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!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

avoiding project drift

It should sometimes be restated - the New S&D is committed to restoring the WHOLE S&D, not just Bournemouth to Bath but also the branches, plus the Bristol-Pensford-Radstock and Bailey Gate-Wimborne-Ringwood lines, plus the Ringwood to Brockenhurst line if not already restored by the Network when we reach Ringwood.

This doesn't mean that a few hundred mainly railway enthusiasts are going to raise the 1-2 billion pounds needed to restore these routes, rebuild the infrastructure and provide the locos and rolling stock. It doesn't mean that some time in the next five to ten years we will be running trains to all these destinations.

What it does mean is that constitutionally we exist to promote the S&D in its entirety, will encourage and support other groups restoring sections of the route (as at Shillingstone, Midsomer Norton and Gartell), will purchase sections of trackbed etc as they become available to protect them for railway use in perpetuity, and operate sections of the route as they become economocally viable. Full reinstatement may well be by the network, by a consortium of businesses or by emergency government decree. Or we may be so sharp that we manage to do this by ourselves by raising the money on the stock exchange and/or through local and regional share issues.

Whilst discussion about restoring tiny sections for narrow gauge etc are welcome we need to avoid project drift. We need to always state what we are about, and always keep our eyes on the bigger picture.

Whilst I doubt anyone would question the need for and viability of the Midsomer Norton/Shepton to Bath and Blandford-Poole sections we need to remember that the S&D is a network, not two branches, and that we'll have far greater flexibility (and profitability) as a through route with additional connections to the Network wherever we pass by it ie at Templecombe, Bruton etc.

Whilst local passenger and freight traffic will be the lifeblood of the route we also expect that much traffic will originate and/or terminate away from our metals. This is pretty much the same situation as the old S&D but of course the New S&D will, eventually, be far busier than the Old S&D was, even on summer Saturdays in the 1950s.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

midford after logging ...

All pics copyright Tom Seale

A nice set of pictures showing Midford after this month's cutting session with the platform area cleared. This gives more vistas and shows Midford in an even better light. Rebuilding of the station itself is now getting closer every day!

more wood

Mick Knox has got his eyes on these saplings and small trees lining the cutting at Midford towards Long Arch Bridge - a job for when the bird nesting season's passed. You can just make out the platform in the far distance giving a good idea of just how much land we own at this site. This will look great when the track returns.

Monday, February 27, 2012

it doesn't have to cost millions

Whenever we are asked at the New S&D how much it'll cost to reinstate the route we normally suggest around a couple of billion, chickenfeed in this age of trillion dollar bailouts, HS2 and instant creation of 'money'. This figure covers everything from land acquisition, tracklaying, infrastructure building, signalling, rolling stock, locos, setting up management systems, marketing, training etc. Against money built on roads in the last couple of decades (totally wasted money) it's nothing. But will it really cost that much or is our unique blend of community project, sustainable transport and business? Because others are doing it FAR more cheaply!

Via Keith, one of our regulars ...

Here is an example of what is possible with standard gauge. This whole scheme is a wonderful community project that is actually costing them peanuts. However, they dont have far to go to link their community, but it looks great.

February update -

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things fall apart

Going bussed: economy and tuition fees drive the young away from the car

Sales of coach and train discount cards surge as driving becomes a minority pursuit among cash-strapped students
Passengers board a National Express bus at Victoria coach station
Passengers board a National Express bus at Victoria coach station in London. Photograph: Micha Theiner/City AM/Rex Features
A generation of students facing higher tuition fees and lower job prospects appears to be embracing the mixed joys of budget travel in rising numbers – with the teenage dream of passing the test and driving a car now an increasingly unaffordable, minority pursuit.
Operators report that the traditional staples of budget travel, the young person's rail and coach cards, are being purchased in record numbers.
National Express, Britain's largest coach operator, reported a surge in sales of coach and regional bus discount cards last year, with 36% more being sold year on year.
Train companies said that record numbers of young people now have a railcard: over 1.2m were sold or renewed last year, almost a third higher than the 950,000 who had a discount railcard in 2005. The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said that 18-25 year-olds made over 50m journeys by rail last year, 60% up on five years ago.
Atoc spokesman Edward Welsh said: "We know a lot of under 25-year-olds are struggling to afford the costs of buying, running and insuring a car – and that's on top of paying for driving lessons."
The number of 17-year-olds taking the driving test has continued to fall year on year, as many of them deal with the loss of their education maintenance allowance coupled with a steep rise in university tuition fees. Nearly half of British 17-20 year-olds had driving licences two decades ago, but only 35% do now. Although the long-term slump in young people learning to drive eased slightly last year, the number of under-25s taking their driving test has fallen by over 20% in five years, according to Driving Standards Agency.
Rising fuel prices are dwarfed by rocketing car insurance premiums, which according to AA figures mean young men receive average insurance quotes of over £3,100.
At Victoria coach station in central London, student Lucy Hamer, 19, rolled her eyes when asked about driving. "I haven't learned to drive because it is far too expensive. I have to take the coach up to Liverpool and it's such a long journey, over five hours. The government really should be looking to cut the cost of driving but also public transport too. Every time I get on the bus it feels like the price has gone up."
Motoring organisations believe the economic conditions, rather than the emergence of a generation wilfully opposed to driving, are behind the rise in public transport use by young people. Edmund King, president of the AA, said: "You've got more young people going to university with tuition fees, and they basically don't have money to take lessons or insurance."
He maintained the dream of driving had not died. "There's still that desire, but financial circumstances have blunted the uptake. Despite the environmental talk and all else, I don't think the aspirations have changed that much."
The steep costs may have alarming effects. A recent survey for insurance firm Ingenie found that 89% of young drivers now take less than the recommended 40 hours of driving lessons before passing their test.
King warned of a vicious cycle for the non-driving young: "In times of high unemployment, it's quite useful for people to have a driving licence. For quite a few jobs, that's a prerequisite. And like learning to swim, it's easier the earlier you start. You'll end up paying even more."
If the coach has been the big winner from the age of travel austerity, not all passengers seem entirely enthusiastic, despite the promise of mod cons such as wifi, power sockets and leather seats aboard.
Also at Victoria coach station, Fay Ali, 23, an educational psychology student at Birkbeck, who paid £12.50 on the day for a single National Express journey to Sheffield, said: "I always intend to catch the train and then something happens so I'm left with nought options but to catch a coach. I had a train ticket booked but I missed it."
Alex Vardy-Meers, 25, a tree surgeon hauling his bags of tools, said that coach travel was the one thing that made his business viable. "Any money I earn would have to go straight into the costs of a car. The coach is OK. It would be easier to take a van but I can't afford that. If I didn't have a railcard I wouldn't ever take the train either."
But others have fallen in love with coach travel. Anne Wilkes, 66, a full-time carer for her husband, said it was also their favoured choice for European holidays. "If you're driving, you're low. On a coach you can see a lot more and I'm a nosy person. I like to see into people's gardens."

Carless whispers

Caroline Mortimer, 21, Harrogate, English student, University of Birmingham:
"Certainly the reason I don't drive, and haven't learned to drive, is the cost. I started taking lessons but I lost my job and couldn't afford to continue learning. I've always taken the train to travel between home and university and I do have a railcard, but I'm still forced to travel late at night when it's only £25 or at off-peak times as otherwise it's still too expensive. I can't take a coach either because it's not convenient where I live."
Nicholas Hughes, 21, from London, politics and economics student, University of Leeds:
"Living in London my need for driving isn't great, because the transport links are so good. However, at the same time, there's no doubt that the price of driving for young people – including lessons, insurance and petrol – is off-putting, and that's one reason why I haven't learned to drive. When I used to head up to university I would take the train, but even with a young person's railcard I feel that trains have become so expensive I've been priced out of those too. The coach is definitely much cheaper, and that's always how I travel back up to Leeds now."
Poonam Lad, 20, Ashton-under-Lyne, art student,Birmingham City University:
"I failed my test and it's far too expensive, if you fail, to have to pay for more lessons again. The cost can be hundreds of pounds. I take the train and the young person's railcard definitely makes a difference, and it's popular among students. A lot of students bank with NatWest, who provide the card for free when you open a student bank account. The NUS card is also helpful for discounts on the coach, but I still feel generally that the costs of travelling are too high at any age, not just students and young people."
Saoirse Linder, 20, Rostrevor (Northern Ireland), sociology student, University of Bristol:
"The cost of driving has been a big factor in deciding not to learn, and if you're a slow learner like myself it makes it that much more expensive. In Bristol, parking charges run into the hundreds of pounds too. Why would I drive when I can take a two-hour coach for a few pounds, and my university bus is free? Certainly railcard and NUS cards have an impact in that they are a hugely attractive alternative to driving, although whilst it is good that students have railcards you still have to pay for the railcard or your NUS card in the first place."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

another dorset railway ...

(Bridport 7.8.1973 copyright Steve Sainsbury)

I was lucky enough to travel on the Bridport branch a few times before it closed. It was a pretty stupid closure as the line was cheap to run and had it been retained would doubtless be very busy today in the New Railway Age. Whether it will ever return as a standard gauge community railway no-one could say but it must be a possibility as I remember the line being amazingly rural throughout so it's unlikely that there are any serious blockages to the track. There were plans to build it as a narrow gauge line under the auspices of the Brit Valley Railway, which seems to be moribund at the moment but I'm sure its time will come.

This article, courtesy of Jim Type, recalls this excellent branch.

REMINDERS that the south-west was once an area teeming with railway lines are all about us.
There are old station houses used as tea rooms, country walks along the paths of now-disused lines, and a number of roads named after this once-thriving method of transport.
Now a Dorset man has compiled a book tracing the routes around the whole country that have long been abandoned but are nevertheless still rich in railway culture.
Paul Atterbury, who lives in Weymouth, is best known for his role on TV’s Antiques Roadshow, but he has written extensively about railways, with seven books on the subject under his belt. He said: “A number of branch lines in the south west were built by small, independent companies set up by local merchants and businessmen keen to expand trade by linking their towns and villages to the national railway network.”
Typical was the Bridport Railway, whose nine-mile line to Maiden Newton opened amid great local celebration on 11 November 1857. In 1884 the line was extended to Bridport Harbour – a busy local trading and fishing port. This reflected the ambitions of the Great Western Railway, which was keen to develop a harbour and port that could rival Weymouth.
Thinking also of the developing tourist trade, the company renamed the harbour West Bay and hoped that the hotels would soon arrive, inspired by the beautiful coast and the new railway link. In the event not much happened and West Bay remained much the same as before, a small but busy local port. However, the carriage of beach gravel became a mainstay of the line and remained so until the closure of the West Bay extension in 1962.
Always popular with local users, the Bridport branch enjoyed a busy service. Indeed, a special bathing train left Bridport at seven each morning. In the early 1960s there were 20 trains each way on weekdays. The line survived the Beeching plan in the 1960s (when the government attempted to reduce the cost of running British Railways, resulting in a reduction of 25 per cent of route miles and 50 per cent of stations).
Paul Atterbury said: “By the 1970s Bridport had escaped a number of closure schemes, and its Houdini-like behaviour gave rise to plenty of local support and optimism. However, it was all in vain as full closure came in May 1975 – one of Britain’s last branch line closures. Had the line lived on for another couple of years, it would surely have survived.”
Today there are plenty of remains to be seen. In the late 1980s, West Bay station was a sorry sight, derelict and tumbledown and the platform used as a store for old boats and marine junk. Since then, this pretty stone building, built in the typical vernacular style of rural Dorset stations, has been fully restored and given a new lease of life as a cafe. Track has been relaid beside the platform, a signal has been erected and the trackbed towards Bridport has been turned into a public footpath.
Both Bridport’s stations have gone, but much of the Bridport branch survives the landscape. A solitary crossing gate just outside the town remains. The steeply graded route followed valleys through the hills up to Maiden Newton and can easily be identified from nearby minor roads.
Cuttings, embankments and bridges survive, along with platforms at Powerstock and Toller, the only intermediate stations.
“Powerstock Station always looked like a private house and that is now exactly what it is,” said Paul. “For those wanting to travel from Bridport to London, the journey was tortuous and involved a number of changes. This makes it even more remarkable that this essentially local railway kept going for so long.”


(Isfield 4.7.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury)

When madman Beeching was cutting railways for no good reason really useful routes like Lewes-Uckfield which provided a superb alternative to the London-Brighton line were closed. Since closure in 1969 there have been endless calls for its reopening - perhaps the following will make that happen more quickly, because this really is a reopneing that is LONG overdue!

Chaos on railways causing cancellations

OVER-RUNNING engineering work is causing chaos and delays on the Southern Trains network this morning.
Southern have said the works being carried out at Balcombe are causing delays of up to 60 minutes on routes to Brighton, but passengers commuting through Horsham and the Arun Valley were experiencing long delays as well.
Trains running south from Horsham are currently running between 25 and 45 minutes late and some trains towards London have been cancelled.
Passengers are being warned of short notice alterations and cancellations and to check before they travel.

Friday, February 24, 2012

about time!!

Henbury and Portishead rail lines to re-open within 5 years

Thursday, January 26, 2012

TRAINS could be running on the Portishead railway line again within five years.
That is the view of a rail industry insider who says plans to reopen the line from Bristol Temple Meads to the North Somerset town are already at an advanced stage.
The expert, who has asked to remain anonymous, believes the reopening of both the Portishead and Henbury Loop lines will be included in the new franchise agreement for the Great Western rail network.

This means the rail operator which takes over the running of the franchise next year will be obliged to run trains on both lines to meet the terms of their contract.

It is understood Portishead's railway station would be built on the site of the former station yard next door to the town's Waitrose supermarket.

The only major stumbling block is Quays Avenue, a road which intersects the line just before it reaches the proposed station. It is understood this could be overcome by either creating a level crossing or building a road bridge.

The terms of the Great Western franchise will be published in April or May.

The railway industry insider said the Department for Transport was responsible for choosing whether or not the reopening of the line should be included as part of the franchise agreement.

He said the Government was keen to see a rail operator bear the cost of reopening the line, rather than see it met by the public purse.

The insider said planning for reopening of the line was carried out years ago – right down to working out a timetable for the Portishead service. But he said a question mark had always remained over who would foot the bill for the project.

He said: "We firmly believe the Portishead and Henbury lines will be returned into the new franchise agreement. It's the Government's intention that the franchisee funds the reopening.

"In April or May, when the main invitation tender document is published, there will be an awful lot more detail.

"I've seen documents about the Portishead line for the last three years, including a full timetable. The problem has always been government departments arguing over who will pay for it.

"There's a lot of work going on behind the scenes trying to get these projects through.

"Reopening the Portishead line is easy to do. It would be a massive success and it would be a bonus for Bristol.

"The tracks are still there and the only issue would be crossing Quays Avenue. From the railway point of view, we don't like having level crossings. The best approach might be a bridge."

As well as the Portishead and Henbury lines, the source said he believed Henbury and Hallen stations would reopen, two extra lines of track would be added at Filton Bank by 2018, and a half-hourly Bristol Metro service would run between Yate and Weston-super- Mare.

He said a shuttle rail service could be set up between Henbury station and the Mall at Cribbs Causeway.

The insider said: "I can see this happening, especially with all the traffic that builds up around Cribbs Causeway at weekends. With the airfield shutting, it will allow some sort of transport link to be built – that would be desirable.

"Saltford has a very good case for reopening – we know people are seriously looking at that, and Ashley Hill as well."

Earlier this month, the Evening Post reported that Bristol City Council had joined forces with local transport groups to campaign to bring a metro rail service to the city.

The ambition of Bristol Metro 2013 is to run trains to local stations – including reopened ones – from Temple Meads every 30 minutes.

Those behind the campaign want whichever company that takes over the running of the Great Western rail network next year to include the improvements to local services.

Until March, the government is carrying out consultations on what the new 15-year franchise should include.

Campaigners want to convince transport companies that are likely to go for the franchise to include the Bristol Metro in their bid, and to convince the government that local improvements should be included in their list of requirements for the successful bidder.

First Great Western has already announced its intention to re-bid for the franchise, despite calling time on the existing contract early last year. In the process it avoided having to pay £800 million to the government thanks to a get-out clause included in their original 10-year deal.

There are dozens of other rail operators across the country that could potentially bid for the franchise but the list of bidders is not due to be revealed until May.

Last month North Somerset MP Liam Fox said he believed work on the Portishead passenger rail link could begin by 2015.

His optimism stemmed from a meeting he attended alongside North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton with Transport Minister Norman Baker at Westminster.

Passenger services from Portishead to Bristol were cut in 1964, although the line to Portbury Dock reopened in 2002 for freight trains only.

all the time in the world

Well perhaps not, but with the New S&D being a long term project, expected to last over at least two generations, we are rather oversupplied with time to do things, as long as the situation in the wider world allows it! There may be some very strange jerks in our progress, with things being a hive of activity at times but at other times not much happening at all - or at least appearing so.

A lot of people don't 'get' this. They ask valid questions like 'how are you going to pay for this?' but 'this' can mean a lot of things. At the moment 'this' is the acquisition and rebuilding of Midford and Spetisbury and equipping them as information and sales offices for the whole route. We can manage that quite easily, and progress has been excellent. Remember that the New S&D is not a heritage project but a plan to rebuild a much-needed railway. It will be expected to be profitable so we won't rely on things like grants and subsidies. The New S&D may well be built in its entirely by a public company, through the government, a consortium or even Wessex Links Ltd!

As the Energy Crisis progresses it will become clear to everyone that new railways will be needed. This will be when things really start happening and why it's so important to get the ball rolling now.

Think about this - what sort of line is going to attract support from communities along the route, politicians and investors - a long closed route overgrown with weeds, built on extensively and with no obviious local support or a line that has been restored in places, where other sections are owned by a group dedicated to rebuilding the route and where the community has been involved right from the start?

I know some people think that this won't happen, or (worse to my mind) it'll only happen in parts. But these people tend not to have had their 'Peak Oil moment' yet so are still thinking that the future will resemble the past. It won't. There's no contention about Peak Oil, it's a simple geological and economic fact. We WILL run out of cheap oil and when we do everything will change, not just the price of fuel at the petrol pumps! Fuel itself will become hard to get at any price, the roads will empty, we'll probably have intermittent electricity supplies, food will not be as easy and cheap to find because non-organic farming methods rely on oil-based fertilizers and plastics will either vanish or be very expensive. This is the world we're moving in to, and the one we need to plan for. The past is irrelevant.

Who knows when this will happen? Well Peak Oil has been reached, back in 2005. Energy efficiency and the recession has reduced oil usage around the world, so this is masked a little, and fuel is still incredibly cheap. But as oil gets scarcer the chances of a REAL oil shock become more common and eventually inevitable. That's when we need to be ready.

So in this respect time is limited! I suspect that as we react to events we'll up our game or chill out a lot, depending on what's happening.

Many out there still haven't joined the New S&D and that's fine. Their time hasn't come yet. But it will and the fact that this site now gets between 250 and 350 hits a day suggests that the message is beginning to reach people. And remember, this is very early days!
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

legal at last!

Thanks to yesterday's appeal on this very blog the New S&D now have a legal officer who will be responsible for leases, land transfers, insurances etc. Thanks to member Neil Smith who will be taking on this important and challenging role.
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Monday, February 20, 2012



As we move from the early stages to a more mature
state we need a number of key people to help us spread the word about the New
S&D and rail resurgence in general. Ideally we'd love to have the following
people -

PRESS OFFICER - to inform all media of
happenings and developments along the S&D.

SALES OFFICER - to develop mail order and internet sales, also attend events
up and down the route to promote the line. At a later stage will be fully
responsible for building shop stock at Midford and Spetisbury.

PROMOTIONS OFFICER - to promote the line via meetings etc. Would also liaise with local and
regional government, working as a lobbyist for the New S&D. Would work
closely with the PRESS OFFICER.

LEGAL OFFICER - to take care of
insurances, trackbed purchases, working arrangements etc

TREASURER - to take care of the accounts, make payments etc, and advise on financial

MAGAZINE EDITOR - desperately needed to edit a quality magazine
for the New S&D - two issues a year.

If you are interested in any of
the above posts please email me at leysiner@aol.com

Ideally the sales
officer position needs to be held by somebody local to the line - would happily
split this role Dorset/Somerset if it makes it more manageable! Ideally the
Promotions Officer would also live locally to the line. The other posts can be
distant from the line.

a different view

I received this as an email today and would welcome comments in the comments section. Keith's vision is of a narrow gauge railway on a small part of the S&D mixing modern and heritage aspects.

I have been following progress of the various projects covering the
S&D, plus a few more in selected places over the south and east of the
country. I am at present living most of the time in Portugal, although that
might change in the coming months.

I was fortunate to view at first hand and from the earliest days the
revival of the Great Central and the Watercress lines, and also made frequent
stopovers/detours to the Bluebell Line during my time as a salesman. I often
tried to plan my route for the week with lunch time breaks near railways, both
preserved and those in mainline service.

I have now retired, although am busier than ever, involved in a number of
writing projects.However, in a rather full and varied career/careers I was also
noted for innovation/challenging the status quo, but always with a practical and
viable solution. My projects nearly always came to fruition because they were

The S&D was 100 miles long, plus probably the same again in the
branchlines. To return that to full running would mean two miles of track a year
for 50 years, or five miles a year for 20 years, or 10 miles a year for 10
years. We only have to look at the experiences of the Great Central, the
Bluebell and the Watercress to realise how difficult it is to build, maintain
and manage relatively short lengths of track, and also how long it takes to
build even short extensions. I have recently watched some videos of the track
renewal work at the Bluebell. This is major engineering, requiring all the
skills, manpower, and heavy equipment needed to do the job, and in reality it is
only upgrading the railway, and the average passenger would see no difference or

The Watercress did manage to get to Alton, but it took them 20 years. The
Bluebell still cant reach East Grinstead after 50 years, although 2012 maybe the
year. The Swanage line cant reach Wareham because of signalling and a level
crossing, although that might change this year, with the cash injection from

The timescale on all these things is measured in decades. In 1970 I was
surprised to see that 71000, Duke of Gloucester had survived the cutters torch
and was stabled at Loughborough. It wasn't in bad condition and I was told they
hoped to get it back running in around five years. One pessimist thought 10
years. In fact it took 20 years and probably 20 times the original cost

So, how does all this impact on the S&D. Well the various projects are
moving forward and it is obvious that within five years there will be a number
of stations restored to their 1950s glory, and that there will be a small but
perfectly formed preserved railway at Midsummer Norton, and another at
Shillingstone. Gartell will be running for fun on a limited number of weekends.
All three will slowly grow from their current boundaries but nothing that is
going to see either a service to the community or an impressive stage for a
hardworking steam loco.

But there will be no more track, and with little prospect of more given the
current economic climate and the practicalities of running a railway.

Yesterday I watched a short youtube video of the old BBC S&D program
with Ivo Peters and it followed the route up to Midford, describing it as one of
the prettiest routes in the country. Few people would disagree I think. I am
also following the dramatic progress of the Two Tunnels route, which is planned
to be complete by this time next year, and will potentially put thousands of
walkers and bikers on to the platform at Midford.

So I looked at what was practical and what could be achieved. I looked at
places where there has been success over the kind of distances that will need to
be covered to get out of Bath and into the heart of Somerset, to Midford,
Radstock and to MSN.

There are two obvious and most successful models that ought to be looked
at, and both have very obvious similarities to the section between MSN and Bath.
The two lines I am talking about are the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch, and the
Ffestiniog line. Both are practical railways that cover substantial distances,
and both have showed long term sustainability.

Both, of course are narrow guage, but the economies of scale have so many
advantages that they are overwhelming. They also fit beautifully into the
scenario that is becoming the reality of the old S&D trackway.

Multiuse of the 'two tunnels' route by full size trains would be
problematic in the extreme, but a 2ft line would offer the perfect solution. The
scale makes it manageable, with everything from the permanent way to the rolling
stock. In particular the loading gauge on the bridges is not a problem.
Everything then becomes possible and practical and likely to be sustainable. It
also offers not just a wonderful tourist attraction but also a means of
transport into that most inaccessible city, Bath. It is a win, win, win
solution, and I could see very few detractors.

Because infrastructure costs are so greatly reduced the money and effort
can go into laying and maintaining the track. How difficult would it be to
create a 20 mile full scale railway from Bath to MSN, and how much easier to do
it in a smaller scale. The route breaks down beautifully into three sections,
each 6-7 miles long, and I could easily imagine train services out of Bath as
far as Midford in 3-5 years. If the money was available that would be an easy
task. MSN in ten years would be a certainty, and if phase one was a success then
probably much quicker.

So restoring the S&D as a working railway then becomes a feasible
project in everyones lifetime. Mix new technology with old, and so all the ideas
about engineering workshops and innovative motive power systems become a
practical reality. I think that would bring out the volunteers, because everyone
could help.

Full size railways are for heavy engineers and are out of the range of the
pockets of anyone involved, especially in these hard economic times. I'm sure a
visit to North Wales or to Dungeness would demonstrate this is a practical
solution and would have the wholesale support of both the people, and the
Councils that have an active interest in restoring the route.

Keith Browning

another one falls ...

In general economists tend to dismiss Peak Oil (as a problem, not a theory) because they believe in infinite substitution of products. Of course this only works up to a point, in the end even substitutes (unless they are sustainable like wood or sunlight) will run out, and oil is a very special case anyway. Nothing matches the cheapness and easiness of oil, and never before has a global society been built on the base of a finite product that has been treated as infinite. This is where  the real problems will occur, when everyone realises that. There isn't a substiture for oil, and so much - from fuel to plastics to fertilizers - depends on it.

Gradually even mainstream economists and commentators are beginning to get this, and I think the following statement (from today's Money Week on line) says it best of all.

Global oil production peaked in May 2005 and despite the higher price, this level of production has not been matched.

The fact that companies are now having to drill miles under the sea or in other undesirable locations, suggests that the easy–to–find ‘cheap’ stuff has long since been found. There may be something to this peak oil business after all.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

not just a branch line!

(Photo copyright Mick Knox Dec 2011)

One of the misconceptions about the S&D is that it was some sort of branch line! Anyone who had seen the line at its peak in the 1950s would never make this mistake. Trains worked block on block, especially on the single track sections and especially on summer Saturdays. Passenger trains were joined by a succession of heavy freights and of course there was the express train, the Pines.

At Midsomer Norton they are relaying double track and the above shot really captures this. The only other double track standard gauge heritage line is the Great Central. Most of the  S&D was of course double track, there were short sections of single track between Bath GP and Midford and through Corfe Mullen, plus a longer stretch between Templecombe and Blandford.

So we will shortly have two restored stations on double track S&D (Midsomer Norton and Spetsibury) and two on single track (Shillingstone and Midford). Perhaps the real beauty of the S&D is that it could look like a main line and a branch line at the same time, depending on where you were and what trains were passing!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

more track on the S&D!

(News via John Penny)
Exciting news for 2012 from the Gartell Railway is that there is a Northern Extension across Common Lane (that's the 'hump' you've crossed when visiting them in the past!) and rails are now back in the road for the first time for about 45 years. There is a new station under construction to be called 'Tower View' there being a good view of Alfred's Tower in the distance. Whilst this may be 'only' 400 metres, it seems a lot further being in narrow gauge, and the whole operation becomes even more interesting as you will cross the line from Common Lane station and then over the road, as well as interesting goings on at Pinesway Junction - a true 'Junction' at last!
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the other way to templecombe

(Copyright Steve Sainsbury - Salisbury 14.4.1986)

You can still get to Templecombe via rail if you use the excellent Salisbury to Exeter route. This is a line that almost vanished in the mad sixties, it was reduced to practically a llong siding with many local stations closed including Templecombe. It had dreadful problems with timekeeping thanks to the long stretches of single track.

Get real. This is a main line, wonderfully engineered and serving many towns en route. It was deliberately run down because the idiot Beeching thought that one main line to the west (the ex GWR route) would suffice in the Oil Age. Many useful branches were closed depriving seaside towns of modern transport. With the loss of the S&D even more useful track, diversionary routes and alternatives were lost - for a while! Yeovil lost its incredible useful shuttle service between the three Yeovil stations. I remember walking between Yeovil Junction and Pen Mill in the 80s - an absolute nightmare!

But things are happening. Stations have been reopened, new stretches of double track have appeared and services are improving. But the line has a long way to go before it matches, then surpasses, its glory days.

Here's a new website that will champion the route. We at the S&D obviously have a big interest in this route as we will connect with it in the future.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

restoration ...

There's a great shot currently on the Shillingstone Facebook page which shows existing track still in place at Stalbridge. There is also surviving track at Blandford. This is in addition to the track now relaid at Shillingstone and, of course, Midsomer Norton.

These small sections of track remaining from the original line, many structures surviving and around 97% of the trackbed unblemished, plus many locos and stock which worked on the line still around, are surely signs that closure was only temporary!

With Midford and soon Spetisbury also being restored there is beginning to develop a real feeling that this whole line is stirring. Each metre of track laid, each station restored, is bringing the S&D back. What this means is that the average person in the street is far more likely to stumble upon what we're doing, and more and more will join and get involved in this complex piece of rail restoration. There may still be a few people out there who simply don't understand what is happening and why, but it's our job to make sure that they do. Without a railway in 20 or 30 years' time the towns and villages along our route will begin to die. People will still need to move after the end of oil and raw materials and products will still need to come in and go out. Some dreamers may think that this can all be done by horse and cart or bike, but that's not going to happen. Things will not break down that much.

The S&D is coming back and we get stronger each day. With the heritage sections of the route preserving and developing those practical skills that will be so important in the future, and with the New S&D setting this amazing restoration in context, we have a fantastic team of dedicated professionals making all this happen. There's no room for egotism or partisanship, we're all working together towards a single aim - to bring back our trains!
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

midford resource

Midford 2012

Just added is the Midford 2012 album - to view just click on the link above which can also be accessed from the sidebar. This will show the progress being made at this iconic location and will have pictures added as they come in.

Monday, February 13, 2012

all change!

A great postcard view of Templecombe taken on my 3rd birthday!

Templecombe has seen a lot of change since this picture. Amazingly the entire station, once so busy, was closed entirely when the S&D closed. But this strange state of affairs didn't last long and the station was reopened in 1982. It's now an incredible success story with hundreds of thousands of passengers using it each year. It's clearly in the ascendent again and it shouldn't be too many years before S&D trains begin using it again. It's a very useful junction allowing journeys such as Bournemouth to Exeter or Salisbury to Radstock etc etc. No doubt it will also become a very large freight interchange again, returning a degree of capacity to routes currently under strain.

Buy a house in Templecombe if you can - they are going to be worth a lot when all the trains return!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

spruce up at midsomer norton

(Midsomer Norton South 6.2.2012 both copyright Mick Knox)

Two shots taken last Monday at Midsomer Norton, primarily to show off the S&D style bank above the retaining wall after Mick Knox was released from his cage with a strimmer! Picture one also shows Midsomer Norton's latest locomotive addition, the class 08 diesel. The site now has two diesel locos, a steam Sentinel loco, a DMU and a Roadrailer, which means they are now covered for every eventuality!


I have to hand it to Compulsory Purchase Man - if I ever need new ideas for blog posts I can always count on him to send me something from his alternate reality universe to spark ideas!

His latest missive (unpublishable of course) announces that he is minded to 'hate the S&D' because he's tracked down a member of ours who has been 'asked to leave several heritage railways'! This is great stuff! Of course no clues as to who he means, and I rather wonder if it would matter anyway. I'm sure that all the ACTIVE New S&D members are certainly not guilty of this heinous crime. There are, it's true, a number of characters who seem to drift from heritage group to heritage group, but why not? Though how this unlikely occurence would leave CPM to 'hate the S&D' I can't imagine.

Hate's a strong word, but perhaps it does show how passionate some people can be about this line! Love it or hate it you can't ignore it!

I'm sorry to say I'm not passionate about the S&D - I don't have the time sadly. I'm passionate about cats, music and skiing. But many hard working S&D supporters ARE passionate that's for sure. It's because of passion that we have Ivo's fantastic record of the old line in its heyday, it's because of passion that Midford has emerged from the undergrowth. Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone exist because some people were absolutely passionate about these locations and worked like mad to make things happen, despite the jibes of people like CPM.

So I suspect passion will always be present around the S&D. Perhaps if I ever retire I can get a slice of it myself! I'm certainly passionate about the NEW S&D, and what it will bring. So I'm part of the way there!
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once in a lifetime opportunity?

Something a bit different!

This is a fantastic scratch built 4mm scale model of the station building at Midsomer Norton. It's available on eBay until tomorrow afternoon! I'd love it myself but suspect it will go way beyond the £100 it's currently fetching!

For more click here.

Oh, and you get the signalbox as well!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

fawley revival

(All copyright Steve Sainsbury - 22.3.1975)

The return of passenger trains to a freight-only branch line in Hampshire has moved a step closer. A viability study for the re-introduction of services to Hythe has been approved by Hampshire County Council.
Following completion of a Grip2 study, which established a business case for using the line beside Southampton Water, the council will undertake a technical study to identify the infrastructure that would be needed, calculate passenger demand and assess how it could be funded. The line would serve Totton, Hounsdown, Marchwood and Hythe.
Passenger services ended on the line in 1966. It remains lightly used by freight trains to the military port at Marchwood and the oil refinery at Fawley. The case for re-opening the line is based on providing an hourly shuttle between Hythe and Southampton Central, with a 23-minute journey time. The Grip3 study will start this spring.

This is an interesting development. I visited this line on a Branch Line Society tour back in 1975. Fawley itself is quite small but Hythe is bigger. There should be a fair amount of originating traffic from the three towns en route. Commuting will be made far easier. This line was not even iopened until 1925 and was technically a light railway although promoted by the Southern Railway. Freight traffic is mainly from the refinery at Fawley, but there was a military line at Marchwood which may still exist. This line was part of the itinary on the BLS tour but thanks to the IRA we couldn't travel on this line! So there was other freight traffic.

This line is fortunate in that it has stayed open for freight, which makes reopening so much easier. But if we can justify trains to Hythe, Marchwood and Fawley how on earth can we resist trains to Blandford, Norton-Radstock, Shepton Mallet and Wells?

I can't wait to travel on this route again!