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!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


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.


Chris Warren said...

The AVR really need to re evaluate where they are heading. They could make serious money if they got the line to Newbridge. With a passing loop at Saltford they could be running a service in and out of Bath and really contributing to give the people a desperately needed and very useful service.

Brian said...

Steve, I wonder if you know the origin of the present "Avon Valley Railway"? When all the track was still in place on the "Midland Line" back in 1972, before Bitton was even an item for the preservationists, the people who were later to create the "AVR" were into something more likely to meet your "agenda approval". They promoted as "Bristol Suburban Railway Society" intending to operate real passenger services for folks going to work, shopping, any transport needs not the "out and back joyrides" we now see on the AVR. Sure they were "steam preservation" enthusiasts but their intent was more than that.

The sudden removal of track for reuse on a quarry branch line (I wonder if there was a big surplus and what became of that extra track) put a cruel end to the BSRS even though the name continued in rather hollow use as a start was made at Bitton. The truly awful ancient rotted track from Frys factory and other crusty materials laboriously dug out of roads at an Avonmouth cold store were never going to be suitable for proper passenger use. It was a pathetic replacement for the lost mainline track.

What a struggle it was just to get the Avonside saddle tank 0-6-0 steaming in 1974 backed up by that phonebox on wheels that was the Dickinsons papermill Ruston 48DS, incredibly with just a brake van for the first rides. That the AVR has gradually improved their track over the years, both in quality and length, is very much to their credit. They have also got together carriage stock in the face of rampant decay which condemned some to being scrapped. They seem to have wished away many of the tatty "basket case" private owner engines now, so the scene begins to look much more tidy for the grockles visiting!

I am sure they would very much like to extend operations of the "AVR" within practical considerations much as at Minehead, with work "behind the scenes" we might be unaware of? These days I am just an observer, looking kindly because of my remembered personal efforts in the desperate first days at Bitton.

Sunshiner said...

Very much aware of the origins. I followed in Railway Magazine developments as a spotty and brilliant teenager! Clearly the original BSRS was decades ahead of its time, and it's a great shame that they didn't achieve such a sensible outcome, they would be head and shoulders above most of the lines running today and an absolute beacon for sustainable transport groups. The very fact that they are having this talk suggests that they are probably still a little ahead of the game.

I like to think of the AVR as a holding operation, gradually restoring the track towards an eventual complete fulfillment of that original and farsighted aim.

There have been many similar set ups, from the Border Union Railway onwards, where there was complete collapse or a sad cutting back to become yet another 'heritage' set up with no genuine service offered, and mainly catering for divorced dads looking for somewhere to take the kids, dotty oldies mistily-eyed reliving half remembered childhoods, school parties exploring 'heritage' for some project and the odd trainspotter type strangely wandered away from the real, living railway often just a few miles away.

But that was then and this is now, and the future is of a buzzing railway, turning back the Beeching cuts, offering a superb array of freight and passenger options and keeping people moving once their cars are rotting in their driveways. The AVR has a future very different from its past, and it should be acknowledged as one of the inspirations for the New S&D, in its original BSRS manifestation.

Knoxy said...

I suspect the reason lots of these mini transport schemes failed to materialise was due to the fact they weren’t allowed to succeed. The road and oil lobby wasn't going to allow a small railway to provide sustainable transport when they had just accomplished wholesale closures on a unified system..

Bounce forward almost 50 years and we have the result. Congested roads, congested rail, expensive oil and the politicians, hooked on tax, seeing their cosy life all coming apart during the great depression 2011-2019. History repeats you see (1931-1939). Well I hope not exactly?

We need Government works projects, like rebuilding common sense, sustainable transport. Railways….