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, May 01, 2012

the fate of freight

As promised some of the images of the sheer variety of freight wagons etc available on the railways in the 1950s. There was no assumption back then that railways were only suitable for certain very specialised loads - the railways could and would carry anything. The idea that railways were some sort of inflexible mode for niche freight was a POLITICAL idea, not an economic one. As Warren Buffet says once you've got your track and equipment in place almost every dollar goes to the bottom line.

From these pics it looks pretty clear that in the 50s this weird politics had not yet infected the railways, and that they were there to do a job.

What happened to all these wagons, and all these jobs? No doubt scrapped, with the traffic, still growing, forced on to ever more crowded roads!

But remember, in Europe and even in the transport backwater of the USA MOST freight, even before the energy crisis, goes by rail. In Switzerland all large lorries in transit have to switch to rail. In the poor old UK the majority of freight is still moved in inefficient, polluting and lifespan-limited lorries, clogging our roads and leading to the ludicrous situation - as at Pensford or on the A34 - of a slow-moving road clogged with lorries running alongside CLOSED railways!!

The deliberate running down of the rail network to favour the pockets of one 'man', Ernest Marples, will soon be seen as the criminal act it was. And soon, in the teeth of severe climate change and the end of cheap oil, the railways will once again be free to do the job they do so well, carrying the nation's freight.


keith Browning said...

The knock-on to the present day is that we dont have the motive power to move freight on the railways any more. I recently spent 30 minutes waiting for a train at Reading station. This was a place I frequented for many hours in the late 1960s. In those days I might record over 100 diesel locos in my Ian Allen trainspotters book, in a day at the station.

During that recent 30 minutes I didn't see one - not a single locomotive of any description. All the motive power was in multiple units of various shapes and sizes.

The problem of restoring freight is far greater than just building a few wagons and sidings. The whole infrastructure from the motive power downwards has been eradicated.

Knoxy said...

Looks like they had a wagon for every occasion, which of course they did.
Forced by Government to carry all traffic, even if it lost them money, while road hauliers could cherry pick the most profitable loads, as seen in the published freight rates. No business could survive that sort of interference, along with selling off its own assets to compete against it!
Freight will have to return, along with the wagons to carry it…

Sunshiner said...

The whole idea of creating multiple units was to get rid of locos, but this was done when the railway was seen as first and foremost a passenger service. But doing this may have made operations easier but it was at a huge cost to flexibility.

But there will soon be a huge demand for new locos, and surely the people to do this, other than the current loco builders, are the car and lorry makers who will see their businesses crumble to nothing if they don't start looking to the future rather than the past.

The process may be slow, which perhaps is preferable, but as the demands of the rail network change - new lines, much more freight, a different mix of passenger flows - transport manaufacturing businesses should be able to fill the demand.

Pension funds should even now be looking at locomotive and rolling stock manaufacturers, as well as companies like ours, to invest in for the future.

Neil S. said...

The freight question is the elephant in the room: Beeching glossed over this inconvenience and left it to the road transport lobby to pick over the choicest pieces of meat. This situation has continued unabated from 1963 until the present day: it is madness sending large HGVs through the Dorset and Somerset countryside. Retention of the freight network should have occurred with integration with other forms of transport. The more inaccessible parts of Britain should have had the same policy: it is not good planning to drive a motorway through rural Hampshire for more than half a dozen reasons.
I will treat Ernest Marples with the respect due to the dead but to me his affairs before and after leaving Britain leave a lot to be desired.

What was going on in 1963 and ever since?

peter hearn said...

The problem with rail was the inflexibility under BR. they abandoned wagonload freight as too much trouble and the hauliers picked up the easy meat.

Road was cheaper and less prone to trades union action and therefore a much better bet for business.

Hopefully that will change with the private freight operators.