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!

Monday, April 30, 2012


You all know I'm a bit of a car nut and I LOVE this video of driving in 1963.

Within 20 years, probably less, few if any of us will still be driving. The car will simply vanish, a victim of its inability to be flexible with fuel. A few will no doubt survive in museums, but that is all.

I've been photographing cars for years, and hope more of you will do the same. We need to all do our part to record this so brief form of transport. Not just the cars, but the lorries, buses etc that also will use the roads for a few more years. And also of course all the associated infrastructure - garages, motorway services etc, because once they're gone they'll be gone for good.

And again I urge you all to get out and take photos of diesel trains - they may not even survive as long as cars and buses.

It's so good that somebody had the foresight  to capture the roads way back in 1963, but how many other people did it? Our kids and their kids will look in wonder back to the days when almost everyone had their own funny little metal box on wheels. Eventually cars and roads may even gain a certain nostalgic glamour ... and who knows, there may even be one or two preserved roads with the odd car or bus shuttling along it.

saltford's getting closer

A petition signed by more than 2,000 people calling for the reopening of Saltford railway station has been presented in Parliament.
North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg handed over the petition in the House of Commons as a campaign gathers pace to get trains stopping once again at the halt which closed in 1970.
A team of more than 30 campaigners knocked on doors in the village to collect 2,028 signatures, which they estimate represents support from around two-thirds of households – with success at around 90 per cent of homes where someone was in.
Nearly 800 of the people signing up said they would use the station at least once a week, with 261 saying they would be daily users.
Mr Rees-Mogg met representatives of the Saltford Station Campaign Group at Westminster Hall to receive the petition and later formally handed it in during a session in the main chamber.
Group spokesman Duncan Hounsell said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg has given the campaign whole-hearted support from the outset. Handing in our petition to the House of Commons gives our campaign another boost.”
The station campaign is backed by B&NES Council, which has agreed to act as the official promoter of the reopening project, Bath Spa University and the West of England Partnership.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Reopening it makes a lot of sense. The A4 is a very heavily used road and if we can move more people from road to rail, that would have great benefits for the community.”
He said the speeding up of trains with the electrification of the line through the village meant it would be less disruptive to introduce more stopping services into timetables.
“In the 13 years from 1997 to 2010, just ten miles of line were electrified. There are now plans for 800 – that is a huge increase.”

gartell 2012

Gartell Railway Open Days 2012
Easter Monday 9 April
Bank Holiday Monday 7 May
Sunday 3 June
Sunday 24 June
Saturday 28 July (Steam & Vintage Show)
...Sunday 29 July (Steam & Vintage Show)
Sunday 5 August
Sunday 12 August
Sunday 19 August
Sunday 26 August
Bank Holiday Monday 27 August
Sunday 30 September
Sunday 28 October

Sunday, April 29, 2012

freight everywhere!

(Copyright The Rail Thing - 1962)

Just purchased by The Rail Thing is this slide of Templecombe shed in 1962 - ignore the copyright message!

Look at all the freight wagons around. This is just four years before the line was closed.

Idiot Beeching's biggest error was to deprive the railways of so much freight traffic because he simply didn't understand economics. The cost of maintaining and running freight wagons is minimal. A single load will probably pay for a wagon's maintenance for a year. The net effect of Beeching's attack on freight was to further reduce income, and further increase congestion on the roads. Next time you're stuck behind a lorry, churning out diesel fumes at 25 mph, remember that the freight should be on the railways, not the roads.

I fully expect Templecombe to contain even more freight wagons in 20 or 30 years' time, when the roads between towns no longer exist and rail is the only way to move things. Forget bulk loads, future rail freight will carry everything, though hopefully we won't be using quite as much stuff as we do now!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

amazing amazon

We now have an Amazon Associates store. Anything you order via this link will earn 5% of the sale price directly to the New S&D. This % will rise as more is sold.

I've tried to put in a good range of books, DVDs, model railway items etc but if there is something you need and it's not on here please let me know and I'll add it to the site so you can order it through us.

Not all items are priced, this is because they are not currently in Amazon's stocks, but I'll leave all these items open in case they do appear at a later date.

With two hungry stations to feed and perhaps a signal box as well soon this is an excellent and painless way to donate money to us without actually doing anything!

As the stations at Spetisbury and Midford are rebuilt we will be opening shops at each site as well, so soon you'll have a huge range of products, both S&D and non-S&D, to choose from.

Incidentally we are still looking for a Sales Manager to take over the whole New S&D sales side, which will be a really interesting, important and fun job. If interested please email leysiner@aol.com

You can also reach our Amazon shop by clicking here.

spetisbury ... all systems go!!

Dear Volunteer,

I have just posted these messages to our Facebook page, and if anyone cannot make it for any reason, and wants to keep up to date with our progress at Spetisbury, visit http://www.facebook.com/ and if you have a facebook account, log in and get yourself on the Spetisbury facebook page, we would be glad of your company.

If you don't have a facebook account, don't worry. We will also have our progress posted on The New Somerset & Dorset Railway website at http://www.somersetanddorsetrailway.co.uk/

Anyway, here are the messages!

OK Group! I can't hold onto the news any longer. We are good to go, or we will be on the 1st of May. I met with Richard at DCC on Monday, and he is going to give us a license to do clearance work on the platforms. I will get the full details in due course, but I want to call a site meeting for Sunday 6th May, so I am going to need numbers. Those of you who can make it, please let me know. I need you to park up at the school which is up the north end of the village, as there is not enough room by the bridge, close to the station. Let's say between 10 and 11am. And bring tools, just in case we feel the urge to get started on the day. I know this is cheesey! But, ARE YOU WITH ME?

I know I have mentioned this before, but if you want to help us and work on the clearance of the platforms, we need you to be a member of The New Somerset and Dorset Railway. It's all to do with insurance. I will bring forms with me for those of you who have not signed up yet!
I know this is obvious, but I would like all volunteers who work on the clearance work party, to wear at least strong shoes/ boots, preferably steel toe capped.
I don't want any accidents, and I am sure that you don't either! That's it, I have said my piece! Now let's go and have some fun!

If you want to help, and you have not let me know through the facebook page, then please reply to this e-mail so that I know how many of you will be turning up on the day?

Best regards,

Dean Cockwell

Project Manager - Spetisbury

The New Somerset & Dorset Railway

Monday, April 23, 2012

a real shock

We've booked a short break in Washford in August. Thanks to the lack of a rail connection at Taunton we're having to go all nostalgic and take the car, but the plan was to park it up for three days and use the WSR to get everywhere.

Of course, perhaps rather naïvely, I assumed it would be running a decent service, but the last train back from Minehead is at 17.25!!!!! I was rather hoping we could have a night out in Minehead. perhaps catching the last train around 11.30.

Mmmm. I don't get this. Surely there is loads of potential custom from both Minehead and all the towns en route to justify a proper community service, keeping cars and buses off the totally inadequate road system?

So the choice will be - go for a night out and come home at just before half past five (LOL!), stay in Washford or drive to Minehead with one of us as a designated driver.

And the bigger question is - how many millions have the WSR lost over the years by offering what seems to be jjust a train ride? And how sustainable is that?

Friday, April 20, 2012

that was the week that was

This has been a very busy week! Best week for new members for some considerable time - if you have joined/renewed in the last couple of weeks your membership card etc should be with you in the next few days.

Then that excellent letter from the Ministry which will provide ammunition for years to come, and will certainly pop up like a bad penny if any dinosaur out there tries to further encroach on our trackbed! Perhaps the letter is the biggest reason for the sudden surge in members?

And then the excellent idea of taking on the shell of Templecombe signalbox for a third base on the route for the New S&D. Whilst most visitors to Midford will come on bike and foot, and most to Spetisbury on foot, most to Templecombe will come by train!

Also in the last couple of  weeks we've had a few hard hitters join the management team of the New S&D, which should keep the rest of us on our toes! And the comments section has been bulging this week with loads of excellent ideas, also creating extra work.

I've never really had any doubt that the S&D will return - the alternatives of a network type line hemmed in by security fencing and using unsustainable fuel, or a transport-free wasteland between Bath and Bournemouth are simply hideous.

And to tap it all off Shillie Bear has been visiting some of my favourite places in New York City!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

yes minister!

An historic document, the first contact from the Ministry of Transport to the New S&D. The Ministry, and Minister are now aware of our plans!

It's a bit of a curate's egg, but there are some very useful and important statements in there. I'm not surprised that the Minister was not already aware of us as we've adopted a very low key approach whilst we were building membership. Not any more!

Best statements are -

'We are aware of the history of the Somerset and Dorset Railway and like many lines closed in the [c]ountry as a result of the Beeching Report, a different decision may have been arrived at with the benefit of hindsight'.

'[I]n the light of the recently published National Planning Policy Guidance we would be keen to ensure that there is no further loss of the trackbed to development which would preclude the use of this route as a railway line in the future'.

We can make a great use of both of these - basically an admission that the Beeching Report is NOT set in stone, but can now be adapted - and secondly that any future attempt to build on the trackbed will be frowned at by the Ministry of Transport. They'd also make excellent banner statements on tee shirts and posters!

The Ministry has also given advice on our next steps including contacting the Local Enterprise Partnership(s) and also to analyse the demand for travel along the corridor.

The workload is building at about the same rate as the membership!

Monday, April 16, 2012

hang on tight!

This is great! We want a full record of the restoration of Spetisbury and in typically New S&D style this panoramic 360 degree moving image is the first fruit of that idea! To view click the icon, then click the same icon in the top LH corner, and choose the bottom option - it will then play full screen.

Like at Midford we'll be keeping a full record of the restoration of all of the S&D as time passes, and Spetisbury will be the second location where every piece of work and progress will be preserved for posterity.

It's important. In 50 years' time few people will believe that our thriving main line was once abandoned and overgrown. S&D history did not stop in 1966, or when the last freight train ran, or when the last rail was lifted. Of course, that last rail was never lifted, a few short stretches of S&D track remaining in situ throughout the Inbetweener Years, waiting for the trains to return.

There are many people waiting to start work down at Spetisbury - expect progress to be quick! There is such a buzz around the S&D now, but nobody should be surprised!

midford update

Latest from Tom Seale after yesterday's work day at Midford.

Will, Dad and myself spent another enjoyable day down at Midford this Sunday, the weather was glorious and we managed to get quite a few things done.

We started by tidying the bank above the northern end of the platform, there were a few "loose ends" unceremoniously protruding that have now been taken care of. Spring has now taken hold and the banks are covered in wildflower, mainly wild garlic; there is also an abundance of bluebell and primose among many others.

Whilst i was scrambling on the bank, Dad and Will removed the fly tipping from the wall adjacent to the pub car park. Hopefully this will discourage any further tipping.

We also cut through the very large vines present on the trees the other side of the wooden fence, this should let a bit more light through and make any tree 'surgery' a bit easier. The owner of Lynwood has previously enquired about us either topping or removing these trees as they do cast a very impressive shadow in the evening.

We finished of by burning all of the remaining cut wood on site, we re-sited the bonfire to a location much closer to the tunnel, mainly as this is quite a bit farther away from the neighbouring houses. After the inferno had died down we enjoyed a late lunch of sausages and burgers, accompanied by wild garlic leaves and an ash seasoning.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

heritage potential

(Article courtesy Jim Type)

This is today's news - think of the logistical effort involved in an event like this - and this is to a line that doesn't event connect to the Network!!

This shows all the untapped potential of the S&D - imagine the scale of a similar event on the S&D in the future, with locos based on the line being joined by locos from outside. It's always been clear that loco owners will be banging on our door to use their locos over the Mendips and through the Stour Valley, or double heading over Midford viaduct. THIS is why the New S&D exists, in addition to running normal freight and passenger trains. There is HUGE untapped potential  on the S&D, on a totally different scale to that which any other line can offer.

Remember, if we allow the Network to rebuild the line nothing like this will happen. Existing restoration groups (including the New S&D) will simply be removed from the line, stations will be utilitarian and few and far between, trackbed properties will be compulsorily purchased and train services won't reflect the needs of people living on the route. There'll be no cheap rate special tickets for locals, and freight won't be developed properly. And forget ever recreating classic S&D scenes, a mix of Health and Safety rules, prison style lineside fencing, basic buildings and lack of marketing will ensure this could never happen.

Congrats to the Llangollen Railway for this amazing show - a glimpse into the future!

Friday, April 13, 2012

take care when commenting

I've always had a policy of no personal attacks both in articles and comments. I've just had two comments, the second one in particular which made some valid (but easily answerable and previously answered) points, but couldn't post them as they both contained personal attacks on a previous poster.

I've no idea why anyone would resort to this, we are all working towards the same thing.

I am unable to edit comments so if a comment does include a personal (or indeed general) attack or insult it HAS to be rejected. You are wasting your  time if you send a comment but also feel the need to attack a person, people or an organisation, the comment will not be seen by anybody.

It is also a courtesy to at least use a nickname or first name when posting comments, so other posters get to know you. Whilst I will of course permit anomynous posts (not all of us have Google identities) I think that what we are doing is so important and historic that we really should ALL identify ourselves when commenting, even if just for the historical record!

spetisbury ... coming soon!

Dean Cockwell has just added the following post to the Spetisbury Facebook group. LOADS of replies so far!

VOLUNTEERS! Hello people, I asked for volunteers many months ago who wanted to help clearing the platforms, and received approximately 15 names. The reason for me raising this again is because we need to know if there are going to be many more for insurance purposes. I am also on the hunt for people to do other tasks, such as news letters, liasing with various other people. Basically, admin type duties. I know we have budding photographers in the group, which we will need to record our progress from start to finish. The other way of putting it, is if you think you can help in any way that you can, even if you live far away. Some jobs don't have to be done by people living close to the station. Please let me know! Now is the time to get involved and see if we can catch up with the other projects along the S&D line.

You can contact Dean directly on deancockwell@ntlworld.com

get stamping!

Don't throw your old stamps away - send them in so we can raise money either for the New S&D or for the Trust at Midsomer Norton!

ALL stamps are needed, even the regular 1st and 2nd class ones. Ideally they should be ON PAPER, preferably cut to within about 1/4" of the perforations. Just collect them up and send them in - what could be easier?

The groups get £5 per kilo of  GB stamps or £19 per kilo of World (no GB) stamps.

For the New S&D please send to -

New Somerset and Dorset Stamp Appeal
10 Bellamy Avenue
BS13 0HW

and for the SDRHT (Midsomer Norton) please send to -

Stamps for Charity (027 MSN)
10 Bellamy Avenue
BS13 0HW

More on this here!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

in a nutshell

Wow - I couldn't have put this better myself. This is an excellent primer as to why the pressure's building for the S&D to return sooner rather than later! Courtesy of Simon Ellison.

I note, with some disquiet, the rather 'negative' comments which seem to blight all aspects of railway restoration, in whatever form that takes.
Thing is: There are ALWAYS dissenters and ne'er do well's who delight in the negativity of their own lives, and like to project on to others their attitude.
If you do not believe in something with passion, then it's best not be get involved at all - applies to life generally, not just railways.
The obstacles to reinstating a continuous rail route from Bath/Bristol through to Poole/Bournemouth are huge, but not insurmountable. Of course there will have to be deviation from the original route at various locations, but, essentially, the route in it's entirety should be, and MUST be reinstated, because rail will be the only sure way of transporting heavy freight and passengers in a viable way to smaller towns and villages in the future of road degradation and spiralling fuel costs.
Councils are being squeezed like sponges for funding which will not be forthcoming for essential road repair - Here, where I live, roads are like rutted farm tracks, damage to wheels, tyres and steering geometry is becoming horrendous as well as unsafe.
Roads like minor 'B' and unclassified ones are left to their own devices due to lack of funding for repairs - that situation is fuelled by inclement weather which rapidly adds to the [rapid] destruction of surface 'black top'
How will we move anywhere in relative safety without wrecking our spines and our vehicle's suspension ? Are we to remain isolated in villages which have roads not fit for purpose?
At least a rail link would mean no more road wrecking heavy trucks - all commerce conducted by small trucks/vans from RAIL depot to destination - probably by electric engined vehicles.
But, before we all fall into the trap of 'electric' propelled vehicles [of ANY sort], just remember this: Electricity has to be generated - which still means oil/coal/nuclear powered generating plants - so at whatever point, there will always be some form of 'unfriendly' fuel being used to provide all this 'clean' electricity. Im sorry, but these pathetic wind farms will just NOT fit the bill for reliable and continous power supply, besides which, they are a blot on the landscape as well being a major threat to wild life, which also has the right to exist.
Remember this: Rail over road transport has much in it's favour:
A. It is fairly unobtrusive to the environment - noise is a minor consideration..once a train has passed the sound of it's passage fades back into natural surrounding sound level, unlike the continuous drone of road transport.
B. The physical space needed to run trains is much less than an A class road !
C. Many more people die on the roads than on railways.
D. The cost of fuel is slashed as ton for ton, railway transport is far more efficient [much less frictional resistance on steel rail]
E. More economical - a typical train load is equivalent to many 44 ton trucks but in ONE movement and with ONE loco.
F. Faster - over distance, rail is MUCH quicker than road.

There are many other considerations which I have not entered here, but Iam preaching to the converted ! It's the general public and local government who need to be 'educated'
The monopoly of road transport is over - it's time to bring back OUR trains for the betterment of OUR lives, our childrens and their childrens lives.
Short term-ism has been this countries failing - is the reason for blinded politicians wrecking a once comprehensive railway infrastructure, and HERE lies our problem. It's so much easier to destroy than construct - all for short term profit/gains which gain NOTHING in the 'long run'
We should DEMAND government aid in repairing the damage THEY were responsible for in the first place !


The maps of the New S&D are now available as downloadable PDF files via the website here.

They can also be accessed directly here and here - I'll add these to the blog sidebar as well.

I expect that these will become a very iconic and popular sight in the coming years as they appear at the increasing number of New S&D sites and stations.

map 2

This is the second version of Laurence Everett's New S&D map which has the station names in larger type. This will be available as a PDF download (as will map 1) when I get the chance, and will appear on this blog and also on the New S&D website.

Once completed these lines will form the backbone of modern transport in Somerset and Dorset, linking Bristol and Bath to Bournemouth and Wells, and will also offer many alternative paths to allow pressure to be taken off existing main lines in the area. Most of the routes will be double track, with possibly quadruple track between Broadstone and Poole.

It wasn't planned but this map really does illustrate how a post Peak Oil railway network will look in our area. I suspect the biggest issue for the network will be managing demand so that capacity is not reached too quickly.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

next midford work party

The next Midford work party will be this Sunday (15.4.2012) from 10 am onwards. Please just show up on the day.

map 1

Laurence Everett has produced two excellent S&D maps, this is the first. Bear in mind that this will be produced in large sizes only so station names will be visible.

This shows all the lines we will reopen or build, and it's good to see how natural our routes look. Look at how straight the Bristol-Bournemouth run is for example. With the addition of the Bristol-Pensford-Chilcompton route, the Bailey Gate-Brockenhurst, the Wells-Masbury and Midford-Limpley Stoke lines in place we will have a wide variety of routes available - although the trains will be funnelled somewhat through the Bailey Gate-Evercreech Junction section, which will certainly need to be double track throughout! Wells and Glastonbury will have direct trains to Bristol and Bath with the building of a line from Wells to Masbury.

I'll upload a second map later which will be useable in a smaller size.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

where it all started

If you ever wondered where the idea of a rebuilt modern S&D came from you need look no further than the constitution of the SDRHT at Midsomer Norton - 'to assist with any 21st century reconstruction as part of the national network or as a heritage railway'.

Like many other New S&D members I am also a life member at Midsomer Norton. They have always been an incredibly forward-looking group and have inspired all of us working towards rebuilding the S&D as a real railway. They have worked wonders at Midsomer Norton in seemingly impossible circumstances, the site was once earmarked for sub-standard 20th century housing! Yet even 20 years ago, whilst being told by the dinosaurs 'Midsomer Norton will be demolished and vanish forever' they had the foresight to plant the idea of a fully restored line, an icon buried deep in their constitution yet, in its own way, every bit as powerful as the 'Perchance it is not Dead but Sleepeth' wreath placed on the buffers of the L&B line at Barnstaple Town station in 1935, or the Festiniog leaving Blanche at Blaenau years before the rails reached her.

Everyone involved in restoring the S&D; whether a ticket office person at Midsomer Norton, a narrow gauge signalman at Gartell, the shop staff at Shillingstone, the people restoring old carriages at Washford, the Seales clearing the platform at Midford, Dean Cockwell powering ahead the taking over of Spetisbury, the New S&D legal team studying CPOs, Environmental Assessments or trackbed arrangements and all the thousands of others supporting and rebuilding this line are all working towards the same thing - making the inevitable possible!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

the way ahead

This has just come in from the New S&D's Legal Officer, Neil Smith, which clarifies certain issues re the various rights that railways have over their natural routes. The way I read it is that we need to acquire the freehold for stations (as at Midford) but that generally the route itself merely needs agreement between the railway and the land's owner. As for anything built on the route, bearing in mind that it is still a railway (despite being lifted), a CPO will solve any blockage problems. There are only a few on the S&D in any case.

For information, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 is the main statute in the area and contents the machinery for CPOs.

The S and D is in a good position in that an easement - a right of way - is in the main the only requirement to relay a railway line: the freehold can remain with the owner. Stations and car parks pose a fuller problem: freehold purchase will be necesary. Compensation is based on the price between a willing purchaser and a willing seller.

I am concerned about the wholesale destruction of goods facilties along the S and D since closure in 1966. Quick solutions will be necessary in the face of Peak Oil etc. Oakley's excellent book "Somerset Railway Stations" shows the damage and destruction in the name of progress but also provides thought for rebuilding and relaying.

I'd also urge all interested to learn and become involved in the planning process. Development plans are revised every few years.

Developers have used this avenue with impunity for years in creating an artificial "need" for houses in many cases. Much more genuinely, the Cotswold Canals and Wilts and Berks Canal have used the system to safeguard each Canal's route.

The worthy cause of the S and D should do the same.

flat calm

(Ashcott 13.4.2007 copyright Mick Knox)

(Ashcott 1960s)

The picture I used randomly of Ashcott yesterday has brought out the more recent one from Mick Knox. It's quite difficult to tell that this was once a railway - but bringing the line back will put a stop to that!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

cometh the hour, cometh the man!

(Ashcott, late 1960s)

I've just had a very interesting phone call from a specialist in heritage planning, environmental law, environmental impact assessments and our favourite, compulsory purchase orders. He's done this for nearly 20 years and is very well known in heritage circles.

And he's offered these services free of charge, to assist the rebuilding of the whole S&D.

I'd hoped that this would happen once were we taken completely seriously, and I knew that would take some years, but clearly the acquisition of Midford, the imminent clearing of Spetisbury, plus of course the establishment of heritage and narrow gauge sites at three other points on the route, has made any such doubts history. I really don't think anything - short of a direct hit from an asteroid - can stop the rebuilding of the S&D now!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

license to grow!

The New S&D now has its insurance certificate which not only covers Spetisbury and Midford but will also cover any other sites they acquire. This is another step forwards in reinstating the whole route and will allow them to adopt stations and other useful sections of route as they grow, without incurring additional costs. As an additional bonus Matt, who set this up for them, has joined the New S&D!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

templecombe 1967

Yet another great shot from Picasa (source here) showing Templecombe, looking south towards Henstridge, possibly in 1967 - the photographer isn't sure.

Some one has over-ridden the interlocking and pulled off both pegs - for the road into Templecombe station and the road onwards to Henstridge and beyond - it doesn't matter because no trains had come this way for years and nothing ever will ever again ... it was eupemistically called "The Reshaping of British Railways" but all it meant was one third of the network trashed and thousands of dedicated railwaymen and women lost their livelyhoods.

Accompanying text (above) yet again displays that 1970s hubristic certainty about the future that has already been proved wrong in so many places, as it will do here. This may well be the last part of the S&D main line to be restored, but it will be restored and trains will run here in numbers not seen before, this becoming a very busy route to the south coast from Bath, Bristol, the Midlands, the North and Exteter and the west country. I'd be very much surprised if it will stay single for long!

henstridge 1969

An excellent Picasa shot of Henstridge, published here.

This is three years after closure and there's an eerie stillness, magnified by the fact that soon this section of track will be lifted, not to return for perhaps 50 years or more!

midford 1972

Original here.

New S&D webmaster David Bailey has tracked down this excellent shot of Midford in 1972, taken a few years after tracklifting.

This looks very much like the station does now, though soon the buildings will return.

Lovely touch of 1970s style pessimism (already proved wrong thanks to the Tuckingmill Tramway) in the blurb which accompanies this picture. It does seem odd that just 40 years ago people really believed that this line would not be rebuilt!

Hard to imagine that we used to get off the train here and all the countless thousands of people that passed this spot on express trains from the frozen North to balmy Bournemouth ... all passed into history! Nothing passes this way anymore and nothing will ever again only the leery personal chariots making for the pub on the road down below ...


(Copyright Dave Clark  Winter 2010)

Thought this might be an appropriate pic this morning with snow in the forecast! The S&D of course was quite familar with snow, especially on the Mendips section around Shepton Mallet, where the roads still come to a standstill whenever a few flakes fall. The S&D was and will be made of sterner stuff, though even the railway was blocked in 1947 and 1963.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

see what I have to contend with!

I don't know whether to be flattered or flabbergasted but CP Boy seems to think that I wrote the article in the previous post! As always he misses the point entirely and also manages to get a dig in at the S&D - which he detests - and by extension all of us who are bringing it back.

Here we go -

I don't know how you think this stuff up. Well done. Still no reason to bring back a defunct railway that was hopeless even when it was running. Ah well dream on.

Well, whoever CP Boy thinks I am, surely even he realises that I neither live in Denmark or freelance for the Guardian? I wish!! For those of you still with me on this the original article - clearly written by Jason Heppenstall - can be found here.

And why would anyone claim the S&D was 'hopeless'? It did an extraordinary job under difficult circumstances, as well as creating a linear work of art through Wessex. So not only does he hate the S&D now, and all of us working towards it, but besmirches EVERYONE who has EVER worked to make it the wonderful thing it was and is.

To his credit CP Boy does manage to write a whole comment without one swear word, difficult for a 14 year old, or mention how 'stupid' workers at Midsomer Norton, Midford, Gartell, Shillingstone, Washford and Spetisbury are - probably the first time he's been so restrained! Perhaps we're beginning to convert him to the future after all ...

perhaps this is why the dinosaurs don't get peak oil

Whilst the CP Boy clones and hippies still insist - with not a shred of evidence, qualifications or applied thought - that the world will never change, back on earth we're seeing changes happen all around us - and the last few paragraphs in particular may well explain why our less-bright compatriots still think we're living in the Jurassic!

Beware the black sticky stuff: the media, marmite and peak oil

by Jason Heppenstall

In this last week, which has seen people panic-buying petrol across the UK, we have been reminded of two unpleasant facts which are likely to be rearing their ugly heads much more frequently in the future. For those who don't know, a mooted strike by a union which counts petrol tanker drivers as its members quickly led to mile-long queues at filling stations, leading to one woman accidentally setting herself alight as she tried to decant fuel which in turn led to calls for rolling heads at the ministerial level.
All of this was sparked by some union reps saying they might consider calling a strike over safety conditions.
The first ugly fact that I mentioned was the reminder that any threat to the fuel supply causes mass hysteria. In this instance there has been (so far) no actual supply interruption, but that didn't stop people overreacting.
The second reminder was that in these situations the mass media amply fulfils its role of hysteria amplifier, quickly weighing up the situation, coming to hasty conculsion about who or what is to blame and then shouting PANIC at the top of its lungs while jumping up and down and getting all red in the face. In this case they decided to blame Frances Maude, the Conservative Party chairman, who suggested that if there was to be a strike it might be a good idea to fill up a jerry can with fuel just in case. Normally this would be considered stirling advice, after all, doesn't it pay to be prepared?
Now, I'm not exactly a fan of the Conservatives and I'm sure that Frances Maude has done many questionable things in his life to get to the position where he is now – but advising people to fill up jerry cans with petrol can hardly be counted as one of them. But the blame for the woman who accidentally burned herself is being laid firmly at his door, and a quick Google search of 'Frances Maude blame' reveals 631 news articles featuring those exact words. Yes, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, the media has gone stark raving mad.
I should know. I was at the centre of some media madness about a year ago. I'd been working as a freelance contributor at The Guardian, acting as a kind of 'our man in Copenhagen'. The Guardian, it should be understood, has a kind of strange fetish for Denmark that stops just short of the country warranting its own pull-out section every week. To the average Guardian reader the country represents a kind of liberal utopia free of crooked politicians, inequality and obese people. It's wrong on all three counts but having spent almost 10 years living here, two as editor of a Copenhagen based newspaper, I'm quite familiar with the phenomenon and have come to accept that I live in an inkblot country onto which outsiders project their own fervid imaginings, whatever they may be.
So there I was, trying to feed them stories which I thought would fit in with their readers' preconceived notions and I came across a small story that I thought might be of some interest. It concerned a tiny shop in Copenhagen which sold foreign foods to homesick expats, who had been told some months before that they were no longer allowed to stock the savoury spread Marmite on their shelves. The reason given by the man from the Food and Veterinary Administration was that the dark sticky spread was fortified with vitamins, meaning that it had to have special permission to be sold. The Danes love banning things that are foreign, and Marmite was just the latest product, along with a whole raft of others from Horlicks to Birds Eye custard. To get permission to sell Marmite would have involved a lot of red tape and cost, and the shop owner was angry because it was a best selling product.
I asked The Guardian if they might be interested in this and immediatley was told that 'Yes,' they were. I said I'd write it up within four or five days, just as soon as I'd been and interviewed the owner and taken some pictures. They got back and said that they needed it the next day. 'Okay,' I said (a little huffily because I had other things to do).
The next day they were onto me again. 'When is it it ready?' I was asked. But I could not get it finished until I had a quote from the Food and Veterinary Administration, and every time I rang them they seemed totally uninterested and claimed they'd look into this mar-mme-tay product I was talking about. When I rang them for about the fifth time the spokesman, clearly annoyed, went and interrupted the relevant minister in a meeting (after I told them who I was writing it for). She didn't think it was important either – she was probably busy with other things, like plans to protect against the country against Monsanto - and so I had to warn them that I'd have to say they had 'no comment'.
Then my phone rang and it was one of the Guardian editors who told me 'At the moment we have Obama meeting the Queen on the front page and we want to replace that with your story-' I gulped. 'Okay, I'll file it now,' I said.
Needless to say, the story sparked a storm out of all proportion to its merit. Within hours it became the biggest story in the UK, with every major news outlet clamouring to get their own version of it and, briefly, it was the most Tweeted topic in the entire world. People in Britain, who will tolerate practically anything apart from fuel price rises and someone messing with Marmite, went predictably insane, throwing Danish bacon and furniture into skips and promising to stop their children playing with Lego and turning down the volume when Sandy Toksvig was on the radio. My inbox began to fill with angry emails asking me what the hell I thought I was doing and, when a Danish journalist got through to me on my mobile and started shrieking 'Are you trying to start a trade war?' at me I decided it was time to turn it off and bury it in a draw in the kitchen. It's probably fair to say that I went into hiding.
It should be remembered that Denmark is particularly sensitive to boycotts having had most of its products boycotted across large parts of the Muslim world following the Mohammed Cartoon debacle (which I inadvertently almost became a victim of, but that's a story for another day).
After several days, during which the Sun newspaper made the Danish ambassador in London come out and make an apology, Marmite was debated in the Danish parliament and angry groups of geographically challenged Britons called for the picketing of Ikea, the story slowly began to fade away and I began to peek out from beneath my rock. The stampeding herd had passed me by and all that was left to show was the trampled earth and a faint savoury yeast smell hanging in the air.
So what did I learn from this experience? Many people congratulated me for getting a story on the front page of The Guardian as if I'd uncovered some kind of major corruption scandal, but in truth I was a bit ashamed of the whole affair. I'd been badgering The Guardian for a while to take some of my peak oil articles seriously but had been met with a polite rebuff. They weren't sure which section to file them under and, in any case, wasn't the whole peak oil thing just speculation? No, the only black viscous liquid they wanted me to write about came in little jars rather than 42 gallon barrels. So in the end I just came away with a small sum of money and a great after dinner anecdote.
So the question remains: just why is the mainsteam media so poor at addressing peak oil issues and all the worrying depletion issues which surround it and instead fixate on trivial matters?
Who knows – perhaps it is not 'human interest enough' or maybe it defies categorisation so effectively, if one considers the wider issues associated with peak oil. Or maybe it is just a little too uncomfortable and close to the bone, after all, even The Guardian is driven by a 'cash engine' of dealing in cars. Could it be that its just too … boring?
Perhaps it is just a simple case of not wanting to rock the boat, but whatever it is the end effect is that we're not being informed of the really important stuff. Whatever your idealogically-driven choice in newpsaper it's a bit like being given the choice of voting for the Democrats or Republicans in the US which was memorably described by Noam Chomsky as being offered the chance to vote for one of two wings of the Business Party - and newspapers of all stripes are more or less the echo chambers of the big parties and know where their allegiences lie.
Of course that's not to say that the big newspapers never address these important issues. It's quite common for, say, The Independent or even The Telegraph to have a self-flagellating front page splash about an approaching doomsday scenario. But these are flash-in-the-pan affairs and you only have to turn a few pages in to get to the travel section in which readers are encouraged to burn aviation fuel like it's going out of fashion, or the business section which advises readers on which commodities or stocks are worth pouring your money into for the purposes of getting richer.
And perhaps that is just it. We live in a commercial world and facing up to an energy depleted future just doesn't sell adverts. To be consistently the bearer of the kind of sobering reality that peak oil represents sits uneasily with the fashion and shopping supplements – heck, even the environment sections are more often than not just cheerleaders for the biotech and nuclear industries. Any newspaper editor who gave serious column inches to peak oil and all the kind of things that people in their thousands read voraciously on blogs written by the likes of Dmitry Orlov and John Michael Greer, might soon find herself shuffling uncomfortably before the withering gaze of the sales director who wants to know why BMW have just pulled out of their seriously lucrative full page advertising campaign. 'Are you trying to lose everyone their job?' they might ask.
There's a bitter irony in all of this as well because for all the theorising surrounding peak oil and societal collapse, the moment it actually starts to bite people hard, instead of a sudden surge in interest people will be too busy just trying to survive and the time for pointy-headed postulating will be past. At this time anyone brave enough to say 'told you so' will likely be blamed for not 'telling us so' enough as people will be looking for scapegoats – in the way that environmentalists were perveresely blamed by oil companies who finally accepted the reality of anthropogenic global warming for 'not being effective communicators'.
So if people don't want to think about these issues – probably the most important that humankind has ever faced – then I doubt any amount of exposure in the MSM will have any effect. It may even have the opposite desired effect if powerful business-as-usual interests direct their firepower on peak oilers and publicly manage to 'out' us in the way they have done with climate scientists.
So maybe it's time to stop looking to the mainstream media and instead focus on the small community of bloggers – and when the plug is pulled out of its wall socket and the internet goes dark or is unaffordable we'll turn back to paper and ink and printing presses. At least you can insulate a wall with an old newsletter – something you can't do with an old blog.

Monday, April 02, 2012

driving ... who would bother?

Killer Commute
Created by: College At Home

real work!

Just a thought here, if you read the excellent steaming to Broadway 2015 blogsite where a team of volunteers are currently rebuilding the long lost platforms they have engaged the assistance of young apprentice bricklayers from the college at Worcester. Would it not be an excellent idea if you could do the same here using young people from the Poole/Blandford area colleges /Senior schools. I know the red tape is a nightmare but if we can get the younger generation interested in learning REAL skills and the history of the S& D and why we must rebuild it and the criminally insane who closed it back in 1966 instead of dossing about street corners and playing rubbish on computers this can give them that esteem they require as adults and the respect and voice they wish to have and more good can come of this in Britain today. Again my late Father who as I stated earlier worked for the Southern Railway and BRSR ensured I left school into the adult world with that ethos of working for a living and enjoying a basic degree of knowledge of DIY skills and about the world we all live in, and this has helped out on countless times. This would be a brilliant chance to try and demonstrate to today,s young adults why the world of crime and drugs and binge Britain is not cool and maybe these youngsters would enjoy a physical challenge as well. I know some youngsters would deride us but this is not about playing trains, there are serious life skills involved in this fine project including Community, team work and fitness as well as the trade skills to be learnt. You only need to look at the friendly banter on many of these preservation projects between the young and not so young! the side kick from this, these youngsters would then pick up the right ethos and would be better armed ready to take up employment. (Sir Terry Leahy the Tsco chairman a few yrs ago bemoaned about todays youth.) Academics are fine to a degree but it is practical work that makes the world go round!

Again, this is a comment that really needs to be on the main page. I don't agree with generalising about whole groups of people - I suspect my experience of young people goes a lot deeper than Sir Terry Leahy! I think kids today have it much much harder than we did when I was a kid in the 60s, but this is the key. I know a few hang around on street corners and cause trouble (I know I did at that age) but the kids today seem far more sensible and grounded than we ever were.

 The S&D, and other community projects, can give many different people the skills and network they'll need to get on in the post oil world. Young people have the energy and also will have to live the majority of their lives in a harsher and far more hands-on world than we have now. The New S&D represents everything that the future will be. Sustainable, hands-on, recycle and reuse, community based, economically sound and unrelentingly modern and forwards-looking.

I'm sure that once Spetisbury needs these skills (and Midford) we will approach the appropriate colleges.


Things are starting to buzz down in Dorset as the restoration of Spetisbury looms close!

Dean Cockwell has just updated the Spetisbury page on the New S&D website.

Current Status

The platforms remain and the ruins of the up line buildings are still discernible, and the rear wall of the main building is still standing. There appear to be remnants of the brickwork buried underneath the overgrown weeds etc! There are a number of missing edging concrete slabs, which will have to be replaced.
The down platform is also overgrown with plants and weeds. It also appears that it might be narrower than when the original platform was built, which may cause problems as we work to clear this platform. This may have been caused by erosion due to the building of the adjacent houses that have sprung up after the railway was built, and 2 tracks were laid.
Adjacent to the bridge, on the steps side, there could be evidence of the signal box foundations. This can only be confirmed after clearance and further examination. There could also be evidence of the foundation of the starting signal that appears in early photographs of the station. Again, this will have to be confirmed after the clearance work has been completed.

Future Plans

We are in the process of speaking to Dorset County Council about taking control of the station area of Spetisbury. We want to take the area that currently is overgrown with various plants and weeds, and as time permits, the platforms will be cleared and restored to how they were back in the days when trains were a regular sight along this part of the trailway. This will include the rebuilding of station buildings, to look the same or similar to the original ones that were erected before.
We plan to do this in the main using a volunteer workforce, but for certain tasks we will have to employ the skills of trained craftsmen.
It is with this aim in mind that we plan to establish an information point (with an associated shop / cafe where viable) on the station in these buildings. With its location, wonderful views across the Stour Valley and walks on the North Dorset Trailway, we believe that the station site at Spetisbury would be an ideal location for such a venture.
This clearance work once completed along with the rebuilding of the station buildings will potentially encourage more people to use the trailway as a means of leisure activities, and / or commuting away from the dangerous A350 road through Spetisbury. There will also be the possibility that people will use other facilities within the village, for example, they might want to have a meal and a drink at the pub. Or if coming from further afield, stop overnight in one of the local bed and breakfast establishments. Thereby bringing revenue to Spetisbury.
Our intention is to restore the station buildings as they would have appeared in the early 1950s. Externally they should be identical to the original designs, subject to modern health and safety and building regulations.
Internally they had a booking office, waiting rooms and toilets. We intend to set them up as they used to be, but we would like to set the waiting rooms up so that we have an information centre / shop. The information centre would be where people could get information about us, and the history of the original Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. We could also have information about the Trailway and surrounding area. In the shop, in addition to books, DVDs and souvenirs, we would like to sell hot and cold drinks, and light snacks for Trailway users. In the summer months when the shop etc is open, we may have some tables and chairs out on the platform, so that visitors can take a rest in the fresh air and enjoy a look across the Stour Valley whilst enjoying a cup of tea with a slice of locally made cake.