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!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

corfe mullen

(All copyright Geoff Newman)

Some excellent shots from Geoff Newman, our Track bed Steward for the region south of Bailey Gate. These were all taken around Corfe Mullen just south east of the old level crossing over the A35. This section looks quite easy to restore!

Friday, December 30, 2011

midford 28 december 2011

(Copyright Tom Seale)

Latest report from Midford -

We had a good session at Midford today. Tom and I were joined by Will Cummings, who came up from Wells. A lot of time was spent clearing the bank above the platform but there was great difficulty in keeping a good footing on the loose steep soil deposits. After some undergrowth had been cleared we saw that it was the bunnies that were responsible for the dirt on the platform as there were burrows to be seen higher up. The trees have done quite a lot of damage to the rockface in splitting it up and we pulled down a good number of loose rocks. There was a nasty hailstorm later in the morning that didn't help matters at all. After lunch I set to with the task of burning up all the cut branches whilst the other two cleared more of the bank. After clearing an area above the delaminated bricks in the retaining wall and the dip in the platform, Tom found a 4 inch earthenware pipe that seemed to be discharging water from the property above - this needs to be investigated as it could possibly be responsible for the damage being sustained on our property.
The fire ran to near 5pm and we managed to burn all of the cut wood, which makes the place look a lot tidier.
Favourable and encouraging comments were made by passers-by.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

spetisbury - 2012?

An EXCELLENT shot of Spetisbury courtesy Jim Type. This is the clearest pic I have yet seen with detail of the main station building. This is very different from the wooden station building at Midford, so we are going to need a real mix of skills to rebuild these two sites.

Hopefully within a few years we'll be able to recreate this scene - but with hi-vis vests of course! And perhaps just the one track for now ...
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

next midford work party

Work off all that Christmas excess by joining the next work party at the S&D's most iconic location at Midford?

This just in from Stuart Seale -

Tom and I will be down at Midford this Wednesday, 28 December from about 10am ish carrying on with the clearance of the bank above the platform. We'll probably finish off the burning after lunch.
Any assistance welcomed.

happy christmas

I'd like to wish a very merry Christmas to everyone who has been involved - at Midford, Spetisbury, Midsomer Norton, Shillingstone, Gartell and Washford - in the great S&D 21st century revival. We've seen huge progress at Midsomer Norton with extension of the line, regular passenger services and the acquisition of a working DMU. Shillingstone have made magnificent progress both around the station area and with tracklaying. Gartell are continuing their excellent narrow gauge work with an extension starting to happen. Washford have the challenge of working towards a new base - surely on the S&D? - and the New S&D, mainly through the hard work of the Seales - has cleared the iconic station at Midford. And just as the year ends Spetisbury is joining the ranks of restored S&D sites. Stations are being rebuilt, trains are starting to run, few now doubt that the S&D will return as a main line modern railway as we get further into the 21st century. These are extremely exciting times and the S&D's best years are ahead of it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

more development

Back in the olden days when a lot of people thought the railways were on their way out the main line between Salisbury and Exeter was singled. This was an unmitigated disaster because the long stretches of single track without passing loops almost guaranteed delays.

Of course time's moved on, the line is now reasserting itself as a proper main line, and several stations (including our beloved Templecombe) have reopened. But it's nothing compared to what will happen in the future. Redoubling of the whole route is inevitable, as is reopening many of the closed stations, together with restored branches and of course the S&D which joins the line at Templecombe.

To help speed the process along please sign this petition which calls for the redoubling of the whole line.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

sleeping with the enemy

Just listed on the New S&D e-commerce site is the latest DVD from First Take, who have also produced excellent S&D DVDs (which can also be bought on the site!)
Yes, I know, it's the GWR, but hopefully most of you are interested in more than just our line, even if it is the best in the world!
Cost is just £14.95 plus £1.25 post and packing and can be ordered by clicking here.

Each copy sold raises £4.50 for the New S&D.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the new railway

Someone on the Shillingstone Facebook group sadly posted a petition to renationalise the rail network! I wasn't alone in pointing out how daft and unworkable this idea is! My last (final?) post on this issue goes as follows -

I think you just have to look at today's railway - busier than at any time since the 20s, freight on the rise, stations and lines reopening and a real buzz. This is no coincidence. This is because private enterprise now sees the value in working hard to promote the railways. The Swiss model is the best, with most lines being private yet having much of the equity owned by the communes, towns, cantons, and local individuals through which the lines run. Compare it with the mess that BR was, through no fault of its own, but because it was used as a political football. The real story of the complicity between Labour, Tory, Marples, Beeching and the vile road lobby has yet to be told. Renationalisation is impossible as the cost of buying back the infrastructure would place a charge on a new nationalised railway that would take decades - and genuinely HUGE fare rises - to pay back. Nationalisation is never an economic move, only ever a POLITICAL one, and we've seen what politics can do to the railways! The world is changing (despite what Occupy and most politicians tell us) and the future will be far more localised, almost totally rail-based and will be robustly capitalist. There's no point looking backwards through rose-tinted specs at a cosy past that never really existed. We have to work with what we've got, and with what we've got coming!

not just us ...

Still fighting Beeching's cuts

Campaigners want to get passenger trains running again on a line in Northumberland 44 years after the axe fell on the service as part of Dr Beeching's cuts.

In June 2008 a passenger train ran on the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne railway line for the first time in more than 40 years.
It was part of a campaign by the South East Northumberland Rail User Group (Senrug) to bring back a passenger service to the line.
It was timely as 2008 is the 45th anniversary of Dr Richard Beeching's report into the rail network, The Reshaping of British Railways, which led to the closure of 2,000 stations and the uprooting of 5,000 miles of track.
One of the sections hit was the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line which meant the last passenger train between Newcastle and Ashington ran in 1964.

Train showing Ashington destination. Photo: John Brierley Train showing the Ashington destination

Help regeneration

Campaigners are convinced it would make sense to reintroduce passenger trains to the line to help commuters and regenerate the area.
South East Northumberland Rail User Group deputy chairman John Earl said it was difficult to understand all the decisions made under the Beeching review.
He said: "It's hard to say that they shouldn't have closed some of the lines because obviously they were unprofitable but some of them I just can't see why they were closed.
"If you look at some that survived the rationale isn't clear."
John said the decision to close the line cut off that area of Northumberland from the mainstream and Senrug believes restoring passenger services would boost regeneration and help commuting by cutting the number of cars on the road.
The line is still used for freight trains and is sometimes used by trains diverted from the East Coast Mainline.
In June 2008, Senrug ran three passenger trains on the line and tickets sold out.
It ran a petition which closed in March 2008 with 1,200 signatures on it.

Reverse historical trend

John said while there was a level of nostalgic interest in terms of people remembering trains running on the line, that was not what it was about.
He said: "It's not just nostalgia, it is very practical. We are not preservationists in whatever form. We want to run a proper mainline service.
Passengers crossing Wansbeck Viaduct. Photo: John Brierley Passengers crossing Wansbeck Viaduct

"It's the ideal line for it. There is not another line in the UK that has the rails and has the good will."
Senrug is proposing the line is reopened in stages with the first to extend the existing Newcastle to Morpeth services so they would also stop at Choppington and Bedlington. It estimates the cost would be £4m.
A study is currently being done into the cost of extending the service to Ashington.
Further plans would involve a station being built at Woodhorn for rail access to the museum and Wansbeck General Hospital.
And phase three would involve opening the southern section from Benton up through Seaton Delaval and Bebside to Bedlington.
John said: "There are plenty of us around the country on various different projects who are trying to reverse the historical trend.
"I do think this is the most important one to open first. It would benefit so many people. I am sure so many people would use it."

pre christmas buzz

There suddenly seems to be a real S&D buzz everywhere at the moment! Midsomer Norton has taken delivery of a DMU so can operate real train services at last! Shillingstone is heading south at a fast pace. Midford is almost cleared and ready to see its buildings put back. Spetisbury is just about to join the S&D fold. Washford will begin actively looking for a new site soon. The Gartell is providing regular steam trips south of Templecombe.

To me the best of all this is that the S&D groups are beginning to pull together and dare I suggest that this is because we're beginning to see a vision of a restored whole route beginning to register with everyone involved with the S&D? When Midsomer Norton started back in the early 90s this vision was enshrined in its constitution, we have always had it as our primary aim at the New S&D and there are lots of rumblings about reaching Spetisbury and Blandford down at Shillingstone. This is great news, and the S&D deserves nothing less.

Of course nobody pretends that this is going to be easy, cheap or without certain hurdles. Although the vast majority of the route is clear (over 95%) there are some annoying blockages, none too big to be overcome of course. And probably 95% of the population still haven't 'got' Peak Oil - and laughingly think fuel prices are already expensive! But every day things get easier, and more and more people are joining and getting actively involved with the great S&D restoration.

Think things are buzzing now?? Come back in ten years' time!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

good news!

The New S&D has no plans to stand still and with Midford not far from reaching the stage where we can start rebuilding the station, it's time for Dorset to share in the great rail revival that is sweeping across Somerset and Dorset. We expect Spetisbury to be in our hands very soon!

The following is a report from Dean Cockwell, who has been co-ordinating the Spetisbury effort. This is from 8 December, 2011.

Well, we had our meeting with Richard from the council and Giles the ranger. Anna-Jayne, Mike Hall, Chris and Kevin Brettell were there with me. And it was good to put names to faces, and I would like to thank all of you again for coming. It was a bit breezy, and we did have a short shower, but it takes more than that to put us off.
It went very well and some good points came out of it.
Firstly they are very keen that we wanted to clear the platforms, for one thing it reduces Giles' workload as he wont have to keep going there and cutting back the tall bushes that sprout across the trailway. and they don't have any objections for buildings to be built in keeping with the original design. They don't see a problem with the idea of us using them as an information centre with a light snacks kiosk.
What they have mentioned is public liability insurance. Is that something that you have in place at Midford, and could it be extended to include Spetisbury?
Richard is going to see if he can locate plans of the buildings, but if he cant find them he has suggested that I ask at the historical information centre based in Dorchester. Giles has suggested that I speak to the conservation guy within the council, who may be able to guide/ help us with conserving the natural heritage of Spetisbury.
It was also suggested that a meeting with the local parish council would be advantageous, to give them a 'heads up' of our plans for the future or the station site. They also warned us that we might get opposition to us clearing the platforms, especially on the village side, due to the elevated position of the station in relation with the houses, which would be overlooked.
One suggestion that was talked about after Richard and Giles left, was that we could erect some sort of fencing to replace the trees and bushes that provided privacy to the house owners. The result would be that you would be able to see across the Stour valley, just as you could before, but you would not be able to see down into the properties directly below the station.
Richard thinks that we may be offered some form of lease agreement, but was not sure at the time of the meeting.
They talked about planning permission, but as Anna stated, that until we have cleared the platforms and found what we had to work with, it would be difficult to put in an accurate set of detailed plans for planning permission.
It was also mentioned that parking has to be considered, especially as there is no adjacent parking facilities. We also have to think about the potential numbers of people that might visit the area and what impact that would have on the area, especially vehicles which is going to be a difficult one because of the parking issue. There is street parking, but this is along the main A350 road, and could be non existent at certain times of the day, so this is going to need a bit of thinking about. They did mention the local school, but I would have to investigate that avenue before we could offer it within our plans.
Oh! Nearly forgot, Kevin Brettell had brought a spade with him and did some small exploratory work and found that possibly we may have no platform surface apart from the few slabs that are viewable along the edge of the up platform. Looking at the photos, there does not seem to be any stone slabs on the down platform, but until we get started on clearing them, its difficult to say with any certainty.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I rather underestimated the jetlag, the pile of work waiting for me and the sheer amount of time a new kitten requires, so sorry for the lack of posts. Hopefully I'll be able to get on with them tomorrow!

There's plenty on modern transport, Bristol's upcoming fake trams and great news from Spetisbury to come!
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Friday, December 09, 2011

shillingstone - amazing progress!

Judging by the amazing progress at Shillingstone it won't be long before they reach Blandford!

For up to date info on Shillingstone please take a look at their facebook group.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

back from new york

A few rail and transport related tasters from our fantastic visit to New York. More to follow - plus Spetisbury news! Need to just get over the jet lag first ...
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