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Extension planned for Somerset and Dorset Railway line

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: April 20, 2009

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The Somerset and Dorset Railway is breaking out of Midsomer Norton - thanks to planning permission for a new extension.

The Somerset and Dorset Railway Heritage Trust, which has been restoring the station since 1996, were granted permission for a southward extension up the legendary 1 in 53 gradient towards the Chilcompton Tunnels.

The extension will more than double the current length of running line to about 700 metres and represents an important first stage in the S&D Mendip Main Line Project.

The Trust is now working on their next planning application, to take it a further 320 metres to the Mendip district boundary, and is currently negotiating land rights to allow it to reach the Chilcompton Tunnel Cutting, a total distance of 1,500m from the Silver Street site of 1,500m.

Initially a single track will be laid but a return double track operation is planned in due course.

Bath and North East Somerset Council finally approved the Trust's application some 20 months after it was lodged following several delays while additional information was provided.

During February and March, Trust volunteers carried out preparatory work to repair line side damage and channel drainage and to remove track bed vegetation so the railway reconstruction can take proceed.

With the planning permission in place the serious work of re-grading the track bed ready for track-laying got underway in early April, with the assistance of contractors Penny Sleepers. Now the rails should start to come together as the spring progresses.

The local community will also benefit from a new line side path from the Silver Street Local Nature Reserve, extending southwards with the railway, together with the sensitive management of line-side tree cover for its habitat and landscape value.

Visitors can expect to see the 'head of steel' extending quickly over coming months as the project moves towards the start of steam hauled public train operations hopefully on track for 2010.

Trust Chairman, John Baxter, said: "This is a major landmark for the Trust but only one of many we hope to achieve in the next few years, as we strive to get more of the legendary S&D back as a living railway. It represents a terrific effort by a growing band of dedicated volunteers. To others out there who are inspired by what is happening, I say come and join us and make the restoration speedier."

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust Midsomer Norton Station on Silver Street is open every Sunday and Monday between 10 am and 4 pm where visitors can view the restoration work in progress.

The regular 'Midsummer at Midsomer' open weekend is planned for June 20 and 21.

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