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, May 31, 2016

Regular services start on the (standard gauge) S&D

Excellent news from the SDRHT at Midsomer Norton - 2016 will see regular trains running on the S&D at this iconic location. Full details in the picture below.

It's quite an achievement getting to this point, where the S&D has now joined the growing list of operating heritage railways. It's a small start, but will grow in time, along with the line itself, which has grown piecemeal from one panel of track in 2004 to almost a mile of operating railway, partly double track. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Masbury - your chance to visit!


Great news - Masbury station is open this bank holiday weekend from 10am - 4pm Saturday to Monday (28th-30th May 2016) for the S&DRT's travelling exhibition.
Parking is available in the adjacent garden centre.

Masbury was the subject of an appeal to purchase the site for rail use, but the appeal fell some way short of the £400,000 required. However the new owner is very sympathetic to the S&D so has kindly allowed access FOR THIS BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND ONLY.

If you get a chance go along to get a rare look at this iconic S&D location, which in many ways just looks like its waiting for the trains to return!

Friday, May 27, 2016

S&D Telegraph 47


The magnificent S&D Telegraph has just arrived and, as always, it is brilliant and an absolute gold standard for other rail restoration groups to aim for! There's a lot about the 50th closure anniversary and I also pick up a real sense, via the editorial and other pieces in the magazine, that they now have the bit between their teeth and they have become a real railway with BIG ambitions.

When I started at Midsomer Norton back in 2004 there was a big board attached to the goods shed proclaiming that the scheme was a 'steam museum and short demonstration line'. That used to wind me up so much, I felt it was a real ambition and passion killer! A few years later it disappeared and the line rebranded itself the 'Mendip Main Line Project'. That was the turning point intellectually for the group, and I think the 50th Anniversary coupled with the fantastic progress on the new section of line have been the turning point in engineering terms. The S&D is a railway again, soon it will be a mile long at Midsomer Norton with the next steps beyond that clearly in their sights.

A similar process seems to be happening at Shillingstone, which just a few years ago branded itself as a 'museum of farming' with the railway an afterthought. I suspect a similar process will happen at both Midford and Spetisbury over the coming years, with track appearing fairly quickly and then the transformation to a railway following hot on its heels. Things are happening so fast along the S&D it's hard keeping track!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gartell signalbox work

Trevor puts some finishing touches to this bit. Still the upper part to do!

Meanwhile, at the rear of the box, C.J. Ian and Hugh get to grips with what needs to be done.

I couldn't resist this shot, possibly because I hadn't really taken notice of the direction before. It looks right away from the station throat as you can see.

Looking back toward the engine shed from the picnic area, we can spot Keith finishing some painting of a bench. GLR No. 5 waits patiently for a driver.

Work on the Northern end of the box. Trevor is up the ladder, Mike on the steps whilst Ian keeps a watchful eye and Sheila takes a brief break away from landscape duty. One can certainly see the difference in the paintwork. All the front boards have been replace as well.

All above pics and text by John Penny 26.5.2016

We had fantastic weather down here in Wessex today and, as the above pics show, the team down at Gartell certainly made the most of it.

Gartell is famous for having a fully signalled route, and on operating days runs a very intensive service on the line. The signalbox and signals are certainly not there just to look right - they do the job they are supposed to, to keep the line moving and safe. Last time I was down there John Penny kindly allowed me into the box and it was hard to talk as he was constantly pulling some lever or other!

The Gartell Railway is an absolute gem and the attention to detail is fantastic. The line is of course operating this bank holiday weekend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gartell this weekend

John Penny source

This coming May bank holiday weekend will see the fabulous S&D themed Gartell Light Railway running. With steam and diesel and a new extension there's plenty for all the family to see even if you've been many times before - and if it will be your first time you're in for a rare treat!

Monday, May 23, 2016

You can do anything if you set your mind to it!


All 22.5.2016 source

These pics are stunning. Whilst perhaps I'm stretching this post by labelling it Chilcompton I'm sure it won't be many more years before trains are running into that village again.

To really understand the transformation here it helps to see what the trackbed beyond the old station boundary looked like ten years ago!

23.10.2006 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing

When I started at Midsomer Norton in about 2004 there were a couple of track panels in place, but nothing in the station platforms, yet even back then it felt like a station. It does seem that as more was done there then more was able to be done, but the scale of track extensions now are in a totally different league to when we used to put in one panel at a time by hand!

The S&D has risen from the dead. True that for now there's only a mile of track all told, but each year it will get longer and longer. Personally I can't wait until the first panel goes down at Midford, and the journey starts all over again!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lift off for Midford!


26.9.2013 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing

The New S&D had an important meeting yesterday, the main aim of which was to increase the amount of active members at committee level, look into setting up as a Trust and, most importantly, start using the one asset we have - the station and 200 metres of trackbed at Midford, possibly the most scenic and iconic location on any British railway.

We now have two extra committee members, three potential trustees for the new Trust and the core of a working team at Midford. We also now have a Project Manager for Midford, Peter Sandell.

So if you fancy spending hours or days or weeks over the coming years working in this wonderful location please get in touch. I can be reached at leysiner@aol.com, contact details for Peter will appear very soon.

We expect working parties to start again in the next few weeks, once we have set up insurance for the site. Work will involve cutting back undergrowth at first, but the intention is to start rebuilding the station as soon as we can. This will create a fantastic asset for the Midford Valley, and the fifth active restoration project and location on the S&D!

Steve Sainsbury MA
Chair, New S&D

Friday, May 20, 2016

Work at Midsomer Norton


Recent track work at Midsomer Norton South involved the removal of a section of concrete-sleepered rail prior to a sand drag being installed to match the catch point on the station approach.

It's fantastic seeing such a professional job being done on what is looking more and more like a main line as each year passes. It wasn't that many years ago that this section of line was an overgrown footpath, seemingly destined to fade into history.

Another track panel returns ...


Shillingstone 18.5.2016 - Preparing for the 30ft panel of track to extend the cattle dock.

Shillingstone just keeps going from strength to strength and has the feel of a real railway again as track returns to areas that last saw it nearly 50 years ago. Who can doubt that at some time in the future both everyday trains and steam specials - recreating the golden era of this fabulous route - will run again? Everybody involved down in Dorset, both at Shillingstone and Spetisbury, should be proud of the work they are doing to get the railway back.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

What it is all about!


Standard Class 4 76057 is running into Shillingstone station with the 06:48 Bath to Bournemouth train - 23rd October 1965. (Copyright/source unknown)

Sometimes a single picture can say more about the S&D revival and the emotion behind it than a thousand words can ...

Friday, May 06, 2016

May Midford Meeting


The New S&D will be holding a meeting on Saturday 21st May from 2pm to 4pm at the John James Room, Windmill City Farm, Bedminster, Bristol (near to Bedminster station and 75/76 bus routes) - where Midford station and its future will be the main topic! EVERYBODY (members and potential new members) are invited to attend - hopefully by the end of the afternoon we'll have a team ready to restart clearing at the site and planning the rebuilding of this iconic station! Operating trains is still a long way off, but we do own the site so subject to planning can proceed with rebuilding.

If you are interested in coming please email me on leysiner@aol.com so we have some idea of the numbers!