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, July 21, 2015

Ropley - 39 years on!


(All copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing 'Then' (B&W) are 24.6.1976. 'Now' (Colour) are 18.7.2015)

Sometimes when we chance upon the remains of an S&D station, overgrown and abandoned and gradually fading into history the task ahead can look very daunting. But the New S&D isn't proposing anything that hasn't already been done elsewhere, and it's a good idea to look around and see what's been achieved by other people with a vision, and often working against a lot harder odds than we are!

I was lucky enough to visit the Watercress Line on Saturday, though sadly not able to travel on it. For a change I called in at Ropley and Medstead as I've always found the two termini hard to photograph. There were no such problems at the two intermediate stations!

I last visited Ropley in June 1976, before the line was reopened, and it was in deep sleep. The station is completely transformed now, as is the area it sits in, but fortunately there's no housing development and the location is still very rural. The station has of course been totally restored and the up platform and buildings have reappeared. There's a signalbox and also a large locomotive works. All in all a very pleasant spot and still with plenty of railway atmosphere.

I was lucky enough to travel on the line in BR days a few times, and I've also been a couple of times since reopening. I still find it odd that this useful line was closed, serving the large town of Alresford and also providing an excellent alternative route when the main line is closed or blocked. I'm sure the missing link via Itchen Abbas will be rebuilt in the future and the line morph into a community line with a proper 365 day service but with plenty of heritage atmosphere and trains of course!

More info (from Wikipedia)

Ropley railway station is a railway station in RopleyHampshireEngland, which opened on 2 October 1865.


The station was opened by the Mid-Hants (Alton Lines) Railway (MHR) on 2 October 1865. The MHR was leased to the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) in August 1880, which fully absorbed the MHR in June 1884. The LSWR amalgamated with other railways to form the Southern Railway on 1 January 1923.
The station was closed by British Rail on 5 February 1973.


Ropley railway station was reopened by the Mid Hants Railway (Watercress Line) on 30 April 1977. It is an intermediate station on the preserved Watercress Line, which runs from Alton to New Alresford.
The main locomotive shed and workshops for the Mid Hants Railway are located just to the east of Ropley station.
The station gardens feature notable yew topiary, which has been in situ for over 100 years (an 1898 postcard shows the topiary well established).
A footbridge was added to the western end of the station in 1986. This was recovered from the closed station at North Tawton in Devon in August 1983, restored and installed by volunteers.


In 2012/13, a footbridge, originally located at King's Cross station in London, was dismantled and later re-erected at Ropley station for a new lease of life, above the maintenance shed, where passengers can walk over and view the works below.