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, February 25, 2013

huge missed opportunity

I hope not too many of you took my advice and bought the Independent yesterday. If you did I can only apologise. The Beeching article was the most hideous load of nostalgic, irrelevant and uninformed tosh I have ever read. I'm ashamed that four of my pictures accompanied the article, fortunately they didn't put my name to them!

So what was wrong with it? It had lots of inaccuracies - that the SDRHT have extended a quarter of mile towards Bath for example. (In reality they've extended half a mile towards Chilcompton). The last Somerset coalfield did NOT close in 1966, the S&D was slewed to the Bristol-Frome line after closure of the S&D so it could continue to take coal from Writhlington for several more years. Looe is not in West Cornwall, and the St Ives branch is hardly English, it's Cornish!

But what really irked was the absolute patronising hatchet job it did on Midsomer Norton. In reality Midsomer Norton South is a fantastic revived station. Talk of eccentrics in stationmaster's caps selling a useless ticket to look around the site would just about turn anyone off visiting. In reality your ticket gives you a trip on their heritage DMU and access to the site, without an accompanying puffer lover eccentric ...

But the worst was the journalist's extraordinary assumption that - with the money and will - of course the line can be reopened, if only the land hadn't been sold off in parcels!! Talk about getting it the wrong way round!! Land is no problem, CPO's will get anything we can't get on the open market.

The point is the whole article stank of 70s defeatism, misplaced nostalgia and an utter contempt for the people - the vast majority who are NOT railway enthusiasts and are more likely to wear a fez and ballgown than a 'stationmaster's cap' - that have put so much effort in getting the line restored.

Not a single mention of Peak Oil, though the main paper often alludes to it, and no sweeping story about how railways are returning all over the country. Why not just declare out loud that BEECHING WAS WRONG? And that, because he was wrong, even back in 1963, we simply have to reverse what the idiot did? And that NOTHING will stand in the way of a huge rail revival in this country BECAUSE WE HAVE NO CHOICE!!

And the patronising drivel at the top of this page? This will become part of the iconography of the S&D. When the first real train runs on the line we will reproduce this as a poster, tee shirt, fridge magnet and a host of other souvenirs, making even more money for the line which despite what the 'journalist' claimed is going to be everything BUT the thing he thinks it will be!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

everything's going our way

It's been one of those weeks this week!

Firstly January 2013 had the lowest fuel sales since 1990, underlining the decline in car use that now seems unstoppable. This is partly because of austerity but it also seems many young people have no interest in driving or getting a car - when was the last time you saw a even a teenager tinkering with a car outside his parents' house? Amongst the young cars are seen as terribly uncool.

Secondly we are now getting clear warnings that the UK will face an energy crunch from 2015, with rolling blackouts likely. This will of course kill any silly talk of electric cars dead. I read somewhere that we would need 3 or 4 times current levels of generating capacity to cope with a switch to electric cars, there really is no chance of that happening - the energy just won't be there. In reality available energy is falling year on year.

Behind these specific reports there is now a general feeling of change in the air. The weather in 2012 was exteremely weird, way beyond even the most pessimistic forecasts. All of this is loading even more costs on our already fragile economy, which has now lost its AAA rating.

And for those of us that are still driving the potholes are geeting deeper and wider and more common - yet another sign that change is in the air ...

the independent tomorrow

National Sunday paper The Independent on Sunday will be running a feature in tomorrow's paper looking back at 50 years since the Beeching report. Inevitably the S&D - being the vilest of all the closures - will feature strongly in the article. It is sure to rely heavily on photos of Midsomer Norton as they are using four of mine to illustrate the article!

spetisbury tomorrow


 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.

 On Sundays agenda are at least a couple of large trees, which we will have the expertise of Terry with his chainsaw to fell them, but we will need numbers to make sure the felled trees are dealt with quickly to keep the trailway clear.

 So the main tools required will be saws and loppers to take the branches etc. down to manageable sizes.
... Would appreciate it if you could let me know if you can make it.
Photo shows heavy plant helping out on Wednesday at Spetisbury. Photo copyright Mike Hall.

midford tomorrow

There will be a work party at Midford tomorrow (Sunday, 24 February 2013) from 10.30.

To let Tom and Stuart know you're going you can sign up to the event on Facebook by clicking this link.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

going national ...

The Independent on Sunday is running a feature on the Beeching Report and is concentrating mainly on the S&D. They wanted pics of Midsomer Norton, before closure, after closure and since rebirth, and these were the ones I chose for the rebirth bit, taken on a lovely summer's day back in 2011. If anyone DOES have photos of MN or Blandford before and after closure that they own the copyright on and would like at least the chance of one or more of them appearing in a national paper Sunday supplement (with a fee of course!) please email me on leysiner@aol.com and I'll give you contact details for the paper BUT the deadline is tomorrow so there is a rush!!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

help needed!

(All 6 February 2013)

It's not all glamour and kudos restoring closed railways - sometimes it gets quite technical! One of our neighbours at Midford has issues with the large concrete support that is on our land but abuts right up to his house (bottom picture). I spent a fun hour on Wednesday clambering up ladders and grassy knolls to take a closer look at some of his concerns. The concrete is beginning to crumble on the surface in places, which is of course a worry for them. It seems that nothing has happened here since the line closed.

Obviously we'd like to address this as soon as possible. We're more than happy to pay for a professional structural engineer to look at this and advise on the best way to tackle it but we are charged as a voluntary group to first check whether we can do this ourselves by falling back on our own resources - so is there a member or supporter out there qualified to do this, who can provide an official written statement as to the situation at this point? We're happy to pay reasonable travel expenses of course, but are trying to avoid the professional fee if possible. If you can do this or know of someone who would be willing to please contact me directly on leysiner@aol.com or telehone 0117 3738973.

It does seem a minor issue so shouldn't be prohibitively expensive and as responsible landlords we've always been aware that issues like this will arise all along the route. Once repaired we'll put in place a regular repair schedule for this particular spot in partnership with the owner of the house.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

spetisbury this sunday


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 (Dean Cockwell) know if you can make it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

gartell this weekend

Gartell Light Railway are holding their eighth Model Railway exhibition at their station near Templecombe this coming weekend. Even if you are not interested in model railways perhaps you would like a day out with a difference, or perhaps you are looking to start a new hobby? We have maintained the same admission price yet again, (£4 and £3) and we expect up to ten layouts as well as trade stands, and also we aim to have a train service on the GLR (although we will not be running over the 'new' line, as we are only granted 'occasional use' over the new level crossing at the moment) Please note there will be a small extra charge for train rides.

See our web-site and Facebook page, we're easy to find just South of Templecombe, and if you have satnav, just put in BA8 0NB and we'll see you there.

Please be kind enough to forward this email to everyone in your address book and get them to do the same, and then same again - and we should have about six million people turn up!