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!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

corfe mullen

(All copyright Geoff Newman)

Some excellent shots from Geoff Newman, our Track bed Steward for the region south of Bailey Gate. These were all taken around Corfe Mullen just south east of the old level crossing over the A35. This section looks quite easy to restore!


Anonymous said...

I agree that these scenes look enticingly easy to restore as an operational railway. However, the flip side is the site of Corfe Mullen Halt where the cutting has been filled in and houses built. Add to this the shameful absence of a protected route on the sites of nearby Bailie Gate and Broadstone stations and the task of reopening the S&D in this area becomes a whole lot more difficult.

Anonymous said...

lovely views, shame there arent any rails down. Corfe Mullen is the village I was brought up in from a child. My Grandfather was signalmen at Broadstone for a while, and also covered West Moors for a time. He was the final signalmen to be on duty in the old signalbox at Holes Bay Junction, when it closed. This junction was where the line to Broadstone and the S&D branched off the bournemouth to weymouth mainline. I wish everyone thats connected to re opening the S&D all the best for 2012 and may the progress continue. my only point of correction with the photos is the line crossed the A31 as opposed to the A35, a mere small detail.

Sunshiner said...

Infills and houses are not a problem at all. Infills can be removed (as on the Bluebell) and any houses on the route, if they can not be diverted around) will be compulsorily purchased (as on Waverley restoration, Croydon Tramlink etc).

The days of rail revivalists being worried about such minor and anachronistic 'blockages' are long past!

Anonymous said...

This is also the area where the line split into two. One line going to Braodstone, and the other going to Wimborne.

Knoxy said...

A few blighted houses and a bit of infill will not stop a railways return. The population of this country, mainly the south, has increased massively since the Beeching/Marples era. How will everyone get about when the Chinese buy all the available oil or force the price up beyond the average person’s pocket? Even if there was unlimited supply of oil, there is too much slow moving freight on the road. I’ve yet to see the plans for an electric truck so even if we all have electric cars where does all the road-freight go?
Trams, trolley buses and high speed rail are all in the news about a return. The tipping point is soon to be with us and then local and secondary main lines will need to be rebuilt and nothing will stand in the way….

Certainly not a house or a bit of infill. Even Whitemoor prison stands on the site of one of Europe’s former biggest marshalling yards (LNER era) and a piggyback freight route to the North from the Eastern ports. They’ll probably skirt round the prison, but I find it amusing they built it in a secluded area to bring jobs to the former rail town of March and already the yard has reopened for waste management and track renewals. It should be the rail yard for European piggyback traffic, ideally placed between the eastern ports, CTRL and our industrial north, and not many overbridges.

In 2012 the answers for this country’s future, are in the lessons of the past. Good inner transport links and freedom to trade with the world, with excellent transport links. That means shipping, ports, rail and the internet.

Oh and bin the EU


Sunshiner said...

Mick - spot on as always. The argument that a line will 'never' return because a few houses or even a block of flats etc has been built on the route may have worked in the 70s and 80s but certainly not now. Because the people in those houses and flats are merely future customers for the line! All railway land should have been protected from development for at least 100 years after closure, and anyone who buys on or near 'disused' railway land has to accept that the railway will be reclaiming that land sooner rather than later.

It's the 21st century, the century in which oil and many other resources will disappear. The century when rail will become at first the primary then the only powered form of transport. The century when growth is finished, perhaps for ten millenia, when population starts to fall and many of us return to farming and crafts for our income. It doesn't mean going backwards, but forwards in a different and - obviously - sustaianble way. For a decade or so we'll see strange nostalgia responses to what's happening - 'Occupy' is the clearest example, as were the Greek rioters - people that desperately want us to cling on to the ideas and incomes of the past despite everything that's happening. Likewise people will cling on to their cars, avoiding maintenance, insurance and repairs, until they simply can no longer afford to fill their tanks, or eventually find any garage with fuel at any price.

Of course there'll be a switch to electric cars, but soon the price of electricity will rise to match that of black market fuel just to suppress demand. Electric cars will be a very short lived phenomenon.

Result? More and more people will switch to rail (where it exists) and fight like mad for its reinstatement (where it doesn't).

The New S&D is well ahead of the curve on this, but soon rail revival groups will spring up everywhere. Hopefully we can continue to stay ahead of the crowd but it's now 100% clear the way things are going!

We should embrace the future rather than fear it.

Sunshiner said...

And as for the EU?

An idea firmly set in the period 1955 to 1995, but with no role in the future. The future will be smaller states hopefully linked by high speed rail, with decisions being made locally and railways being owned by the people they serve.

The current EU is really just an exercise in nostalgia. I've always been a great supporter of it (and the Euro) but it's time has passed now.

Anonymous said...

I would deffo say the route towards Wimborne would probably be the fastest and easiest to build being less barrier (as mainly across countryside, although wimborne has been totally wiped out. of course SWT want the line relaid to Ringwood, although the government seem to be ignoring this fact, so an extension from Wimborne to Ringwood would be good to connect up to the Mainline Network, Brockenhurst has the facilities to cope with the extra traffic, so even through running to there could alwas be a possibility

Sunshiner said...

The New S&D will certainly put Wimborne and Ringwood back on the network - both towns are far too large, even today, to not have modern and sustainable transport. Re the route through Wimborne - we'd look at finding the best position for the new station and determine the route from there. If it's the original position then there will be some CPOs being posted!

Wimborne will be a very busy station in the future with passenger and freight trains running to Bournemouth, to Ringwood and Brockenhurst, to Fordingbridge and Salisbury and, of course, northwards to Templecombe and Bath. There may also be feeder passenger and freight trams connecting to smaller villages in the area.

Anonymous said...

On a minor, but emotional note, my interest in the S&D was sparked during a family holiday pre-teen visit to Wimbourne in the mid-70's. On an adult-free walkabout one day, I and my friend happened upon a track-lifted embanked formation near the station, and then walked to the site - still with rails in situ. We were ushered away promptly!

My desire to see the railway reinstated was born then. It went forgotten and dormant until the time of the incorporation on the New S&D. My interest and enthusiasm now burn brightly.

Anonymous said...

I have been activly involvedin the shillingstone project and i think that thier more realistic view of running a line from stur to blandford is more achievable than the whole route. But even this with the councils blessing will cost a fortune with funds not that forthcoming. I don't for one minute think any CPO will be honoured in any way. But the few projects that are running will have a few miles of track to use but that will be all.

Sunshiner said...

With respect 'anomynous' I don't think you've grasped at all what the New S&D is about! Heritage railways are already morphing into community railways - do you really think that Sturminster to Blandford will serve a passenger and freight role WITHOUT being connected to the network? How will passengers and volunteers even reach the route once cars are no longer viable - something that is already starting to happen and the energy crisis is only in its very earliest stages.

The New S&D is not a heritage project per se, although it does have heritage aspects at this very early stage. The 1970s attitude that heritage lines are like grown up train sets was an idea very much of its time. It doesn't have the same resonance now as we face huge problems. The roads will die and we'll need to keep moving, both freight and passengers. Every town and village in the UK will be shouting for their railway back, otherwise what future do they have?? By getting a head start we'll ensure that the S&D will be top of the queue for reinstatement because it has a better claim than just about any other route.

I'm sorry but the world has moved on incredibly already from the 70s, not everyone has grasped this yet but we still have incredibly cheap petrol, a well-maintained road system and a little bit of time to switch from road to rail. Each day more and more people come over to us.

There's some benefit in sticking your head in the sand, but I suspect if you took the time to lift it out and look around you you're probably one of the few ostriches left!

We shouldn't fear the future but embrace it. Nostalgia's had its day but I really don't think any of us will have the time and resources to indulge in it for much longer. We need to get our railways rebuilt now, we don't have the time to faff around any more!

Sunshiner said...

Oh, and the rest of you lot - be gentle on him/her. (I love the idea that you can just ignore CPOs - what a world THAT would be LOL!)

John said...

Leaving aside any long term S and D whole line reopening issues for the moment,i didn't realise that the Shillingstone project had the whole of the section between Blandford and Sturminster as a target.I thought that the aim was to restore approximately 1 mile of track in the station area itself.Is there any official statement from the project that the target is to reopen between BF and Stur?

Sunshiner said...

I spotted that too! I was going to address it by pointing out that just a year or so ago that Shillingstone were only proposing to restore a mile or so of line - which meant that the writer was taking a huge leap to expect Sturminster to Blandford to reopen through the NDRT. From there it's not such a big step to head south and mop up Spetisbury and Charlton Marshall on the way to Poole! Which would surely lead him/her to support the New S&D!

So I began to doubt the veracity of the poster (anomynous of course!) and wonder if it was just a little New Year present for us! It was great fun and will no doubt appear in the 'Jurassic Park' section of the blog!

The simple fact is that all railway restorationists, even if they are of the 1970s mindset, will always want MORE - more locos, more stock, more line.

The only difference is that this ambition is enshrined in the New S&D's constitution and we're plotting each little incremental stage one step at a time.

The underlying issue is that pure heritage railways (which is surely what Stur-Blandford would be) will need to convert to community railways (linked to the network by rail/tram) well before the oil runs out, to get passengers and volunteers to the line and also to even be allowed to operate when things get really serious.

Whilst 'disused' railways may have been a wasting asset in the 70s, they will be regarded as prime infrastructure within a decade or two.

The whole comment was meaningless in this context and I suspect you've found yet another layer of trollism withinit!

Anonymous said...

to be fair to the poster to whom you refer I see no troll aspects to his/her post. Instead they have pointed out the probable limits of the Shillingstone Project and as for the rest of the line being too much money to restore, well I guess they can be forgiven a lack of vision in these straightened times. To be fair it will be a few years before rails are laid all the way into Bournemouth and most people will not be looking the 20+ years ahead that I assume you are.
Their point about ignoring CPOs is nonsense; if and when they are issued the word "compulsory" is a bit of a clue!
With reagd to Shillingstone's ambitions as a heritage set up, I don't know their exact intent but I think you'll find it's to do more, much more, than a mile. However, I believe they're playing a 'softly softly' approach as there is no point in upsetting people needlessly with talk of extensions until such time as they've proved their worth on their existing site. This is what they are doing. As a local, and having seen how they've upped their game generally and with the local community in particular, I think their approach is spot on.

Sunshiner said...

Me too! The news coming out of Shillingstone is fantastic and they've certainly upped their game over the last year or two.

I think what riled me is that the original poster seemed to claim they had knowledge that we didn't about rail restoration on the S&D, but made no attempt to push his/her credentials or explain how or why these 'few miles' llimits would apply - forever.

And the silly statement about ignoring CPOs did make me wonder if the whole thing was a wind up or a poor attempt at a joke. I'm still a bit puzzled by it.

Knoxy said...

i've just had a look on google maps at the southern end of the S&D combined my with my rail atlas of GB by Colonel Cobb (fantasic book) and i just happened to zoom in on the S&D in Brickyard Lane, Corfe Mullen. is that the bridge in this post? looks like an ideal section to safeguard and restore, especially with the expanding population nearby? How far does it go before obstructions? somewhere round here should be the focus for a return of the areas lost railways with a view to a reborn community electric railway.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone really looked into the real costs involved in the whole line being reinstated? I have heard through a credible source that just to purchase the land to bridge over the Blandford bypass is estimated at 10,000.000. That's with out building the bridge. I just can't see our debt ridden government forking out any cash. I would love to see it back in it's entirety as i must have walked all that is possible. I agree it was wrong to close the line. But as there are large proportions either built on or swallowed up in road improvements then it would take some convincing that its a viable project. How for instance would you get through say Wincanton or Bailygate now housing or even Radstock. Who will foot the bill to rebuild Priestliegh viaduct. Even the bridges that do survive will need a fair share of money spending on them as i have seeen the damage tree roots have done. Some have massive Cracks. I wish you luck and hope it happens but don't hold your breath. I'm Male BTW.

Sunshiner said...

We approach this from the angle that the line will HAVE to be reinstated, as the alternative once Peak Oil is under way is to revert to a pure self-suffiency/horse drawn economy, which I can't see the inhabitants of Blandford, Wincanton etc accepting! Or indeed me!! The cost is irrelevant and the money will be found. About 97% of the route is clear I believe, and even much of the 3% can be bypassed/bridged or tunnelled, or even street running employed.

The SDRHT at Midsomer Norton have already planned a diversionary route around Shepton for example. Even the heritage groups actually have big plans for their sections of route. The SDRHT has full line reinstatement enshrined in its constitution, as do we, and they were thinking like this back in the mid 1990s! There are a lot of forward-thinking people in this rail revival project - including many at Shillingstone ...

The money will come, the fact that the UK is cash strapped now has no relevance to 20 or 30 years' time. When did a bit of money ever stop a mmotorway project back in the olden days?

We have always worked on the assumption that the line WILL be reinstated, our aim is to ensure that the route when rebuilt takes into account the very special nature of the line. The biggest fear is that a basic-style main line will be built eradicating what the original S&D was all about. We are business-minded first and foremost and see the extra traffic from enthusiasts and country lovers on special steam tours as a useful source of income.

This will become an extremely busy route in the future for both freight and passengers. The need to make an argument long ago switched to those who seem to think that there will be some magical transport alternative available - or that nightmare of emptying towns as people abandon a railless part of the west country for towns and villages that ARE rail connected is acceptable. We've set out our case and lots of people have converted from sceptics to enthusiasts for the revived S&D.

The cost to restore the whole line? We haven't costed it but I'd be surprised if there was much change out of £2 billion. So what? We're not talking about a 60s preservation society, but a community railway that will do all the carrying in just a couple of decades time.

Don't worry - we've all (myself included) made that most important journey from sceptic to S&D enthusiast. You're not alone - and remember, it doesn't all have to be done overnight! Midsomer Norton are heading towards Shepton, from Midford we'll head to Bath and Radstock/MN. Shillingstone is looking to restore Sturminster Newton to Blandford, from Shillingstone we'll head to Blandford and to Poole. And do you seriously think Stur people will only want to head south? Of course not, they'll be baying for that connection up to Templecombe, which will get them to London and the West Country!

Even if the rest of the UK goes to the dogs I see no reason why this sublime part of Wessex should join them!

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem this country has is the sheer short sightedness of railway closers. If the s&d and other lines had meerly been mothballed to see how the future pans out then we wouldn't have the problem to reistate them. I for one am not against the idea but can't get my head around the sheer cost and labour which at the moment is volentry. I think ALL the work that has been achieved is outstanding. I did the reroofing of shillingstone, the perimiter fencing and even managed to replace a large section of the original platform foundation to it's proper place(ripped out for a sewer pipe some years ago). But the encroachment of building on the line roads inc i'm sure is more than 3%. Hope i'm wrong Regards Dave.

Sunshiner said...

3% is about three miles. Bath to Shepton is basically clear, Shepton can be bypassed. I don't know the line much south of there until Templecombe, but I think only Wincanton's a major blockage. North of Sturminster there's a little encroachment, I think it's clear then all the way to the site of Blandford station. There's a bit of encroachment in Blandford but it's totally clear from the southern ring road section all the way to Bailey Gate. There's a sports centre at Broadstone, south of there I don't know the route well but I do remember that when the Wimborne line closed this was supposed to be a protected transport corridor into Poole (which suggests a law suit if it has been breached!!). There's the odd house etc at other points. Roads can't be classed as encroachment as they can be pushed to one side or the railway slightly diverted. There are a few missing bridges and Prestleigh of course. The branch is substantially clear throughout. I can't get 3% out of that. And surely the 97% is more important?

Mick Knox is undertaking a full line survey so we can get a precise % of encroachment and also learn who owns what.

As to financing - a whole line revival could raise the money through the stock market for example - something a short heritage line could never do. With the prospect of roads failing and all or almost all traffic switching to rail, investment in rail companies will be one of the only surefire sensible investment decisions to be made in the future! This is already happening in the US with Warren Buffet putting in well over £2 billion to railways! But this is only one possible future funding route. Local authorities may well buy into rail revival schemes, regional government will also be a lot stronger post Peak Oil. Pension schemes, if they still exist, may invest directly, as will seriously wealthy individuals.

And think of our catchment area. Easily 2 million people with Bournemouth/Poole at one end and Bristol/Bath at the other, with a few sizeable towns in between. At £2 billion that would amount to an investment of £1000 per person, all of whom would use the trains either directly or indirectly. Give each person a useful useable S&D lifespan of 50 years and that amounts to £20 a year - an absolute bargain if you compare it with the £5000 or so the average car costs per annum just to keep on the road!

You see, you need to think outside the box and suddenly what seemed like almost unsurmountable barriers just vanish. This is how the future will be and the S&D revival is now far too big a thing to stop now!

Anonymous said...

Still think 3% is a bit optomistic. In stur alone there is a new housing estate build over the cutting heading north, Staion road bidge has gone Bath road bridge survives abeit buried due to cutting being infilled. The north side of bath road is a builders merchants and yard built on the infilled cutting. The station site is only a carpark and the remains could be buried beneath. Even going south from Blandford there is housing on the old station site both the bridges after that a new supermarket and then an industrial estate. There is talk of reinstating the "old road" from brokenhurst to Ringwood but about a mile at Holmesley station is now a road and the old station approach at Ringwood has just had some new units built blocking the last bridge as you enter. Will be interesting though to read Mick Knox's report on the route. Dave

Sunshiner said...

These are still only minor problems and to worry about them is 1970s thinking. I know you don't believe that anyone takes any notice of compulsory purchase orders but in the real world they do! It does add somewhat to the cost of reinstatement but this is pretty much offset by the long stretches of undeveloped trackbed of minimal value, ie over the Mendips.

And bear in mind that until a year or so ago a WHOLE village in London was due to be compulsorily purchased to make way for a new runway at Heathrow airport - this for a transport mode that was doomed due to the impossibility of finding a replacement for kerosene!

Where essential transport is involved the government will simply bulldoze the plans through, which is exactly what will happen when it becomes obvious even to politicians that our only modern transport optionin the future is rail. This means that money will be available and that heritage lines will be basically told to either convert to community railways or vacate their sites. That's how important our rail infrastructure is and no amount of 1970s nostalgia will be able to overcome that. This is the environment in which we'll be working, which has both benefits and threats to the current heritage status quo. We need to be prepared for it. That is really what the New S&D is about.

And the best thing is noneof us needs to worry about anything we do now - at MN or Shillingstone. Every bit of track laid, every station restored, every local brought into the revival is a step in the right direction and helps to publicise the great S&D revival. There are no conflicts of interest within the whole S&D community.We all love the line and we all want it back.

Knoxy said...

According to the Torygraph ‘High-speed rail line is given the green light’

The £32 billion high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham has been given final approval and will go ahead as proposed, ministers will announce next week.

Now I’m not really in favour of this, as I believe which should be giving the majority of the population the chance to use a train by reinstating the secondary lines and branch lines before we embark on HS2. We should be re-opening the Great Central for freight and local traffic, not high speed.

What this does prove is that rail is the future and investment will come for more lines. If the communities along the HS2 route had got involved and safeguarded the GC route, bought the local stations etc, they may have then engineered a return of a railway they could use, rather than one they can only wave to?

Community rail is the answer and the S&D2 is what is needed between Bath and Bournmouth.

Anonymous said...

This post seems to have struck a nerve. I have never seen so many comments!
It illustrates the interest and concern over the loss of this valuble and scenic line.
Of course this is not the only line
which is missed,Peak Rail, from Matlock to Buxton would also Qualify for reinstatement.
But this is Our line and we sould all be more POSITIYE.

Knoxy said...

the post has struck a nerve as this country is littered with abandoned lines, superbly engineered over 100 years ago and destroyed during the 60's on the back of cheap oil.

times are changing. who would have thought the Tories would be building new rail lines?

Marples/Beeching was supposed to kill off railways?

What happened!

Anonymous said...

At Blandford presumably the line would go past Tesco (not far from where the bridge over the river was) and if a link was made to the main line at Poole, would Tesco seek to get their deliveries made by rail right to their shop?

Sunshiner said...

Freight will be a very important thing on the New S&D and we certainly expect the supermarkets to be major customers! Even now supermarkets are beginning to switch to rail. Notice how almost all supermarkets are situated next to existing or future railways!

Anonymous said...

I also thought by the way that this was a forum to express personal view's. You obviosly can't take comments that are slightly negitive towards the full reinstatement of the line without trying to make those statements seem fool hardy. It's a case of you can dish it but you can't take it. I have shown your comments on here to other rail ethusiasts i know and they also agree the S/D can't go back the way it was. But fully support each project.

Sunshiner said...

I think the main point is that this is a group/forum for people who want to rebuild the S&D. There are a lot of people giving up a lot of time making this happen. In reality all the members of the New S&D accept that the S&D will be rebuilt - that's no longer the issue, HOW we do it is what's important now.

So if a few people - who always have agendas of their own - try to drag the argument backwards but without any actual information, evidence, analysis what is the point? What do they want - for us to declare the whole project dead in the water, and for us to return to doing nothing? What exactly do they want??

A few times I've asked these posters what their credentials and qualifications are and not once have any of them got back to me! So I have to conclude that these are merely personal opinions with no grounding in reality but instead in prejudices and ignorance.

We have to move with the times. In a few decades there will be no more road traffic or air traffic, there simply won't be enough energy available. And not ONE poster has ever challenged this assertion with facts and figures. We may have a few electric vehicles connecting stations to outlying farms, shops etc, but these will be extremely expensive and really just waiting for rail to reach them. This is the future into which the New S&D - and hundreds of other lines round the country - is moving in to. I'm sorry that that upsets some people - heritage railway fans, petrolheads, Occupy, utopians etc - but what's the point of pretending it's not happening?

At the heart of the New S&D, ironically, are rail enthusiasts of the broadest sort, who loved the old S&D and want to preserve at least some aspects of it when the line's rebuilt. The alternative isn't a closed S&D - that was a temporary aberration from a different age - but, to paraphrase Mick Knox, a bland reopened network route hemmed in by palisade fencing.

Is this really what people want, because I don't!

The S&D deserves the very best, it deserves people that will FIGHT for its future and the people that have already realised this and are doing the work surely have the right to ignore those that would want to drag us back to the 1960s? Especially if there's absolutely nothing underpinning their arguments?

The simple fact is all this 'should the S&D reopen' nonsense was done and dusted five years ago. We've moved on. The New S&D was born from the winning of that argument. The argument now is clearly not 'should it happpen' but 'HOW do we make it happen?' That's where we are now. And it's so important to put the S&D at the top of the queue, because this is now starting to happen everywhere! Just be pleased that there are people giving us loads of time and money to do it, with more joining us all the time.