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 31, 2016

Gartell works today 31.1.2026

(31.1.2016 Pics and text copyright John Penny)

At the moment every railway seems to be undertaking track renewals or ballasting. Not be be left out here is today's GLR action with unloading from our hopper and the finished product. The blocked stream at Tower View station has now been cleared, this is the view before ,there is a stream under there !

Friday, January 29, 2016

Big Developments!



(Spetisbury 23.4.2010 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

The recent meeting of the New S&D has produiced some very interesting developments at the New S&D. The Spetisbury team have decided that they no longer need the backup of the New S&D for costs and publicity and have formed a separate group to develop the station. This is wonderful news as it means that money is freed up for developments at Midford and (hopefully soon!) at least one other location on the S&D. The Spetisbury Team can get on with rebuilding their site ready for the trains when they return - and we can focus on other things.

It's been suggested (by myself and others) that Midford should follow a similar route, with a new group being set up with its own memberships, sales etc with the focus PURELY on the site at Midford, which of course would be made available for them at no cost by the New S&D and Wessex Links Ltd. Entirely up to the members of course, and perhaps it will be covered in our February/March 2016 meeting in Bristol (details to follow). Thoughts on this welcome in the comments section of course! 

This would leave the New S&D to focus and concentrate on media, publicity and lobbying. Interestingly this process is already underway, I've just come off the phone with Steam Railway and the BBC also want to include the S&D in a major programme they are running covering the reinstatement of railways in southern England. I'm preparing press releases and pushing the line through the Rail Thing group and the website (as well as this blog) - expect to hear a LOT more about the S&D rebuilding over the coming year!

The other component is Wessex Links Ltd, which was the company set up when we took the Midford site on. At the moment myself and Anna-Jayne Metcalfe are the sole directors (Dean Cockwell having left to concentrate ion Spetisbury) - so if any of you want to take on this far from onerous role please email me at leysiner@aol.com

This meeting must have been the most productive ever for the S&D, or at least the new S&D! There's a buzz around here that perhaps had become a little lost over the (entirely expected) grind of the last few years as we threw all our efforts into building a presence at Midford and Spetisbury.

These changes will be reflected on the website, around the Internet and elsewhere over the next month or two - members will of course be free to decide which of the various groups to continue with. The New S&D will of course honour the life memberships - and hopefully gain a lot more in the coming months as we turn our big guns on the wider world out there!

(Fun work at Midford 8.2.2012 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Glimpse into the Future


(Pic copyright 'John M' 1962)

This is what thousands of us alongside the S&D and further afield are working towards! Although this pic dates back to an LCGB tour of the line in 1962, it also shows what we will see again all along the S&D when the line is restored! As well as the normal passenger and freight trains that will run on the new line it has always been intended that the line will feature classic infrastructure and will encourage the operation of specials over the line - particularly steam hauled specials! If you want to help make this happen lease join one, sone or all of the various S&D groups that are doing the work on the ground!

This part of the S&D has been transformed over the last ten years or so, with the station site at Shillingstone being fully restored and a new signalbox built from scratch. This is just a small example of the incredible activity along the line in recent years. Hard to believe that the S&D was once a dead railway!

S and D +50 at the Gartell

(GLR 27.07.2008 Source Gartell Light Railway)

Sunday 6th March 2016
The Gartell Light Railway plan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ‘S & D’ closure by running two very special steam hauled trains over a unique section of the former Somerset & Dorset line. With the aim of recreating the last ‘double headed’ steam hauled passenger trains over the S & D the GLR’s owner, John Gartell, is keen to replicate many of the details of the day – from using 2 steam engines to haul the special 9 coach trains with the passengers holding special commemorative tickets to running the actual special trains as near as possible to the times that the final trains passed along much of the course of the Gartell Light Railway exactly 50 years ago! In the ‘Pines Buffet’ of the GLR, passengers will also be able to study the display of the extensive collection of S & D photos & memorabilia amassed by GLR volunteer, Ian Matthews.
Demand for the two special trains is expected to be high - especially for the optional fare supplements which will include either a 2 course buffet luncheon (£10 supplement) for the morning ‘Up train’ or an afternoon cream tea (£5.00 supplement) for the afternoon ‘Down’ train. The standard pre-booked fare for the morning or afternoon train will be £20.00.
For more information and to download a booking form visit the GLR website at:-http://newglr.weebly.com/s--d-event-6th-march-2016.html

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Spotlight - Facebook - Rail Thing - 70s UK Railscene

(All pics copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

I'm going to highlight our various Facebook groups over the coming months as there as so many of them - what started as a single Facebook group has blossomed to around 500!

This one currently has 855 members and covers the UK railscene in the 1970s. My very first railway photo was taken on 9.7.1971 so I covered almost this entire decade. I was just 13 at the start of it and just beginning to get a real interest in railways. Holidays at Dawlish Warren spurred this on - the line along the seafront was a real eye opener! It was mainly Westerns back then of course, I even remember maroon coaches, but was still very wet behind the ears then and didn't even realise they were anything special or different! 

So if you've an interest in this transitional decade this is the group for you. There are many active members and you'll see a wide range of pics from around the UK.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Huge step forward for the S&D


(All pics 20 & 21.1.2016 copyright Allen Pocock)

We are beginning to see things happening on the S&D that many of us thought would perhaps never happen - from the wonderful reconstructions at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone, the return of signalboxes at both locations, Midford saved for ever for rail use, the wonderful (if low key) restoration at Spetisbury, the narrow gauge S&D experience at Gartell, the Sentinel at Midsomer Norton, more and more people pushing for the whole line restoration and, now, the arrival of TWO steam locomotives at Shillingstone!

Many years ago Midsomer Norton has a sign stating that the aim was to open a 'short demonstration steam line and museum' - I worked really hard to get rid of that sign and aim and was the prime mover behind rebranding that part of the line 'Mendip Main Line'. I've not had a lot of involvement at Shillingstone, but just a few years ago the slough of despond seemed to be pulling the strings there, with them at one time retreating to the aim of building a 'Farming Museum' with a static rail element. How times have changed!

The New S&D is also undergoing some changes with both Spetisbury and Midford setting up as separate organisations so they can focus and concentrate on getting those two sites up and running, the New S&D becoming a lobbying and oublicity group for the whole line (which is why this blog is sparking back to life, just a tiny part of that process) and Wessex Links Ltd as always operating as a land holding group for an expanding portfolio of stretches of line held for ever for future rail use.

2016 will be 50 years since the temporary and ridiculous closure of our line, and will be a real turning point for the S&D as all the groups expand and the rail presence on the S&D gets bigger and stronger in every way. When we look back to perhaps fix on the real turning point for the S&D I suspect the arival of two steam locos at Shillingstone will be right up there with the saving of the Midsomer Norton site and the purchase of Midford! These are great times to be an S&D fan! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Shillingstone update


(Pic 10.5.2007 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Today's report from the Shillingstone Facebook Page -

Thanks to Network Rail, Dyer and Butler and their sub-contractors we are now the proud owners of many parts from recently demolished signal boxes, including original doors and windows as well as a cabinet. Some work is required on the equipment and a specialist store is required as at present we are inundated with signal box bits everywhere! A great position to be in.
Other planned arrivals, in the steam variety, are imminent but as always dates can slip - so wait and see. 
There has been a general clean-up/shift of stock on site and more is planned. Shop had a brilliant day on Saturday reflecting the crisp weather trade was crisp and today the cold and damp meant that hot food was in demand. 1-1 to the shop/café. (The Porter.)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Double track!


(17.1.2016 Source Somerset and Dorset Facebook)

Wow! Just look at the quality of the tracklaying at Midsomer Norton - creating Britain's second double track heritage railway, but even more impressively from what was just about a virgin site. When I first started woirk at Midsomer Norton, back in about 2005, this was just a distant dream, the line at that point consisting of a siding and a stretch of track on one side of the station, unconnected to each other. And just a hundred metres or so from the station the trackbed turned into a very narrow footpath. We were assured it would never be a railway again, let alone a double track main line! (The foorpath would have been about half way along the picture above. One day I'll post some pics of it as it was!)

Another piece of track!


(Midsomer Norton 10.1.2016 via Somerset and Dorset Railway FB)

It's great to get news from the S&D at Midsomer Norton and good to see that the Somervale Sidings are starting to take shape. These will be used for storage of stock and hopefully will clear the station site up. It's getting more and more S&D out there!

Gartell today

(Pic and text courtesy John Penny)

It's the 17th January 2016 and a cold and miserable Sunday - but work goes on around the S&D!

From John Penny - My visit was unfortunately a short one today. In the freezing rain and extreme cold the brave volunteers who turned up today take the train for a run to Park Lane to sort a few minor issues. Chandler drives whilst C.J., Matt2 and Charlie reside in the Engineering wagon. Three youngsters and one, er... 'mature' one. So who says the young generation has no get up and go?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We all need this!

(Midsomer Norton South 28.8.2011 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Stuck here in the January gloom I thought we could all do with these shots taken back in summer 2011! One of my favourite spots on the S&D (for now!) and a wonderfully restored station and double track line heading tantalisingly south towards Chilcompton - and Bournemouth!

Remember that 10 years earlier this was a dead site, earmarked for housing. The line was filled in up to platform level and more spoil was dumped in the cutting to such a depth that only the top of the loading gauge could be seen. The signalbox was a hole in the ground and the greenhouse had vanished entirely.

With Shillingstone about to take delivery of TWO steam locos, and Midsomer Norton having its own Sentinel, the S&D should provide some fantastic photographic raw material in the year we remember the temporary (and still unbelievable) 'closure' of the line.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Midford station




One of the most iconic and photogenic stations in the whole of Britain is Midford, just south of Bath. Situated on the single track section that starts just at the beginning of the viaduct and runs to Bath Green Park this was one of the busiest and most intensively worked single track mainline sections in the UK. Although closed with the rest of the S&D in March 1966 the station is now on its THIRD preservation attempt and is now owned for railway use in perpetuity. 

More info (from Wikipedia)

Midford railway station was a single-platform station on the Bath extension of the Somerset and Dorset Railway, just to the north of the point where the double-track became a single track. It served the village of Midford. The station was closed with the rest of the line in March 1966 under the Beeching axe, though it had been unstaffed for some years before that.
There was a small goods yard to the north of the station, towards the entrance to the Combe Down Tunnel, which loaded Fuller's earth from Tucking Mill. South of the station, a signal box presided over the double track junction: the railway then ran across the Midford valley on a high viaduct that still exists.
For about four years from 1911 to 1915, Midford had a second railway station, Midford Halt located on the GWR Camerton Branch, which passed under the S&DJR viaduct.


Preceding stationDisused railwaysFollowing station
Line and station closed
Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway
LSWR and Midland Railways
Bath Green Park
Line and station closed

The site today

After a long period in private hands the site is now part of a surfaced cycleway and footpath — the Two Tunnels Greenway. The platform and remains of the goods shed survive.
The station is now owned by the New Somerset and Dorset Railway who have plans to rebuild the station building and relay the track, when the cycleway will be diverted or accommodated. The site has been cleared to uncover the remains of the old station. 

The New Somerset and Dorset Railway

The New Somerset and Dorset Railway formed in early 2009 aims to restore the complete line to mainline operations, so it is possible that Midford will one day see passengers again.
As the initial objectives of the New S&D are focused on the southern end of the line (notably Blandford-Bournemouth), in the short term Midford will be restored as a cafe and information centre, along much the same lines as the existing Shillingstone Station Project.