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!

Friday, September 30, 2011


Courtesy Jim Type, copyright C L Caddy collection)

Jim has sent literally dozens of excellent S&D shots which I'll be featuring over the next few weeks!

A click on the photo should bring up a larger view.

This is a lovely shot of Blandford, it looks like the late 50s/early 60s. At the moment the Blandford station site has some housing encroachment, which shouldn't be a big problem when the time for reinstatement comes. There are also at least two stretches of original track still in place, set tramway style in the road surface. There is also a short length of track plus a buffer stop just to the north of the station, at the beginning of the footpath which is preserving our right of way splendidly. To the south of Blandford the track was double, to the north single. Blandford remained open for freight until January 1969. It really should have remained open for passenger services, with a population of over 10,000 Blandford is one of the largest towns in southern England without modern transport links.

we are not alone!

This bunch have the right idea! Norwich City was of course the MGNJR station in Norwich and by various routes gave connections to Cromer, Peterborough and many other places. This large network was shamefully closed in 1959, even before the cretin Beeching arrived on the scene, and was closed wholesale. I think the only remaining section run by the network is Sheringham to Cromer, but i may be wrong!

I suspect all or almost all of these lines will reopen in an energy-poor 21st century, the section from Norwich to Melton Constable and beyond for certain, giving more flexibility for passengers and freight.

Their facebook group is here.

spetisbury pics

A slelction of pictures of Spetisbury, some taken in late Spring and the others in the depth of winter. This really is a very nice, quiet spot and it will be great seeing the station return. The people of Spetisbury haven't had modern transport since 1956, the year I was born, but hopefully won't have to wait much longer.

The first two pictures feature Paul Beard who was the first person to suggest looking at Spetisbury as a southern base for the New S&D. Hopefully we'll be able to commemorate Paul's role in the Spetisbury revival, perhaps with a bench plaque or carved brick within one of the buildings.

spetisbury - an appeal!

(Blandford - how many years away before we reach there? Photo copyright Joe Robbins)

Dean Cockwell is progressing Spetisbury at a blistering pace.

This email has gone out to all members but I also feel that for non members who have been thinking of joining but for whom Midford is too far away this may be just the opportunity you've all been waiting for!

Firstly, I want to introduce myself, as I am a new member to the group, but I have also taken on the role of Project Manager of Spetisbury Station.
My name is Dean Cockwell, and I live within 15 minutes drive to the station.
To give you a little update of the situation regarding Spetisbury Station. I have been in contact by phone with the local council in charge of the site and track bed, which has been turned into a trailway since the track has been lifted back in the late 60's, early 70's.
I have put together a proposal outlining our intentions, and what we want to do with the site not only in the short term, but also in the long term. This has now been sent to them today (29/9/2011).
The next step is that I have a meeting with both the contact at the council, but also the ranger in charge of the area around Spetisbury Station.
 I can't tell you much more at the present time, but I would like to ask all of you the following.
Once we get the go ahead that we have taken control of the station and an amount of the trailway, both north and south of the station. We are going to need volunteers to clear the overgrown vegetation, and other tasks that don't come to mind straight away.
So, my first question is, Can you help?
Granted, there are going to be those of you that live too far away, but you may have skills that could be of benefit to the group that does not involve picking up a shovel or pushing a wheelbarrow. I will let you tell me if you are able to help, and in what capacity.
This also includes our junior members, of which we have a few. You may be able to help too. But we would need your parents consent and assistance, and we would not want it to interfere with your homework either! LOL
Now, its over to you to flood my inbox* with offers of help, (he says hopefully).
As I said earlier, until I have had the meeting with the council, I cannot tell you any more. But it would be nice to get an idea of how many volunteers we would have available for a whole range of tasks that will need to be done throughout this project.
Hoping to hear from you soon.

* Dean's email is deancockwell@ntlworld.com

You can join the New S&D via the sidebar on this blog or via the website where there is a downloadable membership form.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

great photos!

Jim Type has sent some EXCELLENT S&D pics -with more to follow! The album can be viewed here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

melvyn, melvyn ...

So how did Melvyn Bragg's little railway programme go?

Much as expected. Lashings of patronising nostalgia, Pete Waterman, missing the point and some excellent archive film.

And two big mistakes, one of fact and one of opportunity.

Sheringham station was NOT closed by Beeching. Sheringham station remains part of the network on a branch from Norwich. True the NNR have acquired the original Sheringham station, but ownership was transferred by BR. The station was not closed!

And the piece where he interviewed the campaigner who fought for the Waverley route ... why didn't Melvyn make the point that the protestors were RIGHT, and that this essential Borders rail link is now being rebuilt, even if (for now) only as far as Tweedbank, which is almost Hawick where the film was shot?

Nostalgia ... your crimes are legion!
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midford update

Latest Midford report from Tom Seale.

We were down at Midford again this Sunday. We cleared a lot of the rubble behind the parcels office and exposed the tarmac and drain, looks to be in good condition.

In the afternoon we burnt about half of the brash cut down earlier in the year. We had a visit from one Dave Hillary from Romsey, he had a good forage in the rubble pile down the embankment and turned up many interesting artifacts. Chief among them appears to be some sort of railway lantern, either from a train or signal I guess, perhaps people could help identify some of the others? (see above)

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Short notice I know but do try to get along to the talk tonight at Avon Valley Railway, 7.30pm - David Cole will talk about the railway's efforts to become more sustainable. The talk is free, and there will be free refreshements as well! Location is Bitton.

I better not go along as I suspect I'd create a little discomfort bringing up points such as use of diesel locos, lack of a genuine public service taking cars and buses off the road etc, but at least the AVR are realising that this issue is going to become of great importance over the coming years. Personally I hope the AVR presses to extend so that eventually they can provide a full passenger and freight service between Bristol and Bath, releasing some capacity from the network line which partly parallels it. They should also be looking into the building of lightweight electric vehicles once a full service is introduced. One day we'll connect with an extended AVR in Bath, so I always follow this line's developments with interest.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I think all the various S&D Facebook groups have now been updated. The main New S&D one is here, please join if not already a member!

corporate identity

It's amazing what you can find buried in your own groups's website, which shows how much work David Bailey's done behind the scenes!

This is the New S&D corporate logo which I think captures what we're about very well. Nice simple lines, a nod to the past with the Southern region green, but very modern as well.

I'll be rolling this out on all my letterheads etc. I suspect this will still be our logo in 100 years - or even 200 years - time.

For full info on this part of our corporate identity please visit here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

beyond spetisbury

Had a gem of an email today from Mick Knox.

Would it be possible to build a PWay trolley with a small wood burning steam engine as power?

I would like to find out about the possibilities of building one with a small diesel engine capable of running on chip oil etc and thought a steam version would be great?

Anything like that would generate a bit of interest and publicise the S&D, together with idea of low cost travel. Planting the seed, so to speak, for modern railcars designed on basic, cost effective, low running cost principles. Not the air conditioned, sealed units of today?

 If it was light enough it could visit other lines etc.

I’m sure a steam PWay trolley, would look great puffing along the track at MSN, or Spetisbury or in the Midford Valley, towards Wellow? It would draw a crowd?

Do you know anyone with that sort of knowledge, without giving some other line the idea? It would need to be quite light so it can travel by road (yet more publicity) on a trailer to site. I know one of the volunteers at MSN brings his small digger on a trailer, so I’m thinking that sort of scale….

What do you reckon? Mad?
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trailway pics

Photographer Tim Edwards sent me the link to these recent photos taken by him of the trailway around Blandford.

Link is here.

exposing the criminals

(Tunbridge Wells West 31.8.1988)

I think that one of the main thrusts of the S&D revival will be to question the validity of the original closure. There have long been rumours that the S&D was deliberately killed, mainly because of inter-regional rivalries going back decades. The S&D was NOT an uneconomic line, it had heavy traffic and only an idiot would claim that a main line, with originating passenger and freight traffic all along the route, which was the sole route to several large towns (and one small city), which linked Britain's only World Heritage city to its principal seaside resort, which linked several main lines and which had VAST tourist potential, needed to close. It didn't. It should be, at the moment, a major cross country route and a huge tourist attraction.

In reality traffic was deliberately removed from the route, in all cases taking a longer route (wasting extra energy) over lines that were not threatened with closure. There was no attempt to rationalise track - much of the route could have been singled (temporarily), and no modern power was ever tried, it was steam worked to the end. There's a clear case that the line was closed purely for political reasons, not economic. In an ideal world there would be an enquiry and the line would be rebuilt over the next few years.

Unfortunately we have to do it the hard way!

There was a peculiar and perverse political thrust to the attack on the railways in the 60s. I have no idea why the politicians at the time thought that oil would be an infinite resource, or that it would be economically beneficial to throw so much extra traffic on to the roads. They were idiots, pure and simple, and the British public for some reason let them get away with it. The people that closed our railways out of ignorance are nothing less than criminals. Unfortunately most are now dead so we can't bring them to account, but it is important that we move on and start getting our railways reopened.

There's a programme on TV this week that you should try to watch. No doubt it will be dripping in that vile nostalgia, and probably Melvyn Bragg, not the brightest of people, will lament something 'lost for ever', but I'm sure that amongst the mush and gnashing of dentures there will be a few bits that hit the spot! Details here, courtesy of Mick Knox.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

spetisbury stirs ...

Hot on the heels of developments at Midford, Spetisbury is beginning to stir. There is now a project manager for the station restoration and he will be meeting DCC soon to discuss plans for the site.

If you have the skills needed (planning, bricklaying, carpentry etc) or if you just want to help with the physical restoration of the site please contact the Project manager, Dean Cockwell, initially by email at deancockwell@ntlworld.com or alternatively phone me on 0117 3738973.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

gartell open

Don't forget that the Gartell Railway is open this Sunday 25th Sept, 2011. First train 10.30, with the last at 16.30. Trains every 15mins. Come along and relax on the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway. And grab a bit to eat in the Pines Buffet!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

midford oil store

These are the initial plans for the Midford oil store drawn up by Tom Seale. The dimensions are based on a site survey, where the oil store was is still obvious, especially now the platform area has been cleared.

One advantage is that one wall is still in position - the rear wall which also serves as a retaining wall!

All being well the oil store should be rebuilt in a few months' time, hopefully the wall, door and window being built in a weekend, with the roof to follow the following weekend. As always volunteers to help with all aspects of this should contact me on leysiner@aol.com asap so we can put the team together for this one smallish project well in advance.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

midford update

These two excellent shots of Midford appeared in the Railway Magazine for April 1964, and show shots on 6 June 1963 and 1 February 1964. There's excellent detail here of the buildings etc. (Photos are courtesy of Trevor Eastwood, photographers are E T Gill and D H Ballantyne).

We had a small meeting here in Bristol to discuss the next steps with Midford. Both Tom and Stuart Seale were present, they have done most of the work up there.

The next step is to apply for planning permission for the whole site. Tom has agreed to draw the plans up. Hopefully we'll be applying in the next month or so. The first step once we have planning permission will be to rebuild the oil store which will serve as a secure store for tools, leaflets etc. Then we'll rebuild the station building. It will be rebuilt as closely as possible externally to how it was in the early 50s, before the canopy was destroyed in an accident. Internally it will function as an information centre and a New S&D office, so there will probably only be one internal partition. There will be display boards on the S&D, the other restoration groups on the route plus Washford, information on climate change, peak oil, modern transport systems and future energy sources, together with a shop area selling books and other items on the S&D, general railways and peak oil, climate change etc. The information area will hopefully also include a working model of the station as it was in the old S&D days.

We will also need to get water and electricity back on site. The rebuilding of the station will move us to a whole new level of funding etc, so the restoration will need to go hand in hand with a very big promotional push in the railway and local press.

If you have the skills and enthusiasm to help us in this next stage please do get in touch (email leysiner@aol.com or phone 0117 3738973).

When the Two Tunnels route is opened (next March is the target) Midford station and the Hope and Anchor pub will become much busier. We plan to put lockable cycle racks near the station building, emphasising our commitment to the future and sustainable transport.

Of course we shall also be repeating everything we've done at Midford down at Spetisbury, all being well!
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

meeting tomorrow

Do try to come to the meeting here tomorrow to discuss the next steps in restoring Midford.

Full details here.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

midsomer norton share issue

This is a great way to ensure that the S&D begins its expansion as soon as possible! Not sure if you'll be able to copy the application form directly from this blog but if not please contact the SDRHT or see their website.



You are invited to apply for shares in The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Company Ltd., as originally formed in 1876 and reformed in 2009. An attractive share certificate will be issued.

The Company is a private limited company set up to operate the railway based at Midsomer Norton Station, and is a subsidiary of The Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust. Share capital will be invested wholly in projects and work that further the restoration, operation and development of the railway. Examples include civil engineering works and track-laying, acquisition and restoration of rolling stock, and development of railway operations. The beneficiaries will include visitors, enthusiasts, local communities and businesses, and the railway itself.

It is not anticipated that any dividends will be paid, but investors will benefit from knowing that they are contributing to the prosperity and growth of this historic railway.

The Memorandum & Articles of Association are posted on the Trust website, or copies may be obtained from D. Hill, Company Finance Director, 8 Long Lakes, Williton, Somerset TA4 4SR.

Shares cost £1 (one pound) each, with a minimum application of 100 shares.

Applications (using the form overleaf) should be sent to the Company Secretary,

S. Ehrlicher, 38 Alexandra Road, Frome, Somerset, BA11 1LX.

Telephone enquiries: 01373 467201.


I/we irrevocably offer to subscribe for such number of fully-paid Ordinary Shares set out below, subject to the Memorandum & Articles of Association of the Company. I/we hereby agree to accept the same number of shares in respect of which this application is accepted. I/we warrant and declare that due completion and delivery of this form, accompanied by remittance, will constitute a legally enforceable promise by me/us that the remittance attached will be met on first presentation. Any such allotment of shares is made strictly on this understanding.

Number of shares applied for (minimum 100)……………………………………………....

Subscription amount payable (number of shares x £1)………………………………………

I/we enclose this amount as the purchase price.

Please make one-off payment to: The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway Company.

[Any applicants wishing to use monthly payments through a bank, please contact the Company Secretary for a separate Standing Order Mandate.]


[N.B. Please insert the details of person/s in whose name/s the shares are applied for.]


Name (full name in block capitals) ………………………………………………………….

of (address in full, including post code)……………………………………………………...



E-mail…………………………………………Contact Phone No.………………………………



Name (full name in block capitals) ………………………………………………………….

of (address in full, including post code)……………………………………………………...



E-mail…………………………………………Contact Phone No.………………………………


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back from switzerland

A few tasters from our week in Switzerland - highlight was a trip over the Montreux-Oberland-Bernoise Railway (MOB). Weather was superb throughout, except on the day we left when the village was shrouded in cloud!

Back to new member sign ups, donations and a plan for Spetisbury!

More to follow on Switzerland and the S&D!
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011


This blog will go quiet for a week from tomorrow as we are taking a week off in Switzerland. Whilst we're flying over to Geneva (for nostalgia reasons!) it'll be all trains from then on. The pic is of the local train from Aigle to Leysin, where we'll be staying. Leysin, a fifth the size of Midsomer Norton, has FOUR stations and trains every hour from 6am to midnight!
We're also hoping to travel across to Interlaken, using the Montreux-Oberland-Bernoise Railway, which I haven't travelled on for about thirty years! There have been a lot of changes on that line, all for the better!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

death of the diesels

I just caught the end of steam when I was a kid, watching the Brighton-Plymouth at speed over the level crossing at Lyminster, saw a few on Ryde Pier, saw a tank engine somewhere in London and, from a great distance, the trains departing from Waterloo to the west. Everything else I saw was electrics, until one day, somewhere in Battersea, I saw a big green diesel crossing a bridge over the road. I was hooked. These were far better than electrics and were modern, so much better than steam!

But I think we all know now that diesel locomotives' days are numbered. As the price of oil starts to rocket the railway companies will quickly feel the pinch, even though their supplies will obviously be prioritised over the private motorist (who will be finished). There'll be a rush to electrify but will the money and, more importantly, the skills be there to do it in time? I doubt it.

But there is of course an obvious alternative to electric locomotives - steam! Not the lumbering old polluting and high maintenance machines of old of course, but sleek, clean and fast woodburners, using a sustainable energy source and providing an excellent power source for the tens of thousands of extra trains we're going to need in the future to keep us going. Their USP will be their use of simple technology and also being completely sustainable. They'll have the other advantage that even the old steam engines used to have - longevity. They could easily be built to last 50 or even 100 years or longer, with standardised parts that can be recovered and recycled when the locomotives finally wear out.

I suspect that just about the whole network will be eventually electrified, that's the current network plus the reversed Beeching routes, but local railways and many industrial lines may well find that steam is the cheapest and easiest option. We really are about to enter a new age of steam.

And what of the diesel locomotive? It's doomed. There won't even be the option of running them on preserved routes, diesel for public transport simply won't be available. I suspect the last of the oil will be snapped up by the military, by chemical and fertilizer companies and, of course, by the airlines. And even then it won't last long.

So get out there and photograph these magnificent creations. We may not see their like again ever, or at least for 150 million years, when oil may once again be available for a century or two ...
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