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!

Friday, February 17, 2017

An Oscar for the S&D

MIDSOMER NORTON SOUTH





The SDRHT at Midsomer Norton were joint winners of the prestigious HRA/Steam Railway award for 2017 recognising the fantastic job the S&D community did to mark the 50th anniversary of closure of the line. I suspect there are MANY more awards to come as the line comes back to life all along the route. Well done to everybody involved. As a treat I'm posting a few photos of the actual event below.
















Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Betchworth 1977

BETCHWORTH




(All 20.5.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)



When I lived in Littlehampton we made regular trips to relatives in Battersea, by car of course. The route was reasonably scenic with a little rail interest - the closed station at Fittleworth (my dad for some reason always went via Fittleworth rather than the main A29), under the bridge at Deepdene with glimpses of the station at Dorking North and the line up to Boxhill on the left, and of course a good few lines as we approached London.

On one trip we were diverted around Dorking as the main road was shut for some reason. I have a very strong image of reaching an old style level crossing and seeing a quaint station on a non-electric line through the darkness. I was hoping the gates would close and a steam train would come through! I also clearly remember Gilbert O'Sullivan's 'Nothing Rhymed' as we crossed it, which dates this to October 1970 or just after, so the steam train was a forlorn hope, five years too late.

A few years later, well into railways and armed with a camera I sought out the mystery station. It was clearly Betchworth on the Reading to Tonbridge cross country line. Little had changed since my previous encounter. I managed to get the above three shots but sadly no trains came through whilst I was there. The line was diesel worked and had a slight air of dereliction. Of course now it's a major route but back then lines were still closing!

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?

Monday, November 07, 2016

Wellow station

WELLOW





(All pics sourced via Google)



Wellow station

Wellow station opened on 20 July 1874, closed for freight on 10 June 1963 and completely, with the rest of the S&D, on 7 March 1966.

The station had two platforms with a goods yard and sidings, all being controlled from an 18 lever signalbox.

The station still exists havin g been converted into a house by the artist Peter Blake (of Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club cover fame). The signalbox also survives having also been converted into a residence after closure. This section of the route was double track and had a very intensive service in the line's heyday. It's rural location made it a favourite photographic location along the route.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chilcompton ahoy!

CHILCOMPTON


(16.10.2106 source)


A wonderful picture taken south of Midsomer Norton today (16.10.2016) showing the team laying sleepers for the extension to Chilcompton. Tracklaying has been progressing for about 15 years now and the team have become very expert at the job, these days aided by heavy equipment. In the early days all the tracklaying was done by hand. Notice the countryside starting to open up, the fantastic scenery along the line was always one of the main points of interest on the original S&D.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Midford today and tomorrow

MIDFORD


BR Class 4, 2-6-4T 80134 brings a Bath to Templecombe train into Midford station towards the end of S & D services sometime in 1965 (Source)


Just a quick reminder to all New S&D members that we are having a two day working 'weekend' today - Sunday 9.10.2016 and tomorrow - Monday 10.10.2016 up at Midford. Members should start turning up from around 10am on each day, towards the latter part of each day there will be a barbecue (please bring food!) over the bonfire from each day's cuttings!

The work will involve cutting and clearing, with some smaller trees being pruned by Mick Knox's chainsaw. The weather's looking good and there is no better location on Britain's railway network than Midford. There is also the fabulous Hope and Anchor pub right next door to the station for those wanting sustenance at lunchtime. Come and join the S&D adventure at its most iconic location.

(Sadly due to sciatica I won't be able to make it, but I'll be there in spirit!)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Two Day Work Party and Barbecue at Midford

MIDFORD



(Both pics copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)



There will be a two day work party and barbecue up at Midford on Sunday 9 October 2016 and Monday 10 October 2016. ALL New S&D members are invited to attend, non members are welcome to join in advance. 

Work parties will begin each day at around 10 am. If you need more info please email me at leysiner@aol.com. Steel toe-capped boots are recommended and please bring your own tools - hedge trimmers, clippers, shears etc, also a wheelbarrow if you have one!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Bigger and Bigger ...

MIDSOMER NORTON SOUTH




















(All pics 18.9.2016 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

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It was the last of four days over the last two weekend when the SDRHT at Midsomer Norton had the 4MT tank loco on site. It was running from 10.30am this morning puling two coaches in BR (LMR) maroon towards Chilcompton.

I got there just after eleven and got some nice shots of the train as it left Midsomer Norton up the 1 in 53 grade towards Bournemouth. The station and train were packed of course!

The locomotive, hired from the Llangollen steam railway, is ex BR number 80072, and has run in the guise of both 80041 and 80043 over the two weekends, commemorating the locos with those numbers which double-headed the last northbound train (in BR days) to Bath on 6.3.1966.

The costs of hiring in the loco were part sponsored by Midsomer Norton Town Council, who are becoming increasingly aware of the huge value this unique asset has for the town.

Planning permission has been granted to complete phase one of the line up to the infill near Chilcompton and the money raised from these two weekends will go a long way towards laying the track on and completing this section. After then the new challenges of returning to Radstock and heading south through the tunnels to Shepton Mallet and beyond will start to take over.

The next step will be a tender engine and eventually a 9F will return to the line. Just imagine that with 12 coaches on! It'll be a good few years yet but the line has come on enormously since my first visit in about 2003 when just two track panels were laid, the line was blocked and there were just a few freight wagons on site.

Make no mistake, the S&D is back!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

It's Really Happening!!

MIDSOMER NORTON SOUTH






(All 11.9.2016 source)


Wonderful stuff continues to happen up and down the S&D - but I suspect the arrival of a big engine at Midsomer Norton has to be the best thing yet (since 1966 anyway!) They are now just one step away from a tender engine ... and only a few more to a 9F!