(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!