch of line with an intermediate station (I suspect they mean Radstock to Shepton) and leave it at that - forever!

Now our constitution, and that of the SDRHT at Midsomer Norton, commit us to restore and/or support restoration of the whole S&D. One of the first acts of the New S&D was to enshrine this - forever - into our constitution.

Any curtailed section of the S&D will never survive in the post-oil world. ALL 'heritage' railways will have to adapt to very changed circumstances. Coal burners will have to convert to wood, diesels will vanish entirely and many routes will adopt various forms of electrification. But, and most importantly, ALL the lines will have to serve a useful purpose, for passengers and freight. ALL of these lines will have to have a network connection, or some form of rail connection, otherwise little if any visitors will be able to reach the line.
A totally restored S&D will solve all these problems for the future.

We have always worked on the first principal that the S&D WILL be restored, whatever the circumstances. Even without Peak Oil eventually the line will be needed to relieve pressure on network routes. With Peak Oil its restoration is essential even sooner. What we are trying to do is ensure that when restoration comes it needs to be sympathetic both to the history of the route and to the countryside it runs through. This is why all S&D fans should support and join the New S&D, in addition to joining their local S&D heritage group. Because without us the future of the S&D will be a busy but basic route that doesn't offer employment opportunities, a high standard of station facilities or marketing that makes it a superb asset and investment. With us we can excert the leverage and pressure that ensures that it is our vision for the S&D which prevails.

Put simply - no compromise!
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lonesomehobo said...


Is the relevant thread.

I believe the principle thorn in the side of the "preservationists" is the peak oil "angle". It would be a terrible shame if, despite the general alignment of aims there was a falling out over an underlying philosophy that has brought disparate groups to the same conclusion.

For my part I'm on nobody's side; I'm the grandson of the last driver of the "Pines Express" over S&D metals and just really want to see why it was so special to my Grandad.

I'm worried that the "no compromise" attitude may alienate rather than encourage the other groups to join the effort.

Sunshiner said...

But the preservationists are deluding themselves if they regard Peak Oil as an 'angle'. Oil is a finite resource and is getting scarcer by the day. As time passes the roads will empty as fewer and fewer of us can afford to drive. With the reduced tax take the roads themselves will fall into disrepair and all freight and passenger traffic will switch to rail. There's no contention in this, but a lot of people just don't want it to happen so they project this wish (and agenda) onto their own view of the future, and imagine it to have equal validity. It is so important to be realistic and keep one's own personal desires and foibles out of this. To not do so is to compromise.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter. The New S&D exists to bring the groups together, to act as an umbrella for the whole line, to lobby, to buy up and protect forever portions of the route. If others are happy to work locally (as are most of the Midford team) that is absolutely fine.

I can not see why this should be any problem for anyone who loves the S&D. It takes nothing away from them - I myself am a dedicated life member at Midsomer Norton - but ensures that when the problems start to hit we are prepared.

Being prepared is the key to everything. Forget agendas, let's just get on with it. Nothing else matters.

Anonymous said...

Well it seems obvious you can't build it all at once. We are not Brunel and we dont have his power or money.

Look at the way the M25 was built - easy bits first and then gradually filling in the gaps. The New Zealand railways of South Island had similar approach, as they had to cross several wide rivers.

We obviously need to gain the rights to build a railway over the entire route, and that should be going on in parallel to the actual construction and restoration in various places. Too many places and nothing gets finished and everyone gets disheartened.

May I also suggest an annual, 'walk the line', with a sponsored walk along as much of the original route as is possible. Once we could walk the whole route that would demonstrate to the press and locals that the project was possible.

Also desperately need a 'champion' with importance at a National level, who will act as a figurehead to bring in funds and even gain government support.

Once the tunnels in Bath are open that should help stimulate support.

I also believe we should aim to restore all the mileposts as soon as possible and then add in the 'quarter posts' in sections that have been restored. Cosmetics in the early stage are important, even though the engineers amongst us might disagree. That is why the Midford restoration is so important.

Big picture is essential, but doing lots of the easy things early on keeps everyone enthusiatic, and more likely to donate time and money.