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, March 14, 2012

from australia ....

Had a great email from Australia today!

I was born and raised in a house on Poole Road very close to Bournemouth West station. By the time I was five, in 1956, I had become an avid train spotter after discovering a perfect hiding place beside the line only a hundred yards away from my house. I spent most of my free time for the next ten years watching the most amazing array of trains and locomotives. One minute it was a Merchant Navy leaving with the Bournemouth Belle to London, and the next was a Castle arriving with a train from York or Birkenhead, or else the Pines Express which had so many different locos heading it. I shall never forget seeing ‘Evening Star’ arriving with the Pines in the summer of 1962.
I was used to seeing many old locomotives from the ex LSWR pulling local trains before they were replaced by the standards in the early 1960s. Especially the M.7s on push pull work for trains to Brockenhurst on the old road via Wimborne, but I was also excited to see Nelsons and King Arthurs arriving regularly from London, and the greyhound T9s on the local services. Did the T.9s ever do runs to Bath? What a great sight they made pulling away uphill towards Branksome, (and the old S&D shed in the triangle there) past my hiding place in the bushes beside the track. .
But then add to all this the regular arrivals from Bath on the S&DJR behind Midland locomotives, which were not seen anywhere else in Hampshire. I was so used to seeing Fowler 7Fs I thought they were ‘ordinary’ engines, and the little 4Fs would come trundling in piloting larger Southern or Midland engines, or else in earlier days I remember the 2P Fowler 4-4-0s were common pilots. Then every once in a while a Black Five would arrive with the northern trains.
By 1962, when I was 11, most of the old engines had disappeared and were replaced by Standards, which saddened me as I realised my favourites had been scrapped, but the only consolation was the regular arrivals of the 9Fs from Bath. There were still Bulleid Pacifics starting on the many trains to London every day, but I didn’t realise that there would only be another three years of the line into Bournemouth West, let alone only another five years of steam. I can’t remember when the Old Road closed and the Somerset and Dorset trains diverted to Central, I was just waiting in the bushes and didn’t see so many trains arrive anymore. I didn’t read about Dr. Beeching, and no-one told me that steam engines would all be scrapped in another few years.
One day in 1965, while on holiday from my boarding school, I went down to the station and asked Mr. Jones, the man who always made me buy a platform ticket, what had happened to the trains. He told me the station was going to close soon, and the Bath line was finishing too. I couldn’t believe it. Being only 14, I couldn’t quite understand that what you had known all your life, could just end…
I kept seeing regular steam on the line to my boarding school in Dorchester until the final runs in July 1967, the very month I left school forever. By then I was depressed about the condition of the Pacifics, devoid of name or numberplates, the closing of my station and lines all over the country, and the advent of the diesel electrics which I saw as featureless and rather uninspiring.
What a sad end to a wonderful childhood memory seeing those magnificent steam machines mesmerising me as they heaved, hissed and blew past. I only now realise what a fantastic range of locomotives I got to see and feel so affected by. I’ve been in Australia for most of my life since those days, it’s 50 years now and I am totally inspired by all the old photos of steam which is now available on the internet.
Thanks to all my fellow train spotters for keeping it all alive, and good luck to the Somerset and Dorset Trust in their efforts to preserve, and even re-open some parts of the line.

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