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Most club events are trackbed walks, but, once or twice a year, several of our walk leaders try to offer something a little different. This page provides a record of a coach trip organised by our Southern Area on 7 October 2006, which explored the former Somerset & Dorset Railway between Templecombe and Blandford Forum. (Pictures from similars event in October 2007 and October 2008, covering Midford to Shepton Mallet and Glastonbury to Burnham-on-Sea respectively, can be seen in Photo Galleries 32 and 48.)

The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, 1876-1966

The following four photographs are all 'rollover images' - move the mouse over the picture to see another view. 

Above: Not all of the Somerset & Dorset Railway is lost and forgotten. This is Common Lane station and signal box on the Gartell Light Railway, based at Yenston, just south of Templecombe. The line starts on John Gartell's farm and then climbs to join a half mile section of the S&D trackbed, running south towards Sturminster Newton. John hopes to extend northwards to Templecombe, along the trackbed of the old S&D, but this will take some time since the relaid line will have to cross three minor lanes – and each crossing requires authorisation from the Department of Transport. (Ivor Sutton)
Above: The rolling stock on the Gartell Light Railway is beautifully turned out, as can be seen from this photograph of a carriage interior. Nor has John skimped on the signalling, as this excellent array of semaphore signals at Pinesway Junction reveals. Pinesway Junction is where the GLR joins the original S&D trackbed. (Ivor Sutton)
Above: John Gartell in the locomotive which bears his name - No. 6, 'Mr G'. The GLR currently has four locomotives in total, but the other three are all diesels. However, work is in progress on two more steam engines, which will be numbered 4 and 5 respectively. The 'flip' side of this picture shows Park Lane station, which is the southern terminus of the GLR. (Ivor Sutton)
Above: South of Yenston and the GLR, the next station on the S&D was Sturminster Newton. The cutting just north of this station was infilled many years ago and converted into the local park seen here; memory of the railway is kept alive by these gates. The 'flip' side of this picture shows the north end of Blandford Forum station site, which has been redeveloped totally. The buffer stops are a modern addition and do not reflect the alignment of the S&D running line. However, the bridge and smoke deflector are authentic survivors from the line's heyday. (Ivor Sutton)
New – Video Clip. On the day of our visit to the GLR (7th October 2006), Heather Vinter had a digital video camera with her, and the short clip towards the end of this paragraph – all 32 seconds of it! – illustrates the changing view from the carriage window. At this point, our train was heading south through Blackmoor Vale along the S&D trackbed, which now carries the rails for John Gartell's 2'0" narrow gauge operation. With the clatter of the carriage wheels and the occasional 'toot' from the engine's whistle, this was a nostalgic moment for those who remembered the scenic S&D before closure in 1966. Please note that the video clip is approximately 11 megabytes in size. The webmaster cannot make this file smaller because the software that came with the video camera doesn't do useful things like that, so – until he finds some better editing tools – this is the best that we can offer. Anyway, if you don't mind waiting, the video can be viewed by clicking here. When we've found a way of making our video clips smaller, we might add some more – after all, the steam locomotive 'Mr G' deserves to be seen in action. A visit to the GLR is highly recommended: everything on the railway is beautifully turned out, the staff are very friendly, and it's good value for money. Do check out the railway's website.

One of the great things about club trips is that, in most cases, one or two members actually travelled over the line we are walking, armed with an ancient Brownie box camera or something similar – not that these cameras were ancient then! Member Tom Scott travelled over the S&D in the week leading up to closure, and a few of his archive photographs appear below.

  Left: This is the rarely used platform at Templecombe on the S&D running line to Sturminster Newton and Blandford. The bridge at the end of the platform carries the Waterloo-Salisbury-Exeter main line (Salisbury is to the left and Exeter to the right). This platform was little used because virtually all passenger trains on the S&D climbed up a spur line into the LSWR's Templecombe station, where a cross-platform connection was available with eastbound trains to Salisbury and Waterloo. (Passengers travelling west to Yeovil and Exeter had to cross a footbridge.) Present day passengers who have to change trains at Yeovil must marvel at the convenience offered to passengers in these long gone but halcyon days of rail travel. The two stations at Yeovil are several miles apart and, although still rail connected, there is no passenger service between them. March 1966. (Tom Scott)
Above: Templecombe station on a drizzly winter's day just before the S&D passed into history. A local service simmers in the S&D platform of this once important rural interchange. Nowadays, only a single platform survives here. March 1966. (Tom Scott)
Above: This is the north side of Templecombe station, looking towards Wincanton, on a much sunnier day – probably early summer 1965. As can be seen, the sidings here were very extensive. Three locomotives feature in the picture, but only 4-4-0 no. 40537 can be identified, although it looks very careworn. The spur line which enabled S&D trains to run into the main station at Templecombe is visible on the left behind the telegraph poles. (Tom Scott)
Above: This is Evercreech Junction with the local train just departing for Highbridge. Although the line to Highbridge ended its days as a branch, it was originally the main line of the Somerset Central Railway, opened long before the extension to Bath. The foliage on the trees suggests that this is again early summer, probably 1965, but the damp platforms reveal that the photographer has just escaped a shower. (Tom Scott)
Above: It's back to winter and the last week of services on the S&D. This is Creekmoor Halt, which was situated between Poole and Broadstone. The photographer is looking south towards Poole as the train heads north. Note the steam seeping out from between the carriages – a reminder that steam provided not only the motive power for these trains, but also the passenger heating. March 1966. (Tom Scott)
On most club events, members bring along quite a travelling library of railway books, which make for some interesting 'then and now' comparisons. The S&D was very fortunate to have been photographed by the late Ivo Peters, whose wonderful black and white stills, and colour cine films, still do so much to keep alive the memory of this scenic cross-country route.
  Left: One of Ivo Peters's photographic albums, published by OPC. The early sixties were the swansong of the S&D, with huge numbers of passengers using it to travel to and from their annual summer holidays. However, the age of the car had dawned, and the railway industry's losses continued to mount. There is particular poignancy in the years covered by this volume, for on 27th March 1963, the infamous Beeching Report – The Reshaping of British Railways – was published. If you follow the link, you will see this described as 'one of the most notorious government reports of the 20th century'. It ushered in a period of wholesale route closures and created a culture in which many railway managers believed that they were expected to close lines. It was not until April 1989, when British Rail famously failed to close the Settle and Carlisle railway, that this negative and destructive mentality began to abate. Unfortunately, between 1963 and 1989, thousands of miles of track were axed, with no thought about the nation's future transport needs, nor any constructive idea as to what could be done with unwanted lines after closure. What a waste.
We now return to the present day for some more photographs of what we saw during our visit. One of the most remarkable developments was the reinstatement of Fiddleford Viaduct, which was situated one mile south of Sturminster Newton. Read on ...
Above: For nearly 40 years, the old S&D trackbed was severed by the removal of the low steel viaduct at Fiddleford, which used to cross the River Stour. In early October 2006, Dorset Countryside installed the replacement seen here, but it was not quite ready for public use when we visited because some of the railings had yet to be fitted. This section of the line now forms part of the North Dorset Trailway, which is re-using as much as possible of the S&D's old trackbed. Dorset is not skimping on these works – this new bridge alone cost over £200,000. October 2006. (Jenny Vinter)
Above: Shillingstone station is coming back to life, thanks to the endeavours of the North Dorset Railway Trust (NDRT). Its volunteers claim that Shillingstone had the best views of any station in Dorset, and, looking at the backdrop to this running-in board, it is hard to argue with them. October 2006. (Jenny Vinter)
Above: This view of the restored station scarcely does justice to all that the volunteers have achieved at Shillingstone in the last 18 months, but the gleam of fresh paint on the supports for the canopy reveals that the days of rot and ruin are over. The station master here had a very productive greenhouse, which was situated on the grass bank to the left of the photo. Even the site of this has been identified, so that a replacement can be installed in its place. October 2006. (Jenny Vinter)
Above: This view gives a better impression of Shillingstone's revival. Ballast was being moved into place during our visit, prior to the reinstatement of the running lines – the NDRT has permission to relay 1,000 yards of track, which will take in the platforms, the recently rebuilt cattle dock, and a spur to a new engineering facility where locomotives can be restored. The North Dorset Trailway runs through the site and continues on the trackbed for nearly two miles to the south. October 2006. (Jenny Vinter)
This is all that we've got for now, but extras will be added to this page as and when they become available. Meanwhile, members are invited to send in their own photographs of this event, which was a very memorable day, blessed with fine weather and good company.