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!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

the next step - what do you think

Whilst I appreciate that any project - perhaps especially one as big as ours - needs a little time to consolidate (but in a way that's what we're doing by setting up stand alone projects that have a reasonably sedate pace, mainly governed by money and human resources) I also don't think we should rest on our laurels too much!

Midford and Spetisbury are proceeding apace and will no doubt both be fully up and running within 3 years. At the same time a project as all-embracing and as important as ours needs to constantly be doing NEW things which will drive the whole project forwards.

My own view (and at the moment it is only my view!) is that project 3 should be a small sustainable engineering facility, where we can experiment with new electric and steam locomotives. It will need a building (S&D style!) and a few test tracks, standard gauge, narrow gauge and perhaps 15" gauge.

Of course there'd be loads of places along the route (and I'm not forgetting the branches!) where this could be set up, but yesterday I took the brave step of venturing beyond our bit at Midford, under the Long Arch Bridge. Just beyond is the old up goods yard - and suddenly I thought 'this would be ideal!' Not only is there a fair bit of room, there's even the old crane base to give us a link to the old S&D and, of course, the run up to the station if we wanted giving us about a quarter mile of standard gauge track, and there's room within the goods area for a few decent lengths of narrow gauge (2ft? Metre?) and 15".

What do you lot think?

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Anonymous said...

Good idea, but to keep a facility like that running, the New Somerset and Dorset Railway will need an income stream. I would suggest that project 3 would be just that - an income generator, which then provides funds to feed the sustainable engineering facility. With the effort of volunteers, you grow the engineering facility by linking in with perhaps a university partner, which in turn attracts more investment in credible sustainable engineering projects, starts to employ staff/attract graduate researchers and so on in a virtuous circle. At the same time, develop the running line (arguably into Bath to tap into a commuter and leisure market), and use that income to enable spetisbury to push north to midford. Just an idea, but useful to have such a strategy to focus on long term.

Sunshiner said...

Don't worry - we won't take a single step with any S&D project until we can identify income streams that will not only cover the entire project but will also generate a surplus to allow further S&D development at other points to proceed.

Midford and Spetisbury will both be self-supporting once rebuilt by being sales points, recruitnment points and places where donations can be left!

The New S&D has always been about leverage and will always be finacially self-reliant - no bank loans for example. That's the future!

Freddie said...

I was just going to suggest that getting a University involved and someone else suggests it too. With four Unis in the Bristol/Bath area, this looks like an ideal site.

Also, there can't be many derelict sites like this so close to Bath: it would be galling if it were lost to someone else!

Keith Browning said...

The track thing is essential. A railway must have some track or by definition its NOT a railway. The idea of creating an innovation centre also sounds a great idea. There are plenty of technical boffins doing crazy things at weekends with all types of motive power and I expect there is an excess of them in the Bristol area,because of the previous history. I'm sure they would love to exercise their imagination and test their engineering skills, and get away from the missus for an hour or so.

Neil S. said...

The site is an excellent idea, as a show piece and for the repair of old goods vans etc in the old goods yard.

Sustainable/ecological will figure greatly in the restoration: good management of the land with wildlife in mind is an excellent marketing point. Proper management of the ample wood supply and hedge row along the side of the line would demonstrate the friendly way in which the railway treats its surrounds as well as the provision of firewood through coppicing and hedge laying which leads to a non-oil, renewable fuel supply and jobs for those who wish to train in rural skills: we need to revive these skills NOW: Peak Oil is with us. A train can run on ash wood which burns very hot and is usable when green.

No car or lorry can do the same.

Tom Seale said...

Would provide a useful car-park for the station in the short term.
I believe the site forms part of the Midford castle estate, it is currently unused so the owner may be willing to part with it. He is currently resisting the installation of the two-tunnels cycleway across his land. Maybe if the council forces his hand he will be glad to get shot of it.

Sunshiner said...

All very positive so far (apart from one unpublishable abusive and rambliong post from 'Occupy/Compulsory Purchase Man' who promised he'd never post again and has bombarded me with mad drivel all evening!)

No doubt if we did take this parcel we'd also be responsible for Long Arch Bridge? Oddly enough I was looking at it yesterday and it looked fairly sound to my untrained eye.

Stuart Seale said...

Tom and I have been looking at that piece of land for some time and have speculated about what a wonderful addition it would make. There have been problems in the past with travellers occupying the land, which is why there is a ditch and bank at the entrance. As for taking ownership of the bridge - best avoided to avoid costly liabilities.

Sunshiner said...

Do we know who is responsible for the bridge? Is it not part of the Midford Castle land, in which case any deal would almost certainly involve taking responsibility for it - though that may well with careful negotiation bring the price down! And also if we did own it we'd have no problems laying track beneath it. Just my thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Why not look at the trackbed immediately north of Blandford? It would be near to Spetisbury and might prompt a GCR style link-up with Shillingstone in future years. Once you've done that you're well placed to demonstrate a sustainable and useful transport link between Blandford (albeit outskirts) and Sturminster Newton. After that then a mainline link up with Templecombe would be the next step.

Toddington Ted said...

Provided that planning permission (for railway use) was granted, I see no reason why this land could not be used for the benefit of the renewed S&D, particularly if it encourages engineering training and development using local colleges and universities. We have all seen the problems when people go a head and spend hard-earned money on something only to find that it has to be demolished or severely amended to comply with planning permission. However, I believe that railway use may well give you Grandfather rights.

David B said...

If we are to link up with the mainline at Limpley Stoke, then acquiring Midford goods-yard is essential, as beyond its boundaries is a gentle slope down to Tucking Mill meadows and eventual connection with the old Camerton branch-line.

Just imagine all the students using our future S&D railway to arrive at Monkton Combe Boarding School (Hogwarts Express anyone?).

An engineering works is a great idea, but a through-line must be maintained. The nearby University of Bath has a good engineering department, who might just be interested in joining with us.

Bath Spa University has a GIS department who may be interested in undertaking surveying work for us.

Anonymous said...

I understand the desire to do new things that will help drive the project forward but I wonder if you're in danger of trying to do too many different things?

I wonder if you need something more solid to aim for - perhaps building two stations and the link between them. Where the stations are not too far apart, achievable in say < 5 years, the trackbed is clear and there is room for further expansion afterwards.

Where could this happen? Is thorough survey of the trackbed status between Midford and Radstock for example? Or north of Blandford, Stourpaine etc?

Sunshiner said...

I think the university link up's a great idea and Bath Spa would be my first choice as I did of course get my MA there!

My thinking was that on the old main line we'd only have a standard gauge demo line built to main line standards so it could easily change roles once the through line's open. There'd be a mix of SG and NG in the old goods yard area. I suppose that we could, before the main line's open, build a dual gauge line (SG and NG) along the main line route with the NG removed once 'real' trains start running.

I'm only thinking narrow gauge for cost reasons, both in track costs and rolling stock costs.

Sunshiner said...

We are rebuilding a 100 mile long route, hopefully within most of our lifetimes, so this is only a small step. It really would work as an add-on to existing facilities at Midford.

At Spetisbury it is clear northwards to Charlton Marshall, and then right on to the outskirts of Blandford. So a line linking two 'stations' (actually halts) would be feasible here, but whether such a line would be economically viable in the context of a restored main line I'm not sure, though I suppose we could market it as a touristy sort of line, at least at first. Perhaps a site for an ultra-modern wood burning steam loco and a couple of lightweight coaches?

Who knows? The best thing is that these options are now becoming possible!

yamfaz said...

Firstly, the site is all part of Midford and it would complete the picture. The Link up with Universities, great. Just one though and it is more to do with not having local knowledge, but isn't the trackbed a marked footpath and laying track would be a bit of a problem for the council and Sustrans and route 24. Or as owners we can ask them to move the Cycle/Footpath.

Sunshiner said...

The Midford station site has a cycleway all the way to the Long Arch Bridge but they are obliged within the terms of the lease to move it when track is laid. The cycleway does extend slightly to the north of Long Arch Bridge but beyond that I think it's just a path that's used, not an official footpath. This is similar to the situation at Midsomer Norton, where a footpath had become established through the whole site, plus a farm track, but all were dealt with at little cost and no friction with the locals.

There certainly is room on this stretch for a cycleway/path AND a single line railway, I'm sure it won't be too difficult to come to a permanent arrangement. No council will want to be seen to be standing in the way of a sustainable transport initiative that may well bring future jobs to a rural area - and of course keep the area moving when the oil runs out! I don't think there's anything anyone can do to stop the railway returning ...

David B said...

If there isn't space in the tunnel for both a railway and cycle-path, there's nothing to stop the cyclists from a minor diversion over the bridge, past the old post office and down Old Midford Road to rejoin the cycle-path on the Midford viaduct.

Knoxy said...

The new traction for the S&D must provide space for cycles to be carried on board, and with a network of cycle paths feeding into all the stations; we will have a form of integrated transport at the local/regional level. When the time comes to lay track into Bath along the former route, providing a quicker commute than driving, the cyclists will be on the train.

I would support the leasing/purchase of Midford A Goods as a engineering base for the new S&D