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!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

what a difference a year makes!

(Waiting to take the Pines Forward 24.9.1960. Photo by C J Martin, ©  Ian C Martin)

I had great fun reading through a year old National Preservation Forum thread on Clutton (link in the previous post) which degenerated (with no input from any New S&D member) into a New S&D-bashing thread, including claims that I was behind Clutton (I wasn't!) and, the best one, that Peak Oil was 'contentious'.

Peak Oil's not contentious, that much is clear. Oil is a finite resource and is already getting scarcer, and nothing and no amount of wishful thinking, will change that. The only thing that observers don't agree on is the actual timing of the peak. Some say as long ago as 2005, some very optimistic types think it may still be a decade off. Either way the long term view is bleak for road transport, diesel transport by rail, food production, plastic manufacturer and many other things. Some things will be substituted, though only of course by more expensive options, otherwise we'd be using them now. But whatever way you look at it road transport is doomed, the first signs of this process are already clearly visible. Clearly what needs to happen is a big switch to rail beginning now - and this is happening in most parts of the world (including the UK) already. This doesn't mean simply HS lines, but reversals of most if not all of the Beeching cuts, together with a huge expansion in light rail, tramways and industrial and agricultural lines. How anyone could, in all seriousness, exclude the S&D in this process is beyond me! Yet just a year ago we were getting vile flack from a group of heritage steamy types who were clearly mired in the 60s mindset.

Another nasty jibe was that the S&D ran through an empty wilderness with no villages, let alone towns, en route. This particular moron clearly knew nothing about this part of the world! Putting to one side the fact that where a railway runs through is not particularly relevant, it's the purpose it serves and the places beyond the particular line that it connects that are important, this buffoon failed to understand that Blandford, Radstock, Shepton Mallet, Midsomer Norton, Wells, Glastonbury, Wimborne and Ringwood are quite sizeable places which will generate a large amount of freight and passenger traffic. And of course overlooked that we have Britain's only World Heritage City at one end of the line and Britain's premier seaside resort at the other!

But the thing that pissed me off the most was the idiot who boldly announced that he didn't own a car and travelled everywhere by train but didn't understand why the S&D needed to return - that it would be a meandering branch line where the porters doffed their caps at every station and halt! He's clearly been on some very strong and peculiar drugs. So he was happy to use a modern railway because he was lucky enough to live near an open station - but the near two million living along the S&D should not have this opportunity.

I assume that a year on, with petrol approaching £1.50 a litre and Peak Oil on everybody's lips (it's even mentioned in the current issue of Rail magazine) they are beginning to see the light. They may even have joined us in the meantime ...


Sunday, April 24, 2011

more rails close to the New S&D

This is the Hunters Rest Miniature Railway near Pensford. It may well be the only pub miniature railway in the UK! It's a mile or two from Pensford, which had (and will of course have again) a station on the Radstock to Bristol line. The line runs for about a third of a mile through woods and alongside the pub car park.

We went to the pub today but only photographed the line - I think my riding days of lines this small are over! It has combined track for both 7 1/4" and 5" guage trains. There are a couple of steam locos used on this line but today they were using this Hymek-style freelance diesel, pulling a single carriage.

The Bristol to Radstock route (which of course continues to Frome) closed in 1968 after damage to the magnificent (and still extant) Pensford viaduct in the massive July 1968 flood. The New S&D plans to reopen this route to ease capacity limits on the Radstock to Bath section of the S&D. Part of this route is now a cycleway between Radstock and Midsomer Norton, there is also the (moribund?) Clutton station revival with (at least a few years ago) a mark one standard gauge coach and a narrow gauge diesel alongside but unconnected to the Clutton scheme, plus this tiny line about a mile from the route between Pensford and Clutton. All worth a visit of course!

Friday, April 22, 2011

ladies' toilets ...

(All pics 21.4.2011 © Tom Seale)

It looked like a great evening up at Midford when these shots were taken! Hay fever's still keeping me laid low but hopefully I'll be able to get up there again myself soon.

Been rather busy on Sundays recently so we decided to head down yesterday evening. Spent most of our time in the ladies loos (in the station not the pub!), quite a bit of the floor in this room appears to be missing, we were relieved when eventually we uncovered some of the tiled floor that I had read about. We also uncovered: 2 toothbrushes, 1 doorframe, 1 Hope and Anchor sign, 1 beer barrel (or steel hoops of), 1 toad, 1 slow worm, a watering can, glass and multiple crisp packets and drinks containers. Clearly this has been used as a local refuse site for some time, hopefully though once cleared it will discourage any further tipping.

The weeds are starting to grow fairly rapidly, and the leaves are back on the trees. As it's now the bird nesting season we'll resist the temptation to fell any trees for a bit, there's plently to do at the station anyway.

Please find attached before and after pictures, plus some of the missing floor and tiles, at the last moment we also discovered a large drain, presumably from one of the toilets.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

midford in 1991

This is a fantastic shot from Brian Clarke showing the miniature railway that operated along the platform at Midford in 1991. (Photo © Brian Clarke)

The picture shows the little steam train Bob Bullock brought to run along platform on iron track I made joined with ali track (like is in your garden) to get the length. This operated for insurance reasons as "Weston Miniature Rly" with scaled down replica "Pines Express" headboard & was the first steam train operation there since closure.

Friday, April 15, 2011

progress ...

Been busy all day getting Right Lines 3 ready - hopefully the first ones will be going out on Monday to new members. All members should have a copy by this time next week.

This will be a six pager, and should be the last in-house production. Surely one of you has the time and skills to take on the editor role for this? There's plentty of financial resources that you'll have available, plus I'm happy to support you through the first 2 or 3 editions at least. This is such an important role and an excellent way of stamping your mark and style on the S&D revival. It's taken me 15 months to get this one out - mainly because I have so many other S&D things on my plate.

Please email me at leysiner@aol.com if interested.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

at last!

I've finally started on RIGHT LINES 3, now branded (for obvious reasons!) the occasional magazine of the New S&D.

We're still looking for somebody to take on the editor position to give the magazine the justice it deserves. Ideally we'd like to produce 3 to 4 issues a year. The financial resources are here - enough to produce a decent glossy type mag.

I'm more than happy to continue to provide copy and also proof read future issues but with about 4 or 5 other major roles in the New S&D this really needs to be somebody's exclusive baby.

Please email me at leysiner@aol.com if interested!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the US ahead of the UK in modern transport - who would have believed it?

The USA, former home of the automobile has actually pushed AHEAD of the UK in developing 21st ce ntury transport. In addition to building dozens of new tramways in the last twenty years or so they have just now started building trams again.

It's time the UK woke up tpo the amazing opportunities opening up for the building and operating of modern transport solutions - both light and heavy rail - as the oil price escalates.

This is from the US Dept of Transportation's own blog.

United Streetcar putting Americans to work

When you watch our latest video, "Transporting America: United Streetcar," you'll see the next generation of transportation. You'll see transit investments from the Department of Transportation helping people get where they need to go without breaking the bank. And you'll see a company out-innovating and out-building its foreign competition while creating jobs for American workers.

The streetcars rolling through Portland, Oregon, are helping commuters beat the rising cost of refueling their cars and vans and trucks. And, as rising gas prices take a bigger bite out of family budgets, other communities are looking to ease that bite through similar transportation options.

As commuter Jim Winkle says in the video, "It's made a huge difference."

That's why the Department of Transportation has supported streetcar projects in communities like Portland across America. From Charlotte, North Carolina, and Washington, DC, to Tucson, Arizona, and Dallas, Texas, grants from the Federal Transit Administration are helping jump-start the American streetcar renaissance.

United Streetcar president Chandra Brown agrees: "The Department of Transportation has been a true partner as the streetcar industry has developed. Without their assistance, we could not have made the private investment to make this new industry successful."

That's good news for commuters and their families. It's also good news for American workers because, at United Streetcar, they're manufacturing the first American streetcars in more than 50 years.

And we mean "American." The cars rolling out of United Streetcar have the highest percentage of American parts and labor of any streetcar in the last 50 years. That means United Streetcar's innovation is creating an economic ripple effect, providing business for an all-American supply chain of more than 200 different vendors in 20-plus states across the U.S.

I love the idea of DOT grants helping create American jobs, and I love the idea of helping American families with options to ease the pinch they feel at the pump. But there's also the pride I hear in workers--like welder Steve Goodman and construction foreman Casey Peacock--who know that for the first time in more than 50 years America can build its own streetcars.

And not only build our own streetcars--this company is bold enough to take on its foreign competitors by planning to export the cars they make.

President Obama has challenged Americans to dream big and build big. United Streetcar has risen to that challenge, and they’re doing it all with American parts, labor, and ingenuity. That means less congestion on our roads, more jobs for American workers, and a future we are prepared to win.

Video <here

Monday, April 11, 2011

the queue starts to form

Where the S&D leads others follow - and this is one of the reasons it is so important for us to get at the head of the queue when the Great Rebuilding starts!

The Woodhead route was certainly one of those lines that should never have closed!

Reopen the Woodhead Line Campaign                    contact info@savethewoodheadtunnel.org.uk

The principal objective of this campaign group is to promote the re-instatement of an ideally electrified railway between Manchester and Sheffield via the Woodhead tunnel. In March, the group hosted an illustrated talk by John Quick of the Great Central Railway Society on the history of the line up to the present day - over 60 people were there to see John‟s brilliant collection of slides.

The Reopen the Woodhead Line Campaign has announced a further meeting for Thu 26 May: a Local Rail Campaigners Summit, to be held at the Guide Bridge Theatre in Manchester. This will focus on the current situation and the project to restore the line as well as other campaigns at Denton and Reddish South. There will also be an event in July commemorating the 30th anniversary of the line's closure, with activities in both Manchester and Sheffield, a folk train and a challenge to cycle or walk to the line's mid point.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

sustrans pushing the peak oil message

This is from Sustrans' press office, a reaction to the recent dinosaur budget which assumes we are still in the 1970s!

Charity Sustrans accuses the Chancellor of delivering a disastrous budget which focuses on short term gains to get popular support. His measures to reduce and limit the cost of fuel mean that once again we are incentivising people to use their cars while failing to offer alternatives that would provide a transport lifeline to poorer households without access to a car.

Jason Torrance, Sustrans' Policy Manager says "Mr Osborne has missed a golden opportunity to invest the £2bn from the oil companies in providing alternatives to car travel. People are now being encouraged to drive in a 1970's dream that could soon evaporate with a change in the price of oil.

"Sadly he has delivered the budget from behind the steering wheel of a Ford Focus and ignored the opportunity to provide alternatives to car use and much needed support to those suffering from the high cost of fuel.

"We do ourselves no favours by continuing to ignore the obvious - oil is a finite resource and will become unaffordable long before it finally dries up. Unless we invest in low carbon alternatives to car use we are facing a divide in society with the majority of people living in transport poverty."

Monday, April 04, 2011

midford 3.4.2011

All photos copyright Tom Seale

These are the latest shots taken on Sunday. The base of the station building is now being cleared. The time when we will need to plan and construct (and finance!) the buildings are getting closer every day. If you have the skills to help us do this (construction, drawings etc) please email me on leysiner@aol.com asap so we can start getting a team together for this next step.

I've also added a dedicated album for the restoration of Midford which can be accessed through the side bar or by clicking on the picture below.

Midford 2011

Friday, April 01, 2011

cycleways and railways - the future's big two!

We had an interesting email from a cyclist yesterday which brings up some interesting questions. I think the easiest way to address this is to simply reproduce the questions and answers here.
Personally I would like to see us broaden the aims of the New S&D to build a railway AND cycleway along (or near) the route, and would welcome your comments on this idea.

The email reads -

I am rather confused with the ambitious aims of this project which seem to contradict current policy within the local authorities.

Tremendous effort is being put in by North Dorset District and Dorset County Councils to re-open the line where possible for cyclist, equestrians and walkers.

Understandably, this has massive public support. Such use will be available to a wide range of users and hopefully those on low incomes to.It will have a minimum impact on the environment and will add to the public enjoyment of the countryside through which it passes. As this is predominantly a single track line I ask how you propose to re-open a railway and accommodate the Dorset Cycleway ?

I am aware how the Bodmin and Wenford railway intends to relay track on what has become the Camel Trail, however, there is room on the railway earth works to accommodate both. I do not believe that would be the case in Dorset.

Do you have the support of any of the local authorities ?

I find this a bizarre and perhaps over ambitious project. I am both a rail enthusiast and cyclist, but your project throws me completely.

I would be interested to hear from you.

My response was

The first thing to bear in mind is that this is a long term project, which will take decades rather than years to achieve.

The second point is that the S&D is predominantly a double track main line, there were a few short stretches of single track (Broadstone-Creekmoor, Blandford to Templecombe and Midford to Bath) so there is plenty of room for both a cycleway and a railway throughout. As far as I am aware the Dorset cycleway is mainly on double track sections of the route. Even where the line was single track most of the earthworks, bridges etc were built for double track – this was common on many single track railways, even branch lines.

It’s also important to bear in mind that we believe that Peak Oil and to a lesser extent Climate Change will force a huge rebuilding of the rail network, not simply a reversal of the Beeching cuts (which is of course already happening) but also lines to places that previously never had trains. We also believe that the road network will fall into gradual disuse, some of these roads may well then be converted into cycleways, bridleways etc.

The conversion of railways to cycleways was a bit of a stop gap measure to preserve the physical rights of ways of these lines which will be so essential in the future. We are just doing our tiny bit with a small project to ensure that the S&D gets to the top of the queue as railways are rebuilt. The fact that we are, in the main, railway enthusiasts too (with many cyclists on board as well) hopefully will ensure that the S&D is reinstated with the full participation of the people in the communities we pass through, rather than be bulldozered through by a government intent on restoring railways at all costs, which will be the most likely outcome as Peak Oil hits full on.

We already work closely with Sustrans at Midford and certainly intend to create both a top class railway and cycleway between Bath and the coast. The best thing is to get involved to ensure that your views are always to the fore, though as sustainable transport enthusiasts we are all just as keen on cycleways as we are on railways, rather like yourself!

DCC is certainly supportive of us but we have deliberately kept the project low key until recently, but a rapidly increasing membership is changing that! How things are now are not really much of a pointer as to how things will be in the future, but I’m sure you’ll agree that rail will be an enormously important part of the sustainable transport mix in an energy constrained future. For all of a bike’s utility we can’t really expect them to ever haul 1000 tonne loads over the Mendips! That will be our job ...