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!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

railfuture conference

Railfuture  is  offering  reduced  price  admission  @ £15  if  booking  by  post  (or  £16  if  booking  online)  to  its  Summer  Conference  on  Saturday  22  June  at  the  Albemarle  Centre,  Albemarle  Road,  Taunton,  about  five  minutes'  walk  from  the  railway  station.  These  prices  include  a  buffet  lunch.  The  discount  is  aimed  at  the  membership  of  organisations  speaking  at  the  Conference.  The  speakers  themselves  get  free  admission !   I  understand  that  Philip  is  advising  Tarka  Rail  Association  of  this  offer.

The  Conference  opens  at  11  am  and  closes  at  4.30  pm.  There  are  nine  speakers  as  follows:

John  Dora  (John  Dora  Consulting  Ltd)  talking  about  Railways,  Weather  and  Climate  Change. 

John  Burch (Tarka  Rail  Association)  "The  Problem  that  is  Cowley  Bridge  Junction."

Bernard  Lane  (Friends  of  Suburban  Bristol  Railways).  "Campaigning  for  an  Effective  City  Rail  Network."

Steve  Smith  (Bedwyn  Trains  Passenger  Group)  on  the  need  to  retain  Bedwyn's  direct  service  to  Reading  and  London  after  electrification.

John  Chapman  (Kilbride  Community  Rail)  on  reopening  to  Tavistock.

Alan  Matthews  (Portishead  Railway  Group)  on  the  challenges  in  the  campaign  to  reopen  the  Portishead  line.

Dean  Cockwell  (New  Somerset  &  Dorset  Railway)  on  the  long  term  ambition  to  reopen  a  main  line.

Chris  Fribbins  and  Chris  Page  (Railfuture  Directors)  summarising  the  Conference.

To  book  by  post  @  £15,  send  a  cheque  payable  to  Railfuture,  to 

Taunton  2013  Conference,  Railfuture,  24  Chedworth  Place,  Tattingstone,  Suffolk  IP9  2ND.

To  book  online  @  £16  via  Paypal,  go  to 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

love at first sight?

Hardly! My first ever visit to Midford (indeed the S&D) was on 24 May 1980, and the site was a mess. Overgrown and neglected it would have been a brave person indeed who would have forecast that it would ever be a station again, let alone a station on a rebuilt S&D. But we've come a long long way since and the station is now almost ready for rebuilding. Of course further along the S&D Midsomer Norton is now a superb restoration and a real credit to the entire heritage movement. Further south Masbury awaits the revivalists (after the small matter of raising the money has been achieved!), next is the Gartell Railway which operates a superb 2 foot gauge with an S&D flavour just south of Templecombe, well into Dorset Shillingstone has been restored and track laid and a bit further south Spetisbury has received the attention of a sizeable group of local revivalists. The S&D has indeed come a very long way since that day back in 1980!
At the time I lived in Sussex and my main interests were Swiss electric railways and music. My interests haven't changed much but you'd have to add the S&D to that list!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


There have been a few lines that have inspired the S&D, and I suspect one of the most surprising ones is the Lynton and Barnstaple. In fact there's a pretty strong case that the closure of the L&B inspired the WHOLE heritage railway movement. The picture above is of Woody Bay in 1980, a station perched on top of Exmoor and converted to an attractive house. There was at the time a small preservation group, but they hadn't made a lot of progress and the 'it'll never happen' lot were having a field day mocking them.
But persistence paid off and they now have fully restored a section of the line at Woody Bay. But more to the point, through their Exmoor Associates company, they own good stretches of the route distant from Woody Bay, including Chelfham viaduct and station. They are in for the long haul and have been persistent and patient from the start. They want nothing less than a full restoration of this most important route, and have even planned an extension at Lynton to meet the funicular down to Lynmouth.
I'll be visiting the line next month and I'm really looking forward to it! Oh yes, the shot below is of the line as it is now!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

the next big step

I'm waiting with baited breath here for the final details of the next big S&D development - the purchase of MASBURY station!

I can't say too much (but all will be revealed in just a few days) but at least two of the existing S&D groups (including the New S&D of course) will be announcing an appeal to purchase Masbury.

Full details to follow by the weekend at the latest!

Thursday, May 02, 2013


Congratulations to the Somerset and Dorset Railway Heritage Trust who have just gained their THOUSANDTH member!! When I joined in around 2004 I was member 250 and remember a trackless station, a maudlin sign announcing that Midsomer Norton would be a 'steam museum with a short demonstration line' and I got a bottle of cheap Asti as a reward for my being their quarter of a thousandth member!

Just look at the place now!

In the four years since the New S&D started we have just welcomed out 175th member - how long before the New S&D also has one thousand??