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, April 14, 2012

heritage potential

(Article courtesy Jim Type)

This is today's news - think of the logistical effort involved in an event like this - and this is to a line that doesn't event connect to the Network!!

This shows all the untapped potential of the S&D - imagine the scale of a similar event on the S&D in the future, with locos based on the line being joined by locos from outside. It's always been clear that loco owners will be banging on our door to use their locos over the Mendips and through the Stour Valley, or double heading over Midford viaduct. THIS is why the New S&D exists, in addition to running normal freight and passenger trains. There is HUGE untapped potential  on the S&D, on a totally different scale to that which any other line can offer.

Remember, if we allow the Network to rebuild the line nothing like this will happen. Existing restoration groups (including the New S&D) will simply be removed from the line, stations will be utilitarian and few and far between, trackbed properties will be compulsorily purchased and train services won't reflect the needs of people living on the route. There'll be no cheap rate special tickets for locals, and freight won't be developed properly. And forget ever recreating classic S&D scenes, a mix of Health and Safety rules, prison style lineside fencing, basic buildings and lack of marketing will ensure this could never happen.

Congrats to the Llangollen Railway for this amazing show - a glimpse into the future!


Rob said...

I rode on the Llangollen Railway in 2009 - a lovely line, and a very useful means of transport if you're holidaying in the town!

I know what you mean about what would happen if the Network were to rebuild the line! There is an example in Southern France. The line from Cannes to Grasse, stupidly closed in 1939, was partially reopened by a mixed heritage / local transport group in 1978, running a daily diesel railcar and occasional loco-hauled trains. The French National Railways ignored this private service and didn't even show it in their timetables - with virtually no publicity and only able to operate over half the line, it soon collapsed. Then the SNCF decided that THEY should reopen the line, and it was expensively rebuilt, almost exactly as you describe. Although the attractive old station building in Grasse still stood, a 'functional' modern one was built, and all intermediate stations have been reopened as basic halts. It's great that the line IS serving a modern transport purpose but it's a shame that it's lost so much of its character!

Knoxy said...

That is exactly why we must all become involved. The local community and businesses need a vertically integrated railway in the style of the 1950's, adding value to the countryside...
The old wagon works at Radstock would make a perfect South West working steam and coal centre, generating tourist income and local jobs. Cover the place in housing, with no means of transport, apart from congested roads, isn't the best use of such a location...
Fuel is set to rise to £1.60 a litre, so they say, and with continual rises like this, more and more of us will not be able to commute far and wide by road to work….

Toddington Ted said...

I will be visiting the Llangollen Railway for the latter part of the 2012 SSS3 Gala and naturally I'm really looking forward to it. I'm a supporter of the Patriot project and progress on this new build steam loco is coming on really well. However, the overall Llangollen Railway "experience" is tremendous and Corwen is already developing as a tourist hub even though the railway has about another 12 months before it runs trains there! I can quite see a similar thing happening at the S&DR. Several heritage railways run S&D themed galas but ours will be the real thing! Latest images from Midsomer Norton plus all the developments on the old line point to a wonderful time ahead. Well done to all who labour so much for the reinstatement of the S&D.

Eddystone said...

The New S&D is the most exciting railway project mooted over recent years and is totally aligned with the new approach to what must become a way of life for the UK (and neighbours) for the 21st century. The creed of greed spawned of the complacent 50's and 60's- consolidated by the moneterist Thatcher years and international counterpart actions, produced the cultural
nose dive we find ourselves in at
the present. With peak oil looming and bodged alternatives set to fail (because of their thinly disguised same old allegiance to the same old
greed base and obscene profiteering.) we must begin the new way by revitalising our transport system through radical redeployment/reinstatement. The one factor we must leave out of the equation is GROWTH...Growth just means boom and bust. Why do we have to be driven by growth? Consolidation is the answer. We replace growth with STEADY-take it steady-leave it alone and it will come home. The STEADY march forward of railway preservation bears witness to this. This STEADY formula is ideal for establishing the brand of 'localism' we really need. The New S&D epitomises the logic and good sense of STEADY. It's time that Growth went over the hedge with the Beeching core values. Welcome STEADY!

Rob said...

Eddystone - I agree completely. When nations regard ecomomic growth as their main ambition, it creates greed and misery. Bhutan got it right by saying that gross National happiness should come ahead of gross National product!

I visited the Ffestiniog Railway in 1987 and saw the modest West Highland restoration project with its few hundred yards of track. I would not have believed then that 25 years later the WHR would be fully restored! With the same vision I am confident the S&D will return!

Sunshiner said...

I also visited Porthmadog when the WHR was around a half mile long, back in the late 70s I think. Looking along the line and to the mountains in the distance I also felt that although a line back through those mountains was a no-brainer, wondered if the will to rebuild it existed. Of course it did, and I've travelled south from Caernarfon to Rhyd-Ddhu since. In the 80s I visited Beddgelert with (non-railway) friends and when I suggested trains would one day run along the footpath we were walking along (through the Aberglaslyn Pass) they thought I was raving mad! I'd also forecast the fall of the Berlin Wall and that trams would return to British streets, all met with howls of laughter! I've yet to get a prediction wrong (an economics degree and deep interest in politics helps!) and I am 100% certain the S&D will run again from Bath (and Bristol) to Bournemouth (and Brockenhurst).

Sunshiner said...

The Green Party was thinking about a 'steady state' economy way back int he 80s, and of course the excellent Transition movement has been looking at ways of building post-oil societies around the world, a movement that started in England in Totnes - where of course there's a thriving steam railway.

It's clear to me, as an economist, that the days of growth are over, and that the future will be radically different from the present. Growth may have led to a sort of 'progress' but if you look around things have, in reality, been decaying for years. Growth has only occurred thanks to the easy availability of cheap energy, and those days are fading fast. It's also led to explosive population growth and, of course, to potential climate disaster. Whilst some people may choose to bury their heads in the sand, wise people are preparing for the huge changes ahead.

The New S&D is very much part of that process, melding optimism, hard headed realism, heritage and craft skills and an all-embracing analysis of how the future will ACTUALLY be.

Let the dreamers keep knocking us with their junk science, belief in magic, lack of education and wishful thinking, it won't make an iota of difference to what will happen. The New S&D is just a tiny part of a true revolution in UK transport, and copycat groups are now popping up all over the country, inspired in no small part by the rapid success being exhibited in Somerset and Dorset.

Anonymous said...

I too took a ride on the WHR back in 1981 when it was literally a few hundred yards of track and can remember looking towards the mountains and hoping one day the line would be reinstated. Well it has as we all know. If the WHR can do it then we can. Excuse the pun but wheels tend to turn full circles in life and it is my belief that we are on the cusp of a new way. You only have to read the better quality tabloids carefully to see what is happening-growth has stagnated, we must return bring back the old tried and tested methods which worked so well for those previous generations and that includes railways. I am pleased to see that other readers of this blog have noted my comments about watching network rail and hopefully getting their redundant equipment ie bridge spans and signalling equipments. This can only help as different skills and knowledges come togeather. Thank you Sebastian of Southampton, I had forgotten about the Fawley branch.
Just another item, are people aware that the signal box at Templecombe is now closed and control of the Salisbury Exeter line has now been passed to Basingstoke. May be a chance for a lever frame there.

sebastian said...

That's ok anonymous there are plans to reopen it to passenger trains, which is excellent news. But I suspect that Network Rail will likely replace the semaphore signals with the colour lights. So a chance to snap up some gear. I recently journeyed on the Waterloo line through Easteigh. and spotted piles of old roding chairs, made me think if there is a way such equipment could be obtained. for the future use, as the stuff with no monetary value. they would let us have. I do realise storage is at present an issue as we don't own all the S&D track bed, maybe we could get permission to store stuff in one of the closed tunnels. there is still a wide range of line side items like fog huts P.W. cabins , etc that serve no purpose on Network Rails Infrastructure, but would be of use to us. The Signal box at Portsmouth is to be closed and that is of a similar "Glass House" S.R design as Templecombe. So the Equipment may be the same as the Templecombe Box. Another Idea might be to obtain the permission to Lease It for use as an Information center/shop for the New S&D. as it is one of the surviving original S&D.J.R structures although Technically S.R, and therefore most likely to be staffed by S.R its location on an up and coming mainline would be a good strategic move, I think the lever frame was the Westinghouse A2 type, and was still inside when I last visited. further down the line in the westward direction I spotted some signals at Yeovill. I always look out for stuff like that whenever I travel on the railway, and there is still some interesting stuff still out there. Usually where you don't expect it.

Sunshiner said...

Sebastian - leasing Templecombe box would be a BRILLIANT idea! I'll be contacting Network Rail or whoever is responsible for it to see what they think. It's nicely situated between our two stations and also would introduce lots of rail travellers to the S&D.Templecombe will become a VERY important station in the future once the S&D is reopened. And to think it was at one time CLOSED!

Bunny said...

Hopefully no-one at NR is planning on re-opening the old S&D any time soon. It's also a bit hard to run rails down a line that you don't own, especially if a plucky little railway company has bought key parts of the route already!

Sunshiner said...

We won't be fully secure for a few more years yet - we need 5 or 6 more sites I reckon. We just have to hope things don't really start to kick off until we're ready for them!