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!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

a plea for sanity!

This post was inspired by two things - an odd comment on a Facebook group and an even stranger one in a book that was otherwise sound.

The first involved a superb new build of a Lynton and Barnstaple engine and I commented that it was a classic, neat and very modern design but would be better if it was designed as a wood burner or at least a multi fuel engine. The comment was 'why? Surely good steam coal is better?' Well in the past the best steam coal was Welsh, but every Welsh pit has now closed. The point being steam coal now has  to be imported. The second, and much more important point, is that Peak Coal is only a few years away, and we are already seeing huge increases in the amount of coal being used. This can only mean rapidly rising prices and eventual shortages and rationing. And much faster depletion on the other side of the bell curve. Will heritage or even steam worked community lines really get a good share of good coal?

The second odd comment was in a book on the current economic crisis. Until the very end it was an excellent analysis of worldwide economic decline, but the last chapter seemed to have been overtaken by a couple of cornucopians, the weirdest statement being that 'future energy supplies will be more abundant and cheaper'!! This is an amazing thing to see in print, as it derives exclusively from a strange blend of wishful thinking, junk science and conspiracy theory. Of course future energy supplies will be neither - otherwise they would have been exploited decades ago! They will be scarcer and far more expensive, and will get scarcer and costlier.

Perhaps this is just angst. Many people are very scared of what the future holds. I'm not one of them, obviously. But I am a realist.

A realistic approach to energy means that we now need to concentrate EXCLUSIVELY on sustainable energy. Anything that relies on fossil fuels is doomed. So ALL planning for the future has to take this into account, or it is pointless. If ignored there will be further misallocation of resources, and we no longer live in a world where we can indulge ourselves in that way.

Which brings me back to wood. Wood is renewable. Its energy content (by weight, but not by bulk!) is not far off that of good steam coal, and it is higher than the bitumous muck and brown coal that is just about all that is left in the ground. Best of all the UK is an excellent place to grow wood, even taking into account inevitable future climate changes. You can grow a lot of bulk in a small area, because it grows upwards. It can be harvested and cut using just human energy. And it can be grown alongside our railway land, making it very energy-efficient to harvest and store. It is also carbon neutral providing constant replanting is done. Wood will clearly trump coal in the near future, and there will be a rush to convert coal burning steam to wood burning - as well as replacing hopeless diesel locos with wood burners (or electrics of course). But burning wood directly is much more energy efficient than burning wood to generate electricity. It is also far more resilient. We need this sort of future thinking if we are to successfully build a new transport system in the UK. And we should be planting that wood now ...


Neil said...

An excellent post yet again.

On my meanderings around, I am taken aback by the amount of wood for burning in unattended woods and hedgerows. This can be harvested by coppicing, felling and laying.

The hedges of Monmouthshire and South Gloucestshire have not been attended to properly for years. Some of the Dorset hedges could do with a bit of TLC.

I would love to be let loose with my Granfors Bruks axe and other tools for laying. You provide fuel, habitat and work. In fact, I can think of no better way of spending Autumn and Winter than coppicing woodland and laying hedges.

Sunshiner said...

I think this is another aspect of the future that should give us cause for celebration rather than fear. There are few more rewarding things than spending an afternoon converting a pile of trees into a pile of wood suitable for burning! Second only to having a big bonfire! And both activities that are going to be very relevant to railways in the future. I can almost see wood becoming a new element! People forget the elemental and hands on pleasures of steam compared to the clinical, smelly and dirty process of converting oil into energy.

Neil said...

The big bonfire and a glass of something tasty is always a good idea. Makes Winter a pleasure.

I've a large collection of books on woodland through pure interest and the need to be sustainable.

The Ash can be burnt freshly cut or seasoned. It burns hot. Hopefully, the recent disease outbreak will be contained, coincidentally from imports which again shows our lack of fuel/ environmental management and reliance on others for fuel.

Hawthorn makes excellent firewood, except for the legendary thorns. It needs seasoning for 18 or more, smells divine and burns very hot. The red berries-haws-have well proven medical properties.

That's a start about wood and sustainability. We should bear this valuable commodity in mind when extending the S and D: where there is a piece of good woodland, its acquisition would be never wasted in my view.

Replanting old hedgerows from OS maps is also a must.