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!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Give me Shelter


Progress at Shillingstone has been phenomenal over the last few years, and as the group approaches membership around 500 they are now adding all the little touches - after the really hard work of getting the site looking like a station again - that really capture what the place, and what the S&D, was really like.

This is the down platform shelter, built from scratch. It's magnificent, and shows what can be done. The volunteers down at Shillingstone should be very proud of what they've achieved. I can't wait to see what fantastic developments happen as we approach 2020.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Steam at Shepton


(All copyright 31.8.2009 Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

A really special treat back in 2009 was the opportunity to travel by train and behind steam over Charlton Road viaduct in Shepton Mallet. This is one of the most spectacular pieces of infrastructure on the line, and normally it is not even possible to walk across it as it is gated at both ends.

As part of the Kilver Court Gardens Open Day a 7¼" gauge miniature railway was laid across the viaduct and, for just a day, you could recapture, in a small way, the thrill of crossing this magnificent structure.

Hopefully in the future similar set ups can be created up and down the line to celebrate events! (Prior to the line being reopened for standard gauge trains of course!)

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Volunteer of the Year


Somerset & Dorset fans don’t have to be men!
The award from Midsomer Norton Town Council of 'Volunteer of the Year' - goes to our own rather talented Annie Davenport.
Annie, with cup, is next to her fantastic reproduction of the S&D company emblem.
The station also won a medal (with Gail) for their achievement in the 'Its Your Neighbourhood' RHS South West In Bloom competition.
More good reasons to join the teams at Midsomer Norton Station.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Sentinel launch at Midsomer Norton.


All pics 6.3.2016 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing

Midsomer Norton South station will be open this Saturday (9 July, 2016) where, at 2pm, well known rail writer Paul Atterbury will be officially naming and launching the Trust's own steam locomotive, Sentinel 7109 'Joyce'. He will join the first steam run and afterwards be available to sign books.
Visitors will also be able to ride behind the diesel loco to view this authentic and growing section of the S&D.

The station will of course also be open on the Sunday as usual.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Gartell 3.7.2016

Chandler continues with some test and inspection. Serious planning is necessary to ensure all will go well before we remove the existing installations.

'You've missed a bit!' The boss keeps his eye on C.J.

C.J. paints a top coat on the inside of the foot-bridge. Whilst chatting (and working at the same time, obviously) we realised that this is one of the oldest installations at the GLR, and it has had little, if any, alterations.

C.J. checks my work in cleaning off as much rust and flora as I could. Up to standard C.J.? Over to the Thursday gang for the next stage... then we get to work on the black!

Daddy trolley, Mummy trolley and baby trolley! C.J. finishes off the large version as well, after a team effort by the Thursday gang of a complete refurbishment to them all.

(All pics 3.7.2016. All text and photos copyright John Penny)

Of all the S&D revivals the Gartell always seems the most laid back, with a strong team of beaming workers seemingly always enjoying the sunshine. What's their secret? Perhaps it's because it's narrow gauge, or only operates a few weekends a year, or because it's a private line! If anyone does know please tell me!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

And the rebuild continues!


LATEST NEWS FROM MIDSOMER NORTON: The Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust has launched an extension appeal to double the length of their current running line to a mile. The recently cleared trackbed will take the railway further into the open countryside, drawing ever closer to the village of Chilcompton.

In order to complete this mission they need you! The appeal target is £30k - this is the anticipated figure for groundwork, track and peripherals. 

You can donate via the Trust's website by clicking on the following link: http://www.sdjr.co.uk/pages/fundraising.html

Thank you!

And the rebuild continues!


LATEST NEWS FROM MIDSOMER NORTON: The Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust has launched an extension appeal to double the length of their current running line to a mile. The recently cleared trackbed will take the railway further into the open countryside, drawing ever closer to the village of Chilcompton.

In order to complete this mission they need you! The appeal target is £30k - this is the anticipated figure for groundwork, track and peripherals. 

You can donate via the Trust's website by clicking on the following link: http://www.sdjr.co.uk/pages/fundraising.html

Thank you!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sunset on the S&D


30075 watches the sun set on 19 June 2016 Source

Where once there was just empty trackbeds and decay each year now we see more and more of the S&D come back into use, each year there's more to photograph and after the original frenzy of record shots (I have thousands from the early days at Midsomer Norton!) we are now getting more and more arty captures, the photographers secure in the knowledge that all is not going to vanish again!

In the past 'Sunset on the S&D' had a sinister ring, usually being applied to pics of the original line in its final years as bit by bit the heart was torn out of the line.

Now we get the above ...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Gartell 16 June 2016

Both pics 16.6.2016 copyright John Penny Facebook GLR

A strong team today avoided the showers to undertake track work at Pinesway, paint platform trolleys, nearly complete the repainting of Common Lane box and Chandler continued with his fight against the ever growing grass!

Never forget this gem of a narrow gauge line that threads its way through classic S&D (lowland!) scenery, with everything having that S&D touch, depsite the narrow gauge!

The line will be open on Sunday 26th June 2016 for the usual three-train service. Come early and have a breakfast with them. They're open from 10.00, first train 10.30, then every 20 minutes throughout the day.

Friday, June 10, 2016

'Don't tell them your name Pike'.


A treat next weekend (18 and 19 June 2016) is the Home Guard Weekend at Midsomer Norton. There are some nice tie-in extra events and features as well as regular train trips.

Hopefully the weather will be warm and sunny for the event - but even if it isn't please try to get along. Any excuse for a trip on the real S&D!

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 ...