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!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

S&D Day

I got the chance to visit TWO S&D sites yesterday, for the first time! First stop was Midsomer Norton where the signalbox/greenhouse section looks amazing. The greenhouse in particular looks like it's been there for a hundred years or more. It was nice to see the stone cold frame to the south of the signalbox as well. The whole site looks amazing.

Then, via Bristol (Wulfric wanted to see two of our cats for the first time), I popped in at Midford. This is the first chance I've had to visit two of the S&D sites in one go. It's a strange feeling, a nice one of course! You could now, in a day, travel south from Bath and visit FIVE active sites (hopefully soon six!) all being restored along the line. I don't think there's any other place in Britain (or even the world) where so many sites on the same line are being restored and rebuilt. The S&D is really coming back ... and in so many places!

The vegetarian choice at the Hope and Anchor wasn't impressive so, with the road south to Frome being closed at the viaduct, we headed back towards Bath and popped in the Cross Keys for a fantastic curry. And who should be there but Stuart and Tom Seale, the heroes of Midford! We're having a big session next Thursday (4.9.2013) so if interested please pop along, if only to see me in a flourescent jacket and Mick Knox yielding a chainsaw like someone out of a 1970s horror film!

Monday, August 19, 2013

inspiration north of the border

There was always something very odd about the Waverley closure - it came right towards the end of the Beeching cuts, the line was a double track main line running through difficult terrain that experienced severe winter weather. It clearly needed a railway, and surely closure would be abandoned eventually. It made no sense. But the line WAS closed, with huge protests, and the area fell quiet. But only for a few weeks, closed at the start of the winter perhaps it was inevitable that the line would have to be reopened when the first big snows of the winter came and all the roads were blocked!
Soon afterwards a scheme was proposed to reopen the line using a mix of 'real' trains and heritage scheme. Sadly it was decades ahead of its time and withina  few years the tracks were lifted and towns like Hawick and Galashiels had to manage without modern transport. As the article below reveals, Hawick suffered enormously from the loss of its railway.
Now the line's coming back, but for now only the top 30 miles. Hawick is STILL without modern transport, but the line will soon be 'just up the road' and pressure to reopen to Hawick will be irresistible. And once Hawick is reached surely the next step will be to reopen south to Carlisle? And the people of Hawick will then have the option to travel to Edinburgh OR Carlisle, or indedd anywhere else they wish to go! But why oh why has it taken over 40 years for people to see sense?
Sound familiar? Of course it does, the Waverley situation is very similar to that of the S&D, though down here things are moving even more slowly. Of course we run through far more heavily populated countryside with many stranded big towns (and indeed a CITY!) en route. But the story is inspiring andf one more nail in the coffin of the 'it'll never happen' brigade!


Extend Borders Railway to Hawick, ministers urged

GET the Borders Railway on track for extension to Hawick and beyond. That’s the message to Scottish ministers at their Tuesday meeting in the region. The Campaign for Borders Rail has put the case for continuing the current Edinburgh to Tweedbank project, on to Hawick and ultimately reconnecting the entire mainline between the capital, Midlothian, the Borders and Carlisle.
On the occasion of the Scottish Cabinet meeting in Hawick , the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) has urged the Scottish Government to start planning for an 18-mile extension of the new Borders Railway from its Tweedbank terminus through to Hawick – which is further from the rail network than any other town of its size in Britain .
In a briefing paper submitted to the Scottish Cabinet, CBR argues that Hawick was the biggest loser from the closure of the 98-mile Waverley Route from Edinburgh to Carlisle in 1969 , one of the last of the infamous ’Beeching cuts’. CBR chair, Simon Walton, commented:
“A train service taking around 1¼ hours to Edinburgh was replaced by buses which needed 2¼ hours to negotiate the 51 miles up the A7 to the capital. Today, public transport from Hawick to Edinburgh – still provided by a basic bus rather than an express coach, and taking 2 hours 7 minutes – is slower than it was in 1901.
“Hawick’s population has declined – it has now lost the status of largest town in the Borders to Galashiels – and a large part of the Burnfoot district of Hawick is included in the 15 per cent ‘Most Deprived Areas’ of Scotland. A third of households in the town do not have access to a car.
“Two generations of Hawick people have missed out on the opportunities for access to education, employment and involvement in rail-based tourism which they would have enjoyed if the railway to Edinburgh had not been closed in 1969.“
CBR acknowledges that there will be a significant improvement in the public transport journey time from Hawick to Edinburgh when the Borders Railway opens – around 1 hour 40 minutes, half an hour quicker than at present – but argues that this will not yield the step-change in journey time reduction and overall quality of service which Galashiels, Stow and Tweedbank will enjoy from 2015 when the 30½ mile Borders Railway opens. It concludes that an express rail service from Hawick to Edinburgh could complete the journey in just over an hour, “transforming the town’s accessibility and attraction”.
The briefing calls on the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council to take action on three key issues, to start planning for onwards extension of the Borders Railway to Hawick:
  1. Scottish Government must urgently review whether the current predominantly single-track Borders Railway specification – which is still being finalised in terms of detailed design – is sufficiently ‘future-proofed’ to allow for extension to Hawick, for example through scope for cost-effective future lengthening of sections of double track beyond the currently planned provision.
  2. Scottish Government / Scottish Borders Council should commission a STAG (Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance) analysis of the cost and benefits (economic, environmental and social) – of an18-mile rail extension from Tweedbank to Hawick, also serving Melrose and Newtown St Boswells.
  3. Scottish Borders Council should ensure that the Local Development Plan’s safeguarding of land for  Borders Railway extension on from Tweedbank to Hawick and Carlisle also protects sections of potential new alignment of the railway from inappropriate development .
MORE INFO: CBR chair, Simon Walton, on 01578 760686 / 07540 313018.
or chairman.bordersrail@uwclub.net
The Scottish Cabinet is due to meet in Hawick on Tuesday 20th August.
The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) is the grassroots group set up in 1999 to make the case for restoring rail to the Borders – the only region of Britain without passenger trains. CBR’s key aim was realised on 6th November 2012 when the Scottish Government’s Transport Minister Keith Brown announced that Transport Scotland and Network Rail had concluded a deal to construct the new Borders Railway – bringing trains back after an absence of more than 45 years. CBR’s overall objective remains the full reinstatement of rail services between Edinburgh, the Borders and Carlisle, of which the extension of the line to Hawick would represent a vital next step.
The new Borders Railway will run from Newcraighall in south east Edinburgh to Tweedbank in the Borders. There will be four intermediate stations in Midlothian and two in the Borders. At 30½ miles length, this will be the longest rail re-opening in modern British history when services begin in mid-2015.
When the 98-mile ’Waverley Route’ from Edinburgh via the Borders to Carlisle closed on 6th January 1969, it left Hawick and Galashiels further from the rail network than any other towns of their size in Britain – with Hawick the most isolated at 43 miles from Carlisle and 51 miles from Edinburgh.
CBR briefing paper to the Scottish Cabinet is available on request from Simon Walton (chairman.bordersrail@uwclub.net) or via this link https://www.dropbox.com/s/wigwg8y429wk3ad/CBR%20Hawick%20rail%20briefing%20August%202013%20final.pdf.
The CBR briefing notes that there have been a number of breaches of the old Waverley Route by new roads between Tweedbank and St Boswells, but there are “several viable options for new alignments where necessary to reinstate the railway“. South of St Boswells, while some of the former railway bridges over roads have been removed, almost all of the old route alignment remains in situ.

Contact: Simon Walton
Phone: 07540313018
Email: waltonsg@uwclub.net
Website: http://www.campaignforbordersrail.org

Friday, August 16, 2013

great news from midford

We've just had the surveyor's report for the bank above Lynwood, the ex canal property that sits at the foot of the embankment at Midford.

Basically the embankment is sound, although some concrete needs replacing. Now we have the report we can put a plan for regular maintenance in place.

The owner of Lynwood has kindly agreed to share the costs with us for the report on a 50/50 basis. The total cost to the New S&D will be around £500 but it means we have an excellent survey of the site which hopefully will not need to be repeated for many years. I know it's not as glamorous as Masbury purchase or hiring in a steam loco, but as an additional cost we will need to raise the money for this. ALL donations very welcome, please include 'Midford Survey' in the address line or somewhere on a Paypal payment so it can be allocated properly! Cheques can be sent to New S&D, Midford Survey, 10 Bellamy Avenue, Hartcliffe, BRISTOL, BS13 0HW, Paypal payments can be made to SDRHTSales@aol.com

Conclusion of the report -

5.0 Conclusion/Recommendations

5.01 The embankment appears to have changed very little since the construction of the railway line. The

overgrown vegetation has however damaged the embankment directly behind the house, where the

management of surface water is inadequate.

5.02 During the investigation of the embankment, we found no evidence of instability. This was difficult

however due to the mass of vegetation. There are many rocky outcrops suggesting a natural rock

face below, but also areas of sandy soil suggesting slip. However, the profile of the slope appears

the same as noted in historic photographs.

5.03 As such we do not feel there is any evidence to suggest the embankment is unstable. There may be

isolated areas that have slipped but the house appears to be well protected.

5.04 However, the concrete face to the steep embankment behind the wall is in poor condition and water

is getting underneath. We therefore would advise that the loose concrete render is removed and

replaced with newer frost resistant concrete render.

5.05 The existing gully at the back of the lean to should be enlarged and maintained regularly to avoid

further blockage. Also an allowance should be made for protecting the lean to against running surface


Thursday, August 01, 2013

it takes all sorts ...

They say it takes all sorts but sometimes I wonder!

The phone rang this evening, just before dinner. Railway call. New member.

'I'm a little surprised that I haven't received my membership card yet'.

'Okay, I'll check'.

I drew a blank.

We eventually worked out who he was. He'd sent Paypal payment using a generic name (Company Secretary). I'd immediately emailed him to ask his name so I could produce his membership card. TWO days ago!! As he hadn't emailed me back I couldn't produce the membership card anyway! It reminded me of the character in Fawlty Towers 'Well it's not good enough!!'

He then started criticising the website, informing me that it takes hours to load a single picture! Doesn't sound like our website at all. He then informed me that as well as being a businessman he was an engineer AND a webmaster.

This wasn't going well.

'And WHY are there FIVE different groups restoring the S&D. There should only be one'.

I tried to explain the issues of history, gauge differences and the long length of the line, and that I also would love to see just one group eventually.

'Well it isn't good enough! It should happen right away!'

'Oh, and have you asked the Bluebell to help with sourcing track?'

'No, we don't need any track, and we have a number of Network Rail employees who source track WHEN we need it'.

'Well, you should be in touch with the Bluebell Railway'.

'I can assure you that all the various Chairs etc have informal networks that involve other railways'.

'Hmmmm. Your real problem is that you don't have anyone organising you. You lack organisers'.

(Personally I reckon we do OK. Just look at the lovely organised station at MN pictured above, all done without the help of the Bluebell Railway!)

'And another thing. In France they have a thing, I don't know what it's called, where you can ride a bike thing along closed railways'.

'Yes, the SNCF is obliged to leave track and infrastructure in place for 20 years after closure. They are called velorails'.

'Oh, well we need those on the S&D'.

'We don't have any closed but in-situ line s in the UK, we have a different system.'

'Well, it's NOT good enough. Surely you could just lay a few miles of track, you'd make loads of money? You need organising'.

'But the S&D is just a trackbed, we are buying it a piece at a time. When we have a decent stretch we'll run trains, like they do at Midsomer Norton'.


'Well I'm buying a property very near to the Gartell Railway. It's a terrible line, no signposts and they only run once a month'.

'Yes, it's a private line. That's what they do, they are very good'.

'Hmmmm. Well, what are you doing to do about all this? I've written to all you groups and none of you have emailed me back and I can't find any contact details anywhere'.

'Well, you're talking to me. And I did email you right away when you sent Paypal payment, asking your name so I could make up your membership card'.

'Well, that's from my overseas address'.


'Yes'. (I should have asked Basingstoke, Westphalia? at this point).

'Well. You shouldn't be using Paypal. There are thousands of county court judgements against them. And NEVER give them your bank account details'. (But you PAID me using Paypal!)

'So what are you going to do about all this?'

'THIS!' I put the phone down and immediately refunded his payment, plus alerted the SDRHT and Gartell about him!