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, January 10, 2017

The next twenty years

Midsomer Norton (copyright Rail Thing)

Midsomer Norton (copyright Rail Thing)

(Photo copyright John Penny GLR)

Midford (copyright Rail Thing)

Shillingstone (copyright NDRT)

Spetisbury (copyright Rail Thing)

The various S&D revival groups have now been around for about 25 years, the New S&D will be 8 years old in March. On the ground the line has certainly made its presence felt, especially at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone. The Gartell continues to run about once a month and has recently extended towards Templecombe. Spetisbury and Midford are cleared and closer to becoming stations again. Two steam locos reside at Shillingstone, one at Midsomer Norton. The S&D is back - but it still has a very long way to go!

Midsomer Norton has extended southwards towards Chilcompton. Although just under a mile in length it has needed to negotiate with FIVE separate landowners! It is almost as if when the line closed the powers-that-be thought it would be permanent, selling off small parcels of land rather than keeping the trackbed in public ownership. What were they thinking?

Shillingstone has made amazing progress over the last few years. laying track through the station area and a short way north and south. Two steam locos are being restored on site. The signalbox has been rebuilt, just like the one at Midsomer Norton was. They have the advantage of only having to deal with one landowner!

The Gartell Railway is narrow gauge but makes a huge effort at capturing the S&D atmosphere. With its recent extension towards Templecombe now open it uses about a mile of original S&D trackbed.
Spetisbury is being restored gradually, it will in time become a stop on the S&D phase two route from Blandford to Poole. This mainly local initiative ensures that in the future the village will be served by trains, rather than have them rush through without stopping.

At Mdiford work parties recommenced in 2016 and were larger than ever. It's always a great place to work, the location is superb and there's an excellent pub a minute's walk away. Hopefully work to rebuild the buildings will start in the not too distant future. Midford station, and the 400 metres of trackbed towards Bath, is currently the only stretch of the line that is owned by one of the S&D groups.

Over the next twenty  years energy supplies will face a huge crunch. This is of course the reason why we are doing this, but as well as the opportunities this situation presents there are real dangers. Energy shortages will make everything more difficult, more of an effort. It'll be harder to get to the sites and harder to do the work needed, a lot will need to revert to hand (although a few years ago that was exactly how we laid track at Midsomer Norton!) On the plus side the urgency of getting the railway back will become clear to everyone and we should receive a huge boost in both support at local and regional level, and from volunteers desperate to hang on to a link with the outside world. This may well mean big companies, swollen with government funds, will take over the rebuilding of the S&D, and many other lines. That's why it's so important for us to be doing the groundwork now, so we get the S&D we want! The more line we restore now the easier it will be to leverage rebuilding in the style we want.

Everyone with an interest in the S&D really should be getting deeply involved with this restoration. It's great fun, the S&D community is growing and diverse and what could be better than spending an hour or two down on the line helping it return?

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