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!
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!
There are so many jobs waiting to be done around any rail restoration project, and Shillingstone are at that important stage when the detailed stuff is being done, the work that really makes the station look like a station again. The wall on the down platform is being restored brick by brick ...
A variety of shots from my trip to Midsomer Norton today, which hopefully give some idea what a fantastic event it was! Two engines in steam, heaving platforms, full trains every 20 minutes, families, enthusiasts. an MP, the mayor, the lot!
The volunteers and members have done a fantastic job, both in recreating this iconic S&D station and in staging such a fantastic event over two weekends. I heard figures of income (which I obviously can't repeat) but let's just say the coffers will be brim full and should allow an even bigger engine to appear in September, when the next big loco-led event is scheduled.
So the 50 year mark has been passed, and we can now look forward again. The S&D has been cleverly lifted from the Isthmian League to the Championship in two fabulous weekends - and eyes will soon be looking to Radstock once the line reaches Chilcompton Halt, with other plans at other locations along the route which, given time, will push the S&D to be permanent champions of the premier league of rail heritage in the UK!
If you're a member down at Midsomer Norton remember that tomorrow is YOUR day, when the Jinty will be in steam and operating to say 'thank you' to all of you.
It's fantastic to see that what could have been a miserable date has been completely turned on its head and turned into a celebration of everything S&D. What a fantastic line it is!
This is just a tiny taster of what's been happening at 2 of the 5 sites!
So we're marking 50 years since possibly the worst ever decision by a government was implemented, to tear up a valuable main line railway linking Britain's only World Heritage City to its premier seaside resort, through some of the finest countryside in England. What were they thinking?
What I'm thinking is that ALL S&D enthusiasts should now COMMIT themselves to doing everything they can to get the WHOLE line up and running within the next 50 years. That's a proper working railway offering freight and passenger trains using heritage style vehicles and locos in many cases and running through stations that are copies of those that were originally there - ie proper buildings with facilities and staff, not a basic railway. Let's building a railway that people will need AND want, a community asset that we'll all be proud of.
Shillingstone will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the temporary closure of the S&D by cosmetically putting 30075 'in steam' over the weekend.
The loco only recently arrived at the station and real steaming is a way off yet, but there will be the unmistakable sight and smell of steam wafting about the station this Saturday and Sunday. An authentic crew will also be on the footplate, stoking the fire and, no doubt, looking rugged and wistful!
As soon as the event is over volunteers at Shillingstone will get down to the far less glamorous role of restoring the loco so that it can operate in the future.
For details of how to become a part owner in either this loco or her sister 30076 please see Project 62's website at www.project62.supanet.com
More details of the other events along the long will follow before the weekend!
The S&D just keeps getting better and better. The next two weekends will be celebrations up and down the line of the original (and now quickly being forgotten!) closure. Midsomer Norton will be leading the way with two engines in steam, the Gartell will be operating 2 foot gauge versions of the last trains and the last Pines, Shillingstone will be showing off its two steam locos and Spetisbury has a small display. Let's see how many of you can visit all four sites (with a stop off at Midford as well of course, with big news from there being announced after all this is over!)
I shall be going down to Midsomer Norton on a sunny day (if available) or a gloomy one if not! There's no way I'm missing this. I was there for thr 2005 visit of a Jinty and it was an amazing experience. I seem to only have the one photo of that event though, it was the year before I switched to digital!
I remember the Sentinel loco arriving at Midsomer Norton many years ago. It's steam, but not as we know it! The boiler sits astride the footplate which makes it the most inconvenient working area I've been in since DJing in Germany with the lighting console - and lighting operator - being between the two decks!
I think I own a share or two in the loco! Whilst I was there working 2 or 3 days a week occasional work would be done on it, amongst a thousand other jobs. But now she's finally in steam and actually running! A huge step forward for the S&D and great to see that such an unusual loco is back in the land of the living.
So Midsomer Norton will be running TWO steam locos over the coming two weekends, I shall wait for a nice sunny day and get down there myself to see a little bit of history in action. Whatever next?
This is great news! Steam is returning to Midsomer Norton South on the weekend of the 50th anniversary of closure and the week before. And they will be running a HALF HOURLY service!
The locomotive will be Jinty no 47406, and the Sentinel loco no 7109 will also be in steam on the anniversary weekend itself! There will be a vintage bus link from the car parks at Somervale School and the town centre as there is no parking at the station itself.
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 !
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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)