After a 40 year absence I had the opportunity to work on the P-Way again relaying track. This time it was actual reinstatement of a line closed in March 1966. The much lamented Somerset and Dorset Railway. Mourned by huge numbers of people and now at least part being reborn.
The operational limit is currently around half a mile from Midsomer Norton station. The excellent P/Way team led by gaffer Trevor Hodge are extending the railway from this point.
In January 2016 track bed immediately beyond the relaid section was almost entirely overgrown. Walkers had forged a path through this dense mass of undergrowth but there was little to show of the double track main line. Keen observers might spot typical railway fence posts. At one point, farm gate posts were still in situ.
In early 2016, prior to the nesting season, work began to cut down larger trees and bushes. The team cleared the track bed of the remaining bushes and scrub revealing ballast that had once supported the track up to the mid 1960’s. Indeed according to [easyazon_link identifier=”B002L4SO4M” locale=”UK” tag=”railway02-21″]Tim Deacon in his book ‘The Somerset and Dorset – Aftermath of the Beeching Axe’,[/easyazon_link] track removal from this part of the line took place around June/July 1968.
The P/Way team were thrilled to see the track bed looking almost as it would have just after the last demolition train passed 52 years ago. This train was probably hauled by Class 08 number D3506 later to be renumbered tom 08391. As again in [easyazon_link identifier=”B002L4SO4M” locale=”UK” tag=”railway02-21″]Tim’s book[/easyazon_link] there is a picture by Peter James of this locomotive in the station at Midsomer Norton on the 13 June 1968 and again on the 17 June.
We hired a digger from a local company, Penny’s, to grade the track bed. The picture above looks like it could have been taken 50 years ago but was, in fact, only 2.
Walking up the line reveals views across the valley that hadn’t been seen for many years due to the previous undergrowth.
As the P-Way team worked on clearing the track bed, the Somerset and Dorset Heritage Trust needed funds to pay for track materials required for the extension. The operation of train services once a month brought in some revenue. Thanks to the team at the Great Central Railway we had a significant boost to funds . This was because they hired Jinty 47406 to us to operate as part of the 50th anniversary commemorations of the closure of the line in March 2016.
This type of steam locomotive pulled freight trains on the Somerset and Dorset. The Jinty also used to bank heavy passenger trains up through Midsomer Norton to the summit at Masbury over this very section of track bed.
Just after morning track inspection, we used the Jinty to position some wagons used by the P-Way to transport track materials up the line.
Normally the Trusts Class 08 D4095 move engineering trains. These locomotives were used extensively in demolition trains in the 1960’s. It’s quite ironic that one these is now utilized in reconstructing the line.
Rail and Sleepers
We loaded concrete sleepers onto the Sturgeon wagon and took them to the railhead to be temporarily stored on the former up-line track bed.
With kind donations swelling revenue, we eventually had enough money to purchase some rail. After delivery to site, the rail was moved up the line.
Some rail had come from Thingley Junction near Chippenham. We bought further track materials from Network Rail. In November 2017 there was a concerted effort to lay this track. Graduate engineers from the consultancy Mott Donald and two managers from the museums at RAF Cosford and the Iron Bridge gorge strengthened the Track Gang.
Crossings and Ballast
In addition to track work the boundary fencing required maintenance. If possible, we are utilizing remaining original concrete posts. A crossing point used by a farm has had ‘Strawl’ mat panels laid. We’ve erected Whistle boards some distance either side of the crossing.
The start to 2018 saw ballast deliveries. Ballast was loaded into the Dog-Fish Hopper wagon and the Class 08 hauled it up the line. This has then been deposited along the newly laid track. Over the next few weeks, the track panels will be lifted and packed level. There is still more fencing work to do. Hopefully, if enough people offer their services, passenger trains will be able to use the new extension by March 2018.
How you can help
Two more track bashes will take place on the 10th/11th and 17th/18th February 2018. Can you join a great bunch of people that is the Track Gang at Midsomer Norton? Would you like to be part of the history of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway? Details are on the Trust website. You will be most welcome.
If you would like to help with funding then you can find details here.
Shirl Turner says
Fantastic photo history of the line progress so far!
Thank you Shirl and now you too are being part of the history of the S & D by joining us.
Howard Wilkie says
This is really exciting, well done to everyone involved! Hope visit again very soon.
Thank you Howard. Are you able to come when the Jinty is visiting?
Andy Mitchell says
A class 08 shunter was allocated to the demolition trains and was used to marshall trains at the point at which demolition had reached at any particular time. The loco was changed periodically as there were obviously no refuelling facilities. The same applied to the 08 loco resident at Radstock until 1973 when the last colliery closed.
The demolition trains themselves were hauled to and from site firstly by pairs of North British D63xx locos, none of which survive, and latterly by D70xx “Hymek” locos, the class of which fared rather better in preservation with two or three still active on preserved railways.
Sadly I live too far away now to be able to lend a hand, but I wish you every success for the future.
Thank you Andy. Keep checking back to see more progress.
Incredibly Hymek D7017 at the West Somerset Railway was one of the Class members that was used on demolition trains. Perhaps if there was enough interest for people to sponsor a move and hire costs to Midsomer Norton, plus the owners agreeing of course, it could make a reappearance.
David Brighton says
Enjoyed seeing the photos and work done so far, am a member but live in France try and get to Midsomer Norton at least once a year.. Well done all
Hopefully when you next visit David you’ll be able to travel on the new extension.
Alastair Majury says
Thanks for sharing and letting us see a little of how much work and effort is required to restore an old route back to having track. Kind regards, Alastair Majury
Good to learn you enjoyed reading this Blog Alastair. It is very rewarding work. The thing that holds us back is funding. Thank you for your comments.
When will you be starting any work at the Poole Bournemouth Broadstone end of the line? I would like to help as I live at this end.