the spirit of the S&D

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Don’t get too excited – this isn’t a train arriving at Spetisbury Station Project! But it is one of two surviving examples of a former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway locomotive that would have passed through Spetisbury on its way from Bath (Green Park) to Bournemouth West. But at least the photo was taken in Dorset – near Corfe Castle during the Swanage Railway’s 2016 Autumn steam gala. Number 53809 is seen coupled ahead of Bulleid ‘Battle of Britain’ class 4-6-2 locomotive number 34070 Manston. This combination of a Bulleid 4-6-2 and a 7F 2-8-0 is a recreation of a classic S&D summer Saturday express passenger train during the 1950’s, two engines being needed to take heavy trains over the Mendip Hills.

These 7F 2-8-0 heavy freight locomotives were designed by Henry Fowler specifically for the Somerset & Dorset line. They were built by the Midland Railway which was responsible for providing motive power for the S&DJR. The first six engines (numbers 80-85) were built at Derby in 1914, followed by five more examples (numbers 86-90) in 1925. They were designed principally for moving heavy mineral and goods trains over the Mendip Hills on the heavily-graded northern section of the line, but they also found work on passenger trains. Withdrawal began during 1959 and all members of the class had been taken out of service by 1964. Two examples survive in preservation – 53808 (originally number 88) and 53809 (originally number 89), both being some of the last to remain in service, until 1964.

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work party 2nd October

Our work party on 2nd October saw beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures which brought a steady flow of visitors to the station site. In between chatting to these visitors our main job was to dig a new flower border alongside the ‘down’ platform near its southern end. Not an easy job this due to the amount of track ballast under the soil, but it will make an attractive decorative display alongside one of our two new timber benches. This part of the platform edge is historically interesting, as it marks where the original platform was further extended around 1901 to match the new ‘up’ platform. The difference in construction methods can be clearly seen in the photo below. The extension would have been topped with edging slabs to match the height of the original platform, but over the years these have mysteriously vanished along with others at the station….

The team also discussed projects for the coming winter months and into next year. Apart from ground clearance work for our planned new café on the ‘down’ platform, we aim to construct railway-style signage for the station site in keeping with original signs seen in old photos. These will include two large running-in boards – one on each platform.