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, November 27, 2012

19 years ago ...

This is FANTASTIC! Thanks to Brett Scillitoe for sending in this amazing piece of Midford history, Towpath, the journal of the Somerset Railway and Industrial Heritage Trust who were restoring Midford back in the early nineties. We're very grateful for the work they did in clearing the station and trackbed which has helped us no end.

A few familiar names popped up; Laurence Skinnerton has a wonderful fictional piece about an electrified S&D (there were visionaries even back then!) and their membership secretary was none other than Tim Deacon, now filling the same role down at Midsomer Norton.

I wonder how many of these have survived? Brett's sent numbers 6 and 8 - if any readers have any others (including 6 and 8) they wish to let us have in our archive please send them in. S&D history didn't stop in 1966, it's never stopped and I doubt it ever will!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

your railway needs you

You can do no greater good for your railway than to join the New S&D - still a great bargain at just £5 a year!

Our classy membership card opens a world of wonder for you, giving you the right (and insurance cover) to work at Midford and Spetisbury, and two FREE copies of our much improved magazine, Right Lines. It also underpins your commitment to the World's Favourite Railway.

To join simply link on the sidebar of this blog, go to our website or send a cheque for £5 (payable to 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway' to New S&D, 10 Bellamy Avenue, Hartcliffe, BRISTOL, BS13 0HW.

We'd love to welcome you on board ...


(Gartell this autumn, courtesy John Penny)

One of the most active on-line sites for general S&D related stuff is the New S&D Facebook group, now with over 300 members and new stuff appearing all the time.

Facebook groups have blossomed lately with many active sites for the S&D. A couple more interesting sites I've recently set up include OUR GROWING RAILWAY and THE RAIL THING, which step away from the S&D a little, though not always!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

scary stuff ....

I always assumed I'd be pretty much of a lone voice calling for the return of steam to the network as oil prices start to swing wildly and move generally upwards. But perhaps not? I know rail buffs would love to see steam return but like me this writer is a hard-nosed economics type, so you be sure nostalgia and unrealism doesn't intrude.


A historic moment during the Diamond Jubilee as steam and boats coincide on the Thames

A historic moment during the Diamond Jubilee as steam and boats coincide on the Thames
Monday November 19,2012

By Jonathan Glancey

THE ship-like hooter of Princess Elizabeth, a majestic London Midland and Scottish Railway locomotive resplendent in a regal livery of crimson lake and gold, resounded from Battersea railway bridge across the Thames. The express passenger steam engine, built at Crewe in 1933, had been named after the young girl who was to become Queen Elizabeth II. And on the afternoon of June 3 this year her siren call launched a seven-mile flotilla of 1,000 ships from Battersea to Tower Bridge, a moving moment during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The following month Princess Elizabeth powered the Royal Train with the Queen and Prince Philip on board from Newport in South Wales to Hereford and later the same day from Worcester to Oxford.

Less than a fortnight later the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall paid a visit to small family businesses and community volunteer projects on the Northumberland coast. They travelled overnight from Gloucestershire to Alnwick by the Royal Train. Their locomotive was not the latest diesel-electric but 60163 Tornado, the crowd-pleasing A1 Pacific created by the A1 Steam Locomotive 

Tornado is the fi rst new mainline steam loco motive built in Britain since 1960. In February 2009 she was named at York station by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. “May God bless all who are lucky enough to ‘locomote’ behind her,” declared Prince Charles as he tugged at the silk banner covering Tornado’s new nameplates and as a cloud of smoke from the engine’s chimney wafted across the royal presence. 

British engineer David Wardale likens the elemental forces at work in a steam locomotive to “the power of a thunderstorm”

Undeterred the Prince boarded Tornado’s footplate and “locomoted” from York to Sheffield. 

Steam on the railways in 21st-century Britain is royally approved and there too for all of us to delight in, not only on state occasions but also on high days and holidays . Increasingly we choose to ride behind main line locomotives hauling special trains from Edinburgh to London over Shap Fell or along the Devon coast where rails meet the sea and mingle with steam and salt spray and with the sound of rollers breaking over rocks and the compelling rhythm of a Great Western “king” or “castle” at speed. WHILE many of us, including the Queen and Prince of Wales, remain in thrall to the steam locomotive this most soulful of machines has all but disappeared from everyday service worldwide.

A number of powerful SY class locomotives are still hard at work on China’s industrial railways.

Remarkably the last of these 1,800 engines were built as recently as 1999.

Elsewhere you can commute bysteam on Polish state railways  between Poznan and Wolzstyn, where British enthusiasts, who run the Wolzstyn Experience (www.thewolsztynexperience.org), have an agreement to keep scheduled steam pounding into the future.

The question of why steam went is one I wanted to address and even challenge when I set about writing Giants Of Steam, a homage to the world’s last great steam railway design engineers and the emotive machines they conjured. The why is important to me at least because, in the hands of engineers as refined as Britain’s Nigel Gresley and William Stanier, France’s André Chapelon, Germany’s Otto Wolff and Paul Kiefer, and William E Woodard, of the United States, the steam locomotive was raised to prodigious heights of power and speed.

In Britain, France, Germany and the United States, from the mid- Twenties and for the next 20 years, what was known as “super steam”

– a phrase coined in the land of Superman, streamlining, starlets and skyscrapers – gave the first generation of rival diesel and electrics a very good run for their money indeed.

On July 3, 1938, 4468 Mallard, a brand new streamlined London and North Eastern Railway Pacific designed under the direction of Gresley and named after the birds the famous engineer kept in the moat of his Hertfordshire home, streaked down Stoke Bank between Grantham and Peter borough at two miles a minute, peaking for a few critical yards at 126mph. This was a world record for steam on the railways. It has yet to be beaten.

Two years earlier a streamlined Deutsche Reichsbahn Baltic, 05 002 designed by Wolff, had soared to just over 200kph, or 124½mph, on level track near Friesack between Berlin and Hamburg.

Across the Atlantic the silver streamlined locomotives of the Milwaukee Road, designed by Charles H Bilty and the Alco locomotive works in upstate New York, galloped daily between Chicago and Minneapolis and St Paul at well over 100mph but may well have sprinted up to 120mph and more.

Some Americans claim speeds of 140mph for the largest and longest passenger steam locomotive ever built: the Pennsylvania Railroad’s vast and solitary S1 6-4-4-6 of 1939, streamlined by industrial designer Raymond Loewy, better known for styling Coca-Cola bottles, Lucky Strike cigarette packages and Studebaker cars.

This is wishful thinking, though the greatest steam locomotive engineer of all, Chapelon (1892- 1978), was working on plans for a future generation of highly efficient passenger loco motives for SNCF, the French state railway, with top speeds of up to 270kph, or 168mph.

Such loco motives could have been built. Chapelon believed that steam should have been progressed throughout the Fifties and Sixties, giving way on main lines in the developed world only to the high speed electrics we admire in France and Japan today. 

However what Chapelon and the other last great steam engineers railed against was the change from steam to oil-burning diesels, especially if that oil had to be imported. And the extraction, supply and politics of the oil needed for diesels led to disputes, embargos and war.

This argument holds today and so much so that the development of steam is back on the rails again.

Environmental researchers at the University of Minnesota have started work recently with the nonprofit SRI (Sustainable Rail International) to design and build the

world’s first carbon-neutral steam locomotive. Burning “bio-coal”, the exhaust from the 130mph locomotive will be nothing more than water vapour. If it works might US railroads be tempted back to steam?

Whatever the future for steam the emotional pull and aesthetic tug of this enchanting machine is unlikely to ever go away completely.

My new book is a celebration of the genius of late-fl owering steam on the world’s railways, of machines and men who knew in their bones that the steam locomotive occupies a special place of its own. 

IN 1739, as the steam engine itself was first forged in the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, French engineer Bernard Forest de Belidor wrote: “Here is the most marvellous of all machines of which the mechanism most closely related is that of animals.”

British engineer David Wardale likens the elemental forces at work in a steam locomotive to “the power of a thunderstorm”, contrasting this with “the monotonous drizzle of our ever more synthetic world”.

The Prince of Wales must surely agree and so perhaps do all those of us privileged to watch Tornado and other surviving steam locomotives thunder by today.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

midford sunday

Stuart and Tom Seale will be at Midford tomorrow, Sunday 18 November, as from circa 10:15am. Should be there until it gets dark. Everyone welcome to join us. The plan is to cut down trees near the Long Arch Bridge.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dear Member/ Volunteer,
I am going up to the station on Sunday, and hope that you can join me. I hope to be there between 10:00 and 11:00am. More clearing of the platform surfaces to do. Could you let me know if you can make it and come up to help. Best regards,