Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'

The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. We now have many councillors, MPs, businesses and individuals living along the line supporting us. Even the Ministry of Transport supports our general aim. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change, road congestion, capacity constraints on the railways and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door. We already own Midford just south of Bath, and are restoring Spetisbury under license from DCC, but this is just the start. There are other established groups restoring stations and line at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone, and the fabulous narrow gauge line near Templevcombe, the Gartell Railway.

There are now FIVE sites being actively restored on the S&D and this blog will follow what goes on at all of them!
Midford - Midsomer Norton - Gartell - Shillingstone - Spetisbury

Our Aim:

Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) To restore sections of the route as they become viable.
Whilst the New S&D will primarily be a modern passenger and freight railway offering state of the art trains and services, we will also restore the infrastructure to the highest standards and encourage steam working and steam specials over all sections of the route, as well as work very closely with existing heritage lines established on the route.

This blog contains my personal views. Anything said here does not necessarily represent the aims or views of any of the groups currently restoring, preserving or operating trains over the Somerset and Dorset Railway!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

spetisbury this sunday

(Photo copyright Kevin Mitchell)

Dear Member/ Volunteer,
Fancy joining our work party and going up to the station on Sunday. I hope to be there between 10:00 and 11:00am. Would appreciate it if you could let me know if you can make it.
Best regards,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

interesting ...

I have a lot of Facebook groups and a recent one is for the Weymouth Tramway. I've no idea why the following comment came up on this group but here it is -

The trouble with us enthusiasts is that we are too prone to fantasise. If ye look at the mad bunch of fellas who are trying to reinstate the entire route of the oul Somerset & Dorset, with blithe talk of demolishing properties and premises built on parts of the formation, there are no greater bunch of fantasists around.

If a properly-constituted company such as Central Railway could fail to gain approval to reinstate much of the former Great Central route, then it doesn't hold out much hope for a small band of individuals. And that's before we get to internal politics and competing personalities.

I think it got my back up because almost immediately it described us - that's me and you - as mad. It also described us as 'fellas' which is odd as many of our members are female!

Blithe talk of demolishing buildings is nothing of the sort. To get our line built a few demolitions will be inevitable, but we've seen this on Croydon Tramlink and the Waverley line, so this is not only already happening but nobody (except the trackbed trespassers) blinks an eye at it!

I'm sure there are greater bunches of fantasists around, from people who think the world is run by giant lizards, people who think the earth is flat or people that think we can reduce the deficit by increasing spending!

At the end of his post the commetator changed tack and said 'I don't expect the line to be fully opened in my lifetime'. Join the club!! That's what being incremental is all about!

At the end of the day there will always be doubters. There will be trolls who just get a kick out of winding people up (remember Compulsory Purchase Boy, the owner of a house on the route who turned out to live in Romsey?), there will be others who don't get Peak Oil, there will be others who fear the return of railways generally. But all they have is opinions, not information, not foresight and certainly not a vision. To all the doubters - in the immortal phrase from 'Oh Mr Porter!' - you're wasting your time!

There IS a 'properly-constituted [sic]' company behind us, it's called Wessex Links Ltd. And how are we any different from the Central Railway, also a 'small band of individuals'? The difference of course is that we're not prepared to sit back and wait for government to catch up with the present, and pay for what we are doing, but getting on with it.

And as for personality clashes and internal politics there's not - and NEVER WILL BE - a trace of that in the  New S&D. Most of us have experienced that sort of nonsense first hand and are hardly going to revisit it. We're simply not that sort of organisation.

I've no idea if this character is a troll, though it seems he got his info from some forum, which we know are really just talking shops for the socially maladjusted with no actual background or information in railways, just spouting off opinions!

The New S&D has, from day one, been an INCREMENTAL and LEVERAGED project. We're not expecting government to pay for what we're doing, we're hoping the people ALONG THE ROUTE will be the ones to get it going, and that of course is exactly what's happening. We OWN Midford and we are working closely with DCC to restore Spetisbury. These are just the first small steps, once up and running membership will boom and the two sites will become financially self supporting. We can then look elsewhere for a third site (and we have first refusal on Templecombe signalbox if and when that becomes available), or look to putting track in at some point and getting a Parry People Mover or something similar in. That is incremental. And the more of the S&D that is rebuilt is leverage.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's going to take more than six inches of snow to keep the hardy New Somerset and Dorset rebuilders from their work!

Tom and Stuart Seale will be forming a work party at Midford Tomorrow from 10:15 ish. All welcome to join them but wrap up warm!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

spetisbury speeds ahead

The first work party since Christmas were down at Spetisbury today and made fantastic progress. It shouldn't be long before the first rebuilding - as opposed to clearing - starts happening. It's amazing just how much has happened down there since clearance started under a year ago.

Blogger have changed the way you can post pictures so I can't use any of the fantastic pictures that are available of the work being done there, but you can access them all by looking at the Spetisbury Facebook group.  I'd recommend joining this group (as well as the Midford and New S&D groups) because you get right up to the minute information on what's happening, loads of great pictures and a chance to get involved even if you live a long way off.

Work was also taking place at other locations along the line, there is a real head of steam building up!

Friday, January 11, 2013

spetisbury reminder

Dear Member/ Volunteer,
I am going up to the station on Sunday, and hope that you can join me. I hope to be there between 10:00 and 11:00am.
This will be a good time to work off that extra mince you had, or 4 as in my case.
Could you let me know if you can make it and come up to help.
Best regards,

Thursday, January 10, 2013

petition time again

New S&D member James Type has just started a petition on the government's e-petition website. Bearing in mind we have a letter from the Department of Transport broadly supporting our plans I reckon things should be much easier now than the last petition. We got over 500 signatures last time but things have really moved on since then all along the S&D and nobody now sees the idea as 'odd' or 'unattainable', quite the opposite.
So please spread the word with this and let's see if we can get THOUSANDS rather than just hundreds of signatures this time round. Let's show the government that the people of Somerset and Dorset aren't prepared to sit back and be way down the list when the railways are rebuilt - we need to be at the TOP!
Share on blogs, websites, Facebook groups etc. Write to your local paper urging people to sign up. Let's MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

Monday, January 07, 2013

the return of steam

It's beginning to look like the return of steam is building up an unstoppable head of steam!
Can we really completely electrify our railway network as the oil runs out? Even now much of our mileage is unelectrified, and the railway network may be 5 or 6 times its current size within 50 years, with a huge number of tramways, light railways and industrial lines on top of that. The diesel loco now has perhaps 10 - at a stretch 20 - years left. (Take as many photos as you can of this threatened breed, because they will have huge social value to our descendants).
The obvious answer is steam, using wood and/or biomass as fuel. If properly managed much of the land alongside railways can be planted with high energy content wood, and the rail network could be sustainable indefinitely.
We've seen Tornado, plus a whole load of Swiss steam locos mainly with a heritage element, but the US is now leading the way with future steam technology. Take a look at this!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

a plea for sanity!

This post was inspired by two things - an odd comment on a Facebook group and an even stranger one in a book that was otherwise sound.

The first involved a superb new build of a Lynton and Barnstaple engine and I commented that it was a classic, neat and very modern design but would be better if it was designed as a wood burner or at least a multi fuel engine. The comment was 'why? Surely good steam coal is better?' Well in the past the best steam coal was Welsh, but every Welsh pit has now closed. The point being steam coal now has  to be imported. The second, and much more important point, is that Peak Coal is only a few years away, and we are already seeing huge increases in the amount of coal being used. This can only mean rapidly rising prices and eventual shortages and rationing. And much faster depletion on the other side of the bell curve. Will heritage or even steam worked community lines really get a good share of good coal?

The second odd comment was in a book on the current economic crisis. Until the very end it was an excellent analysis of worldwide economic decline, but the last chapter seemed to have been overtaken by a couple of cornucopians, the weirdest statement being that 'future energy supplies will be more abundant and cheaper'!! This is an amazing thing to see in print, as it derives exclusively from a strange blend of wishful thinking, junk science and conspiracy theory. Of course future energy supplies will be neither - otherwise they would have been exploited decades ago! They will be scarcer and far more expensive, and will get scarcer and costlier.

Perhaps this is just angst. Many people are very scared of what the future holds. I'm not one of them, obviously. But I am a realist.

A realistic approach to energy means that we now need to concentrate EXCLUSIVELY on sustainable energy. Anything that relies on fossil fuels is doomed. So ALL planning for the future has to take this into account, or it is pointless. If ignored there will be further misallocation of resources, and we no longer live in a world where we can indulge ourselves in that way.

Which brings me back to wood. Wood is renewable. Its energy content (by weight, but not by bulk!) is not far off that of good steam coal, and it is higher than the bitumous muck and brown coal that is just about all that is left in the ground. Best of all the UK is an excellent place to grow wood, even taking into account inevitable future climate changes. You can grow a lot of bulk in a small area, because it grows upwards. It can be harvested and cut using just human energy. And it can be grown alongside our railway land, making it very energy-efficient to harvest and store. It is also carbon neutral providing constant replanting is done. Wood will clearly trump coal in the near future, and there will be a rush to convert coal burning steam to wood burning - as well as replacing hopeless diesel locos with wood burners (or electrics of course). But burning wood directly is much more energy efficient than burning wood to generate electricity. It is also far more resilient. We need this sort of future thinking if we are to successfully build a new transport system in the UK. And we should be planting that wood now ...

Saturday, January 05, 2013

midford tomorrow

Tom and Stuart Seale will be down at Midford from 10:15ish tomorrow, Sunday 6 January. All welcome to join them.  They plan on thinning out some of the smaller trees on the embankment to prepare the way for Mick Knox's visit later in the month.

Friday, January 04, 2013

next spetisbury work party

Dear Member/ Volunteer,
I am going up to the station on Sunday, and hope that you can join me. I hope to be there between 10:00 and 11:00am.
This will be a good time to work off that extra mince you had, or 4 as in my case.
Could you let me know if you can make it and come up to help.
Best regards,

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

universal appeal!

Had a new member join the New S&D - from New Zealand! I think this just underlines how popular our line is around the world, We now have members in around ten different countries.

Why not treat yourself to membership of the New S&D in 2013? We are heading towards 200 members, which will give us an excellent base of people with a whole range of varying skills and interests.

Remember that as a member you get two quality magazines each year and the right to help restore and rebuild our two stations at Spetisbury in Dorset and Midford in Somerset. Both stations are set in glorious countryside - the picture above for example gives some idea of the countryside around Midford, which really hasn't changed since the photo was taken - except for the most important element - the world's favourite railway! By joining the New S&D, or indeed any of the other active S&D restoration groups, you will be helping bring this scene back all the sooner.

This is what it's all about!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Looking ahead to the rest of 2013 for the S&D I can see big organisational developments at the New S&D, with perhaps more focus on buying stretches of the route as well as that big publicity push that's been just over the horizon - if someone will step forward to concentrate on Media and Publicity! (Interested? Please email me at leysiner@aol.com) Obviously Midford and Spetisbury will also be getting closer to rebuilding and tracklaying.

Further afield I can see more track laid at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone as both sites consolidate.

Gartell will doubtless do what it does best - create a whole new S&D experience on the smaller gauge.

And Washford will also do what it does best - restore old S&D rolling stock and infrastructure items, as well as educate the wider public on the world's favourite line (S&D of course, not GWR!)

And hopefully steps to bring the disparate groups closer together will pick up speed, as I personally feel that this is THE most important process that the entire S&D revival needs in 2013 and beyond.