Steam Railway (UK) - - NEWS FOCUS -

The Som­er­set & Dorset Rail­way Her­itage Trust is re­as­sur­ing its mem­bers that pro­posed de­vel­op­ment of its Mid­somer Nor­ton head­quar­ters will be in keep­ing with the sta­tion’s char­ac­ter.

Some mem­bers of the SDHRT have voiced con­cerns over an out­line plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion sub­mit­ted to Bath & North East Som­er­set Coun­cil, which in­cludes ex­panded and im­proved lo­co­mo­tive main­te­nance fa­cil­i­ties – in­clud­ing a car­riage-cum-main­te­nance shed and boiler work­shop – but also the pro­vi­sion of tourist ac­com­mo­da­tion; a lec­ture/ meet­ing and ed­u­ca­tional space and mixed re­tail units, as well as space for “ar­ti­sans” and a mi­cro­brew­ery.

Re­spond­ing to the re­ported con­cerns, trust Chair­man Stephen Lacey says: “Peo­ple have been say­ing that we would an­ni­hi­late the site, but that is ab­so­lutely not the case. We ob­vi­ously need to im­prove our lo­co­mo­tive and cater­ing fa­cil­i­ties, but not ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing in the out­line plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion is nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to hap­pen.

“It is more of a case of ‘let’s in­clude all the op­tions avail­able’, but we won’t nec­es­sar­ily do all of them. We want the trust to move for­ward and to im­prove Mid­somer Nor­ton, but we want the sta­tion to re­tain its charm. Any­thing that is pur­sued will be done with the great­est re­spect for the rail­way’s her­itage.”

The ap­pli­ca­tion comes as the rail­way laid the last sec­tion of track on its south­ern ex­ten­sion to­wards Chilcomp­ton, with the fi­nal 60ft rails be­ing moved into place on Oc­to­ber 28, tak­ing the rail­way to the base of the in-filled cut­ting. The trust is aim­ing to open the ex­ten­sion, in which a full mile of the for­mer S&D will be brought back into use, in spring 2019.

Mr Lacey says: “The task is not yet com­plete with more hard work re­quired to drop over 400 tons of bal­last, and jack and pack the track be­fore pas­sen­ger trains can run on the line.”

The trust is ap­peal­ing for dona­tions to­wards its ‘£20 for a ton’ ap­peal, to raise funds to pur­chase the bal­last re­quired to com­mis­sion the ex­ten­sion. To con­trib­ute, visit www.sdjr.­ing

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